Thursday, September 10, 2009


Back when I was young and skinny, I didn’t give corsets much thought. I had a few stretchy “corset-tops” that I thought (at the time) were very much the sexy. Back in those halcyon days of the high firm boobs and tiny waist, there was nothing to hold in, or shape for that matter, so the idea of owning a “real” corset was never much on my mind.

How times change. Now that I’m old and zaftig enough to have to coax my figure into shape, I value a good foundation garment. I have two Rago waist cinchers that I wear pretty much all the time. Well, any time I’m not wearing jeans, that is. I love how they make me a little narrower where it counts and give me a bit more posture. I love the way I look when I’m all nipped in under a 50’s style dress or even a pencil skirt and blouse.

Lately, I’ve been looking at Victorian/Edwardian styles and thinking about the GBACG/PEERS 19th century costume events that pop up from time to time. I am by no means a “costumer” I haven’t the patience or the inclination to painstakingly re-create exact period replica gowns. I am more of a “thrift, stitch, and make it work” kind of person when it comes to costumes. But still, if I can build my half-ass costumes around the proper underpinnings, it might increase my odds of blending in at (and therefore attending) these events.

And also I love corsets.

If I had a zillion dollars, I would just waltz into Dark Garden and have them set me up. I’d get two Sweetheart Victorians: one in crème damask and the other in black silk brocade. I’d also get two Under-bust Edwardians: one in the palest possible pink satin and the other in a deep rich eggplant. If all went well, (and I neither gained nor lost more than 5 lbs. Ever.) I’d never need a new corset again… But I gots no money for such things.

SO! Thanks to the positive reviews on GBACG’s Great Pattern Review, I’ve bought myself two corset patterns.

I’ve found a site online that has all the supplies I could ever hope for plus how-to books and videos. They even sell a kit containing everything I need depending on which pattern I’m using. That brings me one step closer to actually doing this.

I’m undecided as to what fabrics to use. It seems that the “proper” fabric (per the costuming sites I’ve read) is expensive. Very expensive. As usual I’m tempted to not bother with a test muslin and instead just build one as a wearable muslin, with cheaper fabric in case I screw up.

But then what if the pattern works out just fine except the fabric I’ve chosen is too light and it tears apart? Ugh. The suggested fabrics listed on the pattern package (the usual cottons and what-not) sound reasonable, but what if that’s just so lazy people (like me) don’t get intimated when the read the pattern sleeve and run screaming from the fabric store?

The trials of the lazy sewist are never ending. Something tells me I should do this right or not at all. Of course, that makes me lean towards not at all.

But I love corsets. And it would be cool to wear one I made myself.

Questions for you dear readers:

If you have used either of these patterns, what did you find most challenging?

Can I use heavy 100% cotton (like duck or twill) inside and regular satin brocade on the outside? Or do I have to buy the $25/yard coutil?

Do I have to use steel boning or can I really just buy cable ties at the home improvement store?

What is your preferred way of installing grommets? Machine or mallet?

Of course, ANY advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Y'all know SO much more about these things than I!


  1. I am also a Get It Done kinda costumer, especially on undergarments that no one sees but me. I have made corsets for several different periods with plastic cable ties and I think they work just fine. I find them more comfortable, easier to use, and MUCH cheaper than steel boning. But I am not going for much compression, just for proper period shape, so YMMV. I also don't use the ridiculously expensive "right" fabric and I have never had anything busting out on me. :-D

  2. When I worked in a costume shop we made our corsets with cotton twill. If the corsets were seen we would cover the twill with satin or dupioni or some other fashion fabric. We used steel boning like this I think the key to a corset is the fitting and it is hard to fit yourself. You may need to recruit your husband or a friend. Good luck!

  3. I purchased a corset to wear to the Edwardian Faire back in January. It was painful, but definitely appealing and I loved the way it looked. Good luck!!

  4. @ Linda & Brooke - Thank you for your comments. That's exactly what I wanted to hear. :) I will be sure to get a friend or the husband to help me with fitting. I hope this works!

    @ Kristen - Did you buy your corset locally? I wonder if there is another (possibly cheaper) local option besides Dark Garden? They make such wonderful and beautiful things, but if my corset isn't going to be seen...

  5. Well I've used both and they're okay (although I have an hourglass and I wind up with a reverse muffin top on them), I stick with the Laughing Moon one. Little pricier, but a good investment, and JoAnn's directions are to die for.

    As to fabrics, cotton duck is similar to coutil, and holds up very well, and is $3.97 at my Wal-Mart. I can, and do, use whatever I want on the outside.

    Corsets will never fit fine without a muslin. You have to find your proper waist, fit it perfect, find the right *thing* to get them to be right. This is not a half-arsed project, you really DO need to do all the little things with it, or you will HATE your corset. (Make the muslin in cheapo denim, or something like duck, even duck, as long as it's cheap and study, BUT you have a pattern to use next time too.)

    Do buy the sping steel. It'll hold up to wear and you won't run the risk of damaging yourself.

    Grommets...I pay a machinist to install mine. I'm single, and I flirt like hell and tell him how wonderful and manly he is, and it costs me lunch. Barring that, either method is okay.

    Tips...they're not hard, just time consuming!

  6. Thanks for your comment, Ducky. I wonder if maybe I've bit off more than I can chew, here. I am really NOT good at going slow and thinking about all aspects of a project. I usually fly by the seat of my pants and hope for the best. There is a shop around here that occasionally offers a corset making class. Maybe what I should do is wait until that class pops up again? It is really expensive, but maybe having someone walk me through the process one time will be worth it.