April 30, 2013

Past Patterns 703 (Civil War Corset)

Along with my new chemise, a new corset is in order! My old one was dreadful; I made it about five years ago, without a pattern, as a sort of "basic" corset that would work for multiple costume eras--and when I started doing living history events a couple of years later, decided it would have to do. Unfortunately it didn't. ;)

My friend Bethany was generous enough to loan me Past Patterns 703, which is based on an actual corset from 1863. It was quite easy to put together, although I omitted several things and changed several others. The original pattern has an extra band of horsehair around the bottom edge to help support the skirts; I left that out. It also doesn't open all the way down the back; changed that too. I think I also unwittingly omitted a bone or two (didn't make much difference as far as I'm concerned). And as I don't like busks, nor have ever used one, I made the front open with spiral lacing for easy on/off.

The outside fabric is simply thick cotton and the inside lightweight canvas; both from the stash. As per usual I used plastic cable ties (or zip ties) from the hardware store for boning; it's cheaper and more comfortable than steel, comes in different widths, and you can easily cut it to size. (A pack of 25" zip ties will easily serve me two corsets, but I was able to reuse most of the boning from my old corset in this one.) I hand-punched & stitched the lacing eyelets, and the traditional green ribbon trim is mostly salvaged from my old corset, re-pressed and turned as our historic sisters would have done.

I love how pretty historic underthings are!
All in all, I adore my new corset! It's very very comfortable, loads more comfortable than my old one (which laced further down and had more boning and less shaping). Plus it gives quite a nice, accurate shape, don't you think? The only problem is, all of my Civil War dresses were fitted on my old corset, and this new one provides such a different shape that I'm having to refit most of the bodices!


  1. Hello there! I came across your blog while searching for crocheted sontag patterns. I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes the look of period underthings! I just made my first PC chemise, and love it! So feminine and pretty! :)

  2. They are so pretty, aren't they? So much nicer than modern underthings!