{JennylaFleur: Dress Diaries}

Titanic Corset: a corset of 1912

Edwardian corset of 1912

guide to loop lacing

custom pattern

cotton twill, cotton (lining), twill tape, busk, steel boning

My second attempt at this style of corset, inspired by the film Titanic. This one came out MUCH better, thanks to some weight loss and more experience at fitting.

Completed June 2003.



The Results:


July 2003
On my dress form. She doesn't have as big hips as I do, but you get the idea...






Dress Diary:


Spring 2002


I have a love-hate relationship with the James Cameron film Titanic. I love the costumes & recreation of the ship but HATE the story. So when people ask me if I like the film I always hesitate. But the costumes are a different story, I adore them. I want to wear them! But how can I recreate the clothes without proper foundation?! Buying a corset is way out of my budget so my only choice is to make one.

The Pattern

It took a lot of research to find a pattern for this corset. The corset portrayed in Titanic is a bit odd. It is a transitional garment, combining the curvy above-the-bust style of the late Victorian corsets and the long, slim, "natural", underbust style of the early 19-teens. It's really not the most up-to-date 1912 foundation garment, which you would think Rose would have. However I like it better than the other period versions and so wanted an exact reproduction of the film version. I eventually found a gal to make me a custom pattern for this corset (sadly she is no longer in business so no names!). And the adventure began!

January 2003 - beginning again

I am ready to try again. When I finished my first attempt at a Titanic corset and it looked the way it did, (you will note there are no pics of that corset online), I was super frustrated and discouraged. I figured packing it away and waiting until the urge to create a bonfire with it left me would be wisest thing. Six months have passed and I can now look at it without wanting matches in my hand so I think it's safe to revisit the project.

I have spent the last few months researching 1910-1915 corsets and saving up for new supplies. I've decided to start from scratch, rather than try to fix the first one. It's too far gone. At some point I may take the first one apart and cannibalize the parts and fabric for other projects. Or not.

My original pattern maker is making me a new pattern, based on my current measurements, and I'm waiting for that to arrive.

Fixing Problems

The fact is that my first corset turned out horribly. I don't think it was one thing but rather a combination of things. At least that is my guess at this point...

- Guess One: Weight loss and a change of shape. As I lost weight, my shape changed enough to completely throw off the fit of my custom fit pattern. Combined with the seam allowance issue and my inexperience at toile fitting, it added up to a lumpy bottom.

- Guess Two: Not enough boning. Most of my boning ended about the waist, the rest ending before the hips. This makes it more comfortable I'm sure, but for someone with a tummy it leaves that area without support and to the mercy of the coutil alone. The boning in some vintage corsets I found online and in Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines is much longer, 3-4 inches shorter than the length of the corset. The corset will be awkward to sit down in (but it already is, due to the length) however, I want the correct silhouette and am willing to suffer for it. *smile*

- Guess Three: Not using a busk was a big mistake. I also think it's important to have a busk long enough to support my tummy.

January 25 2003

My new pattern arrived today. Looks great! Now I need to order my supplies...

February 4 2003

My supplies arrived from Farthingales today! My package arrived in 5 days, pretty cool! Much better than the Grandd Garb fiasco last time!!

February 12 2003

I cut out my toile today. I cut out 2 full layers of my toile fabric. I figured since I was going to make a toile anyway, I should also use it to practice on busk insertion, a step I am nervous about. Busks... ooh scary!!

February 20 2003

I finished my toile last night. It looks so much better than the first one! In essence I made up a full corset, complete with lining, boning channels and busk. Because I was so unsure of myself and wanted to be sure it was right before cutting my good fabric and double stitching each seam, I don't regret the time I spent on it.

After rows of stitching, hours pinning & pressing, 3 bobbins of thread and one needle, I am infinitely more confident - the practice run was SO worth the effort.

Awl-less Busk

The busk placement, my very first, went very well. The trickiest part for me was making the holes for the busk buttons. I couldn't find an awl in the stash so I used a combination of a tiny sewing machine screwdriver and a lead pencil. It was tricksy but once I got going it worked.

My next challenge will be working with a denser weave fabric (my drill) and not getting pencil lead on it in the process. Maybe I will use a mechanical pencil instead...

