Sunday, November 16

Once upon a time - Waist Management

Today Judy, Rochelle and I went on a road trip to see the exhibit called Waist Management - a history of unmentionables showing at the Peel Region Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) in Brampton. 

Our day started off at Papa Leo's for breakfast. Papa Leo's is housed in a building across from the Henderson hospital on Concession Street in Hamilton . Papa Leo's was highly rated fro brunch on Yelp, so we thought we would give it a try. We were not disappointed! Papa's Eggs were poached  and rested atop avocado (yes!)  with cilantro and roasted red peppers and spiced hash browns. What a scrumptious combination! I would definitely visit Papa Leo again! (why oh why did I not take a picture of this?)

Anyway, on to Brampton. We parked in the back of the PAMA and walked all the way around the building, through the basement and through a tunnel, up the stairs and down a hallway, only to discover that there was a door to the exhibit within 30' of where our car was parked! We paid the admission fee of $3.50 (I am a senior now I guess!) and moved into the exhibit rooms.

The exhibit itself was housed in two rooms and a hallway, but despite its small size, was very impressive from a quality point of view. Most of the things were Canadian and almost all of the garments, I wrote about in the Bra-makers Manual in the History of the Bra chapter. It was extremely self-satisfying to see the things I wrote about in the flesh, so to speak.

This ballet pink below-the-waist corset, unusual for its colour (girdles were take-it-or-leave-it-white!) but also the design is clearly the ancestor of the girdle we came to know and love in later years. There is a centre front busk and two adjustable lacing panels with a godet underneath, but notice the garter attachments - each is attached on either side of the laced godet, and the garter clip suspends on the elastic. The elastic was obviously industrial strength, as it measured over 1" wide!

Here is a close up of the stitching of another corset. Rows and rows of machine stitching with tiny cords inside to add stiffness. Also two hip panels, the back one has lacing which allows you to widen this area if necessary. Notice the laces are tied to the inside so they won't show under clothing.  The second one at the side seam has a contrasting fabric set in. Notice also the tiny decorative stitching on the forward hip!

Here are some bust pads from the 1890s. They were stuffed with horsehair! Can you imagine how itchy that would have been, or what it would smell like if it (God forbid!) got wet? There are also falsies from the 1960s, which I remember well  from my days of custom sewing for others.

Here is a "health" corset which made an appearance in the early part of the 20th century. Lots of bones, and straps that fasten with safety pins (now rusted!)

I also mention  "roll-ups" in my book. These all rubber girdles were impossible to get on except by rolling them up and over your hips. The first versions rolled off the assembly line not long after Dupont developed a way to combine latex (the sap from the rubber tree) with stabilizing chemicals to produce an elastic ("lastex") fabric. This new Lastex changed the intimate apparel industry forever.

Notice this roll-up has little holes. This was to allow the girdle to be more breathable. Apparently, you would have little rivers of sweat without the holes. However, the holes left marks on your body that looked suspiciously like measles spots, although in perfectly even rows!

Here is the famous "Black Widow" popular in the 1950s. It is hard to see but it has proper bra cups, underwires and garters.

Here is a bra from the 1950s. Bras by this time had a bridge separate from the cups. The bridge was actually made from solid elastic, not stable like we use today. No self-respecting woman would ever leave the house without a girdle on!

The last item in my picture book is the original WonderBra bra, invented in 1961 by Louise Poirier of Montreal who was WonderBra's Canadian designer at the time. This was a push-up bra in an age before pre-formed molded cups. This bra depended on the design of the cups, the cut of the cloth to do the job!

If you have a chance to visit the Waist Management exhibit, it is on until February 16,2015 at the Peel Art gallery, Museum and Archives, 9 Wellington Street in Brampton, Ontario

The website for the PAMA is

Sunday, October 12

Once Upon a Time - Erin's vintage corsets!

Want to know what underwear was really like in 1928? How about 1966?

Erin has some wonderful vintage underwear to share with us. Visit her blog by clicking the blog post title below! 

