As this is a pattern you may need to draft yourself, there are no seam allowances!
You can also find these instructions as a nifty little pdf on my blog.
Attention! Drafting and sewing a corset isn't easy, so I'm assuming you have somewhat solid sewing skills if you decide to tackle this.
Step 1: Pattern Notes
I usually wear a european 38, but that doesn’t mean you can just use the same pattern, if you’re a size 38, too. That’s because a corset shouldn’t be made in regular sizes, but from your personal measurements to achieve the perfect fit.
The ones I used for the pattern are:
- Bust: 87cm
- Underbust: 77cm
- Waist: 65cm
- Hip: 90cm
So, if you have the exact same measurements (or VERY close to them), feel free to use the pattern as it is. If you don’t, however, you can still use my pattern as a guideline when drafting your own. I’ll be giving directions for the drafting part as well.
Step 2: Materials
• 50cm of an outer fabric (satin, jacquard, whatever you like)
• 50cm of an inner fabric (has to be rather strong, I used a denim weave)
• boning (Note: if you want a corset that will shape your silhouette, don’t use plastic boning. It will lose its shape eventually. I decided on spiral steel boning because it is the most comfortable to wear in my opinion. Decide for yourself. You’ll need the boning either cut to the right sizes - I used 8 ready cut pieces - or you have to cut it to the correct lenght yourself and then attach end caps. Also your choice.).
• 5m of corset lacing
• strong thread
Step 3: Measurements
Depending on how you plan to wear your corset, wear something similar to what you intend to wear under it in the future when taking your measurements.
• For the semi-bust corset, the first measurement you will be taking is where your bust is the widest. Tighten your measuring tape around your bust and try out how tight you want your corset to be after it is laced. In my case, the measurement I got was 89cm.
• Next you need to take your underbust measurement. You can’t (and shouldn’t) narrow down your ribcage with the corset, so use this measurement as it is. My measurement was 79cm.
• When you’re done with that, measure the space in between your two measurements (i.e. distance between bust and underbust, 7cm in my case).
• Now measure your waist, again tightening the measuring tape as tight as you want your corset to be (in my case 67cm).
• We need the distance between underbust and waist as well, so measure that (14cm).
• Now measure around the spot where you want you corset to end, somewhere on your hips (92cm) and the distance to your waist measurement (11cm).
• Add together the bust/underbust-distance, the underbust/waist-distance and the waist/hip-distance (7+14+11= 32cm) and you’ll get the length of your corset in the front.
• Please note: This is also the length of the busk you will have to buy. Most of these are only available in even lengths (e.g. 30cm, 32cm, ...), so you might want to adjust the end point of your corset to get an even length.
• Now you can optionally take away a few centimeters from these measurements, if you want your corset to be open in the back. I deducted 2cm from every measurement, to get a small gap.
• Okay, one last bit of easy math ;)
• Decide, how many panels you want (I used ten) and divide your measurements by the number of panels. The measurements you get are the ones you will draw your panels with.
Step 4: Now We Can Start Drafting...
I’m sorry, if this is hard to understand (it’s really difficult to explain...), but please just take a look at the pattern, it should help. So even if you won’t be actually using it, at least download it to see how the pattern works.
• Draw a line with the length of the front of your corset (32cm).
• Draw lines in the correct length (original measurements divided by number of panels) to one side in a right angle to the front line. The distances between the lines are determined by the distances between measurements you took earlier.
• Connect the ends of these lines.
Now, a corset isn’t as high in the back as it is in the front, so we’ll make the panels smaller towards one side.
• To do this, draw a line one centimeter away from each end of the long line in right angles to the long line.
• Then connect the tip of the long line with the point where your new line meets the connection lines of the bust, underbust, waist and hip lines (I tried to make the method clear in the picture).
The next panel works just the same way, but this time, you’ll use the original length of the corset minus the two centimeters we deducted to make it smaller towards one side. This new length (30cm) is the length of the second long line.
Other than the front and back panels, the panels in between also have to be axially symmetrical, so now when you draw the bust, underbust and waist lines, the long line will divide them right in the middle.
