How To Make My Corset

      My corset was an amalgamation of Drea Leed's method (see links section), Bess Chilver's experience and my own imagination!  I'll try to share out the credit where it's due!

    The items I used were:
        Fabric -    Calico, Linen, Cotton Poplin and Shirt Collar Stiffener (as far as colour
                       goes, mine is white, but red was a very popular colour for underwear
                       during the sixteenth century)
        Bones -   I got mine from hedgehoghandworks in the US (see links site), they
                      were 1/4 inch wide steel bones that were cut to size and had covered
                      tips to stop them tearing through the fabric.  The one's I had to cut
                      down myself (calculation error when I ordered them!) I covered with duct
                      tape at the ends and this seems to have worked.  When you measure
                      for the bones,
                      make sure that they are about 5 cm shorter than the corset.
        Edging - Satin ribbon.  This is very difficult to work with but bias binding is not
                      at all authentic!
        Busk -    My Dad made me a wooden busk from some oak, this is very easy if you
                     can get hold of a saw and some sandpaper.  Drea Leed has a pattern for
                     this (see links section).  I believe you can also buy these.
        Eyelets - I used plastic rings for my corset, but in the future, I am going to either
                     use proper metal grommets or not use anything at all.

1. Make a pattern:

      It's very important that a corset fits properly, and most of the people I've spoken to (including Bess) have said that their first corsets were very uncomfortable as they hadn't made them perfectly.  Drea Leed's Custom Corset Pattern Generator (see links section) seems to have worked very well indeed for my corset.  Make sure you make a sort of toile to get the shape right under the arms and over the hips - this is all explained on Drea's corset construction page. 

      The main adaptations I made were to make the main corset without straps, with an option to add detachable ones at a later date.  I also cut the pattern into three pieces, the cuts being under the arms, Bess suggested I do this as it makes it easier to take the corset in if it stretches in the future.  I also chose to have boned tabs on the bottom of my corset, as someone told me that they help to stop the corset digging into your hips.

      One important thing to note, is that there should be a gap of a couple of inches at the back when the corset is laced, so make sure that there is a big enough gap there when you try your toile.  Corsets always stretch with use, so the gap at the lacing point is essential to be able to tighten it if this happens.  I made my corset to lace at the back, but it is fine to have it laced at the front if you will have to put it on without any help! 

2. Cut out the fabric:

      Cut out the five pieces of fabric the exact shape of the corset with no seam allowances at all: two pieces from the calico, one from the poplin, one from the linen and one from the shirt collar stiffener.  This is how they will all fit together in the end (ignore the straps and the lack of tabs!):

      Then cut each layer in three, with the cuts being under the arms.

                (From Bess Chilver's Costume Notebook)

      A: Poplin (outside of corset)
      B: Calico
      C: Bones
      D: Shirt collar stiffener
      E: Calico
      F: Linen (lining of corset)

3. Make the stiffening:

      The stiffening is made up of the shirt collar stiffener and the bones, all held in by the two pieces of calico.  Pin the shirt collar stiffener in between the calico to make a 'sandwich' - do this with all three parts of the fabrics, the front and both side-backs.

      Mark out on the calico where the bones and the busk are going to go.  Make sure that the casings are going to be large enough to fit the bones and the busk in. Here is a picture to give you some idea of where to place them:
      Machine sew the casings for the bones and for the busk, put the first bone in when you've done the first casing to check that it fits, and then carry on.

      Slip the bones into place and stitch through all the fabric at the top and the bottom of each bone to stop them sliding up and down. 

4. Put it all together, and bind it:

      Pin, then sew the three parts of the stiffening to each other with the three parts of the poplin, then sew the three parts of the linen lining together.  Pin the lining to the rest of the corset around the edge, and machine sew them together as close to the edge as possible, leaving a gap at in the middle of the top where the busk slips in.

      Bind all around the edge with the satin ribbon.  This is very fiddly, but well worth it in the end!  Remember not to close up the hole for the busk. 

5. Work the lacing eyelets:

      This is the real time consuming part, along with the binding.  Make the holes with an awl, or similar tool.  Put the grommets/rings in place, then sew over them with a buttonhole stitch using the white embroidery thread.  When these are all done - try it on!  (Here is the best way to lace your corset.)

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