Introduction: Corset for the Business Professional

About: I love sewing, electronics, crafting and Chowder.

Estimated Cost: ~$30-$50 (more if you don't already own the necessary tools)
Estimated completion time: 15-20 hours
Difficulty: Moderate - Challenging (dependent on skill level) 

I designed this corset for my wife who loves wearing corsets but did not yet own
one that would be suitable for a business environment. The end result is a light corset
made with a quality suiting material, a slight slimming effect on the waist and loads of
back support.

This corset is considerably more challenging then my other corset instructable and will
require a fair amount of hand sewing. It will also require several iterations of mock-up,
fitting and adjusting to get the correct fit. If this is your first time making a corset I
recommend starting with my other instructable How to make a Steampunk Corset as it
is far more basic and it is much easier to fit properly.

You can see the evolution of this pattern from a mess of fabrics scraps and duct tape,
through several stages of mockup and redrafting, to its current state in Figure 3. Note:
I am using a mannequin not a naked person.

If you have trouble seeing the details of any of the images, click the little i in the top left
corner and it will allow you to view it in the original resolution.

Step 1: Tools

Tools You Will Need:
  1. Straight-stitch sewing machine and hand sewing materials
  2. For the sewing machine you will need a zipper foot
  3. Scissors
  4. Awl
  5. Marking tool (Preferably something non-permanent like a chalk pencil)
  6. Fray Check (If you use a fabric with a tendency to fray)
  7. Lighter or other heat source
  8. Grommet Setter
  9. Pliers
  10. Ruler or seam gauge
  11. Dressmakers pins (Ones that won't snag on a sewing machine)
  12. Steam Iron
  13. Hole punch
Tools that will Make the Job Easier
  1. Rotary Cutter
  2. Cutting Mat or other razor safe surface (office chair mats work great)
  3. Seam Ripper
  4. Weights (I make my own with bags full of steel shot)

Step 2: Materials

Note: Some of this information is re-posted from my Steampunk Corset instructable. If you want
a long winded overview of the many materials options available for corset making I recommend
giving it a look over here.

PART 1: Fabric

Coutil Fabric ~ (1) Yard: This is the structural layer of your corset. If your corset
were a house this layer would be the foundation. It must be very strong and have
minimal elasticity. This is the most important component in a corset! Coutil and is
the only thing you should use for any corset you want to last more than a few hours.
If you insist on using another fabric, make sure it has the qualities I mentioned above
and a very tight (preferably herringbone) weave. Figure 2-1

Fashion Fabric ~ (1) Yard: This is the outer layer of the corset and exists for solely cosmetic
purposes. I selected a charcoal gray suiting material Figure 2-2.

Lining Fabric ~ (1) yard: The purpose of this layer is to make the corset looks nice on the inside
and to add a small degree of additional comfort. Any lining material will do so long as it is sturdy
and does not stretch. I used a sport lining that is supposed to transfer sweat to the surface
faster Figure 2-3.

PART 2: Bones (Figures 2-4 & 2-5)

I will be using combination of spring steel and spiral steel for my corset. You'll need to
measure your completed pattern to know what lengths to purchase. Bones come in pre-cut
and continuous lengths. If you buy continuous lengths you will need a bone cutting tool and a
way to tip the sharp edges.

Spring Steel (white steel): This should be used in the front and back of the corset, over the
abdomen and the spine respectively. Spring steel has only one degree of flexibility so it's
perfect for maintaining the vertical lines around the busk and lining up the grommets. Also,
since it can't flex to the sides, it will more evenly distribute pressure along its length than
other boning types. The absence of this quality would make the corset both uncomfortable
and quite possibly a health risk.

Spiral Steel: This should be used for all the bones between the spring steel ones above. Spiral
steel has two degrees of flexibility and can thus more elegantly and comfortably conform to
one's contours while maintaining the strength, elasticity and durability of spring steel.

PART 3: Closure(Figure 2-4)

I will be using a spring steel five hook busk. The busk is a steel hook and loop mechanism
placed at the front of the corset that permits the corset to be put on and taken off with relative
ease. I will be using a straight busk in this instructable (a.k.a standard busk).

PART 4: Thread(Figure 2-6)

Any thread will do so long as it is strong and feeds well through your sewing machine. For this
instructable I will be using Coats and Clark Dual Duty XP for the internal (hidden) stitches and
Gütermann Sew-All thread for the external (visible) ones.

PART 5: Grommets

I recommend size 00 (pronounced: double aught) two-piece grommets. I
required 46 black grommets for my corset.

Step 3: Cutting and Preparing the Fabric

Part 1: Make your pattern

You can print a copy of the pattern here. Currently I only have the pattern in one size so it
will be incumbent upon you to resize it to your own measurements. Feel free to message
me if you need some tips on how to proceed.

Part 2: Cut the Coutil and Fashion Fabric Pieces

Cut two copies of each pattern piece from your coutil material and your exterior fabric
Figure 3-1a & 3-1b.  You will need to flip your pattern piece over for the second copy so
you are creating a mirror image of the first.

