"Corset Cutting & Making", annotated by Marion McNealy

Last year, I invested in the Kickstarter for Marion McNealy's annotated reprint of the 1924 Corset Cutting & Making, by William D. F. Vincent. And I'm very glad I did, because it's here and it's wonderful!

The book starts with an introduction explaining the context of the original - it was probably started before World War I, then set aside for several years, lightly updated, and published - and the amount of work McNealy had to do to turn the rather slapdash content into a useful book. This is followed by a section on the materials and construction methods used in corsetry in the early twentieth century, the latter mostly taken from Vincent's own text.

Because the original was intended to be published earlier than 1924, most of the patterns are pre-war. (I don't believe they were dated in the original, but McNealy's dating appears to be very sound.) All in all, the book contains patterns for:

2 fashionable corsets between 1900 and 1910,
3 fashionable corsets for the "stout" figure from the same period,
1 ca. 1902 athletic corset,
1 ca. 1902 equestrian corset,
2 ca. 1905 maternity/nursing corsets,
4 fashionable corsets between 1910 and 1920,
1 brassiere,
1 metal-less corset for munitions workers in WWI,
1 ca. 1918 "stout" corset,
1 ca. 1920 athletic corset,
4 children's corset waists.

The patterns are redrawn as presented in the original text, and then again superimposed over a grid in case you don't want to scale them up in the particular configuration of the originals. I haven't yet used any of them, but they seem excellent. Each pattern comes with a CAD-rendered line drawing of the corset, in front, back, and side views, and a few have been made up and photographed on a model.

It's not for everyone. As with Regency Women's Dress, the point is to give a variety of options from a short period of time - to help enthusiasts who are tired of using or seeing the same pattern over and over. As a result, if you have no personal or professional interest in gaining a better understanding of early twentieth century corsets, you're not going to get much out of it. It is not a replacement for Corsets or Corsets & Crinolines.

Another point that, judging by a few of the reviews of RWD, should be said explicitly is that there are no step-by-step instructions for putting the corsets together. There is a general discussion of construction methods at the front and a very handy chart with the finished measurements of each corset and recommendations for which methods to use for it. There are also some quotations from sources like the Delineator and images of similar corsets from period publications. You have to either be somewhat experienced at sewing corsets or willing to take some risks, read a few dress diaries, and throw caution to the wind! (This is how I learned to sew corsets.)

The Annotated Corset Cutting & Making can now be purchased on Amazon!


  1. Thanks for the review, it sounds an interesting book. I work in an old munitions factory (now converted into offices), and have read various accounts about the women who worked there - I often wondered if working in a metal-free environment meant that they couldn't wear corsets!

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