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HomeArticlesCorset patterns1900s corset patterns1904 Savoye Corset, Patent 786,685

1904 Savoye Corset, Patent 786,685

Savoye 1904 Corset, patent 786,685The first page in my corset reference binder is a copy of United States patent number 786,685. Everything about this corset design is elegant: the lovely silhouette, the simplicity of cut with just three curvilinear pieces; even the designer’s name, Savoye, speaks of sophistication.

Each time I opened the binder I saw Savoye’s design, and each time I thought, “That is one beautiful design!” followed by, “Someday I’ll make it.” But Edwardian corsets are notorious for being complicated in cut, difficult to construct, and uncomfortable to wear, so I put it off.

Still, I read the patent countless times, and finally, (after how many years?) it sunk in that Savoye was addressing those exact issues  - complex cut, difficulty of construction and discomfort in wearing - with his design. It was time to tackle the Savoye 1904. 1904 patent illustration

Emile Savoye lived in Paris and held patents for corset design improvements in both the United States and France when he applied for a U.S. patent for a corset cut from just three pieces: a breast part, a belt part, and a hip part, the pieces joined by horizontal seams so that no seams “intersect vertically the waist.”

Savoye claimed that this method of cutting would also make it easier to fit the corset to different figures because the three pieces could be “easily lengthened more or less to suit the measurements taken round the body,” and also because there were only two seams to make adjustments to. Additionally, this new design would give an “agreeable appearance by means of seam lines alone.” He submitted the application for this new design on January 14, 1904 and over one year later was awarded patent number 786,685, on April 4, 1905.

 

The first thing I did to test the pattern was to cut the pieces from the patent diagram and connect them to see how they worked together. They didn’t.  

Monsieur Savoye apparently forgot to pattern the center front part of the top piece and the point at the bottom of the center front, also alignment point 6 on piece A didn’t come close to alignment mark 6 on piece B.

1904 pattern diagram Monsieur Savoye apparently forgot to pattern the center front part of the top piece and the point at the bottom of the center front, also alignment point 6 on piece A didn’t come close to alignment mark 6 on piece B.

There was no way to know why the pattern was incorrect but once I filled in the gaps I could begin to see Savoye’s one-of-a-kind corset. 

Viewed from the side, the center back had an extremely sharp angle at the waist, but this version was paper on wood, not fabric on a person, so I wasn’t terribly discouraged.

There was no way to know why the pattern was incorrect but once I filled in the gaps I could begin to see Savoye’s one-of-a-kind corset. Viewed from the side the center back had an extremely sharp angle at the waist, but this version was paper on wood, not fabric on a person, so I wasn’t terribly discouraged.

Patent applicants did not have to prove that their inventions worked, only that they were new and unique, so Savoye did not have to present the Patent Office with a finished corset, just the schematics for his design. It’s not surprising that a civil servant at Patent Office didn’t notice that the pattern was off, but it is surprising that Savoye didn’t catch the mistake himself. He was more than just a guy with some new ideas about foundation garments, after all: he was an very experienced corset maker. His company, Savoye-Deglaire et Fils, was founded in 1866, and although his shop was in Paris, privileged ladies in the United States could purchase his corsets under the Pansy, and later the Fasso, name.

In 1886 department store B. Altman & Co. announced they were the exclusive importer of the “Fasso corset, for many years sold as the Pansy.”  In 1888 B. Altman named the Fasso brand corset manufacturer as “the celebrated Paris maker, Savoye-Deglaire,” and the Savoye-Deglaire trademark is so important that it is shown twice in this ad. 

In 1886 B. Altman & Co. announced they were the exclusive importer of the “Fasso corset, for many years sold as the Pansy.”  In 1888 B. Altman named the Fasso brand corset manufacturer as “the celebrated Paris maker, Savoye-Deglaire,” and the Savoye-Deglaire trademark is so important it is shown twice in the ad.

The same mark is used 17 years later in a 1905 Savoye-Deglaire et Fils advertisement placed in Dessous Elegants.

By the time Savoye submitted the application for his 1904 design he was a member of the Chambre Syndicale de Corsets et Fournitures, and in 1905 he served as secretary of that organization, so he knew his stuff.