ATTENTION: For bust and hip you won’t use the measurement you calculated earlier (the dashed lines in the picture), but you’ll have to measure the lenght of the new lines you drew (the solid lines richt above/below the dashed ones in the picture). Otherwise it won’t fit.
Again, take off one centimeter to one side in the same way as you did the first time.
Do this another two times (always use the new line measurement of the panel before), so that you have 3 axially symmetrical panels (all getting smaller towards one side) and your front panel.
The back panel is drawn like the front panel, only using the new measurements you got along the way. Do not make this part smaller towards one side.
Step 5: Making a Test Piece
Instead of putting in a busk in the front, just sew the front panels together. Then attach the other parts in sequence. You can make tunnels for the boning out of the seam allowances, so you don't have to put in a lining. You don't neccessarily have to put the boning in the test piece, but it will make it easier to see if it fits right.
Try on the trial version and make changes to the pattern if you have to.
Step 6: Cutting
When sewing. you should neaten and iron every seam, or the whole thing might end up messy. I won't mention it every single time though.
Step 7: Start Sewing - the Front
• Now take the half with the eyes and place it along the frontal seamline of the right front panel. Now you can mark where the eyes will have to peek out between the two fabrics.
• Right on right, sew together the two front panels in between your markings.
• Put the busk in between the two layers, sliding the eyes into the spaces you left open when making the seam.
• Now, with the busk in between the two layers, make a seam as close to the busk as you can, thus holding it firmly in place (this works best with a zipper foot which I unfortunately didn’t have, that's why my seam looks a little wonky...)
Step 8: Sewing the Panels
• With right sides together, sew the outer fabric version of your side front panel (number 2) to the outer front panel.
• Then do the same with the lining pieces and check if the seams meet up.
• If you didn't draw perfectly precisely when you copied the pattern to the fabric, adjust the seam on the lining piece (that's why generous seam allowance is important).
• With the seams of the outer fabric and the lining on top of each other, sew the outer fabric and the lining together left and right of the seam. This is the tunnel where your boning goes, so the distance between the two seams depends on the width of your boning (mine is 7mm, so the two seams are roughly 1cm apart).
• In the same way, attach the other panels.
Step 9: Sewing the Panels
• Cut off the back seam allowance of the lining piece.
• Optional: put an interfaced strip of fabric in between the layers
• Fold the seam allowance of the outer fabric piece twice and then fold it around the edge of the lining piece.
• Sew together.
• Put in the eyelets in between the edge and the seam you just made. They shouldn't be to far apart (there's only 5mm between mine and they have a diameter of 1cm, so I must have put one in every 2cm). With most corsets, there are two eyelets that are closer together than the others, roughly where your waist is. This is basically just a little pointer on how to lace your corset later. It's not a must, though.
You're done with one half! Rejoice :)
The second half is done the same way except for the front panel, where you have to put in the other half of the busk.
Step 10: Busk - Second Half
Right on right, sew together the front panels (outer fabric and lining). The posts have to go through the outer fabric (consider this, if you want to add embroidery! I didn't but was very lucky mine wasn't damaged).
For marking exactly where, I used a little trick. With tailor's chalk, draw thickly onto the top of the posts. There should be a little chalk dust on them.
Now fold open the front panels and align the busk with the front seam, then press the posts on the fabric. The chalk should have come off and made little marks where the posts have to be.
When making the holes for the posts you don't want to damage the fabric but only part the threads, so they can close again around the posts.
Take a pointy object (a sharpened pencil will do fine) and push the threads apart until you can fit the post through.
Do this for every one of the posts.
To hold the busk in place, do as you did on the other half: make a seam as close to the busk as you can.
The other panels and the back work just as on the other side.
When putting in the eyelets on this side, make sure they're lined up with the eyelets on the other side!
Now you can put the boning in the tunnels you sewed earlier.
As a last step, finish the upper and lower edges with bias tape. There are a lot of tutorials out there, explaining how to use bias tape, so I won't cover it here.
And voilà, you're done! All that's left to do is lacing the corset (lots of instructions for the right way to do that all over the internet, like this one) and wearing it!