1890’s Wasp Waist Corset

Following my Corseted through the century project I decided to revisit the 1890’s as I wasn’t happy with my previous attempt at this decade. History was set to repeat.

For this corset I used Mandy Barrington’s 1890 Wasp Waist corset from the book ‘Stays and Corsets’.36de54e8d56da3b58199a2cbb7521be7ae112a85r1-986-449v2_hq.jpg

The materials I used were,
One meter of pink cotton drill
One 30cm Spoon busk
2 100m spools of poly thread
1 100m spool of topstitching thread
Embroidery floss

Pictured also is lace with ribbon insert and pink ribbon I intended to replace the red ribbon with.
Not pictured are the 4mm eyelets used.
I started by laying out my patterns onto my fabric (cotton drill) and drew out the seam allowances. I used 1.5cm on all of the interior seams and the CB and CF used 2cm seam allowances, this allowed for the fabric to be turned back to the interior of the eyelet panel and for the busk.

The pattern pieces were then cut out.
b8b61bebe4837c590f8307f47bad1cdc3c7acf6er1-1024-768v2_hq.jpgThis fabric has a really nice diagonal texture to it which I really like for the top side of the corset so I’ve been using that rather than the untextured other side.

And then came my latest new corset adventure, cording. This is a historical technique and provides extra support along side boning although there are samples of corsets that use only cording for support.
My book ‘Corsets’ by Jill Salen has a small tutorial for cording so I followed that with modern techniques.







I decided that I’d used carbon paper for transferring information over to my wrong side fabric. But I chose to use yellow which I soon realised isn’t a great choice on top of pink.

You can just make it out if you squint!

I didn’t think the process over all that well and decided to cord before assembling the corset, although it’s possible to do this I highly recommend assembling and then cording especially if you’re cording a larger area of a panel!!

It was a very slow process but rewarding when complete! It took me eight hours to complete both the large panels.
Boning channels were also sewn in at this stage.
I wanted to give myself a break before starting the cording over the bust and decided to prepare the busk first. This time featuring a spoon busk!! First time working with one and they’re just as easy as rectangular busks, more curvy but plain and simple.
Sewn in with a zipper foot.
I also at this stage made the dumb mistake of using a pencil to draw guide marks for the busk which are a tiny bit visible on the completed corset! It doesn’t bother me too much is was just a bad decision especially when I have friction pens handy.

For the busk side with the eyes the fabric was marked where the eyes would poke through and then with my eyelet ouch holes were punched. Awls are best to use but I still haven’t acquired one. The eyes are 4mm at the widest part however I used a 2mm hole. The hole is then coated in fray check and left to set over night. The fray check will allow some stretch to the fabric allowing the hole to stretch over the eye and then fit snug to the stud with no loose fabric visible.


The rest of the corset was then assembled.

The bust cording was inserted at this stage leaving gaps for the boning channels.
I used long tweezers to make sure it was sitting correctly and flush to the cording above. Before seams were closed off to the larger cording channels, boning was inserted into the horizontal channels as they’d not be accessible after.
After assembling the rest of the corset and sewing in the deep so that the two layers were flush with each other the boning channels could be sewn. This was a simple process as of the markings for the channels were on the wrong side of the fabric for easy identification and sewing. Whenever a channel needed to be sewn into the deep the corset was flipped to the right side for precise lines of stitching (just in case the layer done quite like up) being a few millimetres off can ruin the look of the neat and narrow channels!
Once the channels were all sewn it was time to insert the boning, I’m using 5mm flat steel boning which I ‘cap’ to remove any chance of the steels ripping through the fabric. It also makes inserting them into tight channels much easier.
The issues that I ran into (which I did foresee happening) was that the bust channels need more movement to them than the flat steel allows for.

You can see in the below picture how the bust boning is fighting the shape of the channels.
This was a fight I would not win…
The channels need to be the shape they are for support and silhouette, so how is this fixed?
Spiral steel.
I’ve been lucky with my last few corsets as they were functional using just flat steel but this corset has beat me!! Unfortunately I didn’t have a supply of spiral steel (the piece you see in my photos is from a old corset and that’s the only length I have) so I needed to order some in. I decided to buy 10m (buying it in bulk rolls was out of stock) which will be more than enough for at least two more corsets. I also bought proper spiral steel caps as my capping method isn’t function for spiral steel so these caps are necessary and a new corset lace as my current one is grubby and needs replacing.

After inserting the spiral steel into the bust boning channels I could seal the bottom of the corset up preventing the boning from coming out. I also zigzagged the bottom edge to prevent any fraying. The top and bottom edge of the corset were then bound in bias tape. I got store bought bias tape this time because I was emotionally ready to sew ribbon bias onto a corset again!
I also decided that I would floss this corset like I did my 1860’s one. This time I chose a more complicated technique for more of a challenge and it looks lovely!
Flossing really does add to historical corsets and is something I’ll be incorporating into future corsets! After this I used my new 4mm eyelets and inserted them into the corset. Yes there a lot but that was the amount suggested in the book!

And then the corset was complete ready to be tried on!