To verify that Emile Savoye the patent holder was the same man who owned Savoye-Deglaire corsets I checked the address listed on the patents against the address of the shop in the 1905 advertisement. They were the same, 35 Rue de Caire, Paris. I was in good hands, and I was confident that Savoye’s design would work.

The same mark is used 17 years later in a 1905 Savoye-Deglaire et Fils advertisement placed in Dessous Elegants.  By the time Savoye submitted the application for his 1904 design he was a member of the Chambre Syndicale de Corsets et Fournitures, and in 1905 he served as secretary of that organization, so he knew his stuff.

 

I enlarged the diagram on a copy machine until it filled a single page.

Then I enlarged piece C so it filled a page, and continued enlarging with the goal of getting the piece to fit more or less over my hip.

I wrote down the enlargement percentages each time and enlarged the other two pieces the same way.

I had no idea what size corset this workable pattern would make and was pleased with how well the mock up fit.

It was too long above the bust, there was excess fabric at the top center back, and the hips were loose, but clearly the pattern functioned.

1st mock up, front 1st mock up, side

I pinned the excess fabric away.

Sure, the fabric was now snug against my body, but it didn’t look right.  I’d lost the pleasing proportions of Savoy’s design. It occurred to me that I was not working with the pattern as Savoye intended.

I shouldn’t be lopping off excess length and making huge darts. I needed to alter the fit by working with the two seams that wrapped around the body. Also, eyeballing the missing part of piece A got me this far, but I had to be more precise. Currently the bust was pressed flat and pushed up and I imagined if I cinched a corset built like the mock up I’d look as though I were wearing 18thcentury stays. Not exactly an Edwardian silhouette.

1st mock up pinned

To fill in the blank part of piece A accurately, I studied the drawings from another Savoy patent. In 1905 he submitted an application for two more corset designs, both of which have a center front piece that reaches all the way around the body to the center back. While both of the corsets illustrated have a straight front, like the 1904 design, the center front cutting line of the pattern is not cut perfectly straight. It angles out slightly above the waistline.

Using the top edge as a guide I overlaid the 1904 and 1905 illustrations and filled in the lost part of the center front.  Then I cut the pieces out, connected pieces A and B at the front, and lined them up along the center front line of the 1905 pattern to make certain I had the right angle for the center front. Yep. The grainline was established by drawing a grid on the pattern lining up the letter A on piece A and the word Fig. 3, which were on the same horizontal axis. I had the official pattern.

Using the top edge as a guide I overlaid the 1904 and 1905 illustrations and filled in the lost part of the center front.

 

For the second mock up I changed the fit as Savoye suggested, by altering the contours of the horizontal seam lines. I knew the top edge had to drop down so I took in the seam between pieces A and B, referred to as line 4 on the patent. I removed 2" (5cm) from each piece at the center front, blending to nothing at the center back. This change would not only lower the top edge while maintaining the proportions, it should also make the top piece fit better by moving the larger expanse of fabric over the bust. I decided to change the length of the pieces “more or less” by moving the lacing strip over approximately the same amount as the excess fabric I had pinned away from pieces A and C during the first fitting.

What a difference! Changing the angle of center front line provided more fabric at the bust, where it was desperately needed. Adding one extra bone to each side of the mock up kept the fabric from pinching at the waist, giving a nice curve instead of a sharp angle. With the excess fabric of the hip panel removed at the center back, instead of taking it out of the darts, the fabric draped beautifully across the hip.

The hip pieces were long, and the center dart was placed more to the back than to the side so something was off there, but I was sure it was solvable.

The biggest surprise was the difference in posture. In the first mock up I have my usual pelvis-tilted-forward slouch but my back is definitely straighter with the second. I couldn’t believe it, Savoye’s three pieces really were adding up to the classic Edwardian silhouette.

 

2nd mock up front 2nd mock up side

Line 71 of the patent explains the edge “is preferably very convex toward the bottom, so as to run down the sides of the person in order that the piece C shall cover the hip.

