Under Bust Corset

Cosplayer: Amy-Lou

Status: Complete

Condition: Not Set

This costume has not been worn at any events yet.

18th February 2012: Trimming Seal off the boning channels by sewing a line round the top and bottom of the corset (with all the bones inserted).

Then it's time to finish it off with bias binding. I used scraps I had left over for this so the top is white and the bottom cream. Be careful not to hit any boning while sewing this down, if in doubt hand crank the machine past the bones.

12th January 2012: Boning Once you're happy with the fit so far it's time to start adding boning to the corset.

Bones sit down the seams and in between too on the large enough panels. Mark out on the panels where these extra bones will sit bearing in mind the width of the bones you're using.

I used boning tape for all of this, but you can sew your own channels with the seam allowance over the seams and in a double layer corset you can also make channels by sewing the body to the lining.

Line up the tape carefully as this stitching will show on the outside. You can pin it in place and sew from the outside to be sure, but I just worked from the inside as I won't be wearing this on show (it still turned out fairly neat).

These bones will pin down the floating waist tape, make sure it isn't pulled tighter than the fabric as it's there to stop the waist stretching out, not dig into you!

I added all the front panel boning and then all the between seam bones for the rest, leaving the side and back seams uncovered so I could make last second tweaks to the fit. As it turned out it was only now with the bones in place that the extreme shape of the waist reduction pushing out my hips showed up and I undid an inch or so of waist reduction, but couldn't release anymore having trimmed the seam allowance already. I had to unpick those in between bones to let out the waist tape, but it certainly saved me some time leaving the seam bones off until sure.

Lesson of the day? Fit with some bones in place before trimming seam allowances!

10th January 2012: Waist Reduction After sewing the rest of the panels together I added the waist reduction. You need to spread this evenly around the corset, so divide the desired reduction by double the number of seams (not counting the centre front and back) to get the measurement to take off each panel. It's doubled because you're reducing per panel and there are two of those to each seam. I would avoid changing the first front panel seam too if you want the front to be straight(I ended up putting it back as it was on mine).

Because there are so many seams in a corset it turns out to be a very tiny amount you're removing from each panel. Standard corset reduction is up to 4" and though some people squish more easily than others going further than that will probably be uncomfortable if you're not used to wearing corsets. If you do wear them often you likely know exactly what reduction you want already.

E.g. 4" reduction across 10 seams = 4/(10*2) = 0.2"
That's less than a quarter inch off each panel! Use a gentle curved line from this new reduced point back to the original edges to get your new pattern (see picture).

8th January 2012: Rivets As with the busk posts I used an awl to make the holes for the rivets so they won't work lose when laced up.
Then it was on to the rivet tool to insert them (this got really sore for my hands so I had to take a few breaks).

It's important to use rivets with washers for corsets as they spread the grip of the rivet over a wider area and make it less likely to pop out under the strain of the lacing.

Always remember to pop the bones in down either side of the rivets when you're trying on the corset to test the fit, they need this support.

8th January 2012: Busk Posts To make sure the busk lines up lay both panels together and mark where the inside of each hook lies over the other side.

We need to make holes in the coutil but cutting can lead to problems when the fabric is under tension, as cut threads will unravel over time. The solution is to use an awl, which is a long tapered metal spike, to prise the threads apart without breaking them and weakening the fabric. This is the first time I've used an awl before and they are fantastic little tools!

Carefully work the awl through the fabric where marked and take your time as pushing through too fast can snap threads. Once the hole is big enough, pop the busk post through and smooth the fabric out. If the hole isn't quite big enough just pop the awl back through and work it a bit larger.

8th January 2012: Front and Back Panels Super exact boning channels :D
I just followed the instructions and they've come out perfectly. Do feed some boning through the channels afterwards to double check it all fits.

As a single layer corset this is done with facings, if it was double layer you'd be sewing the lining to the body to get the busk and lacing channels.

