Making a Victorian Inspired Corset
Have you ever wanted to take the plunge and make your own corset? I have crafted many corsets and bras in my day and have found that the pattern instructions on most corsetry sewing patterns are either very sparse or non existent. As such, I wanted to create a sew along so that you can easily create any corset.
Check out the video tutorial that walks you through everything step by step:
I decided to use a commercial pattern, rather than drafting my own, so that I could:
- Save time
- make it readily accessible to sewists who don't necessarily know how to draft a corset
I used the 'Victorian Corset' from RedThreaded on Etsy (shown blow).
I was looking for an over bust corset and love that their patterns have a nod to vintage elements.
In terms of sizing, I found this corset to be far too large based on their measurement chart and would highly suggest sizing down. I ended up taking out a total of 4 inches (2" on either side) and it was still a bit too big. Ideally, you want to have a gap of about 2" on either side when it is laced up. The reason for this is that as the day progresses your corset "loosens" and you will want to be able to tighten it even more.
The muslin (toille)
Be sure to create a mock up of the corset pattern first and make any necessary adjustments you need. Check out the video I have on fitting the corset.
I also wanted to mention that if you sew up your muslin with the busk and hardware, it is great to have water soluble thread, so you can just wet it in warm water and the stitches come out and you can re-use your hardware.
The pattern pieces
I like to have a fully lined corset (unlike the pattern, which is a single layer), so I have cut all the pattern pieces for the right and left side out twice. One in my fashion fabric and one in the coutille lining fabric. If you do not have access to coutille fabric, you can use a stable, strong fabric such as twill - nothing with any sort of stretch.
I also interline all the exterior pieces with medium to heavyweight fusible, woven interfacing with the exception of the back lacing panels. Both the coutile lining and exterior fashion fabric pieces on the lacing panels are interlined with woven interfacing, making them extra strong.
You will also want to gather up some hardware, such as grommets, a front busk in the length suitable for the front of your corset (you want it about 1" shorter than your pattern centre front piece), metal boning in both flat steel and flexible steel. In a pinch you can use rigilene nylon boning, but that has a tendancy to bend under pressure so don't use this for anything that you plan to use as a waist cincher (but for a costume it works just fine).
The right front busk (hook side)
Now, when you attach the hook side of your busk, you will sandwich the layers together with right sides together and sew the seam - starting and stopping where the hooks will come out of the busk so they have an opening to go through. Press this piece flat and then inset the hook side of the busk. Pin in place and using a cording foot or industrial zipper foot, stitch very closely to the edge of the metal. Be safe! Don't forget to don your safety glasses. This will encase the busk in place.
The side seams
Stitch up the side seams, as you would a dress with princess seams. Keeping the lining and external fabric layers separate when you sew.
DO NOT clip the curves. We need this fabric in tact, as there is a great deal of strain on a corset and if you clip the curves you may get popped seams. Press them open using a tailors ham to help you over the curves.
Add in the waist stay (grosgrain ribbon) along the waistline of each piece you stitch (keep one continuous piece for each side).
As we are making a lined corset, you can use the space between the coutille lining and exterior fashion fabric as the placement for your boning (or sew external boning channels in place, if you want that as a design feature). Make the channels about 1/8" wider than your boning so it can easily slip in, centring the seam line between the two pieces together.
The left front busk (posts side)
You will need to first sew the front pattern pieces together with the coutille layer and then press right side out.
The post side of the corset busk should have an under lap, so that you do not get any "show through" when you do the corset up in the front. As such, you need to mark the stitching line for the under lap and stitch that in place (as marked on your pattern).
Match up the hook and post busk and then lay the left busk on top, matching up the starting edge of the right busk with the line we stitched for the under lap on the left front piece. Feeling through the fabric, mark the posts in chalk. Using a hole punch tool, punch out where the posts will go and be sure to seal the fabric with Fray Check. Push the posts through.
Then, just as we had done on the right busk, pin the post end in place and then stitch very close to the sides of it to enclose it in the front panel of your corset.
Repeat sewing the rest of the sides together for the left side of your corset.
The Back Lacing Panel and Grommets
For the back lacing panel, take the lining and exterior fabric and place them wrong sides together. Then fold wrong sides together (you will only see the exterior fabric) lengthwise. Press. This now gives you 8 layers of fabric (2 exterior, 2 coutille, 4 interfacing) for extra stability.
Sew a channel wide enough for your boning along the folded edge. Leave a gap large enough for your grommets to be inserted and then stitch another channel (2 rows of stitching) for your flat steel boning to be inserted.
Working on only the exterior layer of one side of the corset you have made, attach the lacing piece (with the raw edges matching - keep the folded edge as an exterior edge). Stitch together (you may want to get a jeans needle out, as you are stitching through 8 layers of thick fabric). Then press the seam open and grade the seam allowances to reduce some of that bulk.
Fold the edge of the lining towards the inside and pin the lining in place just over the stitching you just made to attach the back lacing panel to the rest of the corset. Pin in place. Sew (by machine for extra sturdiness) the lining piece down along the seam line (I like to sew from the right side (in the ditch of my seam) so that nothing shows. Attach the final piece of the waist stay while you stitch the lining down (being sure to fold under the edge of the ribbon so that no raw edges are showing.
Next insert the grommets into the space you left between the two back boning channels on the lacing panel.
Insert your boning into the channels you made. Be sure to have at least 1/2" from the top and bottom so you can stitch your binding on without breaking your needle.
Sew the bottom and top closed to encase the boning.
Either using pre-made double fold binding or making your own, by cutting strips of fabric on the bias (they need to be able to stretch over the curves in the corset).
Working from the right side, place the bias binding right sides together matching the raw edges. Fold over about 1/2" towards the back of the corset at the start and end to conceal any raw edges. Clip in place.
Stitch from the wrong side, so you can see the stitches you have already made (at either 1/4" or 1/2" depending on how wide you want the finished binding to be). Stitch in place.
Turn the binding over the top of the corset to encase the top seam. Fold the binding raw edges under and neaten the folds at the corners. Pin in place so that the folded edge of the binding is coming just below the stitching we just did.
You can either machine stitch this in place or hand sew using a ladder stitch. Personally, I prefer to hand stitch as it gives a very seamless appearance.
Lacing up your corset
Now if you want to be able to lace up your corset yourself, just add one extra grommet in the middle of your corset at the waistline.
Using tape to hold the ribbon or corset ties in place at the exact centre. Begin lacing your corset like you would shoe laces. You always want to come up from underneath on one side and then cross over to the other side.
When you get to the grommets that are close together (centre) SKIP the next grommet and insert the lacing up through the one below it.
Then bring the strings back through the one you skipped over (staying on the same side), but this time go in through the top of the grommet. Leave a bunny loop about the same length as the overall width of that side of the corset.
Then continue to cross over the remaining bottom grommets. When you get to the bottom tie it off in a secure knot.
Now it is all laced up and ready to wear!