How I made a Victorian Symington corset and greetings from Turku castle
I have worn my previous corset I made quite a lot but I must admit that it doesn’t fit very well. Now that I have more experience and better resources on hand, I wanted to make a new one. Luckily for us all, the patterns from the Symington corset company are online and you can buy real Victorian corset patterns! I chose this pattern that is pretty simple and has a lot of cording details. Once more, I documented the project on video so enjoy:
As I mention on the video, I had a lot of help from Luca Costigliolo at Foundations Revealed that I’m a member of (also an affiliate). I sent him numerous photos and that not only helped me to get the fit right, but also made me understand what was wrong with my first corset. For instance, I had no idea how important it is to add boning to the corset toile! Without the bones, the fit isn’t anything like it is supposed to be and you can’t get anything out of the toiling process. Also, I learned how to pad the corset bust so that I can get something corresponding to late Victorian silhouette, even with my not so curvy figure.
As for the materials, I used white cotton twill as fabric. The boning is artificial whalebone, except for the steel flat bones that support the lacing. I coated the ends of the steel bones with epoxy glue to make them more rounded. (That was left out from the video.) For the cording, I used 1,5 mm hem cord that was probably a bit narrower than what was used originally. However, it made really delicate cording details!
The cording was actually one of the most fun parts of this project. To make really narrow cording channels, I tucked the cord against the stitching line and used my pin tuck foot to keep the cord in place while stitching very close to it.
I bound the bottom using bias tape from the same fabric but then I run out of fabric and had to use cotton twill tape to finish the top edge. I decorated the corset top edge with some antique bobbin lace and blue ribbon. Finally, I flossed all the boning channels by using the original flossing pattern and silk buttonhole thread. Oh, and the little strip of lace at the hip panels conveniently covers the unevenness caused by the bulky seam allowance underneath!
Here is the corset laying flat or as flat as this curved garment can be. I bent the bones at the bust and curved the flat steel bones at the back to mould the corset to my figure.
The finished corset
The finished corset fits! After a few minutes of wearing it, I don’t really notice it anymore. I can easily bend and even touch my toes but the boning and structure help me to maintain better posture.
Underneath, I wear my linen chemise that I made a while ago.
I bought the corset lacing cord from Worbla-kauppa where I also got my artificial whalebone (1,5 mm) but I think that this lace is too thick. I may switch it at some point since this is exactly the same kind of lace that is used in shoelaces. Right now it will do, though,
Here is the corset from the side.
A visit to Turku castle and some extant corsets
When I was finishing this corset, I noticed that there was a new exhibition at Turku castle. Turku is less than two hours drive away from my home so we packed our kids into the car and drove there.
What is the Turku castle?
Turku castle is a medieval castle built in the late 13th century when Finland was still a part of Sweden. In fact, the castle is the largest surviving medieval building in Finland. However, the castle has been enlarged considerably since the medieval days and it’s most glorious days were in the mid 16th century in the hands of duke John of Finland and Catherine Jagellon (later the king and queen of Sweden) who turned the castle into a renaissance palace.
I and S, of course, went through the castle while historybounding. Unfortunately, we don’t have any medieval or renaissance gear (must correct this at some point!) so we went like this:
It’s so fun to wear historical garments and we always get a lot of compliments from total strangers.
Highlights from the exhibition
Now, to the exhibition. The theme was how the higher classes of Finland dressed between 17th and 19th centuries. (I can assure you that none of my ancestors ever wore things like this!) All the items are owned by the Museum Centre of Turku. Let’s start with this silk ridicule with all those ribbon details:
I also loved this Victorian hat. In fact, I want one!
Then the corsets. Most of the corsets were imported. I am pretty convinced that commoners didn’t really wear corsets. Finnish people were both too practical and too poor. However, there has really not been much research done about these things in Finland, so I can’t really say for sure. However, here is a pretty Victorian corset with flossing. The busk is interesting as it doesn’t have loops but little hooks instead! The buttons at the side are most probably to attach suspenders. Here are all the details about this item.
This cotton corset with yellow flowers is French made:
And finally this silk corset from the early 20th century that can be used while breast feeding:
My favourite item, though, was this gorgeous silk gown from the 1870s:
Here are some detail shots I took:
How I wish I could wear something as pretty as this gown!
After getting this corset done, I have been swamped making fabric masks. Now that the summer holidays are over and the Finnish government has finally started recommending masks, everyone wants one. The shops have run out of elastic band as everyone who can sew is sewing masks. I first wanted to get rid of some cotton that was cluttering my stash, but now I’m buying fabric every few days to keep up with all the requests. However, before you ask, I don’t ship these but if you want one you need to be able to come to pick it up. Check out the shop page for more info!
Thank you for reading and stay safe! Wash your hands and wear your mask! Happy sewing!
Congratulations! Your new corset is lovely and so well made!
Hieno korsetti! Oliko Turun vaatteiden yhteydessä muuten tietoa, kenelle ne olivat kuuluneet?
Jan L Johnson
WOW Just BEAUTIFUL work and the tour looked amazing!!!