6th January 2012: Busk Hooks To make sure I was sewing the busk in accurately I drew around the hooks onto the facing. I could then sew the seam up between each hook knowing it would fit perfectly.
When sewing to secure the busk in place, using a zipper foot will allow you to get much closer, just be careful you don't sew onto the steel and snap a needle.

6th January 2012: Pattern Transcribing Now we need to copy the adjustments for cutting again. You can mark the adjusted seams on your mockup clearly and take it apart again to use as a pattern itself, but I chose to leave it in one piece and copy the changes onto the original paper pattern. This way if I want to make another later I can try on the old mockup and check it still fits without having to sew it all again.

I trimmed down the smaller areas and wrote notes on the paper where it needed to be extended. You could stick on extra paper, but when adjustments are spread over so many seams it's not that big a change per panel.

5th January 2012: Quick Note At this point you can make the waist reduction on your mockup as follows and check the fit for that too, but this is so much easier with a busk and lacing in place. Feel free to add temporary lacing tape and a busk to the mockup to get a second mockup fitting, but as my corset will be hidden under clothes I don't mind if there's some stitch marks from making adjustments on the final coutil and no adjustments will be greater than the seam allowance now so I'm leaving this for a first coutil fitting.

Also having finished I now don't recommend much waist reduction on a short hipped style corset like this. Stick to your actual size or an inch off but more than that and you'll need to lengthen the corset at the sides so it controls more over the hips (unless you're after a very extreme style).

5th January 2012: Shopping With the mockup done I can order all the supplies for the actual corset! I went to http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/ who I've always found simple to deal with.

The cheapest way to do this is to buy in bulk, but I don't see myself making many of these so I just bought enough for this one corset. I spent £40 (inc delivery), but the actual corset will have cost less as I had to buy a metre of coutil which is enough for several corsets and the eyelets come in a pack of 50 when you only need 22. Little things like this will make the next one cheaper or you could team up with a friend who's making a corset and share supplies.
I will certainly be taking apart my old shop bought corsets for the busk and bones if I make another now I have all this coutil (left them this time as back up if I failed at making this one).

- Get coutil for the structural layer, you can put whatever fabric you want over the top, but to cope with the tension and to last you need coutil, it's designed for corsets, they're its purpose in life XD
There are cheaper ones than I bought, but I paid extra for the strongest, smallest weave.

- If you adjusted the length of the corset remember to measure off the new lengths of boning you'll need, otherwise you can just get the lengths listed on the pattern instructions.

- Be sure to get rivets with washers, these spread the grip of the rivet across a larger surface area so they don't work free of the fabric under the pull of the lacing.

- Use steel boning for a tension bearing corset. Straight steel for the back panel around the lacing rivets to keep them in line and spirals for two way curves (as they bend sideways too). I'm not sure there are any complex curves on this underbust pattern so you could use straight steel for the whole lot, but spirals are more comfortable.

I also bought the boning pre-cut and tipped as there was very little difference in price compared to the effort of cutting and tipping them myself, so that's another saver option.

4th January 2012: First Fitting Adjustments In my case it was easy to see that some places were pulled tight while others at the same level were loose, so it was a matter of letting out the tight areas until they sat flush and taking in any loose ones. If you're going to be reducing the waist make especially sure the bottom of the corset isn't tight as that waist flesh has to go somewhere.

I had to let the seams out at the back top and bottom to fit the curve of my back and take them in across the front to get back to the same measurement. The picture shows an example of where I've unpicked the old seam (pink) and sewn a new seam further out (green).

I took half an inch off the top of the front panel as I didn't like how high the busk came up, you may also want to use plastic boning in the front panels to check it's not going to be poking you in the bust at any point. Most importantly check that when you sit down the bottom of the front panel isn't poking you in the crotch, otherwise shorten that too. There is no seam allowance on the top and bottom edges, it just gets covered with bias so that's how long it's going to be.

