My goal was to create a Hallowe'en costume. I am an experienced sewer, but I have not made a corset before now. Halloween 2015 seemed like a great opportunity to try to make a real corset, as well as to create the Hallowe'en costume I wanted. My original design was all white, but when I read your competition theme, I decided to add the black contrast color. The fabric is herringbone coutil, lined with a fine white cotton muslin. The hand embroidery was inspired by sketches by Alphonse Mucha, and the machine embroidery was determined by the stitches offered by my Elna, with inspiration from a machine-blackworked shift by Laurie Tavan that I found on Pinterest. The pattern is Laughing Moon’s Silverado.
My greatest challenge was the machine embroidery. This is my first time ever sewing decorative stitches/machine embroidery. I spent a lot of time sewing samples of every decorative stitch on reinforced white muslin before deciding the final design. Then, when I went to do the decorative stitches on the final coutil pieces, the fabric behaved differently, causing the scale and uniformity of the stitches to change, and removing the decorative stitches caused minor damage to the coutil (fiber breakage from the machine needle). This was disappointing, and I had to redo a number of panels, as well to continuously fuss with the machine settings to get the design to be consistent from stitch to stitch. Flossing was also a challenge. I practiced using multiple types and colors of black thread before choosing cotton perle (diam. unk.). Having worn corsets in which the steels had broken through, function was just as important. My fingers were sore from both the bust gore embroidery and the flossing. I choose a pre-grommeted lacing tape based on my experience wearing corsets, which has taught me that after a few wears the grommets come loose from the fabric. I wanted something professionally manufactured for strength and longevity. The steels are a combination of spirals (bust), and steels. I purchased a bolt cutter to cut them, and then filed the steels down on a wheel grinder. The spirals are capped with metal tips, and the steels I dipped into a metal tipping product (it took multiple tries to find the right one). I also used four heavy duty steels, 2 along the back by the laces, and one in each front side panel. I made my own bias tape to edge the corset because the purchased white tape was the wrong white.
It’s worth pointing out that because this is a Hallowe'en costume, one of my goals was to create a visually appealing creation that non-historians would appreciate. The undershift and bloomers (not competition entries) are far from authentic, the overall look and ease of wear taking precedence over historical accuracy (ie: elastic band in the too-short bloomers). I did not make similar compromises in the corset, except for the embroidery design, which is not authentic to any historic period, but instead is just what I thought looked good.