Victorian (1860s) Corded Corset

corded corset

For challenge 6 of the Historical Sew Monthly, I’ve made a Victorian corded corset. It’s the first corded corset I’ve made.

Victorian women’s stays are ‘supported with more or less bones or runners of cotton, according to the age, strength, or constitution of the wearer […] If for ladies, they are made of sattine, or best French jean […] if of an inferior quality, they are made of white, brown, grey, or nankeen jean […] and lined with calico between the doubles. […] It is as well to observe that unless particularly feeble, or otherwise an invalid, it is most desirable to wear as few bones as possible; and that for healthy persons, the two back bones [to protect the lacing eyelets] with the steel in front, are quite sufficient. The casing of the steel in front is sometimes made elastic to the depth of four nails from the top, by means of Indian rubber runners.’ (The Workwoman’s Guide, 1840)

Historical Sew Monthly - Victorian (1860s) Corded Corset

My corded stays are made from two layers of cotton twill, and corded with cotton string.

‘Corsets which are stayed with cords – that is to say, in which a series of cords are introduced between two thicknesses of fabric […] is corded in the usual manner for cording corsets – that is to say, cords are placed as near together as they convieniently can be, between the two thicknesses of fabric cut to the required shape […] The sections or parts of the corset are stitched together in the usual manner, the sections […] being preferably introduced between the thicknesses of the surrounding sections, so as to give a neat finish and appearance to the corset.’ (Corded Corset Patent, 1882)

corded stays

I used an antique corset pattern from 1868. Here’s the pattern.

paper corset mockup

I made small paper corset mockup from various victorian corset patterns, before I decided to make this 1868 corset (the one at the bottom on the right).

1860s corded corset

I’ve sewn the channels on my sewing machine. In Corsets – Historical Patterns & Techniques, Salen (2008) describes an antique 1860 corded corset, which is also machine stitched. The pattern I’ve used says that ‘all the edges of the [corset] pieces so nearly match that the work can be done by machinery’ (source).

regency corded corset

Here’s an 1860s corded corset.

But my corset doesn’t have a front opening (as the 1860 corset in Corsets – Historical Patterns & Techniques); it’s laced in the back.

back lacing corset

The corset laces have to be much longer than in front-opening corset in order to put on the corset. I used the same cotton string for the corset laces which I’ve used for the cording of my corset.

inside of corded corset

I sewed the eyelets by hand. Here you can see a close-up of hand-sewn eyelets and cotton lacing cords of an 1840s corset at the LACMA museum. And I bound the top and bottom of the corset with the same cotton twill fabric. On the inside, all raw edges are finished.

1850s corded corset

The corset can be easily folded together.

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge: 6 – Out of Your Comfort Zone

Fabric: white 100% cotton twill

Pattern: antique 1868 corset pattern

Year: 1868

Notions: white cotton cord, cotton sewing thread

How historically accurate is it? Very accurate

Hours to complete: two days

First worn: today

Total cost: I used fabric and thread from my stash

victorian corded corset

8 thoughts on “Victorian (1860s) Corded Corset

    1. Yes, that’s right! 🙂 Except that bones are added after the corset is finished, while cords are put in before the corset is finished.

  1. Hi! I was wondering how thick the cord needs to be. I want to attempt one but can’t figure what cord “gauge” I need. Your help will be super appreciated.

  2. Hi! I am making a corded corset for a school project and I wondered whether I should allow for shrinkage on each pattern piece before I cord them 🙂

    1. I didn’t allow for shrinkage but to be on the safe side you could make a corded test square measuring before and after cording it.

  3. Hello I have made stays but they flop down at the front bust over time. I want to remake them with cording to prevent this sagging, where can I find direction on where to put the cording please?

    1. I would look at historical corsets to get an idea of where best to put the cording: 1830s and 1840s corsets were often partially corded over the bust.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *