With Corsets on My Mind…

1890corsetphiladelphiamuseumofart

(1890’s Overbust Corset, Image Credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Look at all the beautiful little details on this 1890’s corset!

Once again I have these beauties on my mind because this morning I ordered my first steel boned underbust corset! In about a week or so, I will have 14 steel bones hugging me and hopefully making life at least a little better pain management wise. Much hemming and hawing, reading and research was done in the last two weeks, but I finally took the plunge. I would still love to learn to sew my own corsets one day, because they can be such things of beauty as well as function, but I’m going to work on getting my fitting skills, etc, up to scratch before taking that next step.

The injury to my back and neck may actually have been a pinched nerve, but I’m still not entirely sure. I do know that it is finally starting to get better/easier to manage and I’m mostly dealing with my regular ol’ daily back pain, which I figure an underbust corset could help quite a bit. But since the injury, whatever it was/is, is finally starting to get easier to cope with, I’m now able to get some actual sewing done! I just have to take it slowly and try to make myself do only a little at a time, not hours upon hours at the machine – sadly. I’m glad that I am at this point though, at least, because being stuck lying on my back unable to sew and create and do all the little things in general that make me happy and relieve anxiety was absolutely soul crushing.

I’m hoping once I get my corset, it will help me be able to handle things that have been painful and hard for decades – like sitting in chairs of any kind for more than a few minutes at a time! If a bit of fabric, lace and steel could help me manage the level of pain I am in on a daily basis, it would improve the quality of my life a heck of a lot and give me more freedom to do the things that I love. My fingers are firmly crossed.

So, since I gave you some scattered thoughts on how I just bought a corset (!!), and showed you one lovely photograph I thought I would share a few more images with you from The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s website, which has some beautiful corsets in it’s collection, you really must give their site a visit and have a look for yourself!

(Image Credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art)

An Orphaned Sewing Machine, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich Harvard Magazine

This article in Harvard Magazine by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is a really lovely and interesting piece on the Singer Sewing Machine Company and it’s history, written as the author looked through the departments of Harvard University for a home for an orphaned Singer Vibrating Shuttle treadle that looks like my Zelda Zonk must have in her glory days – or at least in her better days, of living in her treadle base! I really enjoyed reading this article this morning, so I thought I would share it with all of you!

Let’s Take 1930’s Home Economics Together! Chapter Three: Shopping Wisely

Last week in our home economics series, we learned about spending our time and money, this week we will read Chapter Three: Shopping Wisely, from Dulcie Godlove Donovan’s “The Mode in Dress and Home”, 1935.

I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson as much as I did! That ends Unit 1, next week, we will start Unit 2: The Art of Dressing Well, and read Chapter Four: Design, Its Need and Use, which I’m very excited about!

(For previous lessons, search the “Let’s Take Home Economics Together” category, or the Home Economics tag!)

The Marvelous Mrs. Beeton, with Sophie Dahl

Since I’ve spent the last week now pretty much trapped in bed due to ever increasing back and neck pain, unable to do any sewing, or, well, much of anything really, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on Victorian and Edwardian life. I thought I would share with you all one that I am currently stuck into it – The Marvelous Mrs. Beeton, presented by Sophie Dahl, who was one of my favourite fashion models as a teenager – I still love this woman!

Mrs. Isabella Beeton wrote “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” in the Victorian era, and as you know, it is just the kind of book that fascinates me, in this documentary, Sophie Dahl aims to find out more about Isabella Beeton herself and what made her want to write this book, which became, as Sophie states, “the domestic bible for Victorians.” I love this kind of stuff! If you do too, why not settle in with me and learn about Mrs. Beeton?

Tomorrow Always Comes

This vintage promotional film stars Gloria Willis and is one of the most amazing advertisements I have ever seen. The lengths they went to to sell Rayon to women is amazing and this little movie always makes me laugh. I love the gorgeous 1940’s clothing and you see a vintage sewing machine within the first few minutes of the film! I sadly haven’t found any affordable rayon in my fabric store, but it’s one of the textiles that I just love to feel and handle whenever I make a trip there, because it’s just so silky and nice against the skin. Well, enough of my rayon raving, I’ll let this gigantic, lavish advertisement from the 1940’s tell you all about it!

Side note, Gloria Willis reminds me so much of Judy Garland in this, which makes me enjoy it even more, because I adore Judy.

The Magic of Charles James

Charles James (b. July 18th 1906, d. September 23rd, 1978) was a (British born) American fashion designer who created truly breathtaking and innovative works of art from about the 1930’s until his death from Bronchial Pneumonia in 1978. Although he was from England, he was known as America’s first couturier, because that is where he lived and worked throughout his career, which began in 1926 at the age of 19, when he opened his first hat shop in Chicago.

As a young man he attended the Harrow School with Evelyn Waugh, Francis Cyril Rose and his long time friend Cecil Beaton. I can’t imagine the times those four had! Charles was expelled for what wikipedia vaguely refers to as “a sexual escapade.”

Though he did spend some time studying in Paris in the early 1930’s, he was mostly self-taught and it is said that Dior credited him with inspiring The New Look.

