How to Make a Corset ©

How to Make a Corset
© Kirsty Sapsford
So you want to make a corset? This has been written as a complete guide for the novice
with zero corset-making experience. All you need is a sewing machine and the ability to
sew in a straight line. If you don’t have a sewing machine then it can be done with needle
and thread (and a strong metal thimble).
Corset Patterns
Gathering Your Materials
Index of online suppliers
Making a mock-up
Does it fit?
The Making
Cutting the fabric
Inserting the busk
Sewing it all together
Attaching the waist tape
Attaching the bone casing
Adding the Lacing bones
Inserting the Bones
Adding bias ribbon
Making a Modesty panel
Embellishments and details
Fur trim
Fake Flowers
Feather Boas
Japanese buttons
Corset Patterns
‘Laughing moon’ are a good corset manufacturer, or ‘historical patterns’ – there’s a range of
corset patterns on the websites listed in this chapters index but a quick search on the net
brings up lots more. Having said that, making your own is not a difficult task; my very first
corset was based on a pattern I made by putting on a tight vest and covering my torso in
duck tape. You need a friends help if your attempting this! I then cut down the middle front
and back and cut one of the sides into pattern pieces. I then drew round them onto tracing
paper and altered them to make the waist thinner and cut the back piece to allow for the
gap at the laces. I had no previous experience making corsets and here’s how they came
out –
The red lines are the duck tape piece shapes, the blue lines the above mentioned
modifications and adjusting of length.
Gathering Your Materials
We are going to make a two layered corset! In other words a lined corset, which isn’t as
difficult as it sounds. It also means you can pick any material you like for the outside as the
strength of the garment will come from the lining. Now the lining must (should) be coutil!
‘What’s that?’ you ask, well it’s a fabric invented purely for making corsets, it doesn’t stretch
over time like other fabrics – which would ruin your perfectly fitting corset, but it can be very
expensive. Fortunately I’ve rummaged the net and found the cheapest places in both
America and the UK to get good quality coutil, so see the index below! You’ll only need half
a metre, less if your careful, so there’s no excuse for using a cheap substitute. It comes in
black and white, if you feel the need to dye it this can be done easily as it’s usually 100%
cotton or an 80% cotton 20% polyester mix. A lower cotton percentage stops the skin
breathing. Coutil does come in different weaves, the tighter the better, so if you’re buying in
a store give it a good feel and a bit of a tug; it should be stiff and resist stretching.
That said here’s the full list of corset components you’ll need (check index for suppliers):
• Coutil fabric for lining, ½ metre
• Outer fabric, ½ metre
• Unbreakable thread, 3 or 4 reels in a colour matching your outer fabric
• An awl or other pointed implement for making holes in fabric without cutting the threads.
A fine pointed metal kebab skewer works well.
• 1 steel busk, this is the front opening mechanism with 2 parts that lock together via loops
and knobs (no sniggering please).
• Steel bones; spiral steel for sides, sprung steel for front and back. There should be one
of these for each join between pattern pieces, cut to a size half inch shorter than the join
length; they can be bought in various pre-cut sizes (make sure u have one per join for
both sides of the corset – but not for each layer of fabric mind).
• 2 Steel lacing bones. These are steel bones with holes punched in them; again get them
half inch shorter then the edge of the back pattern piece where the laces will attach, you
need 2 per corset.
• Eyelets (also called grommets) – one per lacing bone hole. You’ll need to buy a packet
with the little plastic setting tool unless you happen to have the proper hand tool – which
makes it soooo much easier! So maybe invest in one for your second corset.
• Bone casing - 2 -3 metre
• s (measure all your joints for exact amount). This is a tubular ribbon you stitch on and
slide your bones into.
• Bias tape in a colour matching your outer fabric – 2 metres. This is a folded ribbon-like
strip of material ‘cut on the cross’ (across the direction of the fabric weave). It’s best to go
into your local sewing store and ask for it by name if you’re not sure what it is, make sure
to take your fabric along to match it as it will edge the top and bottom of your corset.
• Twill tape or petersham ribbon– 1 metre. This is your waist tape, its goes on the inside
and is optional but gives the waist line that stunning angular curve. Leave it out for a more
natural look. Again go into a sewing shop for this, get black or white to match your lining.
• Laces! Of course. These need to be at least 3 meters long and very sturdy.
