corset … no I’m not wearing a corset, this happens to be a fitted gothic dress

What I know …

most … all purists will tell you that they didn’t exist … and I’m inclined to believe them. However, there was something called the fitted Gothic dress.

Modern: Regency Style Corset pattern 18th Century

Gothic Fitted: Dig find, Herjolfsnes no.41, Mid-Late 14th Century

And looking at the both of them there are some striking similarities.  Both use small panels of material to wrap around the torso. Which makes sense … because you would want your seams to sewn on the straight grain as much as possible. In my mind I picture it like building a log cabin …

I made a replica (of sorts) of stays of Eleonora de Toledo, (1562).  For starting the process I relied heavily on and created a paper pattern or “block” based on my measurements. Not to put too fine a point on this, but the rule measure twice cut once, comes to mind. I don’t think I did the best job getting the measurements, but the process involves drafting the pattern and fitting it on paper, so there was plenty of time to correct anything that went wrong. Also … I did not wear a modern bra. When I did the measurements there was a five inch difference between the modern lift and separate contraptions vs sports bra. Boning: There is no evidence to suggest that boning was ever used … but because I have combination of bad posture and  lots of bust I knew that I needed some help.

i should have

… used canvas layer and quilted them for strength.

what i actually did

… was use hemp cording. Mostly because  its a natural fiber so it probably won’t drive me nuts. And also because I fell in love with Jen Thompsons’ dress diary. It took some digging around to figure out how to do it, but basically I had a plan.

  • I cut two layers of my “block”, out of an old linen table cloth. (burn tested thrift find)
  • Tested the “channels” widths, with the hemp cording  (Oddly, the pressure foot width worked.)

I was quite nervous at this point, I didn’t want to do anything wrong and I wasn’t sure how to lay the pockets for my cording. Jen Thompson has examples of her work, but her instructions have disappeared into internet time and space. So I didn’t have clear instructions on how to place the cords. Fortunately I found some boning examples from the Renaissance Tailor. I couldn’t recreate their examples exactly but it was close enough for me.  I was working with a two dollar table cloth … I figured may as well dig in.  So, I started by sewing the one line down the front (where your cleavage would be) and then just kept going with that first line, using the foot as a measure. Because the pattern is curved, the straight lines fan out all on their own quite naturally.

  • Sewed channels for cording … and inserted hemp.

At this point it was ugly as hell … so i thought a fitting would be in order. I made a eyelet holes on a belt cord i had lying around and tried it on…

There were a few problems

it didn’t have should straps. I wasn’t sure the cording would work, and impatient so when i cut it i didn’t take the time to do the last step in my pattern block, and fit the should straps. Instead i adapted the English style of corset straps, where they just tie to the front with some more eyelets by eyeballing the pattern. Also the linen table cloth/hemp layer was pretty stretching (probably because i didn’t cut the small panels). So, to add strength i quilted my presentation layer over it  in a diamond pattern.

the eyelet holes are spiral. By the end i felt like a pro, even though there were a few “snow white” moments. The tape is the same linen material i thought i would try my hand at making it myself, which was fairly easy and oddly satisfying.

The good news is it works well, almost too well. and … I may have to try and dye it black … Bad news not accurate… meh


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