Make a Corset

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Introduction: Make a Corset

About: Former long time designer at Instructables. I have a degree in fashion design and like to sew, get crafty, and attempt to use power tools.

There's nothing like a corset to give you that perfect hourglass figure, whether you've got it or not!  This instructable shows you the construction of a basic boned corset from start to finish.  I will not go into detail about pattern making, but have provided a few resources for you to make/purchase your own. 

Please note this is not a proper historical corset, but more of a simplified boned bodice.  It does not have all of the finishing touches that professional corset makers would use, but it is perfect for a big night out, as a piece for a costume, or as a base for an evening dress.  Happy sewing!

Step 1: What You Need

For this corset you will need:

Materials:
- Outer fabric of your choice (not too delicate or your bones will pop out, I used raw silk)
- Lining fabric, ideally coutil (cotton specifically for corsets), but any strong non-stretch woven cotton fabric will do.
- Interfacing
- Spiral/steel boning, 20 for this corset
- Eyelets
- Lacing

Tools:
- Eyelet Tool/Hammer
- Sewing Machine (obviously!)
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Fabric/leather punch (optional)

Step 2: Choosing the Pattern

Choosing/making a pattern is the most important part of the process. There is an infinite variety of ways to do it.

First think about what kind of shape you want:  How much you want to cinch your waist (if at all)?  What shape around the bust (more like the top of a dress, or cut like a bra)?  A historical recreation, or something more modern?  For example this corset is cut less like lingerie, and more like an evening top, and it is not designed to cinch my waist.

I draped my pattern, but unfortunately I don't have a dress form anymore, so I can't document those steps here.  However if you are not familiar with draping it isn't so difficult to make one using flat pattern making.  Fellow instructable user poopki has links to some instructions on her site for making a pattern.  There is also this online corset generating site, which although I have not used it myself, I've heard it's quite good.

If you prefer to buy a pattern, this is a selection of the brands available. Laughing Moon and Past Patterns will be proper historical patterns, while anything with "Halloween" in the title is going to be too simple in my opinion and probably won't look that great.

Once you do choose/make a pattern, it is very worth your while to sew a muslin mockup first.  Use some cheap sew on boning in a few key seams to get a sense of the fit, then alter as necessary.  The actual corset construction takes a while and it is difficult to fix it as you go along, so this is a very important step for the first use of a new pattern.

Step 3: About Boning

Just a quick explanation of the different kinds of boning out there. 

What Not to Use:
If you go to a chain craft store, you are likely to only find cheap plastic boning, usually in the sew on variety (center) and plastic in casing (left).  DON'T use these.  They twist and buckle, and are bulky at best.  Avoid them!

What to Use:
You want to use steel (not pictured) and spiral bones (right).  Steel bones can be used in the side or back seams, where there is no curve.  Spiral bones are used for the curved seams, as they will contour to fit the seams of a corset where a straight bone would buckle.  In this instructable, I used spiral for all the seams because that is what I had on hand, but in theory most of my seams could have used steel bones, since only the front seams at the bust have much curve to them.

Where to Get it:
You can order bones and other corset supplies online at either the US based Corsetmaking.com or UK based Vena Cava Design.

What Length to Buy:
You can cut your bones and cap them yourself, but if you already have your pattern you will save yourself a lot of trouble by purchasing boning to size.  You want to buy bones around 3/4" shorter than your seam, otherwise it will create too much stress on the fabric and potentially break through after a few wearings (or one wearing, as I found out with my first corset!).  


Step 4: Cut Your Fabric

Because the pattern pieces are mirrored, you can double up your fabric and cut both sides at once.  I have a 1/2" seam allowance.  It is best to have a generous seam allowance, because when you sew the channels there will be those additional layers to encase the bone and add strength.

Cut one set from the outer fabric, and one set for the lining fabric. 

As a last step, cut out two pieces of interfacing for the back panel (where the lacing will go), and iron them on.  This is to provide additional stability for the eyelets.  I actually used iron on mending fabric instead of interfacing because it's what I had around, and it worked great as well.

Step 5: Sew the Panels Together


Sew together the panels together for the outer fabric.  Do the same for the lining fabric. 

Once both are completed, clip the seams as needed at the waist and bust, and iron flat.  It is important to press both of them well, so that you don't get weird creases and lumps when you sew the channels.