If you are using a patterned fabric take a moment to visualize how the panels will
compliment each other and plan your cutting accordingly. Consider Figure 3-2, there
are depicted three possible orientations for the front panels. The pair on the left looks
relatively bland and unbalanced. The middle pair don't compliment each other; one side
is dominated flowers and the other leaves. The pair on the right would be my choice.

I like to use weights to hold my patterns in place while cutting. Not only is it much quicker
than pinning, it also keeps the fabric from shifting. The blue things you see in the images
are zip-lock bags, filled with about three pounds of steel shot, wrapped in duct tape.

If your fabric has a tendency to fray, apply a small amount of Fray Check to the edges.

Part 3: Baste the Fashion Fabric to the Lining fabric

Machine baste each fashion fabric piece to its complimentary coutil piece, wrong sides
together Figure 3-3a & 3-3b. If your sewing machine lacks a walking foot you might find
it better to hand baste the pieces together or else risk the pieces slipping and creating
untidy bunches in the material.

When all of your pieces are joined, press with a steam iron. Each pair can now be treated
as a single piece of fabric that is structurally suitable for corset making.

You will inevitably have a small amount of overlap on your basted pieces. Trim the
exterior fabric to the shape of the coutil fabric. Do NOT trim the coutil fabric. Figure 3-4

Part 4: Cut the Lining Fabric

Cut two copies of each pattern piece from your lining material. You will need to flip your
pattern piece over for the second copy so you are creating a mirror image of the first.

Step 4: Join the Panels

Part 1: Stay Stitch

Stay stitch the edges of back and side-back (SB) panel where indicated in red on Figure
Do this for both your exterior layer and your lining fabric pieces.

Part 2: Join Panels

Join the exterior panels together by pinning them together (right side facing in) in the order
displayed in Figure 4-1. Sew together leaving a 5/8 inch seam allowance.

When joining the back, side-back and side pieces together you will need to clip the fabric
every inch or so the curves or you wont be able to pin them Figure 4-2. Clip a small
V-notch all the way to the stay stitching you added in part 1.

You should end up with something similar to Figure 4-3.

Part 3: Top Stitch

Switch to your external thread. Top stitch along the edge of each seam (approx. 1/16
inch from seam) catching the seam allowance Figure 4-4. Making sure the seam
allowances are all folded toward the side panel Figure 4-5.

Part 4: Repeat for Lining

Repeat steps 1-3 for the lining layer. However in step three, top stitch the seams
allowance so they are facing away from the side panel. This way they end up facing the
opposite direction from their exterior counterpart.

Step 5: Insert Busk Closure

Part 1: Mark Loop Side Placement

Center the loop side of your busk on the wrong side of your right front panel,
approximately 5/8 inch from the edge. Mark the location of the loops as shown in
Figure 5-1. Mark lines perpendicular to the termination points of the previous markings
as shown in Figure 5-2.

Part 2: Stitch Loop Side Pockets

Pin the external right front panel you just marked (right side facing in) to the lining right 
front panel.

Please watch the embedded video below before beginning.

Stitch a seam 5/8 inch from the edge, skipping over the pockets you marked in Part 1.
You will notice that I start the seam at the midpoint between each pocket, back-stitch
until I reach the top end, forward-stitch to the bottom end and then back-stitch again until
returning to the starting point. This is very important. If you terminate your seam too close
to the pocket the busk will slowly work its way loose when worn.

Part 3: Insert Loop Side of Busk and Stitch into Place

Fold open the seam allowance you just created and insert the loop side of your busk. Pay
attention to its orientation. You want the side with the raised loops facing away from your
body when you are wearing it. See Figure 5-3.

Fold the lining over the busk as shown in Figure 5-4.

Attach your zipper foot. Using your external thread, stitch 5/8 inch from the edge, catching
the front facing and trapping the busk in place Figure 5-5.

Part 4: Attach the Lining to the Left Side

Pin the left front lining panel to the left front external panel (right sides facing in). Stitch
a seam with your internal thread 5/8 inch from the edge. Figure 5-6

Part 5: Mark Placement of Hook Side

Fold over the left front lining and align with the front edge of the right half of the corset.
Insert pins into the hook side, centered vertical between loops (horizontal position is
irrelevant) Figure 5-7 .

Mark sure your pins are secure and lift off the loop side of the busk. Flip the hook side
over and mark a horizontal line perpendicular to the seam where each pin pokes
through Figure 5-8.

Measure the distance from the forward edge of the hook side of your busk to the center of
a hook. Place a vertical mark on the lines you previously created, at a distance from the
seam equal to what you just measured on the busk.

Part 6: Insert Hook Side and Stitch into Place

Press an awl through the intersection of the marks you made in the previous step.
Ideally you do not want to break the fabric fibers. Instead, you merely spread the fibers
enough that the hooks of the busk can pass through, allowing for the hole to close up
cleanly around the base of the hook Figure 5-9.

Insert the busk hooks through the holes.

Fold the lining over and sew in place with a zipper foot and your external thread as you did
in part 3 above for the loop side of the busk.