It's totally worth taking the time to unpick seams and sew them back up for this, don't just rely on pins as you need the tension even along the whole seam to get a good fit. Getting it right now saves time and materials later.

4th January 2012: First Fitting I sewed the whole lot together including the centre front seam, then very quickly realised it was really hard to pin up the back by myself! Unpicked the front and sewed the back seam instead so I could pin up the front each time, much easier.
If I do this again I think I'll put pieces of plastic boning down the front seam as it gets a bit tatty when you're constantly pinching it back together after altering. A strip of boning would spread the force and make it easier to line up to pin.

Under bust corsets are much easier to fit than a full over bust so it wasn't too hard to adjust. If you've ever used a store bought tailors dummy you'll know the right measurements don't always mean the right fit, so I checked the waist of the mockup had come out the expected length and used that as my set point. Anything above or below the waist could be adjusted but that point would stay the same.

3rd January 2012: Patterning Tips I normally pin patterns down and cut straight around them, but when you're dealing with as many panels as a corset has, being tiny measurements out per panel can make a big difference in the final corset measurements. Being 2mm out every time would add an inch!

Time to be pernickety! This time I drew around each piece to make sure I was always cutting exactly on the pattern line. Keep your pencil/chalk/note-taker-of-choice nice and sharp so you can be precise. The more time you put into the prep stages, the easier the final thing will be (and less chance of messing up).

3rd January 2012: First Cut The pattern recommends making the first fitting to your exact shape and only adding any waist reduction afterwards to get a more comfortable fit. Be sure to take your waist measurement at the narrowest point below your ribs and your hip measurement at the widest point (not where low rise trousers sit).
I had to cut the pieces to different sizes from waist to hip to get my measurements, which I'm used to doing (just gradually blend between the lines).

I nearly messed up the fitting gap as I added two inches to both back panels instead of between them (it was so big)! This extra fabric is so you can close your mockup without laces, while the finished corset will have a gap across the back, so there's a bit of room to adjust it.

Word of advice; label every piece! Under bust corset pieces are all so similar even upside down, the amount of times I nearly got it wrong even with the markings!!

-As a point of interest it seems a lot of 1900s corsets weren't waist reducing, they were just worn to give a smooth sillouette under clothes rather than re-shaping the wearer, but people were also a lot smaller in general.

2nd January 2012: Laughing Moon I've bought an under bust corset pattern (#113) from Laughing Moon Mercantile to make this. The instructions seem really straight forward, but I've also scoured every walkthrough and FAQ I can find online to get a good start. I get the feeling it's not so much the tasks themselves, but doing them neatly that's the challenge here.

First step is to make a mock up so no good fabric gets wasted. I've got some Bull Denim to make mine from, you can use any non-stretch fabric you have spare, but this is one of the easiest to fit with as it doesn't warp or wrinkle up easily which would make fitting it a pain in the backside.

Sephirayne avatar

Sephirayne - 13th January 2012
Excellent. Best of luck with this. I can't wait to see the finished result.

Nomes avatar

Nomes - 18th February 2012
Wow. Beautiful work on the corset. It's so cleanly finished.

Pandora-Chi avatar

Pandora-Chi - 18th February 2012
The corset is beautiful and neatly done :)

Amy-Lou avatar

Amy-Lou - 23rd March 2012
Thank you for the kind comments :)
It was much easier than I expected once broken down into steps. Now I can't wait to try another, maybe an overbust next.

jaks-kingdom-dwarf avatar

jaks-kingdom-dwarf - 8th May 2012
This is a stunning corset :)

Sephirayne avatar

Sephirayne - 11th June 2012
The result is fantastic. Great job.

Captain_Marvelous avatar

Captain_Marvelous - 11th June 2012
Amazing! :)

Unknown member avatar

Anonymous - 11th June 2012
This is gorgeous. Nice one Amy :)