More Edwardian Research

I know, I’m lame, I haven’t posted anything for weeks! Mostly because I’ve not been doing very much sewing or research because I have an actual job now, and my graduation is coming up, and I have college stuff and orchestra stuff and overall lots of stuff. I was also waiting for my parents to help me sign up for the online magazines Foundations Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d. But some things came up and that never happened, and I’m sick of waiting for all this stuff to happen before I start my Titanic Era costume!

(Well, I have been doing a little bit of random sewing stuff, but none of it has been that interesting. I got some polo shirts for work that were a men’s small, and I’m generally a women’s extra small or even a child’s large, so those had to be altered. They came out really good though! I also had to hem and take in my graduation dress. That came out nicely too.)

Anyway, I decided to scour the internet while I had some free time this weekend, so I could do as much research as possible by myself. After all, those online magazines are mainly research, and they had to get their information from somewhere, right?

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a pattern for a 1912 corset. I actually could not find one no matter where I looked. The only one I could find was some 1912-inspired pattern from Ebay, and the description was, “Easy to make. No boning required.” I don’t want an easy corset pattern, I want a hard one! And what kind of corset doesn’t have boning? I was about to give up, but I found a pretty decent 1913 corset pattern from this website called Old Petticoat Shop. They claim it was made from an original 1913 corset pattern, with a little bit of modern features like seam allowances added to the directions. They’re saying it can be made for any size. The waist can go down to 19 inches and the bust can be down to 28, so hopefully I can get it to fit me! And it’s saying it can be either high bust or low bust, which is nice. (I’ll discuss what that means in a minute.) The 1913 silhouette is not that different from 1912, so it seems as though this pattern is the winner!

And now, I’ll share all this crazy stuff I learned in one night after looking through my new favorite resources- archives of store catalogs from the era. These are just a gold mine for the historical fashion researcher! On Pinterest I’ve stumbled upon pictures of catalog pages, and I went to the links to them last night and I found this website called They have pretty much all the types of historical documents you could think of, from city hall meetings to agriculture information to… department store catalogs. >:3 I was up late last night poring over this Sears catalog from 1912. These things are fascinating. First of all, they can be about 1,000 pages long. They advertise everything and anything you might need or want, like dishes and tools and lamps and sewing machines and, of course, clothes. In particular, I was scouring over the sections where they’d sell undergarments. Chemises, corsets, corset covers, brassieres, petticoats, princess slips, stockings, everything. And I learned some new things.

*Corsets could be low, medium or high bust. Low bust corsets would go up just below the bust, and high bust corsets would completely cover the bust, and medium was somewhere in between. Low bust or low medium bust seemed to be really popular, based on the advertisements. I’m not sure which one I’ll do- probably low or medium, since I don’t need all that much bust support!

*Brassieres in the early 1910s did not look anything like our modern bras- the beginnings of modern bras started around 1915. Instead, they were almost like corsets that covered the bust and stopped at the waist. Take a look at this picture from the 1912 catalog- the lady on the far bottom left is wearing a brassiere over her corset. It’s actually a brassiere and corset cover combined. (I have to put it as a link instead of a normal pic because it’s the wrong file type or whatever.) So a brassiere would support the bust and give you the correct “pigeon breast” shape.

*There are certain pieces that can be combined. The chemise and drawers (worn under the corset) can be combined to make a combination chemise, which looks sort of like a modern-day romper. Similarly, the corset cover and brassiere can be combined like how you see in that picture. Or the corset cover can be combined with a petticoat (underskirt) to make what they called a princess slip. This picture shows some ladies wearing princess slips- the two ladies on the bottom left, for example. It also shows them wearing combination chemises- the shorter “dresses” are actually combination chemises. Another thing to notice on this page is the bust improver! The ruffled semicircle shapes on the far right. You’d wear those to make your bust fuller. I’m pretty sure I’ll be making one.

I just love how the people are illustrated, don’t you?

In conclusion, looking at these catalogs really helped me understand how Edwardian underwear actually works. I kind of think of it as a corset sandwich.

  1. Chemise and drawers (under corset)
  2. Corset and brassiere
  3. Corset cover and petticoat (over corset)

I’m very excited to order the corset pattern and start playing around with mock-ups! And now I have a feeling what I’m doing with the other undergarments. Underwear was much prettier back then, wasn’t it?

One more random thing. When I start to do some actual work on this costume, would anyone be interested in me making tutorials or video tutorials, instead of just telling everyone what I did? If you would be interested, PLEASE comment!

I hope you’re as excited about the Edwardian era as I am! 🙂




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