To accompany my newly released Regency short stays instructions, I’m going to write a couple of blog posts centred around making/altering Regency short stays. This week, I thought I’d outline some ways that you can alter already-made straps for the perfect fit.
You can use these tips for a corset you’ve purchased (one custom made, for example *wink* *wink*) or one that you made yourself that just isn’t serving you well.
Regency corsets, long-line or short, are unusual in that they universally have straps. Sure, there’s the occasional Georgian or Victorian corset with straps, but with Regency corsets it’s a given. The bust needed to sit high in order to fill out the scooped neckline of Regency dresses, and the only way to ensure that was adding straps to corsets to keep the bust line raised.
How do I know my straps don’t fit right?
We’ve all been there; you spend ages making a beautiful historical outfit and you wear out out all day for an event, only to discover that it’s desperately uncomfortable.
(Btw, to avoid this, I would urge to to wear an outfit, especially the underwear, for a stint of time before the actual event. Then you can discover any bits that pinch, need fastenings altered or just plain can’t be worn for long periods of time.)
If it feels like weights are pressing on your shoulder, then your straps are too short.
If your straps keep slipping from your shoulders, then they’re too long.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that our modern bodies are not used to the regimented shapes of historical clothing, and sometimes a garment that you find incredibly uncomfortable at first your body will be able to get used to over time. For example, I made a chemise with quite tight armholes and I found they pinched horribly the first few times I wore it. Now, the same chemise, no alterations, and I don’t even notice any more. The same with corsetry: I used to not be able to wear a corset for more than a couple hours. Now, sometimes I forget I’m even wearing one.
Too Short Straps:
Loosen Ties: If your corset uses eyelets and laces to fasten the strap, it’s a very simple fix to loosen the laces or get a longer length of lace/ribbon to tie it.
I’m using the same fabric as the corset in my demonstration, but you can use any fabric, so long as it’s strong enough for purpose.
Measure the width of your corset strap and the amount that you need it lengthened by, then add 1.5cm seam allowance around all of these measurements. If you need to cover an eyelet, you may need to make it longer.
Stitch, trim seam allowance and clip corners.
Turn inside out and press.
Turn edges under and pin to the strap.
Now, you can hand-sew this in place, but as straps on a corset often undergo a lot of strain I’m going to use a machine to affix it.
You can then pin this to the corset, or if you would prefer you can add an eyelet to the end. If you don’t have metal eyelets to hand, hand-stitching them is also an option (and a historically accurate one!).
Too Long Straps:
Using a Pin: The simplest way to bring a strap down is to simply pin it lower down on the corset.
FYI: Using pins to fasten clothing is a tricky art to master. Our forebearers would have been experts, having to use straight pins to even hold their babies’ nappies in place. We’re not quite so trained these days! For the first few times you use pins, prepare to get scrapes up your arms and the ends of pins sticking through your clothing until you find the angle that works for you!
Tucking Inside: An equally simple method, but perhaps a bit neater if you value aesthetics over everything (like me!). Use something pointy but blunt, like a sewing needle, to poke the tip of the strap inside.
You can then simply pin this finished end to the corset.
If you would like to finish it properly, you can slip stitch the end closed.
I have also written this in the mind that you may wish to alter the strap one day again. If not, you can simply cut the end off, turn it under and slip stitch it closed.
Using a Safety Pin: If you would prefer to avoid the dangers of using straight pins, you can use a safety pin. Find a point where the strap is as even as possible and pinch it, half of how much you want it taken up by, then use a safety pin to secure it.
It may be more comfortable to have this on the outside, but it might look neater (especially if your outer clothing is thin) to have this pinched segment underneath.
This method may seem complicated on the surface, but trust me it’s not that complicated when it actually comes down to it!
Again, find a spot where the strap is most even (not as tapered) and draw a line. Unpick a few stitches on either side of this line.
Cut along the line, on only one side.
Pinch half of what you need the strap taken up by.
…and machine along the line.
This is the bit that’s going to seem complicated, but trust me, it’s not!
Fold the pinched section back.
Fold one section over it.
Then tuck the other side underneath.
If this is overly bulky, you can trim some parts down, especially the seam allowances.
Stitch in place. It’s fine if you do it by hand because the other side should take all the strain.
I hope this helped someone! Do you guys have any tips for making straps fit better?
Next week I’m going to be writing a post about fitting short stays mock-ups, so let me know if there’s anything you would like to see featured in that post!
Until next time,