All posts by Laurie Tavan

The Century Corset Challenge: a Neo-Victorian Reproduction

Article originally posted on Foundations Revealed September 2015. Photos forthcoming

What if a Victorian corsetière had access to today’s tools and materials? What if a 21st-century corset-maker were faithful to yesterday’s techniques and craftsmanship? To answer that question, I made a corset: a small-herringbone-weave gray blue coutil with black French lace, fashioned in the spirit of a W.H.K & S “Catharine Hayes” original over a hundred years old, informed by Luca Costigliolo’s class at the School of Historical Dress in London, but designed and made in 2015 at my workshop in downtown San Jose, California.

Figure 1. Original corset from front, side, and back.
Continue reading The Century Corset Challenge: a Neo-Victorian Reproduction

Textile Conservator in the house

We had the lovely Joni Steinmann of Rainbow Curve Corsetry into view the collection recently. After meeting her at the 2015 Oxford Conference of Corsetry we talked about how to start prepping for better conservation of my collection pieces. I have a very small collection of antique and contemporary corsetry but it wasn’t going to last for the long haul without proper storage.

Joni inserting rolls into the edges of new additions to our antique corset collection

A new box of Sparklewern corsets for our contemporary collection

My assistant the lovely Breanna and I started stuffing corsets with acid free tissue paper earlier this year but had only gotten through half my collection. My friend Laura helped source more boxes and I made those up while Joni visited and they are all filled with more corsets waiting for boxes.

It is lovely to have visitors for my pieces as they are often abandoned as I focus more on producing corsetry then collecting it these days.

The collection has slowly started to include more undergarments as well as historical pieces beyond corsetry that we have available to study. Breanna for instance borrowed a Victorian bodices for private study in an independent study class for her university last semester. 

We also have lovely clients who have donated a few pieces including some antique Edwardian drawers and Edwardian petticoats. So many things to add to the site coming up.

W.H.K. & S. “Catharine Hayes” Corset Beginning Research

Article originally posted on Foundations Revealed November 2014. Photos forthcoming

Corset Study- W.H.K. & S. “Catharine Hayes” Corset

I purchased this corset on eBay back in 2009 with the intention of making a reproduction. Five years later I am finally making a go of this project, starting by studying the piece itself. It is a Victorian profile corset with lace along the top edge and flossing anchoring the varying-sized boning channels. It was listed as “Antique WHK&S Victorian Edwardian Corset Size 24”. I wish I had saved more of the information with the auction but alas I did not. The corset itself is in very good condition and is a beautiful antique with little wear and just a touch of rust.

Figure 1

Figure 1. The “Catharine Hayes” Corset flat exterior view

What intrigued me the most were the name stamped inside the corset – The “Catharine Hayes”
(Fig. 2) and the additional boning “OKTIS” shield added into the corset which you can see obscuring the name on the waist tape (Fig. 3). You can also see the trademark of the company stamped on the waist tape like many makers chose to do during this era.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Interior Side view of The “Catharine Hayes” Corset showing the aftermarket “OKTIS” shields and the lacing panel.

Figure 3

Figure 3. A glimpse under the “OKTIS” shield showing the rest of the stamped name on the waist tape along with the Trademark Registered with a stylized W.H.K&S logo.

Continue reading W.H.K. & S. “Catharine Hayes” Corset Beginning Research

Corsetry Class in England

Viewing Historical vs. Modern corsetry hardware:

Two of my friends were taking this course and last minute I decided I really wanted to get to London so I signed up with a week and a half notice. I booked my flight after arranging to stay with a friend during the class. Last year I visited England for the first time but did not get into London to visit museums so this time around I spent the entire trip in London! The first six days I had the privilege of learning about historical corsets from the 1880-90s. Here is the class description from The Historical School of Dress:

6 Day Course – 22nd to 27th June
Students will learn how to take measurements and draft a
pattern from an original published pattern. Each student will
make a toile and work a sampler using the appropriate
materials and stitched on mechanical sewing machines.
Details such as flossing, fitting metal eyelets and steam moulding
will be covered. Tutor: Luca Costigliolo”

Here are some of the photos showing the class setting on the first day looking at historical extant corset examples as well as looking at hardware and supplies that are currently available for corsetry:




*All images taken by me with permission and shown courtesy of The School of Historical Dress