My Edwardian unboned sports corset is my favorite corset so far: it’s so comfy! 😀 The corset is a single-layer corset made of thin pale blue cotton fabric with flat felled seams. It’s inspired by antique Edwardian unboned athletic corsets and health corsets. And even though the corset is unboned and made of thin fabric, I can lace it tighter than more heavily boned corsets made of sturdy cotton fabric like my Edwardian coutil corset! I just love how my Edwardian sports corset turned out! 😀
Related: Edwardian Coutil Corset
‘As every girl who loves the outdoor sports knows, corsets and athletics have long been on unfriendly terms with each other. […] the designers of feminine harness have made little or no study of a corset suitable for such exercise, and they certainly have made no effort to combine the straight front with the freedom of movement required in playing golf and tennis. […] The girl who cares enough for sports to give up her beauty sleep certainly cares enough for her personal appearance not to resemble a first-class meal bag. […]
We now have the pliable, easy straight front that is adapted to the needs of the athlete. […] It is perfectly comfortable and cozy without being sloppy. In fact, it is in every sense an easy stay that any woman may wear and feel as trim in as she would in her very best Sunday one.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)
Corset Fabric: Dyed Cotton Fabric Scrap
Corsets in the Edwardian era were usually single-layer corsets. And although they were made of only one layer of fabric, some Edwardian corsets, particularly Edwardian summer corsets, were made of unusually thin fabrics like cotton batiste or silk broche.
Athletic summer corset made ‘in soft, lightweight material’ (Ferris Waist Ad, 1902).
For my unboned sports corset I used a leftover piece of ordinary cotton fabric. The cotton fabric has a similar fabric weight to cretonne but is more tightly woven and doesn’t stretch. So it’s suitable as corset fabric. However, the color of the fabric was an ugly faded green. Therefore I washed it together with a blue fabric that I knew would bleed in the wash. 😉 This dyed the cotton fabric a beautiful pale blue – I love the color! 😀 Also the color seems to be washfast. Yay! And the scrap piece of fabric was just big enough for an Edwardian corset.
Not all corsets in the Edwardian era were boned. Athletic corsets for sports and casual wear and health corsets were often just lightly boned or even unboned. My Edwardian corset is
unboned except for the busk at the front and two synthetic whalebone bones next to the grommets at the back: These are necessary to keep the corset wrinkle-free when lacing.
‘The steels down the front are just stiff enough to serve their purpose and from there to the back there is not a sign of a bone or cord, so you can readily imagine how limber and loose they are. It is perfectly comfortable and cozy without being sloppy.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)
Unboned But Wrinkle-Free!
Edwardian unboned corsets and corded health corsets often wrinkled when worn, like my Edwardian corded health corset. This was considered normal in the 1900s:
‘Don’t be afraid that the unboned portion will wrinkle with each movement, for that is really so and it would be strange if it didn’t, but it curls up but slightly on account of the gentle pressure of the garters’ (San Francisco Call, 1903).
Related: Edwardian Health Corset
But even though my sports corset is unboned you can see that the corset almost doesn’t wrinkle. And the last few wrinkles will also disappear when I attach the garters. Edwardian corsets usually had garters to keep the corset down and wrinkle-free. But I wanted to show you how my Edwardian sports corset looks without garters. 😉
‘By the way, garters are as much a feature of the athletic corset as they are of any other kind […] The elastics serve to hold the stays down, and the stockings up and do not in any way add stiffness to the original pliability.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)
Corset Sewing Details
All seams of the corset are flat felled seams. And I bound the edges of the corset with white cotton bias binding: I usually use straight grain binding like cotton twill tape to bind my corsets. But because the top and bottom of this corset are so curved I couldn’t use straight grain binding this time. Therefore I used bias binding instead. And unlike my other Edwardian corsets, this one has no lace trim at the top:
‘Strange as it may seem, there has been but little demand for fancy fabrics and dainty trimmings’ for athletic corsets (San Francisco Call, 1903).
As lacing cords I used flat white cotton tape. I also used the tape to tie the shoulders straps to the top of the corset. Shoulder straps of Edwardian health corsets were sometimes attached with buttons, large hooks or safety pins to the top front of the corset. But I chose cotton tape because this is less noticeable under clothing.
Related: Edwardian Bra
The corset is unpadded so far but I’m currently making an Edwardian hip pad that I can wear under the corset if I want.
In the early Edwardian era, dip waist were all the rage! All skirts had a more or less pronounced V-shaped waist. However, these dip waists don’t stay in place as you move. So most of the corsets in the Edwardian era had a large metal hook or dagger at the front: The skirt waistband was slipped under the hook and the dip waist stayed down in front!
‘A good many women have trouble in preventing their skirt from sagging at the waist band in the back. A flat corset hook should be sewed on one side of the middle front of the corset one inch below the waist […] If the skirt fits perfectly about the waist this slipping under the corset hook will keep it in place, up in the back and down on the front.’ (San Francisco Call, 1908)
To make my corset hook I used a large metal hook and bent it into shape similar to the hook on this antique 1905 corset at the MET.
Antique Corset Inspirations
My unboned sports corset is inspired by antique Edwardian summer corsets and Ferris athletic corsets like this 1900s corded Ferris waist, this 1902-5 corset at the MET, this 1906 photograph of an unboned health corset, this 1910 photograph of a sports corset, this antique summer corset, this dark blue Ferris athletic corset and this pale blue corset. And here‘s an antique pattern for a similar reform corset waist from 1901.
Related: Unboned Peasant Woman Stays