Step 6: Sew the Outer Fabric to the Lining Fabric

Lay the lining panels and facing panels right side together.  Sew both ends together along the back panel.  Turn right side out, and press.

Step 7: Sew the Channels

Now for the fun part!  Get ready for a lot of sewing, this step takes a while. Take care making sure the front and back fabrics line up as precisely as possible.

In this corset, I have a bone on either side of each seam, plus one along the back on either side.  I usually start in the middle of the corset and work in both directions towards the back, so that if there is any discrepancy in how the seams line up it will be even vs. working from one side to the other. 

Sew the Channels:
For each seam line, I first sew a seam right next to the seam line on either side, as close as possible.  Sew the first of these seams slowly, making sure the seam line of the outer and lining fabric are lined up as perfectly as possible.  I can usually tell they are lined up by feel, but if you find this difficult then you might want to pin your seams first. 

After sewing the two seams right next to the main seam line, sew the other side of each channel.  For my bones I used a 3/8" channel for 1/4" bones to give it a little wiggle room. 

Trim the Edges:
When you are finished, trim the edges to get rid of stray threads and to smooth any irregularities in the shape.


Step 8: Cut Facing or Binding Fabric

This is where you choose how to finish your edges.  I chose to have clean edges, however if you want to use bias binding that is fine too.  If you do choose to have clean edges, you could also have sewn the top seam back in step 6, either way.

Since this corset uses facing to finish the edges, that is what is pictured here and what the following step demonstrate.  However if you use binding, just do that instead for steps 10 and 12, and skip step 13. 

Cutting the Facing:
For the top facing, lay down a piece of your lining fabric over your cutting mat as wide as your corset stretched out.  Lay the corset down with the top as flat as possible against the lining fabric.  Cut around the edge of the corset.  Remove the corset, and make a strip that extends about an 1.5" down from the line you just cut.

For the bottom facing, do the same thing, making sure the bottom of the corset lies as flat as possible before cutting.

Step 9: Sew the Straps

If you choose to have straps, you will be attaching them in the next step.  For mine I cut 1 1/4" strips to create a strap slightly wider than 1/4".

To construct, fold both sides in to meet each other, and then in half to hide the edges.  I sewed a seam on both sides of the strap. 

Step 10: Sew the Top Facing

Pin down your straps, and sew down the top facing.  When finished, fold the fabric up and stay stitch your facing. 

Turn the facing around to the back, and press.  Trim any bulk seam allowance in the strap area if it isn't lying flat, while leaving roughly a 1/2" of strap so it isn't too fragile.


Step 11: Insert the Bones

Insert a bone into each of your channels.  There will be four layers of fabric in each channel (front and back, plus their seam allowances).  I usually insert the bones in the middle, between the top two layers of outer fabric and inner two layers of lining fabric.  However if you are using a very strong lining fabric and a delicate outer fabric, you may want to insert it between those two layers of strong lining fabric.  Use your judgment. 

Step 12: Sew the Bottom Facing

Attach the bottom facing, using the same procedure as in step 10.  Take care that the bones are pushed as far towards the top as possible, so you don't accidentally break your needle!

Step 13: Sew Down Facing

Hand stitch the facing down along the inside.


Step 14: Add the Eyelets

Time for hardware!  Mark where you want to put your eyelets, roughly 1" apart. 

Either cut or punch the holes.

Insert your eyelets into the holes, making sure they are in cleanly.  Turn the fabric over, and using an eyelet tool, hammer them into place. 

Step 15: Finishing Touches

All that is left to do is attach the straps in back!  Lace it up and pin to fit.  Then tack them on in back and trim the excess.  (Note: it would be cleanest to inset them into the facing, but I got lazy;)

As an optional final step, you can add a modesty panel if desired in the back, which is essentially a strap of fabric which lies behind the lacing to cover up the exposed skin.  I omitted that step for this one.


Step 16: Finished!

And voila! You're done!

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    62 Discussions

    0
    genesequoi
    genesequoi

    4 months ago

    Hi Natalina! Thank you for your post, I was wondering what kind of sewing machine you use or what kind would you recommend using for corsetry?

    All the best,

    gabby

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 4 months ago

    Any home machine will do. As all the stays are put in after sewing, there’s no need for a special machine, just care when closing up the channels not to break your needle.

