Thursday, June 6, 2013

Original Swiss Waist

This weekend I am headed out to Wisconsin for an 8K kayak adventure. Before I left, I thought I would share the promised pictures of my original black Swiss waist.

(Please note that these types of garments seem to have interchangeable names - corselet, Swiss body, Swiss waist...I am using Swiss waist because  it seems to be the term most are familiar with, and is also recognized as a garment worn over a bodice outside of the dress, and thus prevents confusion).

The front (I think?) of the Swiss waist
The back - notice the shaped side-back seams. The side seams are also prevalent.
I acquired this Swiss waist from a woman at the Midwest Open Air Museums Coordinating Council fall conference in 2011. Unfortunately, there was no information on its provenance. I think the waist may have been made from a silk bodice that was cut down/remodeled, but I can't be totally sure. It is made of black silk taffeta lined with white cotton twill. It's in pretty good shape for its age, though the silk does have some stains and shattering. For a while, I even considered whether or not it was a reproduction - but on close inspection, the garment definitely shows its age. It is also incredibly small. It might fit a very small teenager today, and may even have been an older girl's item.

The piping is a work of art!
The waist, neckline and armscyes are piped with the same silk over brown cotton cording. The trim is self fabric strips which are knife pleated in a really cool pattern; the top edge is pleated in one direction, and the bottom edge is pleated in the other direction and staggered with the top pleats, which makes for a very cool ripple effect. These strips are hand-applied, but the rest of the bodice is sewn by machine.

Detail shot of the really cool trim.
It's a little hard to tell which side is meant to be the front, and which is meant to be the back. The side with the opening is, I think, the front - it is fitted with darts on this side, right below where the bust would be. The back also has the typical V-shaped seam. The eyelets on the opening are hand sewn and there is boning along the eyelets. The ribbon used to close it is silk, and has some ingenious copper aglets, but it is impossible to tell if this ribbon was original to the garment.

Inside-out front, show construction details (and some pretty bad pitstains)
Detail of darts and piecing (?) seam

One of the interesting things about this garment is in its piecing. There is some strange piecing on the front - at least I think it's piecing. You can see it in the images above (the black lines running slightly diagonally across from the armscyes) and in the image below. Anyone have any ideas about this?

I have really enjoyed observing this Swiss waist and figuring out how it was constructed. It's like being a detective! I am currently making a Swiss waist with trim inspired by this one. I hope it has inspired you!

1 comment:

Kura Carpenter said...

Neat! Thanks for sharing.