This was my first time making a corset, or anything like it, and it turned out to be a lot more challenging than I anticipated. It was a lot of trial and error and I've culled it to make it as clear as possible. But be warned, this project will take time and patience.
Step 1: Gather All Your Tools
Here are most of the tools I used during the making of this corset. I inherited many of them from my father-in-law, some bought from local leather shops. Either way, they are all still available from most leather stores around the world and all of them can be purchased online.
From left to right, there is:
Press studs kit
Craft (stanley) knife
Brown waxed linen
Step 2: Tape Forming.
I originally made a template of my design based on my wife's corset, but I ended up changing most of it. Leather works very differently to cotton or synthetic fibres and there's less wriggle-room for adjustment and error, so creating an exact template makes everything else much easier.
After trying a lot of different approaches to create templates that worked well, I found tape-forming to be the most effective. I taped the form directly onto my wife, however, this would work fine on a mannequin. Lots of different tape-forming tutorials can be found on the net. The one I found most useful is this Body Armour (Tape-forming) Tutorial.
I began by covering her body in cling wrap (in Australia, saran wrap for the US folk) and then used duct tape to create a form over it. I made sure to cover more than I needed and I used a permanent marker to draw outlines of the design I was aiming for and to indicate cutting lines and where pieces would attach.
Step 3: Cutting and Tailoring Under Bust
I used leather shears to cut out my under-bust roughly and then made a centreline and folded it in half. I cut the centre line with a swivel knife to get it to bend more. I then tried it on my wife to see how it would sit.
Fold it in half and cut perfectly symmetrical by marking with a pencil and cutting with shears as shown above .
Step 4: Breast Cup Folds
I used some dividers to make an even line under the bust. Cut with a swivel knife while wet and then bend forward. These will take hold the breast cups later. Snip the tops of these to keep them away from each other and allow them to bend.
To ensure your cup folds will attach well to the breast pieces, you can hold a bra against them. The folds should sit nice and flat along the bottom of the bra.
Step 5: Detailing the Under Bust
Here I used a ruler to mark out faux stitch lines and then a stitching wheel to make it appear like stiching had been done here. The lines are 3mm or 1/8th of an inch away from the centreline. I also used an edger to bash down the edges to make these lines 'pop'.
This step features my original breast attempt that never sat right - my final (successful) attempt is explained in the next step. Tape form! Tape form! Tape form!!
Step 6: The Bust
Cut out your tape form around the breast and make a cut (dart) from the bottom to the middle so that the template folds flat. Its up to you where you put this cut as long as it is a straight line heading from the outside to about where the nipple would sit. From here, make a paper or cardboard template and transfer that onto your leather. Flip it for each breast cutout so you don't end up with two lefts or two rights.
I then ran my stitching awl up the dart cut and sewed it together with brown waxed linen with a simple stitch. After that's done, connect this to the under-bust by running the sticking awl around the base of the bust while turning it so it follows the under-bust crease. Sew the side tabs to the side of the corset and you're done.
Step 7: Darting the Side
To allow the corset to hug the body more closely, I made a dart on both sides of the corset by modelling it on her. I took a measurement of how far it had to open to allow for the hips and made my cut. This gives the corset more of a pear shape and provides flexibility to pull in tighter at the waist line.
You can see above, I used a hole punch to make a hole at the top of this line. This will prevent the leather from tearing any further.
Next mark your stitch lines with a swivel knife and use your stitching awl to make your stitching holes.
Sew in a patch of leather on the back to the hip measurement and you're done.
Step 8: Buckles and Straps
I used two old brass buckles to close this corset because they are hardwearing and tight closing, as well as being easy to put on and take off.
Mark these out by wetting the leather then pushing them into it to make a mark. Use a belt hole punch to make a clear cut for the buckle to sit in.
Cut two small tabs out of spare leather and make a centre hole. Make half holes on the sides above and below the centre hole to get the tabs on your buckles. Wetting them down will help. Use the old awl again and cross or saddle-maker's stitch these in place.
I measured the buckle opening and cut two small belts longer than required and used a hole punch to turn these into a belt. Shape and bevel the edges and then punch the holes - I made lots of holes so that it can fit lots of different body shapes and sizes. I cross stitched these belts on.
Step 9: Burnishing Edges
Its time to burnish all those unsightly edges smooth. I made a tool for this job to make it super fast and you can check it out here. Fast burnisher!!
Step 10: Before Staining
Before staining, it's a good idea to get your model to try it on and see if any changes need to be made. Here's what it will look like before staining. If you want to mould it at all, now is also the time to do this. This is where using a mannequin would be handy - because you can wet the entire corset and shape it on it without it squirming around and saying it's too cold ;)
Step 11: Staining
Here I'm using an acrylic leather stain in a cherry red colour. Your local leather supplier should stock something similar. Be sure to use an antique-style stain to fill in all those faux stitch lines. I used a rag to apply it and started on all my stitching lines first.
Step 12: Press Studs
I am using press studs here. These come in two halves and you basically make a hole, put one half on either side going into each other (male and female) and whack them on a hard smooth surface to get them to lock together. Be sure to hit these very square because they can skew off quite easily and create problems. Use a few on a test piece of leather to try them out if it's your first time.
Step 13: Final Check
Here I checked over the stain and went back and fixed up some spots I missed. You can see them. Try it on your model to see how it looks. You may need to stain some areas again.
Step 14: Clear Sealant
The first picture is the corset without a sealant and you can see in the other three how it makes the leather more shiny. Im using a saddle makers sealant because it really soaks in deep in the leather helps the leather to stretch and not dry out. See what your local shop has to offer.