    That said I do LOVE my sewing machine, it’s my moms old Bernina record 830. If you’re looking for a new machine, I’d recommend it or the 730 highly. These old ones are stronger and sturdier than most new home machines, and built to last.

    0
    AngelinaLue
    AngelinaLue

    4 months ago

    Hi Natalina, I'm a little new to sewing clothes although I have made skirts and costumes. My body seems to be of a similar shape as yours and I was wondering if you could add a link of a pdf of the pattern that you made so I can try making the corset too. Thanks!

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 4 months ago

    I don’t currently have a pdf of the pattern I used unfortunately, I copied it from another corset that I had. I am in between computers currently, but when I get my new one I could take some time to digitize the pattern. In the meantime there are some corset pattern generators online that you could try which I talk about in one of the first steps.

    0
    zoegaertner
    zoegaertner

    11 months ago

    hello! I am interested in making something like this for a dress I am in the process of. how many yards of fabric would you say is needed to make this?

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 11 months ago

    It completely depends on your dress size, the style of dress you are planning to make, and the width of the fabric you plan to use. Draft a rough pattern first and go to the store with it to lay out the pieces. It's OK if it's not exact, but for a full length flared skirt for example that's going to be the part that you really need to determine first and lay down on the fabric before you can tell how much you will need.

    0
    UrmiP
    UrmiP

    1 year ago

    Can you make this without the boning? How do you think it would come out?

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 1 year ago

    Without the boning it would still be a nice garment, however you will get some bunching and the lace section would be a bit of a mess. If going for something without bones I’d make a princess seamed bodice instead, and skip the lacing in exchange for a zipper to avoid those issues.

    0
    EcemUyar
    EcemUyar

    Question 1 year ago on Step 16

    When you sew all the panels together, are ALL those channels / parallel lines sewn on the panels where to boning goes? Like do we put the boning on ALL of those parallel lines?? (i am making my own custom corset as a project)

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Answer 1 year ago

    If I understand your question correctly, yes. There is a bone on either side of each seam, so after the panels are sewn together it's a total of four lines of sewing per seam to encapsulate the bones on either side. You could get away with three lines of sewing, but I like the appearance of sewing slightly to either side of the seam vs a stitch in the ditch approach, if that makes sense. You could certainly just have one bone per seam and therefore two lines of stitching per seam, especially if you use thicker more robust flat ones vs the spiral steel bones.

    0
    Senti_J
    Senti_J

    3 years ago

    Hi Natalina! Is that polyester boning pictured next to the spiral one? Is it possible to use polyester boning for corsets? I've never handled polyester myself..

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 3 years ago

    You are right, I thought they were plastic but the two kinds of boning pictured next to the spiral metal are polyester. As I mention in that step, I am not a fan of either of these types of commonly found craft store boning. Both buckle and warp, and don't work well for curved seams. It's worth the time to order boning online. Plastic has some advantages in that it's easy to cut to length, however a flat stay like this is much better. For curved seams, always use spiral steel bones.

    0
    Senti_J
    Senti_J

    Reply 3 years ago

    Ok,thank you! that is really useful information, i really appreciate you sharing your expertise as there are very few options where I'm from, here in east India!:)

    0
    AngelN33
    AngelN33

    4 years ago

    Can you make a corset out of spandex? I want to make a corset and pair of leggings that match.

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 4 years ago

    You can make a corset out of anything, but without the rigidity of a non-stretch fabric it won't perform like a classic corset unless you use a non-stretch fabric for the inner layer. All spandex will be more like a shirt with corset styling, but it will be much more comfortable!

    0
    ClockworkW
    ClockworkW

    4 years ago

    This looks totally doable. Is that a word? I will definitely try it. Thanks for sharing!

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 4 years ago

    It is totally doable! Glad you are trying it, would love to see how it turns out.

    0
    shezza013
    shezza013

    Reply 4 years ago

    Doable: within one's powers; feasible.

    0
    KimberleyW5
    KimberleyW5

    4 years ago

    This has been so useful to me!! Is there a way to hide the boning so you can't see it? Xx

    0
    Natalina
    Natalina

    Reply 4 years ago

    You mean so the channels aren't visible? You could add another layer of face fabric to the outside (same pattern) so the channels are hidden on the interior. Same process with the facing on the top and bottom, just do that process with three layers of fabric vs two.