Step 6: Attach Lining & Shoulder Straps

Part 1: Attach Lining

Turn lining over the external fabric so that right sides are together and pin in place.
Figure 6-1.

Stitch a 5/8 inch seam allowance around the back and top edges where it is marked
in red in Figure 6-1.

Be sure to leave open the top edges of the shoulder straps and the last inch or so
above the busk closure.

Repeat for the other half of the corset.

Part 2: Turn Inside Out and Stitch

Clip the curved edge of the seam allowance as shown in Figure 6-2. You will also need
to trim the seam allowance of the shoulder strap nearest the busk to 1/4 inch.

Turn the corset inside out and feel along the edges you just stitched. If you feel any hard
knobby bits then go back and clip the seam allowance a little more. Repeat until the
edge turns smoothly and uniformly along its entire length. Figure 6-3

Hand baste along the edge of the corset so the the interface of the lining and external
fabric are even and lining can not be seen from the outside. Figure 6-4

Edge stitch along the top and back edges leaving the top edges of the shoulder straps
open. Remove basting. Figure 6-5

Repeat for the other side  of the corset.

Part 3: Join Shoulder Straps

Open up the top of the shoulder straps 5/8 inch from the top edge (the white chalk mark
in Figure 6-5).

Stitch the top edges of the shoulder straps together leaving a 5/8 inch seam allowance.
Fold open the seam allowance and hand baste in place. Figure 6-6

Neatly tuck under and fold over the lining fabric. Hand baste in place as in Figure 6-7.

Slip stitch around the loose edges of the shoulder straps, joining the lining and external
fabric. You should end up with something like Figure 6-8.

Step 7: Create Bone Casings

Part 1: Hand Baste External Fabric to Lining

Hand baste the seams of the external fabric to the corresponding seams of the lining
fabric. Figure 7-1

Mark a line with some chalk 1.75 inches from side seam as shown in Figure 7-1.

Part 2: Stitch Casings

Stitch a seam 3/8 inch from  the stitching of the seams you just basted. Make sure to
catch the folded under seam allowance of the external fabric. Figure 7-2.

At the seam that joins the side and side front (SF) panels, stitch all the way to the chalk
mark as in Figure 7-3 and close it off by turn 90 degree and stitching to the edge.

Stitch a seam 1/2 inch from the back edge, and then stitch another 1/2 inch farther in.

Steam press the entire corset to set the stitch and relax the fabric. I find the best method
is to sandwich the corset is a damp towel while pressing. This prevents you from
damaging the fabric and accidentally setting creases. Figure 7-4.

Step 8: Bind Top Edge

Part 1: Cut Edging

Click here to download a printable pattern for the edging. It also includes a guide for
placing grommets in the next step.

Measure along the top edge of the corset, from the top corner of the side front panel
where it meets the side panel to the front edge.

Also measure the the length of the bottom edge of one half of the corset.

Cut, put and tape together the edge pattern in the two length you just measured, adding
2-3 inches to both lengths.

Cut out two copies of each from your external fabric. However, cut them at a 45 degree
angle from the grain of the fabric. Figure 8-1

Press over 3/8 of the edging as in Figure 8-2

Part 2: Secure Top Edge to Corset

Machine baste edges in place as in Figure 8-3.

Stitch 3/8 inch from edge. Fold over and stitch down side edge Figure 8-3.

Fold edge over back and hand baste into position. Slip stitch along sides and pressed
edge to secure in place. Figure 8-4.

Repeat for the other half of corset. You should end up with something like Figure 8-5.

Step 9: Insert Bones and Bind Bottom Edge

Part 1: Insert Bones

Measure your bone casing and insert the appropriately sized bones Figure 9-1. Make
sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of space at the bottom to bind the bottom edge.

As mentioned in step two, make sure the you use spiral steel bones for the four side
bone casings and spring steel for the back bone casing (5 total per side).

The inner channel near the back edge is for grommets. Do not insert a bone here.

Part 2: Bind the Lower Edge

Bind the lower edge exactly as you did the top edges. Figure 9-2

Step 10: Insert Grommets

Part 1: Mark Back Edge

Use the guide you printed out to mark the grommet spacing on the inner channel along
the back edge. Figure 10-1.

Part 2: Punch Grommet Holes

Use a hole punch to punch out the holes for the grommets. Figure 10-2

Part 3: Affix Grommets

Attach the grommets by whatever means you have Figure 10-3. I used the Home pro
LR with the 6E die (which is intended for eyelets) which reshapes the grommet in a
manner I find appealing.

Part 4: Lacing

It is easy to find pre-cut and tipped laces online. I recommend a length of seven yards.
In a pinch you could probably find a suitable set of shoe laces or use a length of sturdy
(i.e. grosgrain) ribbon.

A great link to a site demonstrating eight different ways to create aglets (the tip of the
lace) can be found here. Heat shrink tubing will probably be the easiest of these

My favorite way to tip laces though is find a nice set of bolo tips from a leather
crafting store.

Part 5: Your Finished

That's it!. Thanks for reading my instructable and I wish you the best of luck on making a
corset of your own. Feel free to message me if you have questions or a suggestion.

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