Index of Online Suppliers
Specialist corset making supplies –
Cheap coutil & bodice patterns –
Corset patterns & fabrics –
‘Past Patterns’ corset patterns –
‘Laughing moon’ corset patterns –
Specialist corset making supplies –
Cheap coutil – (badly laid out website – you need to go down to ‘lining’ in
the alphabetically ordered list to the left)
Cheap coutil – (type coutil into search bar – only available in white)
Specialist corset making supplies –
Specialist corset making supplies –
Making a mock-up
I can’t stress the importance of a mock up enough, I hear you groan but marching ahead
with your good material and crossing your fingers your corset will fit is one hell of a risk.
Besides, it’s really quick and easy, promise!
Using some plain cotton or other scrap fabric, cut out your pattern leaving an inch extra at
the joins as seam allowance, then sew the joins leaving the front and back openings unsewn.
Now take each seam allowance in turn and sew the two flaps together leaving a pocket
wide enough to slide your boning into.
Slide your bones in and if need be stitch the bottoms of the seam allowances to stop the
bones falling out. Now cut a strip of material the width of the gap you intend to have at the
back of your corset where the laces will be and stitch or pin it between the two back edges.
Now you can try on your mock-up, pinning the front closed around you.
Does it fit?
Check the length, how high it comes up under the arms (if it’s an overbust) and the overall
fit. If it’s too loose around the top and or bottom edges you may have to bring it in at the
joins; use pins to alter it while wearing it, then take it off by undoing the front pins and
transfer the changes to the pattern pieces. If its too tight let it out by unpicking the seams
as far as need be and pinning scraps of material in place to extend the pattern pieces.
Again take off and transfer the changes to the paper pattern.
And that’s it!
The Making
Right, you’ve prepared yourself and you have all your materials, you’ve made and tested a
mock-up and you have your pattern pieces consisting of one sides worth of panels which
will be cut out twice from your material and twice from your lining to make the corset. So
now it’s finally time to make a corset!
Cutting the fabric
Take your outer fabric and pin on your pattern pieces, cut them out leaving a ½ inch seam
allowance on either side. Label them in the seam allowance with chalk or pencil 1,2,3 etc
otherwise your likely to mix them up. Now unpin the pattern pieces, turn them over and pin
and cut again. You should now have two lots of panels that mirror each other – a right side
and a left side. Do the same with the coutil lining and lay them out like so:
Inserting the busk
Take a deep breath, your about to insert your first busk!
Take the two halves of the busk and lay them between the two front pattern pieces, the
looped half on the left and the knobbled half on the right as you face them. (The loops will
be on your right side when you put the corset on). Now take the right-hand outer and lining
pieces and knobbled busk piece. 1 - Lay the busk piece to one side and place the pattern
pieces one on top of the other, right sides together - in other words the sides that will face
your body and the outside world should be touching. 2 - Stitch down the front edge where
the busk will go, allowing ½ inch for the seam allowance. 3 -Now turn the pieces right sides
out and 4 - flatten the seam you just made (either by pressing it flat with your fingers or an
Now stitch the seam a second time from the outside but just a fraction in from the edge
(3mm or 1/16 inch) – this makes the seam strong enough to take the strain of the closed
busk and avoids the tiny gap that can occur between the two front panels when the busk is
Now pick up your knobbled busk piece again and lay it on top of the fabric, outer fabric up,
lining fabric facing the table. Make sure the edge of the busk piece lays along your last line
of stitching, that it is the right way round and positioned where you want it. Then using a
pencil or chalk, mark on the fabric underneath the busk piece exactly where the knobs are.
Now open the fabric up to expose the seam allowances, place the busk piece between the
two seam allowances and fold the fabric closed again.
Now take your awl, metal kebab skewer, sharp pencil (in the same colour as your material)
or other pointed object and work it into the fabric where you have marked the knobs. Your
pointed implement should make a hole without breaking any of the threads of the fabric,
this prevents fraying.
Push each knob through its hole as you make it, then stitch a straight line down the other
side of the busk piece to hold it in place.
Now for side two. Take the remaining left hand outer and lining pieces and looped busk
piece. Again place the pattern pieces one on top of the other, outer sides together. Now lay
the busk piece on top with its looped edge along the seam allowance where you are going
to stitch. Make sure the busk piece is positioned to match up with the knobs on the first
half, then using a chalk or a pencil draw along the seam line using the busk piece as a
ruler, marking off where the loops will poke through.
Now sew along that line, lifting the sewing machine needle and repositioning it at each loop
marking so the loop holes remain unsewn.
Now fold the seam so the fabric pieces face right sides out and press as before. Again as
before stitch the seam a second time from the outside but just a fraction in from the edge,
this time leaving the loop holes unsewn – use pins to mark where the loop holes are. Leave
a lot of thread between loop holes so you can pull it through the holes to the inside.