The Sewing and Life Adventures of Emerald Erin: TBT: Bra History

Thursday, October 2

Emerald Erin Makes a Corset!

The Sewing and Life Adventures of Emerald Erin: Corset Making!: Hi All! I have something really exciting to show you! I've been sitting in on more classes at Bra-maker's Supply lately and one o...

Sunday, September 28

My 3 Sisters

It's been a hectic 2 months here at the Enchanted Castle, with the recent launch of my Craftsy class plus a sweet teaching assignment in the Caribbean just before Christmas. What do they want down south, you may ask? Swimwear lessons! I will be teaching swimwear in Barbados. Now that is good timing! I used to get calls to go teach in Edmonton in February and Hawaii in July.

Not that I am complaining about Hawaii (Never!) but the two venues should have been switched around - Edmonton in July and Hawaii in February. But I digress....

I teach several different types of swimwear but I have had a special request to do bikinis. Erin and I have been working very hard to test these suits to make them fit and flatter. So without further ado, here is the latest Pin-up Girls pattern - the 3 sisters Bikinis. Drum roll, please! 

There are 3 underwired bra tops  with a unique criss-cross back that allows the bikini top to fit multiple bra cup sizes. The inside layer is made of swim cup foam and the outer cover can be whatever swimwear fabric your heart desires! The straps have the elastic sewn inside directly to the seam for the best straps you've ever experienced (yes, the instructions are included!) The bikini bra tops all use our SHORT wires, and the pattern fits breasts measuring from 6.5" - 9.5" (16.5 - 24 cm) directly across the fullest part (called the Cross Cup measurement)

There are also three centre back seam bottoms with a beautiful fit over the bum. All views have a waist high cut with doubled fabric waistband ( no elastic so no muffin top!) plus a centre back seam for shapely results. The bottoms fit hip sizes 35-47" (89 - 119.5 cm) All sizes and complete instructions are included in the pattern envelope.

VIOLET- vertical seamed bra top and bottoms with button trim at the waist 
REBECCA - uses a tie to gather the front of the top, bottoms have a ruched front panel 
MARSHA - with a twisted knot effect and bottoms with mini twists at the side front

Yes, there really are three sisters in our bra-making family and we named these bikinis after them! The product code is PB-3009. The bi-lingual patterns (French and English) patterns are available now at Bra-makers Supply at and in Europe through Bodil's Wear at If you are in the United States, they will soon be available at Sweet Cups Bra Supply at

Aren't confident of your sewing abilities when it comes to swimwear? Why not take a swimwear class and learn to make swimwear the right way, with the right fit, the first time?

Thursday, September 25

Nifty Notions - the Sewing Edge

Today I am borrowing a nifty notion from our quilting sisters - a great little gadget called the Sewing Edge. it is used by quilters to keep that 1/4" seam allowance. Well, guess what? Bra-makers can use it too!

The Sewing Edge is a simple piece of PVC (or some such plastic-y substance) that sticks to your sewing machine bed and keeps your seam allowances exact. Here we have it on Erin's lovely Bernina 830, but it works on new machines too! Place it along where the edge of the fabric will run and it will stick until you remove it. It's that simple!
 When you lay the fabric up to it, the thickness of the Sewing Edge keeps the fabric running smoothly but it is not so thick that it gets in the way or your hands or any snips that might be around.
One thing I thought of is to use it at the cover stitch machine to keep the hem edges where they need to be so you can stitch along the edge. If you use a cover hem, you know this isn't as easy as it may seem. You have to sew from the right side of the work, so you can't see where you need to stitch. The two needles need to straddle the raw edge of the fabric. By stitcking the Sewing Edge to the left of the needle the distance of the width of the hem, you will be able to glide the fabric along and it will keep them hem where it needs to be. Voila! A perfect cover stitched hem!

The Sewing Edge comes in a package of 5 so you can have one at each machine, or you can share them with your sewing buddies.

We sell them at Bra-makers Supply (of course we do - I love Nifty Notions!) Product Code NT-003...price is 10.00 for the set of 5.