Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Net Corselet



 
{source}
Many vintage dresses have built-in corselets, especially those of Dior's New Look. These were complicated inner structures, with boning, a grosgrain waist stay, and bust enhancers. I often think they're almost as beautiful as the outer dress; is that crazy? However, it's hard to find good pictures of the insides of these dresses. Ah, wouldn't it be nice to own a New Look Dior to be able to inspect it at will?

All the corselets that I've seen pictured in vintage dresses were made of cotton net, which I find fascinating. I've also seen this called bobbinette. As Claire Shaeffer writes in Couture Sewing Techniques:  
Traditionally, the corselette was made of two layers of cotton tulle; in more recent years, fabrics such as silk, linen, and power net (a girdle fabric with spandex) are used more frequently. The cotton tulle, sometimes called English net or bobbinet, is lightweight, soft, cool to wear, and does not ravel; it is also expensive and difficult to find.
Shaeffer recommends this online source for cotton net, and it is indeed expensive (though 72" wide, so you wouldn't need much). I believe I may have seen cotton nets at B&J; I'll need to go check that out.

{source: Couture Sewing Techniques, revised and updated ed., click to enlarge}
I've made a corselet out of cotton batiste and liked the results, but I'm interested to sew one with the cotton net method for a true vintage vibe. Have any of you tried this?

Update: To answer a reader question, a corselet isn't necessarily meant to be your only support. If you're large busted, you'll need to still wear a bra. As Susan Khalje said when I took a class with her, the corselet acts on the dress, while a bra acts on the body. That said, I'm small busted and can get away with just a corselet. Also, liking the sew-along idea! I'll have to ponder that.

36 comments:

  1. Will you host a sew-along on corselettes? That would be really awesome, as it is one of the projects I am holding off on (I think due to lack of skill?)

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  2. No I haven't tried it, but thank you for the heads up about the cotton net. It couldn't have come at a much better time!

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  3. Hi Gertie. I've just made a powernet corselet and blogged about it over 4 posts. It wasn't very difficult to do, as it is a modern-day version. Let me know if you need/want any assistance on this project - I'm a corset maker so have lots of experience and ideas!

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  4. Oh yes, a sewalong would be a great idea for this!

    Are corseletes designed to provide the sole support in a dress, or would it be in addition to a bra and/or girdle? Thinking about my one and only foray into corset-making, I'm not sure that little thing would be enough for the more endowed among us! Though I would love it if it were enough: I would love to be able to wear a dress without a bra for once - no straps, no bra edges peeking out, no visibly bra lines! It's like a dream!

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  5. I have never tried to make a corselette, but have been itching to make one for a long, long time! I think the only thing that has held me back is the priciness of the cotton net, and that it is hard to find. But it sounds like one of those layers on a dress that would be educational to make and provide a really great base foundation when wearing!

    If you do ever try your hand at this, please keep us updated on tips and techniques! :)

    - Casey

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  6. @ Gentlewomanthief: No, a corselette is not *intended* to replace foundation garments. It's purpose is to support the dress on the already-shaped body. However, I suppose if bust enhancers were used they could also add to the effect of the shaping garment.

    Now, that being said, I am currently making my wedding dress and going all-out couture with it (12 yds of 54" wide ivory silk taffeta!). AND I'm being naughty by making a built-in corset/corselette that WILL replace foundation garments. I've essentially taken the approach of making a pretty hard-core corselette with cups.

    So, this is good timing for me too, thanks! I've already stitched it up out of 2 layers of lightweight cotton, but might be willing to switch to cotton net, if it's sturdy enough for what I need. Heck, I've already sewn about half a dozen versions/muslins of it, what's one more!

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  7. I would love for you to do a corselette sew-along! In addition to making the corselette, could some instruction be given on constructing the corselette into the bodice of a dress (not strapless)? I am also interested in knowing how to lengthen the corselette over the hips.

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  8. I'm also extremely interested in making one! I've made a couple in other materials (cotton batiste, organza) using Schaeffers tips, but I'd love to try the bobbinette.
    I really wonder what itfeels lime against the skin, usually boning is hidden in the inner part of the dress, but I kind of love it being exposed like this.

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  9. Oh I beg you for a sew-along on this one! You'd make my year! (eagerly awaiting your book!)

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  10. I am definitely in favor of a sew along on a corselette. I find them a bit intimidating for some unknown reason.

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  11. I've expeimented with lots of different options for corselets, underlinings and interlinings in my bridal and evening gowns. I've tried petticoat netting and various types of cottons depending on the dress I was making. I do like batiste best as a light but firm option for underlining and corselet construction. But, I am a free thinker and reason that if it is right for the dress - than give the dress what it wants!

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  12. I imagine it's much like with Victorian corsets and bodices. I've heard people ask---if you're wearing a corset, why bother boning the bodice? Or conversely, if you're boning the bodice, why go to the trouble of wearing a corset? It's because the two are meant for different purposes.

    The corset molds and supports your body, and acts as a foundation for heavy skirts and petticoats. The bodice boning is there to smooth and support the bodice, making sure it doesn't wrinkle or ride up. Completely different purposes, and one can't do the job of the other. That's why women wore both a corset and a boned bodice.

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  13. A sew-along? Oh, please, yes!! I would really love to learn this as I've never ventured into that territory. I'm up for a great challenge, since lately I've been doing very basic projects for my website tutorials!

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  14. I have put boning directly into garments; in the darts, on the seamline, and then lined them, but have not tried this. Gave me lots of new ideas!

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  15. I just wanted to chime in to say that I have really loved sewing with powernet when I have used it making bras or girdles (I used to work for a lingerie fabric catalog company).. In spite of the firm aspects of powernet, it's not as hot as you might think, although a cotton dress with a cotton corselet is more appealing sounding to me.

