April 5, 2017

What is a Corset Cover?

Most of us modern gals have a few camis in our wardrobe, the word shortened from camisole, which does sound way too fancy for the cheap knit tubes with tiny straps we have today. Wouldn't I love to find actual elegant silk camisoles in a nice bias cut woven fabric...but I digress. Today people wear camisoles underneath clothing for another layer of warmth or modesty, to smooth over lines from a bra, or wear them alone as a top in their own right, but where did camisoles come from in the time line of fashion history?

It seems that the corset covers of our Victorian counterparts were much like the camisoles we have today. Worn over the corset to smooth over some of the lines from the boning or busk, as a layer of modesty under gowns of more transparent fabrics, and even perhaps as another layer of warmth when central heating had yet to have been invented, corset covers were another essential item of undergarment for Victoria ladies. They also would come in handy if say you wanted to wear a colorful corset with a white gown, which is exactly why I'll be making one!

As I have mentioned, I want to make a frilly white cotton bustle dress this year, but as my late Victorian corset is black, I'll be needing a corset cover to help hide the dark shade of the corset under my future white gown. Having never made such an item before I wanted to do a little research before I cut into some more white cotton and got to work. So what do antique corset covers look like?

MET 1887
Well, they look like this mostly! White or ivory cotton, center front buttons, sleeveless, and with varying amounts of lace or eyelet. The seam lines seem to follow the fashionable silhouette of the bodice which would have been worn over them. Perhaps it would work to draft a pattern for such an undergarment using the bodice pattern as a guide, which is what I will be trying out this next week! I have a stash of little shell buttons and white cotton which will be perfect for making such a garment, but I have have to pick up some cotton lace too!

MET 1880s

MET 1880

MET 1889
Gathering at the neckline of some kind or a drawstring front seems to be popular, along with concentrating the lace over the bust. The adjust-ability of the drawstrings definitely appeals.

MET 1885-90
Isn't this last one odd, no straps! Perhaps it was made to be worn with a gown with a wider neckline? Pretty in it's simplicity.

Have any of you made a corset cover or other Victorian undergarments before? This seems like it will be a simple project but one never knows with costuming! I'll show you my results soon )


  1. I've never made one. I must admit, one thing that puts me off vintage-style shapewear is that I can't see how it can *not* be visible under other clothes, especially things like 30s-style slinky satin gowns. How did the girdles not show through?

    1. I know right? I think modern spanx or control top tights would work much better for the slinky 30s!

  2. I hadn't heard of one of these before, but come to think of it, doesn't Scarlet OHara wear one in Gone With the Wind, and Doris Day wears one in Calamit Jane?? They're both definitely over corsets that's for sure, but whether they're a corset-cover or camisole I don't know! Very interesting, good luck with your creation!

    1. I have to admit something scandalous...I have never seen Gone With the Wind! I know, I know! I'm terrible. One day eek!


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