If you're reading this now, you've possibly purchased one of my Regency corsets, in which case, welcome! If you haven't bought one of my corsets, hopefully this will still be helpful for someone who owns a Regency corset but doesn't know how to wear it. If you want your own Regency corset you can purchase one of your own from my shop.
This post will go through a brief history of the Regency corset, how to alter your straps to fit and then how to lace your corset correctly.
The Regency period was a short-lived but beautiful period of history. Our obsession with the Regency period is largely down to Jane Austen- without her, I doubt that we would have such an awareness of the period that only lasted for nine years, from 1811 to 1820.
The point of Regency corsets was not to squeeze the waist like Victorian corsets, the ideal figure was streamlined under the loose, Romantic dresses and the bust lifted to fill out empire-line bodices.
The waistline had started to rise during the Georgian period and the corsets lifted with it, the shorter versions known as 'transition' corsets, shown in the first image. The Regency era discarded the heavily boned corsets of the previous era, instead opting for either long or short stays- if you didn't need a lot of support you could wear short stays, which held the bust in a similar way to modern bras.
If you wanted more support from a corset, however, you could wear long-line stays that could be heavily corded with decorative patterns. Cording replaced bones to structure corsets, giving women support without excessive boning.
(I currently don't sell short corsets or corded corsets on my shop, but if you're interested send me a message and we can discuss it!)
This style of corset was worn well into the 1830s (last pic), keeping roughly the same shape but more bones were added, as a precursor to the heavily boned Victorian era.
Altering the Straps
Straps are an essential part of Regency corsets because there isn't enough structure to keep them in the correct place on your body without them. However, there is nothing more frustrating than a strap that doesn't fit, constantly slipping off your shoulder or cutting off the circulation in your arms. Do not despair! There are some easy fixes that even the most inexperienced reenactor can achieve.
If your strap is too short:
An easy fix; simply undo the ties and re-tie until the straps are flush against your shoulder. If your laces are too short you can use a length of ribbon or any other type of string to use as laces.
If your strap is too long:
Ugh, nothing worse than a strap constantly slipping from your shoulder. It's a little trickier to shorten a strap, but I'll go through a couple of easy fixes for non-sewers and then one slightly trickier fix for those who feel semi-confident with a needle.
Safety Pin Method
Kinda obvious one- simply safety pin the strap however much you need it shortened. You can either safety pin it on the inside for a better look, or on the outside if this way is uncomfortable.
I suppose you could also use a safety pin for this one, but I'm using a straight pin it in order to differentiate the methods! You simply overlap the eyelets and pull the strap until it's tight enough, then pin into place. This method is great because you can do it while you're wearing the corset.
If you own a machine or are semi-competent with a needle, this is a permanent way to alter your strap. Start by measuring how much shorter you want your strap to be and note it down. Then find a section that is roughly the same width for as long as you need to shorten it. Unfortunately, the corset straps that I make are all tapered so this may be a little tricky, but should still be possible.
Unpick both sides as much as you need to shorten the strap by.
Now the scary part! Cut down the centre of your unpicked section, going through only ONE layer.
Next, peel back the cut section and fold back on itself.
Pin as much as you need to shorten the strap by, then machine or hand stitch securely.
This should leave you with one side machined and the other side of the strap with two flaps.
Now tuck the sewn side under the strap...
... and tuck one side under the other, then fold the other side over it.
This should leave no raw edges.
Now you just have to hand stitch everything down.
And voila! This should have your strap shortened permanently and neatly!
Wearing history: If your busk digs into the centre of your ribcage, the corset may be sitting too low on your body. Tighten the straps or get a different size corset as I know from personal experience that this can be very painful.
How to Lace your Regency Corset
I've made a youtube video illustrating various ways to lace corsets. I would recommend lacing a Regency corset with the 'bunny ear' style- if you have trouble watching it here, you can also find it here.
If you have any more questions about your Regency corset please don't hesitate to contact me! I make all sorts of historical costumes, so if you have a dream costume then please reach out and we can make something happen.
Until next week!