And again, place your busk piece between the seam allowances on the inside with the
loops poking through their holes, close the fabric and sew along the other side of the busk
piece to secure. You have finished inserting your busk! Possibly the hardest part of the
construction process!
Sewing it all together
Sew all the lining pieces together and all the outer fabric pieces together for both corset
sides keeping to the ½ inch seam allowance – if your seam allowances aren’t the same the
outer and lining fabrics won’t match up. Sew everything twice in different stitch lengths to
make the seams extra strong.
Attaching the waist tape
Now you need to take your petersham ribbon or twill tape and pin it to the wrong side (the
side touching the outer fabric) of your lining fabric, along the waistline on both corset sides
(this will give you a stunning curve at the waist). First trim the seam allowances between
the lining pieces to ¼ inch and fold them toward the front of the corset. Lay the ribbon over
the top and get the end as close to the busk as possible, at the other end leave your ½ inch
seam allowance plus the width of your lacing bone plus 1/8 inch extra and pin in place. Sew
along the top and bottom of the waist tape and unpin.
Attaching the bone casing
Now its time to sew on the bone casing, this is done over the waist tape and along each
seam where the pattern pieces join. Pin the bone casing so one edge sits along the seam
line and the other covers the seam allowance, now stitch down both sides leaving a gap
slightly wider than the bone that will go inside it.
Adding the Lacing bones
Taking each corset half in turn, fold the lining and outer fabric right sides together and sew
down the edge of the back of the corset along the seam allowance, attaching the lining and
outer fabric together. Trim the seam allowance to ¼ inch and turn the whole corset half
right side out.
Now press the seam you just made flat from the outside and as before when we inserted
the busk, stitch the seam a second time from the outside but just a fraction in from the
edge. Now take a lacing bone and line it up with this row of stitching, make sure it is central
and mark off the holes. To make the holes you should have an eyelet/grommet set with a
tool in it for making holes and setting the eyelets/grommets. Make the holes then, making
sure the lacing bone sits between the seam allowances inside the two layers of outer and
lining fabric, line up the bone holes with those you just made. Now, again using the tool, set
each hole with an eyelet/grommet and finally stitch a straight line down the other side of the
bone to hold it in place. Do this with both corset halves.
Inserting the Bones
Start off by pinning the bottom edge of your two corset halves so each seam on the lining
and outer fabric roughly match. Now sew along the bottom leaving your usual ½ inch seam
allowance. Trim this to ¼ inch. Now insert your bones by sliding them into the bone casings
from the top. Push them as far down as they will go and pin and sew the top edge as you
did the bottom. Trim the seam allowance to ¼ inch.
Adding bias ribbon
Now we have the bulk of the work done our corset finally looks like a corset, we just have to
hide the raw edges. I have seen some people do this by folding the edges inward and
sewing along them but this looks unprofessional, the traditional way is better. Bias binding,
also known as bias tape or bias ribbon is cut ‘on the cross’ meaning the threads of the
fabric run diagonally rather than up and down, this allows the ribbon to follow the sharp
curves of the corset edge without wrinkling. It is folded in four, when you open it up you’ll
see that the edges are folded into the middle then the whole thing is folded in half.
Take the ribbon and unfold it completely, now line up the ribbon edge with the edge of the
corset on the outside and pin all the way along – make sure you leave at least an inch of
ribbon at each edge.
Now some people like to turn the ribbon in at the edges to hide the raw edge, but I prefer to
fold and sew it into a point later on. This is a little more difficult and fiddly but looks much
nicer. If you choose to fold it in do it now and pin it in place.
1 - Now sew along the first fold line down from the top edge of the ribbon. Take the pins
out, 2 - fold the bottom edge back up into the middle and 3 - fold the ribbon up again along
the crease you just stitched over. 4 – Finally, fold the ribbon over the corset edge and pin it
on the other side.
Now, if you have chosen my method of finishing off the ribbon ends, take out the pin
nearest the end and 1 - fold the ribbon back up. 2 - Fold the ribbon in at the end, 3 - fold it
back down and pin back in place. 4 & 5 - Hand-stitch the end trying not to let you stitching
Finally stitch the ribbon in place on the inside of the corset by hand so the stitching doesn’t
show on the outside, you’ll need a metal thimble to push the needle through the strong
coutil lining. Don’t go any deeper than the lining fabric with these stitches; remember they
mustn’t show on the outside of the corset.
Yes you’re finished! Give yourself a big pat on the back…put the needle down first.
Tomorrow’s lesson will involve making your corset a modesty back panel, that’s the flap of
fabric that goes behind the laces.