Savoye’s illustration does not show the corset on a figure, but the hip panels clearly do not run so far down the body that it looks as though the wearer is wearing shorts, the way my second mock-up did. The lowest point at the side hip is roughly level with the low point of the center front.

Two Pansy Corset ads from 1904 helped determine the hip panel length. The first, from March of that year (left), presents a corset described as “medium length over the hips.” The second, from November (right), shows a corset cut similarly to the 1904 patent design with the hips covered but the bottom edge reaching only to the top of the leg.

If the shorter of the two was considered medium then the longer, but not excessively long, must be full coverage, which is what I believe Savoye intended with patent design 786,685.

Pansy Corset New York Tribune March 1904 Pansy Corset November Country Life 1904 detail

The cover of the August 1905 edition of Dessous Elegants features a corset cut just like Savoye’s design, three pieces, the point at the bottom center rising up then dipping back down to give full coverage over the hips, but not covering the thighs.

The darts were brought into proper position by removing the fabric from the front of the hip piece C instead of the center back. I removed over an inch from the center front, blending the new line to the point where the seam hit the waistline.

After one more fitting to fine-tune the shape of the top and bottom edges, the Savoye 1904 was ready to be constructed.

Alfred Daniel 1905
   

Now that it was time to choose the fabrics for the finished corset, I let the master’s work be my guide.

Savoye’s corsets were very high-end. An 1895 advertisement shows Fasso corsets costing between $6.00 and $12.00 which compares to those made in the USA running between 50¢ and $2.50. 

Detail of a William Foley ad from the Huston Daily Post

That same year, when Consuelo Vanderbilt married Charles Spencer Churchill 9th Duke of Marlborough, she wore a Fasso corset under her gown. It was made with white carnation patterned satin brocade, Valenciennes lace, and had solid gold busk clasps. Even from the rough black and white drawing of the corset, one can tell that it must have been a lovely foundation garment.

The price of a Pansy Corset in 1904 ranged from $6.00 to $28.00. That translates to $300 to $4,240 today.

I wanted to hint at the rarified world of Savoye’s clientele, and since Savoye said his design could achieve an “agreeable appearance by means of seam lines alone” I wanted to focus attention on those seam lines. A solidly colored silk dupioni with contrast satin piping at the seams would satisfy both requirements.

Miss Vanderbilt’s Corset

Savoye gave no specifications regarding boning placement for this design, but on January 25, 1904, just 11 days after he filed the patent application for the three piece corset, he submitted another application relating to the “whaleboning of corsets.” 

He states that bones were normally “arranged in an arbitrary manner…from top to bottom of the corset.” His improvement is to arrange the bones “in a rational and economic manner” using shorted bones placed only over the waist, leaving the upper and lower parts of the corset pliable. This arrangement means bones are less likely to break “especially when what are called “spring-steel” whalebones are used.” In order to maintain the form of the upper part of the corset “without rendering it stiff” he uses ribbons running around the bust section that can be tied in the front.

This is an interesting idea, but it’s easy to envision the bust collapsing when the fabric is not held taut by bones running vertically, and I don’t want horizontal ribbons competing with the curved seam lines of this corset.

Corset Boning, Patent 774537

 

In the application for the 1905 corset designs he refers to his patented method of bone placement but extends the length of every other bone above the waist to top edge “to bear up the said piece and keep it stretched.” This system of alternating shorter bones with longer ones is what I decided to use.

Regarding busk length, line 86 of the patent application explains, “the busks extend over the whole height of the front or only over the interior part of the front.” The illustration for the boning patent shows the busk in only the lower and middle parts of the corset, it does not extend into the upper bust part. The tension put on fabric when a corset is laced can cause the top half inch or so that isn’t supported by the busk to pull and gap at the center front. I do not want to see what happens when the busk stops two or three inches short of the top edge. Since Savoye gave me an option of busk lengths I chose to have the busk running the entire length of the center front.

1905 patent illustration

This corset was relatively simple to construct. I fused cotton batiste to the silk with Wonder Under then cut the pieces. The piping was basted along the stitching line before the pieces were pinned together. With curved seams like this, it helps to remember that the edges of the seam allowances will not line up since one is convex and its edge has a longer distance to travel than the edge of the one that’s concave, but the stitching line will match up and that is what matters. The seams were all flat felled, which made them both neatly finished and strong.  

