The Effigy Bodys
The Effigy Bodys Reconstructing History StyleThe Effigy Corset on a mannequin4
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The ReconstructionBefore I attempt to make a replica of an original piece, I gather as much information as I can from as many sources as I can find. Great assistance was provided by Drea Leed and her Elizabethan Costume Page. Additional information was found on Marthe Munch's Corset Page. Thank you, ladies, for hosting such informative websites. After gathering as much information as I could, I set out to determine how to scale the corset so that my replica would fit me. I have made a number of 18th century stays that resemble the Effigy corset, but I didn't want my preconceived notions to influence my reconstruction. Instead of digging out my 18th century pattern drafts, I decided to start from scratch. I made a mock-up on bristol board based on my bust, waist, and back waist measurements. I cut this out and laid it aside. [NOTE: Bristol board can be obtained from any art supply store and from many retailers online. Poster board or any other thin cardboard works just as well.] Next, I blew up the picture in Waugh4 of the Effigy Corset laid flat and printed it out. I carefully cut out this minature and marked the seams and other features on the opposite side. I creased the picture at center back so I could check if it was symetrical. It was. Then I snipped the tabs so that they would open properly. Next, I curled the little minature around so that the fronts touched. I held the straps in place with my fingers and gave it a good look. Not surprizingly, it resembled the Effigy Corset on the mannequin, pictured above. It also resembled the female human form which is something I wanted to check before continuing this project. I do not know if it is known whether this corset was specifically made for the effigy of Queen Elizabeth I or if it was donated by a patron who wore it in life. If it were made for the effigy, it may not have been in a wearable shape. Although I do not know the original measurements of the Effigy Corset, I am convinced it is of a shape appropriate for a living woman to wear. Next, the mock-up in my measurements. I laid the bristol board mock-up I made earlier on another sheet of bristol board aligning the front edges and pushing the busk point to within an inch of the bottom of my 19" x 24" sheet. In this position, I traced around my mock-up and removed it. Then I folded my little minature Effigy Corset in half and laid it on the table above the bristol board so I could see it as I drew. First I measured my back waist, from T-1 (the first thoracic vertebra, or that little bump at the base of your neck) to the small of my back. Call this measurement "A". I aligned my ruler with the bottom back corner of the pencil line representing my mock-up back waist and made a mark A inches straight up the back. I then drew a slight curve upwards from this line to mark the back neckline of the corset. Guessing the shoulder seam to be about 3½", I drew a slanting line from the edge of my neckline and stopped after 3½". Then I made a U-curve for the armhole. I added triangular straps to the "shoulder seams" of my mock-up and slanted the front top edge down as in the photo of the corset on the mannequin. I traced tabs onto the bottom edge of the corset and cut two identical halves out of bristol board. None of these figures was precise. I just worked by eye and would adjust later. I taped the two halves together at center back with duct tape and prnounced my mock-up ready for a trial. After trying it on, I added another inch to the center front and cut the armholes a little wider so the front corner wouldn't poke me in the underarm. Everything else seemed to fit very well. Even my wild guess on the shoulder straps turned out right they fit snugly and made the upper back follow my shoulder curve perfectly. I drew the back seams in and it was finished. My final mock-up is pictured below. Final Bristol Board Mock-up of my Effigy Corset Next: Materials! I want to make my replica as close to the original as possible, so I aquired some linen twill from Fabrics-store.com The original corset was made from fustian, a linen/cotton blend, woven in a twill pattern. While linen/cotton blends are also available, I chose to go with 100% linen for one reason: modern linen/cotton blends usually involve chopping up the linen fibres so it can be spun on the same machines as the cotton. This substantially changes the structure of the fabric. 16th and 17th centuries fustians were woven with a linen warp and cotton weft, giving great strength to the material. Modern linen retains that strength, and Fabrics-store.com had a twill on sale. So I purchased this: The original was boned with ¼" strips of baleen (whalebone) which is also not available. But reed was in use at this time as well. I prefer reed to the plastic approximations of baleen because it breathes. All my 18th century stays are boned entirely with basket reed and I find them incredibly comfortable. I purchased a roll of ¼" reed: Get Some Here. To sew it together and to sew the boning channels, I used 40/2 linen thread from The Mannings. Taking the Leap Cutting the Fabric First, I cut apart my bristol board mock-up along the penciled-in seams to make a pattern. I laid the front piece on my fabric, aligning the front edge of the mock-up with the selvedge of the material. I also laid the back piece of the mock-up on my material, aligning its edge parallel to the selvedges. I did this because I had no reason to suspect that the fabric of the corset was cut on the bias or across the grain. Cutting a garment with the grain gives it greater stability that is desireble in a garment such as a corset. Using this layout, I cut two fronts and one back from my twill linen and two fronts and one back from the plain linen I've chosen as a lining. I removed the "straps" from my mock up to use as a pattern. I did not line up the edge of the straps with the selvedge because that would cause the strap to be cut on the bias. This would lead to stretching which is undesirable in a shoulder strap. I aligned the point of the strap mock-up "due North" (i.e. towards the top of the fabric) and cut two from the twill and two from my lining material. Sewing the Channels The type of sewing thread used for the channels was not specified, so I used medium weight linen thread. I've read about one pair of 18th century stays whose boning channels were sewn with backstitches at 10 stitches to the inch. I did not stitch so obsessively, but my stiches counted up at an average of 8 to the inch. I did use backstitches for the boning channels as they are best suited to withstand the stress of pushing in the boning later. Assembling the Corset Like most 18th century stays, the pieces of the Effigy Corset were assembled separately and then joined together by whipstitiching. In the 18th century, the joins were covered by linen tape or leather binding. This does not appear to be the case with the Effigy Corset. Arnold does not describe how many layers of fabric went into each piece. Extant 18th century stays sandwich boning between two layers of linen with the outer fabric sewn to this at the same time, the boning channels therefore visible from the outside. The lining fabric is not sewn in channels usually but sits on top, therefore easily removed for cleaning or replacement. The photo of the Effigy Corset in Waugh shows the interior of the corset and boning channels are clearly visible. We must therefore assume that a lining was not present or at the very least, the lining was included in the boning channels. This would argue for fewers layers than a 18th century corset which may indeed have been the case. Finishing Touches The weave of the twill linen I was able to obtain was not very tight, so I experienced fraying at the edges of the pieces. To correc this, I bound all the edges with 3/4" linen tape. This stabilized the fraying edges.
The Author in Her Effigy Bodys
- Janet Arnold. "" in The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey. Harvey Anthony & Richard Mortimer, eds. 2003: Boydell & Brewer, London.
- Baumgarten, Linda, et al. Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790. 1999: The Colonial Willaimsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA.
- Burnston, Sharon Ann. Fitting & Proper. 1998: Scurlock Publishing Company, Texarkana, TX.
- Waugh, Norah. Corsets and Crinolines. 1954: Theatre Arts Books, New York.
© 2004, 2007 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.