Long before the c. 1880 Alice corset--with its super-seductive curves--stole the late 19th century spotlight there was the c. 1890 Theodora. We developed this corset in tandem with the c. 1860 Julia, the first two products in our line.
We were inspired by the number of plays written in this time period--it made sense to us to start our chronology of historic, true-to-the-period, line of corsets here. The Theo, as we fondly call it, and the Julia really are the foundation of our company. We started stocking three sizes, then added more to solve those inevitable "corset emergencies". This is how Period Corsets® came into being.
Since 1997, the Theodora in its most basic white cotton coutil has assisted regional theatres, universities, and opera companies in creating a late nineteenth century shape. This corset is part of costume stocks around the country--you have probably run into one! Over the years the Theodora has also been the subject of many custom requests, as you can see below.
Our first custom request came from Glimmerglass Opera in 2001, with costume designer Constance Hoffman's work for “Le Etoile”. The chorus women needed black satin corsets, a central element for act two. At our customer's request, the corsets were custom patterned for each singer. We added a center front opening busk and flat-lined the coutil to the most unforgiving black satin fabric. The finished outfits are striking, paired with bright silk bloomers and matching neck ruffles.
One of our next projects was for the film “The Missing”, starring Cate Blanchett. But a young and unknown actress at the time, Evan Rachel Wood, was the lucky performer who wore a custom flat-lined Theodora corset. Costume designer Julie Weiss had us work with her assistant Tom McKinley to achieve the exact look and fit they needed. In film there is always a quick turn-around and this production was no exception. We received the fashion fabric one day, and we made and shipped the corset the next day. The end product was very demure, made of light cotton cream twill with a sweet sage green leaf pattern.
Alma Garrett, the town heiress in the HBO mini-series “Deadwood” was the next character whose presence graced the small screen in our Theodora corset. Katherine Jane Bryant was awarded an Emmy for her costume design for this series. Here is a classic Period Corsets® undercover story--to achieve the correct silhouette, Alma wore our comfortable plain black cotton Theodora corset under all of her beautiful costumes. But in the bedroom scene with the town sheriff she wears a different frilly corset provided by the wardrobe department. Sometimes Period Corsets® does the main work and other corsets get the glory!
Arizona Theatre Company requested a custom Theo for a new play called “The Underpants”. The basic Theodora wasn’t quite right--costume designer David Murin was interested in a more dramatic lower hemline. We shorted the corsets three inches at side seams and maintained the length in the center front and the back--we nicknamed it the French-cut Theo. The corset was made of beautiful white fine Indian cotton with ¼ tucks woven in to the weft. It took some extra time to make sure we kept every piece perfectly on grain but the final product was worth it--very sweet!
The c. 1890 Theodora, as you can see, works in all sorts of settings, whether in its stock cotton-coutil as an undercover shape, or in custom-fabric worn as the main garment. The fitted and shapely waist, a hallmark of this era, retains its grace throughout.
Where do Victoria’s Secret models go for their corsets? Period Corsets® of course! At least one model did...she wanted to look like the bride in “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. As you can imagine, most super models are a far different shape from a curvy Victorian lady. This model was no exception, slight around, with a long torso. We constructed her custom white satin Theo three inches taller than our normal size (which fits most up to a 17" nape-to-waist); bust and hip were reduced to be closer to the waist size; we also raised the neckline so it could be easily worn without a chemise. Shown here on a not-so-long waisted (nor super-) model you can see the finished product.
Lastly and most recently we did a quick project for one of our best clients, the Guthrie Theatre. They have a large collection of Period Corsets® in their collection. The drapers know and love the c. 1880 Alice corset. They were lobbying to use the Alice in their upcoming production of “The Importance of Being Ernest”. After much discussion, the costume designer was more interested in the Theodora corset--a shape she knew and had used before. Ultimately, parts of both corsets were blended: the final corset had the basic Theodora shape with an Alice-shaped bottom edge.
Here is a comparison of the final custom corset in black satin and our stock white coutil c. 1890 Theo.