I promised myself I would write this post before the new year… and here it is, down to the wire…

SO… I set out to make a corset in one day. A good corset, a real corset, with a mockup and busc front and proper edging.   It was a success, though see the bottom of the post pictures for an alteration made a couple months later, and a warning against rushing through the mockup fitting. 🙂

I worked from 9am until about 11pm, excluding a break in the middle.

First step, the pattern.  I cut out the original pattern, marking the measurements of bust, waist and hip of each piece. Then I took my measurements (with desired corseted waist # rather than actual), and determined how many more inches would be needed at each section.  Then- the hard part- I divided the sections into percentages, and added that percentage of the total increase needed to each piece, halved for front and back. I drew up my new pattern pieces and added seam allowances of 5/8″.

The One Day Corset

This book, “Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques” contains corset patterns ranging 3 centuries, all at half size. I scanned them, made sure the scale was correct, then increased the size and had them printed. This was the only part done before the corset-making day.

What?? I know! The goal is to increase the measurements of your pattern pieces proportionately.

If you wanted to increase the overall corset size by 3″ and just added it to the center back, you would end up with hip curves that no longer line up and bust seams that are off and too small.

For example, take one side of a 28″ waist corset. (Both sides are identical)

If the waist measurement of the first pattern piece is 2.8″, or 20% of 14″, then you would need to add 20% of the total desired increase to that pattern piece. If you were increasing the waist size from 28″ to 31″, you would add 20% of 1.5″ to that piece.  Technically, you would add 10% to the left seam & 10% to the right, to keep it even.  It takes some work, but you only have to do it once!

One Day Corset

Laid out on the grainline of all three layers of fabric.

Note that I extended the front of the corset- I like the extra tummy control of a long front. Be sure to curve it back in towards the body just a tiny bit, so the bottom tip doesn’t jut out. And see that I eased the additional amount around the bottom hem, reducing it until it blended at the side hip.
Be very sure all your fabric is lying smoothly if you’re going to cut it this way!

One Day Corset

Champagne colored silk, a tea-dyed coutil and ivory twill.

In the end I used the twill for the interlining because the silk is so thin the darker color of the coutil showed through.

One Day Corset

I stitched a stabilizing line down the grainline of each piece in very large stitches to keep the pieces from sliding out of place as I worked on them.

While I would normally do a “sandwich style” corset, finishing with a nice smooth lining, I chose to make an all-in-one-layer corset to save a little time.

One Day Corset

The bone casing doesn’t have to be cut on the bias, but it makes it easier to ease around those hip & bust curves.

I made my own bone casing out of some of the coutil. I have pre-made casing on rolls, but I only have it in black and would normally be hidden behind the lining. For aesthetic purposes, I used the same interior fabric.

One Day Corset

Since I was sewing the boning channels before the pieces were joined to one another, I needed to plan out what size boning to use, and where.

After deciding on lengths, widths and placement, I marked out the channels to be sewn with chalk, following the natural curves of the pieces when necessary.

One Day Corset

Here are the center back corset pieces, with the center back turned under to create extra layers of stability and a separate bone channel sewn over the raw edge.

It is important to set bones onto both sides of your grommets, being as precise as possible- the less possible movement for the boning, the more use you’ll get out of your corset. Plus, the boning reduces bowing and pulling at this high-stress point.

One Day Corset

So, I took a break and got a pedicure. 🙂

One Day Corset

Make sure you give yourself enough room for the seams, for finishing the seams, or for adding more bone channels for finishing those seams.

One Day Corset

Once all the channels were in, it was time to sew the pieces together! I sew the section seams twice, with two different stitch lengths, for strength.

I sometimes trim up the top and bottom edges to smooth the transition between sections- if it’s more than 1/8″ off, I’d be a little concerned… otherwise, just make sure both sides of the corset end up even.

One Day Corset

Did I mention I decided to use some lace from a vintage slip on the top of the corset? A little measureing, placing, and there you go.

I opted for adding some some decoration to the top of the corset, so I took a half hour out to seamrip the lace off the slip, iron it and lay it out…. placement isn’t perfect, but I was working with a pretty small amount of lace.

One Day Corset

An overall view of the front and back before adding the busc and grommets.

The only step I skipped that I normally wouldn’t have is the insertion of a twill tape at the waist.  It can still be put in, it would just be have to be handstitched at the seams. I may decide to add one later, but it seems to be holding shape well. /shrug

One Day Corset

I get caught up, and I forget, but here is at least a picture of the placement for the knob side.

I always use an awl to make these holes, gently, to keep from cutting any threads and causing fraying down the road.  If it looks like that still may be a concern, sometimes I’ll add a drop of Fraycheck- be careful with this, as the drop can spread and darken the fabric it touches.  You may have to work the knobs through the holes- be patient, it’ll be worth it.

One Day Corset

Two part, quality grommets are *very* important…. these, with the flat edges, won’t cut into your fabric like some cheaper grommets can.

There is a school of thought that the more grommets you have the better. I have found that marking 1.25″ apart (making grommets approx. one inch apart) works just fine. I lace myself tightly, but I don’t “tightlace”, so use your own judgment… more grommets can’t hurt.  The last should be 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the top and bottom- you don’t want the grommet past the edge of the boning.

One Day Corset

Finished seam detail on the partial bust cup. Matching scalloped edges is a b****, by the way. Ah well.

One Day Corset

Add in another half hour to cut and iron some bias tape out of the silk, for the top and bottom edges of the corset.

One Day Corset

Here you can see the bias tape edging and the finished seam of the interior.

The bias tape I sew by machine, right sides together, then fold it over the back and handstitch it down. The seams were cut narrow and gone over twice with a zig-zag stitch.

One Day Corset

Note that the waist is a little short- If I had taken more time with the mockup (no, I didn’t even take pictures) I could’ve avoided that.

One Day Corset

Back view- I’m very pleased with the higher back, though the pattern had an option for a lower one and I was debating which to make. PS- You can see that you get plenty of support with 1.25″ spaced grommets, thanks to the boning on either side.

One Day Corset

Again, you can see the bust is too low. This is a common problem with vintage patterns- not just corsets- that they tend to be short waisted.

So, the corset served me sufficiently through Teslacon, but the issue with the bust bothered me, so a couple months later, I made an adjustment. I took the stitches out of the top bias tape, re-cut the bust to a slight underbust curve, below the problematic bust shaping, and restitched the bias tape on.  I’m quite happy with the results and it only took about an hour. The altered bust on the finished corset:

One Day corset

Corset with altered bustline

So I think my experiment was a success, but I’d add a caveat here- take your time with the mockup, because vintage patterns can have all sorts of idiosyncrasies!