Friday, April 12, 2013

A Weekend Workshop Adventure in Early 19th-Century Corded Corsets

This past weekend, we ventured where we've never ventured before: into the territory of early 19th-century fashion!  As dedicated English country dancers, we often attend Regency-themed events where the majority of the dancers are dressed for the first two decades of the 1800s; we, on the other hand, have always been obliged to show up shockingly out of fashion in our 1770s-80s gowns.  So when we heard that Burnley and Trowbridge was offering a corded corset workshop this spring, we jumped at the chance to finally - finally - begin assembling proper Regency wardrobes.

B&T corded corset workshop 3

B&T corded corset workshop 6
Some of many corded corsets created by the staff of CW's Margaret Hunter Shop,
on display for the weekend as inspiration.

This particular workshop was in the very adept hands of the two apprentices of Colonial Williamsburg's Margaret Hunter Shop.  Sarah and Abby began the weekend on Friday afternoon with a brief lecture and slideshow illustrating the ideal silhouette of 1800-1830 and discussing the details of the "new" and "comfortable" corded corset that helped to achieve the body shape unique to this specific period. 

B&T corded corset workshop 1
Introducing our two instructresses!

After talking through a collection of period portraits, prints, and extant stays, they proceeded to instruct us in how properly to measure for this style of garment, noting the strategic points on the body that we needed to mark in order to achieve the best possible fit and ensure that our corsets would successfully do the job they were meant to do!  Abby then walked us through how to use our measurements to draft custom patterns to each of our unique body shapes; by early Saturday morning, we all had completed patterns and were ready to cut our fabric.

B&T corded corset workshop 7
Abby demonstrating how to draft a corset pattern unique to our individual measurements.

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Some of the participants hard at work on drafting their patterns.

Once everyone had cut out their corsets, we marked our busk and eyelet lacing positions in preparation for our first fitting.  Saturday afternoon was spent working with our fitting partners (gee, I wonder who we each worked with?!), pinning and repinning and adjusting our corsets until they fit snugly and smoothly over all body curves.  Homework that night was to baste our side seams together, finish our lacing holes, and stitch our busk pocket so that we could do a final fitting the next morning.

B&T corded corset workshop 9
Fitting demonstration.

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Instructions in marking and sewing the busk pocket.

Most unfortunately, Ashley came down with a nasty virus late Saturday night, and was so sick we spent all Sunday morning at the doctor's office getting her figured out and treated.  While she went home to rest, I was able to make it to the final couple of hours of the workshop, where Abby and Sarah very kindly got me caught up with everything I'd missed, helping to tweak the final fit of my corset and bringing me up to speed with the basics of the cording lecture from earlier that morning.  At the end of the day, our instructresses demonstrated the proper techniques to attach the shoulder straps and finish the edges of the corset, and we all departed the workshop with projects more than half-way done already, complete with all the tools and knowledge necessary to finish them up for ourselves.  Ashley was really concerned about missing the entire last day of the workshop, but she was able to make arrangements for a make-up session to ensure that she too will soon be fully caught up on everything.  All's well that ends well.  :-)

early-19th-century corded corset 1
My perfectly-fitting corset at the end of the weekend.  I LOVE it!!!

early 19th century corded corset 2
The beginnings of the adventure that will be cording!  I'm still in
the process of designing my cording pattern, so I started with the center back first!

Workshops with Burnley and Trowbridge are consistently of the highest quality, with unrivaled expert instructors and lovely company to sew along with, but both Ashley and I agreed that this was one of the best we've done thus far.  We were worried about venturing into unfamiliar sewing territory with an entirely new period, but the instructresses did a fantastic job guiding the class through each and every step with meticulous directions and lots of helping hands.  The weekend was relaxed and genuinely delightful (with the exception of poor Ashley's most unpleasant illness!), and I'm thrilled with the progress I've already made with my new corded corset.  I can't wait to finish it!  Now to start plotting what gowns to make to go over it....!  ;-)

B&T corded corset workshop 2
Gown goodies created by the Margaret Hunter Shop...

B&T corded corset workshop 4
...that were oh-so-lovely...

B&T corded corset workshop 10
...and downright awe-inspiring (yes, that's all hand-embroidery,
copied from a gown in the CW collection).

Many thanks again to Sarah and Abby for a most excellent workshop, and to the lovely folks at Burnley and Trowbridge for continuing to offer these very special learning opportunities!

As always, you can find additional photos from the workshop in this event's flickr set.  Even more pictures from the weekend can be seen on Burnley and Trowbridge's facebook page.


M'lady said...

I wish I could find a workshop like this in the UK. Its exactly what I need.

Augusta Auctions said...

What a fun way to spend a day!

Rebecca said...

Lady D, have you heard about The School of Historical Dress in London? They offer precisely what you're looking for!