Selecting a corset style
So you know WHY you want to make your own corset – but now what KIND of corset do you want to make?
I’ve seen a lot of people divide up corsets into several different categories, but I’m going to use a strategy that makes sense to ME. Your mileage may vary, and you likely will see other opinions/classifications/names in other resource material.
Elizabethan – I choose this name for the corsets that aim to turn your torso into an ice-cream cone shape. These corsets don’t have a lot of body shaping to them, and are reasonably simple to draft and construct. You might find these at Renaissance Fairs, SCA events, or other ‘historical’ reenactment events. You can find these with or without tabs (apparently the tabs help with comfort and support of those huge skirts, though they add an extra level of difficulty when it comes to construction), and with or without shoulder straps. (Theoretically the corset should be self-supporting, and not need straps to keep it ‘up’, however the costumes that go with these are never sleeveless, and the additional support is probably highly desirable.) These go over the bust, but those super-simple cinchers would be similar to an underbust variation on this design.
Victorian – I choose this name for the corsets that aim to create an hourglass figure. There were several different overall styles in the Victorian era, but just roll with me on this one, ok? These support the bust, nip in the waist, and can either compress the hips slightly or just offer coverage. This is the style that I think most people aim for when they wish to create their own corset, and the style that I’m going to focus on. These are the styles you’ll most likely find in lingerie shops, fetish markets, or on the runway. You can find these in long-line (corset dresses!), full coverage, just barely covering the nipple, and underbust. There is significant shaping through the body. Generally you won’t see straps on these, unless they are purely decorative.
Pigeon-front – I use this to describe the ‘straight-front’ corsets also popular during the Victorian era. Instead of a horizontal waist, these created a slanted waist, a pronounced chest and bottom, and a severely curved spine. I haven’t actually seen any of these in person, only illustrations and a few rare photographs. Apparently these are incredibly challenging to draft and construct, and since I find them unattractive, I’ve never attempted one myself. Another style that I strongly dislike is the Pipestem style of corset – which lengthens the area of the waist drastically, in contrast to the Wasp-waist style which sharply nips in the waist (drastically) before releasing again. For great illustrations of these, check out the Romantasy website.
Rococo – is the name I’ll use for corsets that kind of ‘split the difference’ – they have more shaping in the body than an Elizabethan corset, but not nearly as much as a Victorian corset. I’ve only ever seen them with straps, as the back is very high, and the neckline is very wide. I’ve only ever seen these with tabs, again to support the weight of the massive skirts.
Regency – is the name I choose for the longer-line corsets with much less shaping than Victorian corsets. These were used to achieve the waif-like figure desirable with Empire/Napoleonic fashions circa 1800
For more information on the corsets that I refer to as “Elizabethan”, look at corsets dated from the 16th century.
For more information on the corsets that I refer to as “Rococo”, look at corsets dated from the 17th and 18th centuries.
For more information on corsets that I refer to as “Victorian”, or “Regency”, look at corsets dated from the 19th century.
Which of these styles would you be most interested in making? Leave your feedback in the comments section below! Then follow the `Corset Class` category to see more as I progress!