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02 July 2017 @ 06:45 pm
Bust Support, back fat, and waist tape help  
I'm having trouble with making corsets that support the bust. I have no photos to show, so I tried to illustrate what I think is happening. As the corset cinches in the waist, fat and flesh are displaced upwards to the underbust. This roll of fat pushes the corset away from the body, leaving a gap between the underbust and the corset and resulting in no support for the bust. My friend's corset I made for her wedding had that problem, and we found that lacing the corset tighter allowed for the support, but resulted in a lot of back-fat. This is all from self-drafted patterns, as I am not at a place where I can purchase any. Being male, I have limited knowledge of bust support and cannot practice/test on myself as I lack endowment in the bust area, so any insight and/or recommendations are very greatly appreciated!

Another issue I have is the waist tape. Even when I use coutil (purchased from Britex in San Francisco, if that matters) I can see the waist tape indentations on the outside of the corset. It seems as though the fabric is trying to stretch at the waist but the waist tape is not allowing it to at that area, so you see the indentation. Granted, I've only ever tried making single-layered corsets, or double layer (fashion + strength fabric). Is there any way to combat this as well?

Thank you very much.
khoc on July 7th, 2017 10:07 pm (UTC)
Do you remember the name, or the name of the article? I'm not entirely sure what to look for.. haha
So you're saying to add ease to the top of the corset to fix the back fat? Wouldn't there be even less bust support?
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on July 26th, 2017 07:19 pm (UTC)
Greetings! I'm very, very late to this conversation, so please forgive me my tardiness.

I'm pretty sure it was Cathy Hay, and the entry helenatroy is referring to was in her journal, at one point under the name "harmonhay and more recently under peacockdress.
The thrust of what helenatroy is and Cathy was saying is this, that when you cinch in the waist of a corset with an hourglass figure---more or less an hourglass, anyway---that displaced flesh, even on a very slender person, has to go somewhere, and where it goes is up around the shoulder blades, resulting in "back fat," or down over the abdomen, hips and buttocks, depending on its original distribution in the case of the lower body.
So, when you create ease in the corset, either below the corset's (and your) waistline, that lower body flesh has someplace to go, just as it has some place to go and still be covered without creating "back cleavage" above the top of the corset back.
BUT---it does matter where this ease is created, not just whether it's "at the topline" or "at the hem," but whether it's added as a gore or to one or both edges of a piece of the corset other than the center front piece or pieces or the center back or other back pieces.

Edited at 2017-07-28 03:33 pm (UTC)
khoc on August 13th, 2017 06:13 pm (UTC)
I see! I've always wondered about the amount of ease in the corset. In drafting patterns, do you know how much ease is added around the ribs to create certain silhouettes? Assuming it begins as just an absolutely straight line from the waist to the underbust, at what point does the additional ease cause the corset to go from being a conical, to a hourglass, or cupped rib? I was thinking of doing test corsets of increasing ease to figure it out, but perhaps asking might me more efficient.
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on August 15th, 2017 11:56 pm (UTC)
It's not additional ease which changes a conical "paire of bodyes" [payre of bodies and other various spellings but we're talking here about 16thC/1500's "corsets".) Those conical corsets were meant in the 1500s and early 1600s to create a look very much like a man's torso: flattened breasts and, in cross-section, an oblong waist which was not much compressed, the entire paire of bodyes being only snug enough to keep everything in place and not intended to compress anything either abnormally or painfully tightly.
I know you're not talking about creating a conical set of stays, here, but just so you know, as a general rule the "stayed" part of that undergarment comes only to the waistline (the natural waistline) except in the very front if the stays have that pointed dropped waistline in front. The tabs you see do no functional shaping: they're there to keep the stays in place (you put the waistband of your petticoat or verdugarde/farthingale) under them at the natural waistline if there's that front point/dip or at the sides and around the tabs to the back if there isn't or if the front dip isn't very pronounced or isn't sufficiently pronounced. This is for stability and comfort, so the stays don't shift and don't dig.
Originally, these stays or "paires of bodies" were stiffened with "bents," a type of sea grass found on sand dunes, or with "lady's bedstraw" or something called "cleavers" which was also sometimes used to stuff mattresses,or other vegetative matter, but understand: "other" doesn't mean "any."

