How to Make a Simple Bodice or Corset

Written by catherine hudgins
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How to Make a Simple Bodice or Corset
Corsets may lace in back or in front and remain popular with modern women. (NA/ Images)

Corsets or bodices serve to mould the body to an ideal shape. During the 1500s, corset use became widespread as clothing styles required undergarments to flatten a woman's curves and raise her bust. Victorians believed corsets helped women behave decorously by restricting their movement and enforcing strict upright posture. while achieving a tiny waist, fashion's ideal figure at the time. Initially, these undergarments used buckram (glue-stiffened canvas) to constrain the body. Later stiffening materials included reeds, horn (such as ivory) and whalebone.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Fabric for outer layer of corset or bodice and for lining.
  • Sink or bathtub with water access
  • Drying rack or automatic dryer
  • Pattern for corset or fitted bodice, sized to wearer
  • Scissors
  • Dressmaker's straight pins or weights
  • Tape measure or yardstick
  • Dressmaker's chalk or marking pen
  • Thread matching the outer fabric
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron and ironing board or pressing ham
  • Boning strips
  • Eyelet grommets
  • Grommet cutter, punch and die
  • Ribbon or cording

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    Preparing the fabric

  1. 1

    Place fabric loosely in sink or bathtub and cover with water the temperature recommended by manufacturer. Let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes to cause any shrinkage of the material prior to constructing the garment. This pre-empts the problem occurring when cleaning the corset after wearing it and ensures it stays true to size.

  2. 2

    Remove fabric, squeeze out excess water and hang or lay flat to dry or dry in dryer at suggested temperature.

  3. 3

    Perform the same process with lining fabric to ensure all shrinkage has occurred prior to garment assembly.


  1. 1

    Cut pattern pieces out with scissors. Arrange on outer fabric as pattern instructions direct.

  2. 2

    Make sure your pattern pieces lay straight along the grain (the lengthwise threads) of the fabric. Measure perpendicularly from guideline to selvedge (finished edge) of fabric at several points along the line. All points should measure the same.

  3. 3

    Ensure the fabric's print or plaid aligns from one pattern piece to the next, if applicable. Pin all pattern pieces to outer fabric before cutting each out with scissors. Transfer markings from pattern pieces to fabric using chalk or pen.

  4. 4

    Repeat process with lining fabric.


  1. 1

    Make bobbin, install and thread sewing machine. Use proper needle for the fabric being used. Baste seams of outer corset or bodice together. Press seams open. Check fit on wearer. Adjust if necessary, then reduce stitch length on sewing machine and stitch seams again. Press open again if necessary.

  2. 2

    Adjust lining pieces, if needed to match outer layer of garment and assemble as you did the exterior of the corset. Press seams open.

  3. 3

    Lay outer layer on table and top with lining, right sides together. Match seam lines and pin together at top and at bottom. Pin sides and bottom of garment at intervals to keep layers aligned. Begin at top of one side and stitch continuously down side, along bottom and up other side.

  4. 4

    Turn garment right side out and press edges flat. Stitch shoulder seams, if part of garment. Stitch through both layers at parallel, marked lines to make casings for boning. Measure and cut a boning strip for each casing, remembering to not include the top seam allowance as part of the measurement.


  1. 1

    Insert boning into each casing. Turn seam allowance along upper edge of garment to inside and press with iron. Topstitch the top edge of the corset/bodice closed with the machine or sew by hand.

  2. 2

    Measure and mark locations for eyelets on both back edges, making sure they match. Use scissors or cutter from grommet kit to cut holes for eyelets, smaller than grommets' diameter. Follow package instructions to install grommets using die and punch.

  3. 3

    Thread ribbon or cording through eyelets beginning at top and crossing between eyelets to lace, fastening with knot and bow at bottom of corset.

Tips and warnings

  • Finish ends of boning strips with tape or coat with liquid plastic to ensure they do not damage corset material.
  • Make a practice piece by layering 4-inch squares of outer fabric and liner, then installing an eyelet grommet. Test its strength and that of the fabrics by threading your lacing ribbon through it and pulling.
  • Reinforce back-edge sections with strips of interfacing between the outer fabric and the lining if lacing the garment will threaten the integrity of the eyelets and surrounding fabric.
  • Be sure boning material accepts same cleaning techniques as fabrics of finished garment. Use the mildest method possible.

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