 Bone casings were sewn on the interior of the corset.  Inserting the busk and the bones by the lacing took a bit more finessing than usual since neither was cut on a straight line, but neither were a terrible struggle. I finished the top edge with Cluny lace and a satin ribbon. 

Finished seam Bone casings I finished the top edge with Cluny lace and a satin ribbon

I was wary before trying on this corset. I’d worked with dupioni in the past with great results, but I’d used quilter’s basting spray to hold it to another fabric, Wonder Under was different. There was no repositioning, no give for turn-of-the-cloth, and as I worked with it sections bubbled unattractively. It also killed the grain and drape of the fabric.

With just three pieces that wrap around the body, the bias grain is important to this corset and it no longer existed.

The fit of the hips had completely changed from the mock up to the final and the only thing I did differently was use different fabric.

Corset on form

With no give, the fabric rode up and wrinkled over the hips. Not pretty. Garters would have helped tug the corset down and eliminate some of that, but they would not make the darts less square. Even with flaws there was still a lot to like about this corset. It created a nice taper from shoulder to waist and the seam lines were lovely.  The shaping seen from the side and back was definitely S-bend. 

Three quarter view Side view Back

 

As is so often the case, actually sitting down and making the corset taught me so much more than thinking about making the corset. Working with the strange pattern shapes forced me to work with a pattern in a new way. Once I stopped forcing my ideas on Savoye’s pattern and started listening to what he was telling me in the description, the design worked. It is amazing that those odd curved pieces could make such a strong silhouette.

I’ll make this corset again out of different fabric because if I can get anywhere near the shape of the mock-up I’ll have a knock out of a corset. All of Savoye’s designs are unique and the success of this pattern leads me to believe that the others will be equally rewarding to work with.

Sources:

Bulletin de Lois de la Republique Francais. XXI Serie. 1904. page 224.

For Ladies of Fashion: Dainty Silken Underwear Imported From France. Author unknown. New York Times, October 15, 1886

Trousseau for a Bride: Miss Consuelo Vanderbilt’s Fine Linen and Lace. Author unknown. New York Times. October 27, 1895.

New York Daily Tribune, November 25, 1888. Page 12.

New York Daily Tribune, March 17, 1904. Page 14.

William L. Foley advertisement. Detail. Houston Daily Post. December 1, 1895.

Dessous Elegants August, 1904. Page 150.

Dessous Elegants. August, 1905. Page 8. (sovoye ad) page 4 (boning ad) page 131 (chamber syndicale)

Dessous Elegants. July, 1906 page 107

Country Life in America, Volume VII. November 1904 – April 1904. Pansy Corset ad. 1904 Page 84. Doubleday, Page & Company. New York.

Measuring Worth. GDP per capita conversion used.

United States Patent 740930 1903

United States Patent 786685 1904

United States Patent 845582 1905

United States Patent 774537 1904

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crookedfingers  
  I always wonder when I see interpretations of edwardian patents if the bust is being interpreted differently that what was originally intended. The illustrations always feature a corset that is very short in the bust, at the most supporting the breasts almost in their natural position, while covering only the bottom of the breast like a quarter cup bra.
All of the interpretations I have seen so far take the top of the corset to about the mid-bust.
The horizontal ribbons' ability to hold the corset in place seems a lot less questionable when you imagine them being tied taught around firm ribcage, rather than across breast tissue, and I often find myself questioning wether the low, waist reaching bust gores are actually to allow room for a bust, or to allow room for the expansion of the ribcage that can result from lacing.

Looking at the historical examples of corsets, wether a corset pattern is interpreted to be the quarterbust or the midbust seems to vary with the clients preference, regardless of the pattern designers intentions.

Also, I love that green fabric and the corset looks stunning!
 
