Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shelley Peters Sewing Workshop and an S-Bend Corset

Imagine my surprise when I found out there was going to be a corset making workshop in Las Vegas. Let's just say my husband almost drove off the road when I opened the email and shrieked... Oops.

It was last weekend and it was great. Shelley Peters, of The Widow Peters' Kansas Mercantile, came and did a two day workshop. She was so helpful and patient and came with all her supplies so we got to shop too! The other girls that came to it were fantastic and it was beyond awesome to meet other ladies in Las Vegas who love to do this too. 

And here I was for so long on my lonely little sewing island :)

So on to the sewing!

I chose to do an early Edwardian S Bend corset. Why? One of the other girls was going to make one too, which gave me the idea, and even though I haven't finished my worsted stays, I wanted to make something completely foreign to me and use the opportunity to learn from Shelley, versus just making something I already know how to do.

We used the Truly Victorian 1903 Corset pattern and it went together like a dream. The first day was spent making a muslin. I have never put so much time into a mock up. This was my favorite part of working with an instructor: my patience increased ten fold and I paid attention and really thought about the process instead of just the outcome.

The muslin was marked like the pattern paper,
with multiple sizes and lengths marked.

The blue line is my adjustments to the pattern.
I found it rode too low over the hips and in front
so I couldn't sit down.

Shelley showing us the lining
on her polonaise.

Day two we worked with the coutil, making the real thing. This Edwardian corset uses one layer of coutil, boning tapes, each set with two bones, and cotton bias tape to bind the top and bottom. The bones are flat, not spiral steel.

The gores were set in and topstitched.

Pretty topstitching! So neatly done! Yay!

Post busk, pre bones and binding.

I got distracted here and stopped taking pictures. Working too hard! One note, regarding the boning channels: this corset pattern was designed for a larger lady, while the two of us making this corset at the workshop were on the small side. There ended up being issues with enough space for the boning. If you make this pattern, and you are thin, expect to have to monkey a little with the boning pattern to fit in enough support.

Here's the (mostly) finished product. Mostly, because I want to trim it and make it frilly. It also needs it's pads - the S Bend shape is highly dependent on padding. The straight front adds to the illusion as well, unlike the curved front of earlier victorian corsets, but the pads are essential. That is why, in the pictures below, the bust and hips are loose. The corset is supposed to be snug at the waist and then you pad the rump and the bust to get the curvy, pigeon shape so associated with the early 20th century silhouette.

11:00 at night! Look at those dark circles!
I have a new respect for people in
sweat shops lol

Shelley had me hold out the back to
show where the pad would go.

I'm still deciding how to trim it.

Since I have been home from the workshop,  I made up my pads, as they are in the Truly Victorian pattern. I'm happy with the rum pad, though it needs some frilly trimming, but the bust pads are just not enough, in my opinion. I think I will have to make up some kind of bust improver to be tucked into the front to give more of the pouter pigeon look.

I chose this 1/4 inch cotton twill drawstring
because it isn't bulky under the corset.
It is also not slippery, unlike the pretty ribbon
I was thinking of using.

The bust pads from the pattern.
They are supposed to go under your bust to fill in the space
between your boobs and your ribs and the corset,
creating a smooth front.

I will shortly be making up some kind of bust improver, perhaps a soft one like this to tuck into the front, or a boned one like the picture below to really add some shape! A frilly, ruffly, corset cover will also improve the silhouette.

Here is a great article from Foundations Revealed, in reference to the S Bend silhouette and the corsets, padding and posture that contribute to it: The S-Bend in Context


  1. Caroline, this corset looks fantastic. I really enjoy reading your blog and seeing all of your beautiful work.

    I do have to ask you - do you know the costumers Katherine and Twila? (koshka_the_cat and twilatee at livejournal) If not, you should as you all live in the same area. Let me know and I could put you in touch.


    1. Thanks so much! I'm very pleased with the outcome of this project.

      And the more the merrier :) At the workshop, some of the other girls and I were saying, since far too little sewing related stuff goes on in our area, we are hoping to get together more. I would love to have more people join in. I do follow Katherine's site, but have never met her. She makes beautiful things!

    2. Caroline... Please do call us! We'd love to have a new sewing friend. :)

    3. Hi, Twila! I don't know if you already follow the Southern Nevada Living History Association on facebook or yahoo groups, but check it out. Lately us ladies have been trying to do some fun dress up thing like once a month. There aren't too many of us. It would be great to have more people!


    4. I'm a member, but don't really attend their meetings. Although I did make it to SMR for one afternoon. Ironically enough Katherine and I spent most of our afternoon chatting with Shelly Peters! :)

      Did you know that the CSA is having a symposium in Las Vegas coming up this year?
      Although it's quite academic there are normally some really great costumers in attendance. :)

    5. That's funny, because that is exactly what I did at SMR, too! I chatted and bought lots of patterns and left :)

      I heard something about the symposium a while back. Thanks for reminding me! I do want to go. I'm sure it's very interesting!

  2. Gorgeous! You look fabulous in it so far; I can't wait to see you decorate it. I really enjoyed that last photo of the two ladies, Ms. Old Fashion and Ms. New Fashion. I find both looks to be equally charming, though Ms. New looks a little snooty.

    1. Totally snooty! And Ms. Old Fashioned looks so sad :(

      Thanks for the good words, by the way. I just tacked some better trim on it to see how I like it. I think I'll leave the trim on overnight and see how I feel about it with fresh eyes in the morning. And I think it needs a big bow!

  3. I love Shelly Peters! I have taken many a workshop from her because I am lucky enough to live in the same general area as her! She is so knowledgeable and helpful :)

    And your new corset looks great! Exciting to finally see the new pattern made up. You did a splendid job :)

    1. Oo lucky you! I wish more sewing workshops came my way. It's so nice to have someone there who you can ask a million questions.

      The pattern was great, too. It's not too often an s-bend is called for, but it was definitely interesting to see how the shape turns out different than from an earlier Victorian corset, when they look like similar pattern pieces on paper.

  4. I've been to her workshops too but I live 1 1/2 hrs from her so not as often as I'd like. Its just a great day of sewing with her.
    Your corset looks great. I made that one too.

    1. Thanks! Yes, I was lucky she came to Vegas. It's hard to travel for workshops that span a few days, as much as I would like to.

  5. Hey wanted to know how you finished of the seam