Fast-forward to the mid-1800's until the end of that century: The hourglass corset is cut differently, without seams at the waist---as a rule, and it is boned or "stayed" differently, too. It is meant to make the waistline of the body smaller which in turn is meant to make the hips and the breasts or bustline appear larger (according to social anthropologist Desmond Morris, this among non-human primates signals readiness for breeding. According to other historians and anthropologists and probably psychologists, too, the cage crinoline of the 1850's/1860's in conjunction with the waist-reducing corset was a way of making the waist look small and the breasts larger and the hips, although artificially so, enormous, and was signaling, "Ready and able, so come hither---but don't touch until given permission" because the crinoline kept a man at some relative distance.)
That hourglass corset has fewer bones, but they were stiffer whalebone or in some instances steel. The cut of the corset did the work of reducing, constraining, and supporting, with the steels or bones preventing the garment from buckling and wrinkling, which fabric under strain is almost bound to do.

I'm not sure what you mean by "cupped rib." Are you talking about a corset with demi-cups to hold the breasts?

Now about the ease. This is my personal take on it, but you are going to have to do a bit of experimenting. Understand that "ease" isn't like dressmaking ease or design ease (even though you'll design it in) with a certain amount of unoccupied space between the garment and the body. All of an hourglass corset must hug your body snugly, but while you may be tight-lacing at the waist, if you make the fit at the hips and the bust less snug but still firm enough to prevent both corset and body parts from moving around, you should be all right.

Are you familiar with this website:
...or the book on which it is based, Norah Waugh's "Corsets and Crinolines?" If you're going to be making corsets, even just one and for only one period, this is a book I think you'll want to read. It's full of the author's observations, will show you the evolution of the "stayed" or "corseted" waist, and it's also loaded with contemporary commentary from various personages throughout the centuries it represents.

Hope this has been some small help.

Please let us know how you get on! :^)
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on August 16th, 2017 12:17 am (UTC)
Also, to supply you with some numbers:

Start with a 2" (5cm) reduction at the waist, the fullest part of the hips, and the bust on your hourglass corset.
Then, if you cinch the waist tighter by reducing the waist measurement of the corset, open the bust line by enough that you can breathe, at least, and the hip line on the corset that you don't feel your legs are being cut off or that any bone (on your fitting or trial corset) is about to puncture your lower body.
You'll know how much ease you need by the "spread" of the lacing gap down the back. Once the corset fits correctly, that gap should lace evenly (at least that's an ideal in the minds of many, many wearers and makers of corsets) so if you have a 1" (2.5cm) gap at the waistline, (expect a gap; these corsets usually laced up with space between the lacing edges down the back) and a 4" gap at the bust line and a 5" gap at the hips, that will tell you how much ease you need, but remember that a corset does have to hold your figure securely.

Hoping this, too, is of some help.
khoc on August 16th, 2017 06:25 am (UTC)
Going to have to read through that a few times to absorb everything, thank you for all the info! I found this image of the cupped rib/conical silhouettes I was talking about here:

I'm more wondering how much extra space is needed to achieve the different silhouettes.
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on August 16th, 2017 05:14 pm (UTC)
The amount of extra space needed above and/or below the waist (of the corset) will be determined by how much extra space you need to feel comfortable while not allowing the corset's upper or lower half, or both halves, to shift around on your body, yet without producing rolls or bulges above the topline or below the bottom edge.

What I was trying to explain regarding the original conical silhouette (which is what I thought you were talking about) and the later, hourglass silhouette was that it wasn't a question of adding ease but rather of an [almost] entirely different cut.

At the link you've provided, it appears as if the difference between conical and not conical is achieved not by adding ease so much as cinching in the corset below the ribs, and possibly above the pelvic girdle. Below the ribs is achieved by pulling in the corset, cutting it smaller and tighter at the waist and up to the floating rib (which may or may not be drastically compressed---I advocate against squishing ribs abnormally tightly.)

You don't actually need extra space to achieve the different silhouettes. The extra space allows you to breathe more easily, dance without getting winded (or fainting) more readily and more easily, and helps to prevent "back fat roll" or "butt cleavage" forming between your shoulder blades, either one or both a singularly unattractive look.
In period, meaning during the decades when such corsets were worn, one solution to the back fat roll which could, would and did get formed even on very slender ladies while wearing their corsets, was a "berthe" of pleated fabric, or of lace, to hide the bulge or ridge.