Making a Modesty panel
A modesty back panel is very easily made and a must for bridal, evening or day wear
corsets. Underwear and bedroom corsets are best left bare at the back, some summer
corsets too. But if you want a modesty panel for your corset you must first work out what
size. Measure the height of your corset at the back, allow for any steep drops in height if
the corset is very pointed at the back and take a further ½ inch to an inch off top and
bottom. This will be your height measurement. Now put the corset on and measure the gap
at the back, take it off and measure from the gaps edge to the other side of the lacing bone,
times this by two and add it to the gap size, this will be your width.
Now double your width as you will be folding the fabric in half and add an inch to both
height and width. Now cut a piece of fabric matching your outer fabric to these dimensions.
Fold it in half width ways, wrong side out. Leaving a ½ inch seam allowance stitch all the
way round the open edge leaving a little gap two fingers wide in the middle of the side
opposite the fold. Now trim the seam allowance to ¼ inch and cut off the two corners
opposite the fold.
Now turn the whole thing inside out through the small hole so the right side of the fabric is
on the outside, poke the corners into shape by putting a finger through the hole and
pushing from inside. Press flat making sure the edges of the hole are tucked in inline with
the rest of the edge and sew along it from top to bottom ¼ inch from the edge.
And finally hand stitch the panel into the corset, only stitching through the lining layer of
fabric so it doesn’t show on the outside of the corset – sew the edge you have just stitched
to the point you measured from just to the inside of the lacing bone, it doesn’t matter which
side you attach it to.
Embellishments and details
Adding trimmings and those little finishing touches is so easy and really makes a corset into
something special, but getting ideas can be difficult especially when making your first
corset. So to get your creative juices going, here is a selection of the most effective addons readily available online and in store to give any corset that extra wow factor!
Contrasting panels
The easiest way to create a bold look is to use contrasting fabrics
for your pattern pieces. Swapping out just two panels is a great
way to use up your scrap fabric from other projects that have left
you with pieces too small to do anything else with. Try changing
panels at the front or sides or even go for a rainbow effect with
panels in all the colours of the rainbow.
Appliqués and lace
Appliqués come top of the list for ease of use
and effect, they can be ironed or stitched on
after finishing a corset and come in a wide
range of styles and designs; embroidered,
sequined, lace etc.
Wide lace ribbon can also be used to trim the
top or bottom edge of corsets.
Ribbon and decorative lacing
It seems obvious but most people
underestimate the huge variety of ribbons
available. These can be used to trim the
top and bottom of a corset or create
stunning visual effects by positioning lines
of ribbon round the corset at various points.
Placing eyelets within a panel and adding
laces also creates a dramatic look with
minimal effort.
Beads and other trims
There are many other trims available
including lengths of beads that can be hung
from the front of your corset. Tassels, which
come in singles and lengths or ruffled lace
work well too.
Another fun adornment for your corset edging
is fake fur, which can transform an everyday
corset into a frolicsome winter burlesque
corset. Attached in the same way as your
bias ribbon it is deceptively easy to sew, just make sure you have a thick enough needle!
Feathery lengths or full-on feather boas can also be used across top and bottom for
another burlesque look, even easier to attach than fur a single stitch every two inches or so
will secure your feathery ruff.
Fake or silk flowers
Fake or silk flowers are one of my
favourite adornments for wedding corsets
as they can be used to make matching
accessories like hair slides or a garland.
Or for evening corsets use one or two off
centre black or exotic blooms sewn into
the bias ribbon at top or bottom to give a
femme fatal air to your finished corset.
Loose beads, sequins and rhinestones
Bling up your corset! Tiny beads and sequins can be sewn on to your
finished corset. Or get some rhinestones or adhesive gems and go
all out burlesque! Those made for clothing should have strong
enough glue to withstand hand washing or you can get them with tiny
holes either end for stitching on. Use them to accent the fabric
pattern, make shapes etc.
Japanese buttons, brooches and bows
Also called fabric or knot buttons; Japanese
buttons can be uses to hide the corset fastenings
that run down the front. The loops and knobs can
be completely hidden and the corset given an
oriental feel. They come in all colours but my
favourite is black against red fabric, beautiful!
Adorning the front of your corset with a piece of
jewellery like a cameo brooch makes for an eye
catching centrepiece or go girly and sew on some
bows in a matching or contrasting material.
So now you’re all done!
You have a fabulous and completely original corset at a fraction of the price of a ready
made! And they only get easier the more you make.
Please let us know how you got on by sending feedback and photos for our gallery to
[email protected]
Now why not try your hand at corset dresses, corset waistcoats, chokers, wrist cuffs,
sleeved or halter neck corsets…….