How to Make a Victorian Corset

Written by melissa j. bell
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The Victorian corset is distinguished from earlier style corsets by its sturdiness, bust support, and natural hourglass shape. Historically, these machine-stitched corsets were used to create support foundations for a desired bodice and skirt shape. They were usually worn over a chemise undergarment and under many layers of pantaloon, petticoat, and gown. Although they were traditionally used as everyday underwear, today Victorian-inspired corsets are often worn as elaborately-decorated outerwear.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Victorian corset pattern
  • Sewing machine and equipment
  • Zipper foot attachment
  • Heavy-duty machine needles
  • Protective eyewear
  • Coutil or heavy twill fabric
  • Cotton lining fabric
  • Decorative outer fabric
  • Matching thread
  • Waist tape
  • Spring and spiral steel bones
  • Metal busk
  • Metal 00 size grommets
  • 00 size grommet punch
  • Rubber hammer
  • 1 inch wide ribbon or cord laces
  • Embellishments

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    Fitting the Corset

  1. 1

    Buy a historically-accurate Victorian corset pattern or download and enlarge a pattern from a free website.

  2. 2

    Select the pattern size closest to your measurements, and then make adjustments.

  3. 3

    Choose the proper bust and hip gore sizes. You may wish to go one size smaller with the bust gore pattern pieces.

  4. 4

    Adjust the width. For a tight fit, subtract 2 inches from your bust, waist, and hip measurements. You may need to subtract more for a tighter cinch. Subtract an additional 2 inches from all width measurements to accommodate a lacing gap.

  5. 5

    Adjust the length. The centre front should hit you above the crotch and at the bust. Buy a busk that is at least 1/2 inch shorter than the centre front length, to leave room for stitching.

  6. 6

    Measure the length of each boning channel placement on your pattern. Buy or cut bones that are 1/2 inch shorter than these measurements.

  7. 7

    Make a mock-up Victorian corset out of spare coutil fabric. Cut 2 layers and follow the pattern as directed. Use fewer bones and grommets than you would in the final version, and do not finish the fabric edges.

  8. 8

    Put the mock-up corset on your body, lacing as tightly as you would the final result. There should be no pulling or stretching of material. Make sure you can sit comfortably and that the 2 inch gap at the center back is even. Make adjustments if necessary.

    Making the Corset

  1. 1

    Take the mock-up apart and use the pieces as your pattern.

  2. 2

    Cut 4 layers of each corset pattern piece: 2 in coutil, 1 in cotton lining and 1 in the decorative non-stretch fabric of your choice.

  3. 3

    Baste decorative fabric pieces to 1 layer of coutil fabric pieces.

  4. 4

    Follow pattern instructions, placing the additional layer of coutil between the outside layer and the lining layer. Make the boning channels between the 2 layers of coutil.

  5. 5

    Put the corset on again before completely attaching all layers together. Check the fit. This is the last stage at which you will be able to make adjustments.

  6. 6

    Finish and bind all raw edges. Hand-sew embellishments if you want them.

Tips and warnings

  • Use zipper foot attachment to stitch next to busk.
  • Use spring steel bones on both sides of the grommets to prevent buckling.
  • Add a hook and eye to the top or bottom of the centre front if there is gaping.
  • Double-stitch all seams for sturdiness.
  • Quilter's basting spray prevents buckling better than machine-basting. Test on fabric swatch first.
  • You can make a modesty panel to cover the lacing gap. Cut a rectangle the length of the center back that is wide enough to span the gap and also cover the grommets on both sides, then add seam allowances. Make the panel in four layers like your corset and bone it heavily with spring steel bones. Wear the modesty panel under the laces.
  • Corsets should be comfortable. If yours is not, it does not fit.
  • Wear safety goggles when stitching next to or near bones due to high probability of needle breakage.
  • Do not use any stretchy fabric.
  • Use sense, and do not wear corsets if you are pregnant or ill.

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