I am very happy with this corset and I think it shows off skills as a seamstress quite well. I’m definitely seeing a steady improvement with each corset I make and considering thats the reason I’m making so many that makes me very happy. The corset is however, too large for me. It barley takes me in by and inch (the full closure measurement is 29″ my regular waist measurement is around 29.5″) when I should have been able to get 4” off with the pattern I drafted. I did however talk to a student who studied at AUB and Mandy Barrington was her tutor, she said that the sizing issue was common in her classes with Mandy and Mandy herself wasn’t sure why some students were having issues with the waist measurement being off. They gave me some great tips for altering the corset size which I will use towards my next one from this book!
I’m excited to move onto my next corset, I think I’ll do the 1880’s next. I’ve unintentionally been drawn the the last half of the century but I am just as excited for the first half of the century. I’d like to complete this challenge of mine before the end of the year but our head tutor sent out an email about the Golden Shears Tailoring Competition which I’m very interested in entering, I’ll probably make post dedicated to that once I’m back a uni and have spoken to our tutor about it further.

Comments are always appreciated! If you’ve worked with this book let me know how it went for you.
Thanks for reading



9 thoughts on “1890’s Wasp Waist Corset

  1. I’ve never done one with cording. What do you feel it adds?
    My guess with different people getting varying amounts of reduction with the same pattern is personal squish factor and drafting errors.
    This is a heck of a project you’re taking on overall!
    My only caution is that I see you putting in so much work into all those details, the cording and whatnot, but I worry that they’re not going to last as well as they could because you’re not using coutil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The corset feels a lot more sturdy and it has a bit more weight to it, overall feeling very strong in the corded areas. I think it would also add to the silhouette though I can’t say for sure as this corset offered no waist reduction for me.
      It is a bit of a crazy project but I’m lovely every second of it! I’ve learnt so much even with the errors and my confidence in corsetry has grown so much.
      I have used coutil for a lot of my previous corsets (I do know it’s the choice material) but I was limited when buying materials for corsets over the summer and drill seamed like a okay alternative for what was available. I’m not expecting any of these corsets to last I’m more interested in learning techniques and practicing, I expect I’ll be remaking some of these in a few years time and recycling the steel materials. I will use coutil again when I’ve used up all the left over drill!
      Thank you very much for leaving a comment and I’ll be sure to check out your work!


  2. I was just looking at the cording placement again and extra sturdiness in those areas does make sense. The bust area can get some wrinkling at the seams, so the cording would shore that up (though I see that as being more of an issue for the larger busted). Actually, I bet the cording on the back sides / hip area is the same thing: holding the giggly bits more firmly. So probably not something you really need. Are those short bones at the top of the side back area?
    I’ve also seen cording without bones in earlier corsets, either as an alternative to unbending whale bone or for a “comfort” or maternity corset. In the former, there are usually tons of cording channels (look at Elizabethan and early Victorian).
    I didn’t think about the sheer number of corsets you are making. That would be a lot of (expensive) coutil! I’ve used ticking and denim that had more diagonal yarns (but wasn’t coutil). I don’t recommend budget coutil.
    Can’t wait to see the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes those are short horizontal bones above the cording which I now know would have been more suitable with spiral steel, I’ve made a mental note for future! I have seen a few of those cording only corsets, there are lovely examples of 30’s corsets that are heavily corded and have embroidery worked in over top for a stunning finish. I’m planning for at least one of the corsets I make for this century to be cording only. I’ll keep an eye out for ticking and denim the next time I’m out looking for fabric, the costs of these corsets will add up quite quickly!
      The latest decade I’m working on is the 1870’s with that corset incorporating both cording and quilting which is interesting!
      Thank you for leaving all those comments! I’ll reply to the other two here,
      I had a look at that entry and its stunning! I’ve never seen a horizontal seamed corset before, its kind of bizarre but I love it!
      I’ve already had look at Edwardian corsets and one is definitely on the future list, I actually haven’t looked at corsets later than that to be honest. Not because of lack of interest but I haven’t gotten around to studying dress history from those later decades yet. ‘Corsets and Crinolines’ does have a few examples I believe but I won’t let myself get too carried away looking at corsets outside of the 19th century until I’m a little closer to being finished with my current challenge!
      Thank you again for your comments!


  3. Oh yes, spiral ones there would be better. Or maybe just cording? I like that you did the flossing too.
    The 30s had a pretty big variety and had started to use elasticized panels in some cases. There can be separate pieces involved too.
    I’d steer clear of most denim unless it has some diagonal weaving. That is, if you even come across non stretchy denim these days.
    Cording and quilting? Hmmm… What’s the reasoning behind the quilting? Does that one have fewer bones?
    Definitely one decade at at time!
    I look forward to your future corset posts. 🙂


    • I hadn’t thought about horizontal cording apart from being used over the bust, I’ll have a look into that. Diagonal weaved denim only, noted thank you!
      Again with the quilting I think it’s a structural aspect, the quilted panels and gussets I’ve made already feel reenforced and sturdy like the cording. It’s also very pretty so it could just be an aesthetic choice. Very few bones it’s mostly vertical cording over the body of the corset. I’ll have to do more research and add that to my post when completed.


      • I wonder if quilting could have been a way to improve fabric structure/strength when good base fabrics weren’t available? The reason coutil is the ideal fabric is because the tiny herringbone weave, with yarns going one way, then shortly crossed by yarns going the other way, allow the least movement of the individual yarns. Herringbone is super stable. Twill, on the other hand, has a diagonal weave that slants one way, making it stiffer, but allowing yarn movement eventually. Duck cloth is plain weave, which allows the most movement. Of course the weight and composition of a specific fabric’s yarns are also factors. That’s why a duck cloth or pair of jeans can be stiff and tight initially, but stretch out with wear.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s