Though the idea of corsets summon images of days gone by, such as the hourglass Victorian ladies or burlesque girls, modern corsetry is useful in waist training, formal wear and, of course, costuming. In order to fully utilise the flattering fit of a corset, precise measurements and an exact fit are necessary. One way to obtain the proper fit is by making a corset yourself. Adding steel boning to a corset gives it extra support and a firmer shape that is less prone to warping or bulging in unsightly places.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Duct tape
- Tight-fitting T-shirt or vest
- Pattern paper
- Foundation fabric, enough for two layers
- Decorative top layer fabric
- Stiff, non-elastic back lining fabric
- Sewing machine
- Steel boning
Make your pattern. An easy way to make a pattern is to put on a tight-fitting T-shirt or vest and wrap yourself with duct tape in the desired shape. Corsets can fit under the bust, which cinches the waist from the middle of the ribcage to just above the hips, or the full corset, which covers the breasts, midsection, and can go as low as the hips. Have someone help you, especially with the back. Make sure the fit is snug.
Cut the duct tape corset off the item of clothing. Use care during this step, so that you don't accidentally cut yourself or the clothing. For corsets that lace up the back, have your helper make the incision down the back. Cut down the front for front-lacing corsets. Some find it helpful to cut the pattern into four vertical panels to attempt a better fit, especially on the curves, though the extra sewing can present a challenge for novices.
Trace the duct tape corset parts onto thin pattern paper, adding 3/4-inch to the pattern sides where the pieces will be sewn together. Pinning the corset to the paper can help keep the corset stable while you trace it. Make sure the pins don't bunch the paper, and that both paper and corset are smooth and flat. Cut out the pattern.
Cut out two pieces of fabric for the foundation material, which should be sturdy and simple. Coutil, which is a fabric made specifically for corsets, doesn't stretch over time, making it ideal. Linen also works well, and for costumiers has the added benefit of historical accuracy.
Secure the two foundation layers together with pins. If you've opted for the four panels, sew them together before this step.
Mark the boning tunnels. The boning tunnels, which run vertically on the corset, are where you will insert the steel boning. Start at the lacing panel. Mark at least two inches of space on each end of the opening for the lacing panels. Next to the lacing panel mark the first boning tunnel. Boning tunnels should be the width of the steel boning plus two millimetres, with two inches of space between boning tunnels. The number of boning tunnels varies by the corset size; larger corsets will have more boning than smaller corsets.
Sew the fabric together at the boning lines, leaving the top and bottom of the tunnels open.
Insert the steel boning. Sew the outline of the corset's foundation pieces together, closing off the boning tunnels.
Cut out the back lining using the pattern. The back lining will be the fabric between your skin and the foundation layers with the boning. Sturdy fabric is necessary to prevent warping. As with the inner foundation layers, coutil is a good fabric, as is linen.
Cut out the top fabric using the pattern. This will be the highly decorative fabric visible on the outside of the corset. Top fabrics can be silk, satin or linen. Soft top layers, like silk, run the danger of warping more than linen. However, the boning structure should prevent most of the warping.
Sew the top decorative fabric and back lining fabric together with the boning layers sandwiched in the middle.
Bore the eyelet holes with an awl. The holes on each side should match up for even lacing. The amount of holes is a matter of preference, but there should be at least ten, placed an inch from the edge of the corset. Insert the eyelets.
Use a sturdy material, like nylon, for laces as opposed to ribbon, which can slip. There are many different ways to lace a corset, so experiment to see which works best for you.
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