Wanted: Boning

I discovered that I made a mistake with my boning. I don't know how I managed it, but I didn't order enough. I counted and re-counted before placing my order but I still managed to short myself 7 or 8 pieces. Well, more like 3 or 4 but I've decided to use the maximum amount of boning (two bones per seam - it just feels better), so I will be ordering a bit more. It's okay - I can work on the rest of the corset while I'm waiting for it to arrive.

March 20 2003


My extra order of boning arrived yesterday but I haven't worked on the corset much in the past month. I knew March was going to be crazy but didn't realize how hard it would be to get to the sewing machine!

I tried on my mock-up a second time, this time with temporary lacing all the way down and in a chemise (instead of over my clothes). It looks good, or will when I have proper fabric sewn with proper stitching (instead of basting).

The shape it gives me is quite pretty - totally different from my natural one. I tried on some "normal" clothes over the corset and was amazed at the difference. Surprisingly enough I'm not any smaller, just different - all re-distributed, a thicker waist but smaller tummy. My Mom described it as a "mature woman's figure" but it looks just like Kate in the film (or would look like if I were her size).

The bad news is that the corset just fits. *sigh* Once again I have shrunk out of an outfit as I'm in the process of making it! It's really taking out some of the fun of slimming down! Lisa has given me directions on re-fitting the pattern so I will have a 2" gap in back but I done anything with them yet.

May 5 2003

My little seamstress fingers have been itching to work on this corset for 3 weeks now but the sewing fates have been against me until this week.

I altered the pattern, taking a total of 3-4" off above the waist. As recommended I took bits off of the back three pieces, rather than the whole measurement off the back seam.

I decided to not make a second toile and cut out my fabric as well. I am making this corset of one layer of cotton drill (the outside) and one layer of unbleached muslin (the lining). I had given some thought to binding and stitching the corset with a contrasting color, black or dark brown but have decided against it. There is too much of a chance that I will need to wear a white blouse or dress with it someday.

All the pieces are now pinned together, waiting to be sewn together...

May 8 2003

The busk has been inserted and the seams all sewn and pressed. It looks really good now and the fit looks pretty perfect (hard to tell without being able to lace it up properly... but still).

My second busk insertion (the first being for this corset's toile) was painless. It's not hard at all once you get the hang of it. The key for me was careful marking and going slowing. Having the correct tools is also a help. When I was in Williamsburg last week I found a bone stiletto designed for eyelets and the like. I still had to get the holes started with a sharp object (in this case a tiny sewing machine screwdriver), but once I got the bone stiletto in it worked beautifully for the busk buttons. Yay!!!

May 16 2003


I'm in the home stretch now! I've finished the boning channels, put in the waist stay and cut the bias binding (the same unbleached muslin as my lining). All that's left is to apply the binding and do the eyelets.

I had a bit of a challenge with the waist stay. A waist stay is a length of tape (in this case 2" cotton twill tape), that is applied along the waist to prevent stretching in that area. Because I did not use bone casing (a purely financial decision), but simply ran stitches through my two layers of fabric, I had to pin a bit more and will have to do some hand finishing on one end. No biggie really but something I didn't think through until I was doing it. (Sometimes a scary thing when sewing!)

I also discovered that I had put in my busk in backwards. I was supposed to have the hooks on my right and they ended up on my left. Oh well! Hopefully it is the same case as shirt buttons and there is not really a good reason why corsets are hooked right-over-left because there is no way I'm re-doing it! *shakes head vigorously*

June 7 2003


I've finished it!! It is quite late...umm...well actually it's very early in the morning here... but I had to celebrate a bit. It's done, it's done, it's done!! I finally have a Titanic corset that fits! Whoo hoo!!

I finished up the handwork this evening. Not being a fan of grommets I did the eyelets by hand. It took me 4 evenings to mark and work them but I'm very pleased. I used doubled quilting thread in a buttonhole stitch to finish the edges. It's the first time I've ever used that method and I like the results. I'll have to wait and see how they hold up now.

I managed to lace myself up (no mean feat but I'm the only one awake!). In fact I'm sitting in my corset right now. I laced the corset according to Lisa's directions, with loops at the waist, a new lacing technique for me. The method was easy to figure out and so far I've found it practical.

This corset is going to take some getting used to. My first impression is that this corset is quite restrictive, being so long and fairly tightly laced. Slouching is very uncomfortable and it is absolutely impossible to recline in it. I made the mistake of trying that, not a good thing! Being proper and very ladylike in this get up is the only option!



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