Making your own corset is a challenging and rewarding project. You will need to make a number of decisions before you start your DIY corset. There are several styles of corsets, typically denoted by period. The most common are Elizabethan, 18th century and Victorian. Each style produces a distinctive body shape. While styles may differ, materials and construction are largely the same for all corsets.
Good quality materials are critical when making DIY corsets. You will need a pattern, either custom drafted or purchased. If you are purchasing a pattern, look for a quality historical costuming supplier like Laughing Moon. You may find that the same supplier offers needed corsetry supplies. You will also need steel boning, typically 2 to 4 mm for all corsets, as well as a busk for many. Busks are typically constructed of wood, ivory or whalebone, and wooden busks may be purchased today. You can also substitute steel boning in place of a busk in many cases. Coutil, a specialty corset fabric, remains the ideal choice to construct your corset and create the strong and stable base it needs. Grommets, binding, lining, outer fabric and lacing are also necessary.
Make a Mock-Up
Even if you opt to work from a commercial pattern, making a mock-up of your new DIY corset will help ensure the fit is good and the corset is comfortable and right for your body. Assemble just the guts of the corset, without a lining, finished edges or outer fabric. Baste the two layers of coutil together, and stitch the boning channels into place. Wear this for several hours. Adjust fit or boning if necessary. Use hand stitching or multiple lines of machine stitching to strongly secure the top and bottom edges of your corset and keep the boning from shifting or coming out of the channel.
Finishing Your Corset
Baste the outer and lining fabrics into place, if you are using them. Corsets intended solely for underwear can be made without an inner or outer layer if you prefer. Your outer fabric should include a generous, reinforced edge at front, back or both for lacing. Use hand-cut or purchased coordinating bias binding to finish all edges. Set grommets with a grommet tool or pierce the fabric with an awl and stitch around each hole with a buttonhole stitch. If you prefer to hide the grommets, they can be hand stitched over for a more authentic look for early corset styles. Add laces to your new corset. If you are doing historical re-creation, wear a chemise under your corset to reduce wear and soil.
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