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  16. One more vote for the sew-along!

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  17. How about a sew along using Vogue 1174? It's got a corselet, and it's a nice retro-ish pattern that is easy to find. In fact, it's in my stash already!

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  18. I would LOVE a sew-along to learn how to make these puppies! I honestly don't know how I'd learn how to make one if it weren't for you and your blog.

    *Pretty Please* :)

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  19. Thanks for this, Gertie! I have a vintage Vogue Couturier pattern that calls for net for an inner structure like this and I was curious about it. Glad to know now where to get cotton net!

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  20. I don't make coreletts or carsages, but I do make original steel boned corsets from 100 year old patterns. I't more acctually building then sewing. The fitting takes ALOT of time, but the sewing itself is not that complicated. I find making a coat much mor effort! Tard thing is to find good boning and good tools to use.
    If interested I have lika TON of tips and tricks about making corsets that would brobably suit the corselet too.

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  21. I'm still quite new to garment construction, and have never felt the type of cotton netting used. I was just thinking would something like organza or organdy also work well? They're incredibly durable and strong, and with the organdy it's still cotton, but not nearly as expensive.

    The sew along idea is a really good idea too. Would it be a full dress where a corselet is included, or just a sew along on how to construct a corselet?

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  22. Interesting...for our couture class we are using coutile for our corselets but they are expected to provide the only bustline support so that may be why we're using the sturdier fabric. The process of building it has been rather interesting (we drafted our own patterns for it). I'm excited about the prospect of a sew-along because I want to make one for me, too! (our garments for our couture class have to fit a dress form, not us)

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  23. BrocadeGoddess - thank you v much for the info! That sounds like it's going to be an awesome wedding dress! I am definitely into the idea of making a no-bra dress, such a great idea for a special dress for a wedding or another summer event.

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  24. Still trying to complete my strapless dress with inner corselet that I began in Susan Khalje's class in March (really taking my sweet time). It is just an amazing piece of the garment, and the fit, ahhh the fit. I have never made anything this wonderful before and I love it! You should do a sew long. Susan wrote an article in Threads November 2009 issue that is helpful.

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  25. I had a look at the cited source for the cotton net. I wish it gave more info about the hand and thickness of it. The only indication given is that it is meant for making lace (not surprising, since it is Lacis), which makes me wonder if it's very filmy and delicate.

    I think I'll stick to my lightweight-not quite batiste cotton wedding dress corselet.

    HOWEVER, there is another element of this dress' construction that I just love, and intend to duplicate: the finishing of the top edge of the bodice. Folding the top of the bodice over the corselet and stitching it down (presumably by hand) is such a lovely way to attach the two. So much smoother and less bulky than if you sewed a seam, right sides together and had the seam allowances to deal with. I've already printed out the picture and made notes on it for myself about how to apply it to my wedding dress.

    It's so exciting for me to enounter methods for making the inside of my dress look as beautiful as I hope the outside will be. Thank you so much!

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  26. I've just made several 17th century syle dresses with an attached inner bodice very much like the corselette (boned with waist-stay but using plain weave cotton). Having done that and liking the results I would definitely consider at the planning stage adding a corselette to structured vintage dresses in future.

    After reading a Threads article on boning, I also find myself using it into all sorts of areas that wouldn't be immediately obvious (necklines, ruched areas, etc).

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  27. The insides of dresses can really be so interesting! I recently picked up a copy of "Designer Techniques" for Spring/Summer - it's a Threads Magazine "best of" collector's edition, and it has an amazing article about a woman who was a seamstress for Jaques Fath (in the late '40's & in the '50's), and in the article she reproduces a draped couture dress of his - over a cotton tulle foundation! And they show how she fits and makes the foundation, including the boning, first! It's very interesting, if you love this stuff! You should check it out!! ;o)

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  28. This is perfectly timed! I just picked up the summer edition of Threads ( the designer special) and theres an article about draping with cotton net to create an corselete. I really want to try it.

    I hope you do the sewalong:)

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  29. Hi, I've just started following your blog and have found your archives incredibly helpful for sewing projects. I would like to add my vote for a sew along for a corselette. (I also second the use of Vogue 1174!)I never knew about these until I read your post and then happened to try on a dress yesterday that had one and it fit amazingly. It would be great to know how to do this for myself as I have a hard time finding dresses (especially strapless) that fit my bust and waist proportions properly. Thanks for the great blog!

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  30. Sew Beautiful Catalog aka Martha Pullen sells English netting in 40+" widths.

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  31. Thanks for answering my question in your edit, Gertie!

    I was looking for cotton net and found some on the Ebay US for just over $12 for 2 yards (they claim it's 100% cotton): http://cgi.ebay.com/2-yard-Cotton-Net-Lace-Fabric-Sewing-/380333233866?_trksid=p4340.m263&_trkparms=algo%3DSIC%26its%3DI%252BC%26itu%3DUCI%252BIA%252BUA%252BFICS%252BUFI%26otn%3D15%26pmod%3D380328345763%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D8990444036364346579

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  32. This looks great. Would really like to try it, but I can imagine sewing a net corselet isn't that easy. Some advice?

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  33. I second Andie's comment about the article in the Threads Designer Techniques issue. I just finished reading the article and she gives some interesting points about putting the boning in - not detailed but an experienced sewer would be able to take the article and run with it to do a sew-along, I would imagine.

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  34. Just found bobinette here too...
    http://tutu.com/fab_lining.html

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  35. I wonder if this book might interest you?

    http://candobooksaustralia.blogspot.com/2011/08/vintage-lingerie.html

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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