My first task was to visit the Museum of London and copy the pattern of a body belt worn by George IV. The pattern itself was stitched together with thick thread to create one long piece. There are two diagonal bone channels to the side of center front, slit openings with lacing marks at the center front and sides, and decorative stitch patterns at each end of the belt in a diamond wave pattern.
detail of center front, side openings, and holes to mark the placement of laces
wearer's right end with possible hook markings
wearer's left end with possible markings for lacing and modesty panel
Details of each end of the body belt. The configuration on the belt ends is confusing to everyone that I've shown it too. Wearer's right end seems to mark hooks, but on the wearer's left end the horizontal lines could represent a modesty panel under lacing? If so, what is the lacing secured to on that side? My research so far has not given me any answers so it is something I will be considering throughout this project.
There is stitching next to the hook marks on the wearer's right end that could mark a bone channel, but there are no corresponding marking on the wearer's left end next to the horizontal lines. Bone channels on either side of the corset lacing is a common construction in many corsets but I don't know if it was common in this period, and the intent of the construction is another question I need to find an answer for.
There are always debates about reconstructing period garments, whether it should be done at all or if done; how far do you go with correct materials and construction for a garment that will be in a museum collection?
I will be constructing this corset with period correct materials, exceptions being the metal bones and completing the sewing by machine. The period correct materials will be natural color cotton coutil for the shell, natural color linen for the lining, silk thread, natural color cotton twill tape to bind the edges, metal hooks and natural color cotton laces. The non- correct materials will be metal bones since whalebone is no longer in use (thank goodness), and sewing by machine since sewing by hand would simply be to much work for the size of the project.
I've sourced all the supplies except the center front and side lacing. The lacing holes were so small that I suspect finding the right size lacing, in cotton, and in the right color will be difficult.
I have made the first toile in muslin and will check the fit on the correct mannequin when it is ready.
This garment would have been worn under clothing, but in this exhibition it will be on display as a representation of men's Regency undergarments.
While at the Museum of London I was fortunate to see a women's corset of the same period in order to compare and inform my choices on construction and materials.
detail of women's corset from the same period, side opening with lacing
detail of front of women's corset and decorative stitching