For a long time, I have wanted to make a corset. I bought the boning and tips 2 years or more ago. I do this with many things needed for specialty type projects. They then sit in their places in my sewing studio awaiting their turn in my work. I was not sure why I wanted to make a corset…would I actually wear it? I think corsets can be very beautiful and extremely flattering on any woman. They just seemed really complicated…the stitching…the fit…the boning.
Comfort was also a concern for me. Apparently corsets can take 2 to 4 inches off of the wearer’s waist….yikes! In my research, I found a couple of blog entries where they suggest corset training to work up to maximum cinching. Here is an article on “waist training” with a corset that provides a lot of information and additional links to further learning.
Recently, one of my patients’ daughter asked me if I would consider making her wedding dress. I was flattered and said I would, but would need some ideas of what she wanted so we are collaborating through Pinterest. She has narrow hips and no waist. I thought perhaps a corset would be fitting in this case and she agreed :). I took to Craftsy and found the class taught by Alison Smith, Sewing Corsets: Essential Techniques (not an affiliate). If you haven’t taken a class taught by Alison, I highly recommend doing so…she is a wonderful teacher of sewing.
She suggests a few different basic corset patterns and I chose to buy the pattern she designed, Zara Corset even though shipping was from the UK. It was well worth the cost and wait as it came in a beautiful box.
The pattern was printed on brown paper which, for some reason, is pleasing to work with even though I traced it onto my stand-by paper. I began with the size determined by the measurements suggested which put me in a size 12. I figured that I would need to make some adjustments but went with my first muslin using some Despicable Me quilting cotton I had on hand. [insert picture of #1 muslin]. I found that I needed to go down to a size 10 for the bust and hips, keeping a 12 at the waist. Muslin #2 fit quite well. [insert pic of muslin#2]. You may think muslin work is so time consuming, but it really didn’t take much time since the pieces are small and more or less straight seams.
I had a super fun time with this class. It is recommended to watch all class videos prior to starting, which is exactly what I did. There are some specialty supplies/notions required, obviously, that I ordered online so watching all the way through worked out perfectly.
The traditional fabric used in corsetry is Coutil which. It is 100% cotton with a herringbone weave that creates an extremely strong and stable fabric that does not stretch along the cross grain. The only source I found in the US was through Richard The Thread and was a bit pricey so I found a supplier on Etsy that was fairly reasonable even with shipping. Since I already had the spiral steel boning and the eyelets, I only needed to source the busk (the center front fastener), lacing, more boning tips and flat steel bones for the center back.
Here is a list of my supplies and where I found them. (No affiliate links)
Busk, Lacing, Boning Tips: Dragontown Corset Supply, US
Flat Steel Boning: Goldstar Tool, US
as above Coutil: Vena Cava Designs, UK
Eyelets/Grommets plus the Tool: I tried using my much loved Goldstar Heavy Duty Snap Press tool but they needed more thickness to come out smooth believe it or not. So I used instead the tool by Dritz and it worked very well.
While corsets were worn as undergarments originally, they are now being worn as stand alone garments or layered on top.In the December issue of Vogue, there was a small article highlighting corsets as a fashion trend right now. As for design, corsetry allows many options. Many are wearing their corsets over long sleeved blouses or tops. I am by no means touting knowledge in fashion or corsets, but I would imagine that if a corset is designed for layering on top, you may not necessarily need to cinch it tightly as normally intended. Mine will be a stand alone piece worn with a jacket over top.
I am so proud of my first corset and will definitely be making more, even if I end up not making my friend her wedding dress. There are so many details during the process and I loved 99% of it. The 1% was tipping the bones…those suckers are tough! My hands could not sustain the strength needed and I did not want to spend the extra money for pre-tipped bones, so I enlisted my hubby ;).
I have learned quite a bit in the making of my first corset, patience, precision and new techniques not needing in traditional garment sewing. If I never make another corset, I have no regrets. However, I am certain I will make another corset whether for myself or someone else.
Your turn, have you made a corset? Or better yet, made something that you never thought you would to discover that you both enjoyed the trio and learned from?
Thank you for reading,