 
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sparklewren  
  Love it! Love how you've shaped the top edge to mirror the seamlines, the lace and ribbon just finish it off perfectly :-)  
 
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jobridges  
  Hello Crookedfingers! I think Savoye's method of running the boning only to the bottom of the bust instead of to the top of the corset would allow for easy alteration of that top bust edge depending on the buyer's wishes which corresponds to what you're saying about client preferences. Also, great point about the lacing making more sense around the rib cage rather that around the bust. That didn't occur to me. It's always so good to get other's input. It helps!  
 
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jobridges  
  Thanks Sparklewren! Savoye's seamlines are so pretty, now if I can just get the hips to lie smoothly. I made this corset twice but didn't write about the first one with even more issues. I sewed one based on my first mock-up and the finished hips looked horrible, which prompted me to go back to the drawing board and re-pattern. Third time is a charm, right?  
 
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araneablack  
  A great read and so nice on the eyes! I was waiting for this particular pattern to be made on FR. I am currently making an underbust with similar pattern shaping and this article came online just in time. I love the fabric choice and the lace detail on the top.
Great job!
 
 
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jobridges  
  I'm so glad to hear this can be of help! I mentioned the next time I make this pattern I'll add garters, I believe they will help flatten the tummy area right out. Also, I'd run the boning all the way to the bottom edge of the corset, since the is cut high enough the leg can bend there really is no reason stop the boning earlier as shown on Savoye's other patents. That should keep the hip panels from riding up and give a much smoother line.  
 
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blackvelvet  
  I love how you made up this pattent. It is a really great corset you made. :)  
 
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jobridges  
  Thanks Blackvelvet! It was a fun one.  
 
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bookwyrm  
  My understanding is that the sketches included in patent applications really weren't intended to be actual patterns, just a layout of the concept. Thus there was no expectation that it should fit together exactly as drawn on the page. That so many do (or, do with a little fiddling) is luck and the artist's experience with the pattern, not design.  
 
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chrissie_nw  
  A very inspiring article, thank you.X  
 
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jobridges  
  You're right bookwyrm, the sketches were used to illustrate the idea not necessarily function as a finished pattern. Yet those shapes are so unusual they struck me as something that came from something that had actually been made rather than just the first draft of a design idea. Once I learned how experienced Savoye was I may have indeed expected a perfect pattern in a way I would not have from another designer. Thanks for reading!  
 
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jobridges  
  Thank you chrissie_nw! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!  
 
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granate  
  I wonder if there would have been an advantage to Savoye to purposefully not put a finished pattern until the patent was successfully accepted? I mean, if he was patenting it, he obviously wanted it to be a proprietary design? Anyhow, just thinking. Thanks for the article.  
 
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bellamissella  
  Great article! I love how the corset came out, definitely now on my list to try. I just wondered one thing, in the patent he talks about the option of using separate pattern pieces inserted for the busk and lacing... what are your thoughts on that? Would that change the pattern at all? I would think it would mess up the lines of the seaming, but maybe it wouldn't make too much of a difference.  
 
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jobridges  
  Separate pieces for the busk and and lacing may make the busk and grommets a bit easier to insert because there would be no seam allowance running horizontally through either, but in the end I don't know if it would actually make the finishing much easier. Since neither the center front nor the center back are cut on a straight line there is still a bit of finessing needed to insert the the busk and bones, dealing with a seam doesn't seem that that much of an issue. I'm with you, I think adding either would ruin the lovely lines created by the seams. Those pretty lines make this design special, why mess it up?  
 
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Shelley  
  Curiously, where did you get the patterns from? I am making a corset right now for comic con but when I saw the pattern I fell in love and have been plotting ever since how I would make it and alter it (I want to make a steam punk outfit using the base pattern as a guide before I end up destroying it and making a whole new pattern of my own). I have made 2 corsets that function, one being the one I am working on right now and another for renaissance. Had to completely alter the patterns I had. I already basically know what I have to do to this one but having the pattern in my hands helps lol. Lack of a mannequin makes it harder but in the end more laughs.

And your article is beautiful by the way; Will definately use it for a guide when those pieces dont add up!
 
 
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mmcnealy  
  Shelley said :
Curiously, where did you get the patterns from?!


Shelley, you can download the pattern diagram from the Google Patent website, http://www.google.com/patents?id=D5ZnAAAAEBAJ
 
 
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