Corsets were the earliest form of foundation garment. They pushed the breasts upward and constricted the waist. According to the Art Department of San Jose State University, the earliest corsets appeared among the Minoans in 1700BC. Since the late 1600s, girls wore corsets upon entering puberty to "shape" their figure and wore the item for the rest of their lives. In the 1880s, the health effects of corsets became more apparent. According to the University of Virginia, doctors recognised that corsets made it impossible for women to breathe deeply or exercise vigorously, contributing to disease. Today, corsets are a temporary piece of clothing relegated to costumes.
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Things you need
- Tape measure
- Corset pattern
- Lining fabric
- Sewing machine
- Leather needle
- 4 yards ribbon to match the lining, 1-inch wide
- Plastic boning
- 5 yards ribbon to match the leather, 1-inch wide
- 24 eyelets
- Cord, 2 yards
Measure your body. For a corset to fit properly, it must mimic your body's shape. Measure your bust, waist, hips, waist to underarm and waist to breast. Also, consider your cup size.
Alter the corset pattern to fit your measurements. The instructions are unique to your pattern. If you lack a pattern, use a pattern generator such as the one at the Elizabethan Costumes website. Trace and cut out the pattern on paper.
Place the paper pattern on the leather. If using suede, place the pattern so that the nap of the rawhide matches on all of the corset pieces. Use weights to hold the paper pattern to the leather. Cut the leather pieces out.
Place the wrong side of the leather pieces on the interfacing. Use a heavy interfacing such as buckram or horsehair. Cut out pieces of interfacing using the leather as a pattern.
Place each pair of leather and interfacing on top of the wrong side of the lining fabric. Choose a fabric that is smooth so it will be comfortable against your body. Cut out the lining using the leather as a pattern. You now will have pieces of the corset stacked with leather, interfacing and lining.
Place a leather needle on your sewing machine. A leather needle has a small blade on either side of the needle. This makes it easier to stitch through leather. In most models, changing the needle requires you to loosen a small screw near the top of the needle. The old needle will slip out of its socket. Place the leather needle into the socket with the flat section of the needle head facing the back of the machine. Tighten the screw.
Stitch one of the front side panels to the front of the corset. Stitch through all three layers of both pieces, leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Trim the seam to within 1/4 inch. Press the seam open. Lay a length of ribbon over the seam. Stitch the ribbon on either side the entire length of the seam. This covers the seam allowance and creates a channel for boning. Repeat for the other front side panel, creating the front of the corset.
Stitch the back pieces of the corset to the front at the sides. Trim and press each seam and stitch ribbon over the seam.
Measure each ribbon channel and cut a piece of plastic boning to fit. Plastic boning is a length of plastic that is between 1/3 and 1/2-inch wide. Purchase boning by the yard at most sewing stores. Thread each piece of boning into the correct channel.
Bind the top and bottom of the corset with the ribbon that matches the leather. Pin the ribbon to the corset. Topstitch through the ribbon, through the corset, and catch the ribbon on the inside of the corset. If any ribbon remains loose on the inside of the corset after topstitching, stitch the ribbon to the lining by hand. Repeat with the bottom and the two back edges of the corset.
Mark 1-inch increments down each side of the back of the corset. Place an eyelet at each mark.
Fold the cord in half. Tie a knot at the halfway point. Starting at the bottom, thread each side of the cord through a bottom eyelet. The knot remains at the bottom of the corset. Cross the cord and thread the cord through the eyelet on the opposite side. Continue crossing the cord from one back panel to the other to the top of the corset.
Tips and warnings
- Don't use pins on the leather. Unlike fabric, the holes left by pins remain in the finished garment. However, you may use pins to hold the ribbon in place since the ribbon covers any holes the pins create.
- Use caution when sewing with a leather needle. The sharp needle cuts skin easily.
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