Fashion Corset Sewing for the Novice
November 3, 2013 10:54 AM   Subscribe

So, I was gifted some fabulous fabric, enough for a fabulous fashion corset. Never made one, thus I am looking for suggestions for good patterns, excellent kits, books and other resources. I am a reasonably skilled intermediate sewist, with a good machine, near some excellent local shops. I fully intend to practice on less-loved fabric first. I'm not looking for period accuracy or significant waist reduction, but I am looking to make something more corsetlike than a lightly-boned princess bodice. More steampunk outerwear than Victoria Secret underwear. Most likely I'll pick an underbust as it's intended as an over-my-clothes fashion thing.

Additional details about my sewing skills: I've been making functional, wearable garments and costumes for over ten years. My fit and alteration skills are fair, but they've been steadily improving this year when I've started learning how to pattern from existing clothes. I hate working from vintage patterns because I am accustomed to modern instructions and modern cutlines and modern tailor marks. I am a little intimidated by this project, but I don't think it's entirely beyond me. I am more than willing to spend decent money on necessary tools.

My sewing machine: a late 1960's Singer. It has a good selection of stitches but I have only a couple of feet for it (a standard foot, a walking foot, a blind hem foot and a standard--not invisible--zipper foot). I've got a tailor's ham, but no other pressing tools.

My experience with corsets generally: I have custom-fitted corsets from Stormy Leather and Dark Garden, as well as a couple steel-boned off-the-racks from various storefronts. I have a non-custom-sized cincher from Silks and Velvets and a fashion corset from Dolce & Gabbana. I'm not interested in ripping any of them apart in order to better understand how they are made, but I do have them onhand as references while I'm working.

posted by crush-onastick to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Good overview DVD, and pattern. Resource lists and more. (While there are some vintage patterns featured, conversions are often included.) Sounds like a fantastic project, best of luck to you!
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:40 AM on November 3, 2013

I second Laughing Moon! Their corset patterns are modernized but historically accurate, there's the accompanying DVD and they've been made so often by so many bloggers that the internetz has lots and lots and lots of feedback and examples of what the finished product looks like. If you want a fair bit of handholding for your first corset, this is the place to go.
posted by stuck on an island at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2013

This site has lots of hints, tips, and info on corsets.
posted by PJMoore at 4:15 PM on November 3, 2013

This site has a ton of information about corsetmaking, including more modern corset interpretations, but some of the content is for subscribers:

This woman is a phenomenal seamstress who has made many historical corsets. She is working on a 17th C-inspired corset right now, but has discussions of how she made many other styles:

And an over-the-clothes underbust corset is called a Swiss waist.
posted by Lycaste at 5:09 PM on November 3, 2013

You need to find a store that specializes in corsetry. The grommets and boning you can get at a Joann's is NOT gonna cut the mustard for Serious Corsets. You'll need a hardcore grommet machine that will keep the grommets in place and specialized metal boning and probably a busk in addition to your fabric and notions. I don't know squat about where you would get that stuff in Chicago, but this is the nearest place to me (that's still open) that exists in California that I can personally vouch for, and they have mail order online.

I would highly recommend finding people in your area who specialize in making corsets (check steampunk, kinky, Renaissance Faire, Scottish Games, costume/dressup communities) and asking them for help, because I honestly think a lot of that stuff needs to be shown to you in person. I don't think I could really help you much over the Internet without being able to be all touchy-feely with the fabric, and corsetry is pretty hardcore sewing. I'm not saying you can't handle it, but I definitely feel like I need help when I'm making them and I've made 2.5 corsets (ran into trouble with the third one after my class was over, sigh). Are there any specialized sewing centers that offer classes? I'd look into that, as that's how I've learned.

Good luck!
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:36 PM on November 3, 2013

I've used laughing moon pattern 103, and found it pretty easy. I also hand-set my grommets, although with a heavy duty setter purchased from a corset supply store/site.

I would recommend making a mockup from start to finish to explore all of the steps, and make sure it looks like you want it to.

Depending on the weight of your fashion fabric, I would recommend flatlining it to something heavier, like a cotton twill.
posted by needlegrrl at 6:24 AM on November 4, 2013

Gertie has instructions for corset-making over at her site.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 9:06 PM on November 4, 2013

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