His dresses were purely whimsical creations, inspired by and named after such things as petals, trees, mermaids (La Sirène), butterflies and the like. He was a notoriously caustic and difficult man to work with, but he had an understanding of women and women’s fantasies that was intuitive and a mind for innovation that was truly unique.

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(Image credit: Chicago History Museum) The skirt of Infanta included layers upon layers of black, rust, yellow, beige and brown silk tulle, which could only really be seen when the wearer moved in the dress, creating a deliberately flirty edge to the gown.

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(Image credit: Chicago History Museum) La Sirène, which James made variations of for twenty years of his career, was meant to make the wearer look like a mermaid. To quote the Chicago History Museum, “Although James made it to the measurements of the client, the pleats create soft folds around the hips that allow for slight variations in the width of the wearer’s hips.” I love that. This is the man who created the Pavlovian Waistband, which would expand after eating a meal, so you could still be comfy in your outfit even after eating a big dinner! Love. This. Man.

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(Image credit: Chicago History Museum) Petal, was designed for Millicent Rogers in 1949. That skirt includes 25 yards of white silk taffeta. The design was revived in 1958 as a ready-to-wear dress for the juniors market.

(Image credit: Chicago History Museum) Tree, the dress my dreams are made of. This light pink silk taffeta confection is so beautiful I get choked up just from looking at it. This is the most gorgeous use of shirring I have ever seen. Wearers of Tree gowns include Gypsy Rose Lee and Mrs. Cornelia Vanderbilt Whitney.

Phantom Thread, a film about Charles James (starring Daniel Day-Lewis as James, as well as Lesley Manville, Richard Graham and Vicky Krieps) written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is slated to be released in theatres on December 25th of this year. I definitely plan on seeing it!

I will end this post with a few more images of some of his beautiful creations, because his work really speaks for itself. The man was a genius who deserves to be remembered as the artist and innovator that he was. He really did elevate haute couture to an art form.

(Image credit: Pinterest)

Underwear: From Corsets to Bullet-bras and Back, Victoria and Albert Museum

Ever since my corset post yesterday I’ve been diving deep into the web in search for information and videos on corsets, from both a health and a historical standpoint. Today I found this interesting video from the Victoria and Albert museum on various undergarments throughout history and I thought I would share it with all of you. I just love seeing the really old corsets and long-line bullet-bras. Vintage and historical fashion is something I find deeply interesting, so I completely nerd-out over videos like this one! One of my favourite 1960’s designers, Mary Quant, even gets a mention in this video!

Practical Dress Design, by Mabel Deane Erwin, 1954 revised edition

This is a book I have been hunting for a physical copy of online all year, so I can get my grubby, vintage fashion loving hands it and use it to draft patterns to make some stunning vintage clothing. Unfortunately the only copies I have found available for sale tend to be prohibitively expensive. So I have been making due in the meantime by being forever thankful that blogger The Perfect Nose posted a free downloadable PDF back in 2012, which is still available to download all these years later on her blog!

If you have any interest in pattern drafting, sewing, or vintage clothing, please do visit the link above and check this book out, you won’t be sorry! Thank you so much to The Perfect Nose for scanning this wonderful book and making it available for all of us!

Health Benefits of Corsets?

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(Image Credit: Pinterest)

In the last year I have read and heard about the possible health benefits of wearing a corset – mostly for people who suffer from chronic back pain due to injury, scoliosis, and the like. This is a topic I have a personal interest in, because I have scoliosis myself, and am missing a vertebrae in my spine on top of it, so decades of poor posture due to all of that has caused me to have chronic pain that no amount of physiotherapy, over the counter pain killers or trips to the chiropractor (years ago) has ever helped.

Corsets make a strange kind of sense –  a lot of young people with scoliosis wear back braces, and it stands to reason that a corset would do something similar – control your posture, support your back, etc. And there are definitely people online that rave about their ability to help relieve back pain – usually people who make and sell corsets, and people like Tara Moss, who discusses it a bit in this video here:

If wearing a corset would help with the pain, it would definitely make life easier for me. I could spend more time sitting at my sewing machine sewing for one thing!

So this had already been on my mind when yesterday I somehow managed to injure my back while brushing my hair. Yes, just brushing my hair. To be fair, over the weekend I had also been doing a lot of heavy lifting and stuff like that, so it was probably more a matter of my back deciding that enough was enough. Either way, I seem to have pulled a major muscle in my upper back and I have been dealing with some pretty horrendous pain ever since. So I pulled out the one corset I own, which isn’t really a proper corset, it zips up in the back for one thing, but it does have some form of boning and fits me fairly well so I’m wearing it this morning to see if it helps. I had already been wearing it off and on over the last week while sewing at my machine to see if it would help control the amount of back pain, and it had been helping somewhat, but probably not as much as a custom fitted one would.

1890-1891 H O'neills fall and winter catalogue corsets

(Image Credit: H. O’Neill’s Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1890-1891, Pinterest)

So now I’m on the hunt for good and easy corset sewing patterns so I can make one for myself. Preferably ones that would work for a petite frame, or at least have multiple cup sizes if the are not under bust corset patterns.

What about you guys? Do any of you have any thoughts on the possible health benefits of corsets, or just thoughts on corsets in general, or any corset pattern recommendations? I love reading other women’s opinions on corsets, vintage under garments, “shape wear”, etc, so any and all thoughts are welcome!