The following was originally an article of the same name from June 2013 at HistoryUnstitched, a subscription only site for historical costumers. The site alone did not do as well as its sisters, so it is now a part of Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. This article is back in my hands, as they had an exclusive for six months, although that was up last fall. It is now here for your reading pleasure. It has some minor edits from the original.
Tudor Corset or Not to Corset...
Copyright 2013-14, Kimiko Small, All rights Reserved.
You have decided you will be making an English outfit for the 16th century (Henrician or Elizabethan). You are thinking about what all is involved in this decision. Maybe this is your first time, maybe you have made a few outfits before, but whatever your background, we all usually start at the same place, with the undergarments.
First is the smock, which is pretty simple, and there are many sources from web sites to books that describe what survived from the 16th century, and how to make a smock to fit you.
So then you turn to what comes next, and that is when most women decide you simply must have a corset (modern term for a separate fitted and boned bodice that supports the torso and especially the bosom) to wear under your new outfit. It is a modern assumption that women from all walks of life in the 16th century must have worn corsets. We see them all over today being worn at renaissance faires and other historical events. Costuming books of the past few decades talk about them, how to make them, what corsets that survived look like. Even historical costuming guru Janet Arnold discusses them in her books, so they had to exist back then, yes? And so if they existed then I must make and wear one today, yes? But... wait a second... Did the women of the 16th century actually wear this kind of a garment? What sort of garment actually did support the bosom? What exactly were the supportive garments made from and stiffened with? And do you really need a corset?
Well, the answer is not that simple. Let me explain what the supporting undergarments of the 16th century comes from, and provide a brief timeline of how those pairs of bodies eventually came to be.
(Click to read the full lengthy article, with images, on my main blog page here.)
(Cross posted from A Gentlewoman's Blog: http://kimiko1.com/blog/2014/04/tudor-c