A corset is a piece of lingerie.. with strings or eyehooks in the back.. very popular in the past.. has made a comeback.. they cinch a woman's waist into nothing-ness.. forcing her breasts to jut up and out.. and makes cleavage.. very popular in the bdsm scene.. or just in fashion in general.. made of velvet, satin, latex, or various other materials

One of the earliest known examples of a corset appeared on a sculpture of a snake goddess from Crete. The sculpture dates from about 2000 B.C. and depicts a laced structure that, while leaving the breasts bare, pushed them up and out.

Amazing how things can (not) change in 4000 years, eh?

There is a difference between Elizabethan and Victorian corsetry.

The Elizabethan variety provides support for the breasts, and is in a vaguely (upside-down) triangular shape, aided by the use of a busk. This creates the heaving cleavage seen in costume dramas, and therefore the illusion of an hourglass figure (emphasised breasts, streamlined waist, hips left alone). It resembles a small piece of body armour.

By contrast, the Victorian corset is a larger and more flexible affair. It tends to cover the body from just above or below the bust down to the hips. Its purpose is to constrict the waist via tight-lacing and therefore create an actual hourglass figure. Unfortunately, it moves the internal organs up or down to create this effect, and it is possible to die from puncturing a major organ on a rib.

Corsetry is popular with goths and BDSM fans, including yours truly.

Corsets should be distinguished from basques, boob tubes and bustiers. None of these actually aim to change your body shape.

The abandonment of corsets was considered a great victory for the feminist movement. Therefore, don't expect your feminist mom to be delighted if her otherwise-liberated daughter starts tight-lacing.

The 18th Century corset is one of the most comfortable to wear, it supports the bust and back without squeezing the waist. They can be worn to create the proper silhouette and support for the historical costumer, or as a modern fashion style, if you're into that sort of thing.

During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the neo-classic styles came about. There was the revival of the Grecian "zona" and cotton materials for dresses. Cotton had become popular near the end of the 17th century when it had been brought from the east. The dresses became softer and looser. The natural contour of the body was now fashionable, and so stays in corsets were now discarded, causing much more comfort than before.

For those not having the beautiful curves the fashions demanded, they resorted to confinement of their figures to fashionable bounds. This soft cotton also introduced the first two piece dresses to be seen in two centuries. This fashion at the end of the century and beginning of the 19th century was called vetue a la Sauvage.

Now, be nice to your costume designer. Because those corsets can be tight...

How to make a corset

It's a monster write-up, I know, but I don't know how else to fit all the necessary information in.
This isn’t meant as the endall and be-all of home corset making. I don’t know enough to tell you how to make proper period outfits, and I don’t have enough experience with lined corsets to tell you how to make them – though it seems usual to make them as two separate corsets until you start putting in the hardware and hemming it.
If you already own a corset, you may want to check out
-the rest of corset
-When to wear a corset
-wearing a corset

If you want to make a corset, read the directions a few times before you seriously attempt it. It’s good to have an idea of what you’re getting into. If you spot any problems, or you have any questions, feel free to /msg me or e-mail me (christiane5_3@yahoo.com).
There’s a great deal of good books on the subject out there, and I’ve included a list of reference places at the end of the write-up.
Happy sewing!



Materials:
  • Store-bought pattern OR t-shirt, duct tape, permanent marker, scissors.
  • About a yard of nice, sturdy fabric for your first try, 1-2 yd fabric in general.
  • Grommets (size 00 recommended), preferably with setter.
  • 2 three-yard-long laces (skate laces, sturdy ribbons, etc.) They may need to be shorter, they may need to be longer, you may need 4. It’s an experiment.
  • Lots of hooks ‘n’ eyes OR hook ‘n’ eye tape OR a busk OR none of the previous items.
  • 1/2” boning tape (7-8 yards, more if you’re making the corset extra-long, less if you’re making a waist cincher).
  • Boning, quite a few pieces. See section below on boning for more details.
  • Chalk or colored pencil
  • Time (from five to 20+ hours)



Acquiring a pattern:

Make one out of Duct Tape:
First, find a fairly tight t-shirt (or tank top, if you don’t plan on adding straps to the corset) that you don’t mind sacrificing to your cause. Put it on. If you plan on wearing a padded bra under the corset, wear it. If you don’t plan on wearing any bra at all, make sure you aren’t wearing one.
Break out the duct tape. Wrap it around the t-shirt fairly snugly, like a tube top. Cover the t-shirt in a couple layers of duct tape. Be sure to go as far up as you want the corset to go. Go as far down as you want the corset to go. Put straps over your shoulders if you want a pattern with built-in straps.
Grab a permanent marker and a three-way mirror or a trusted friend. Draw where you want the seams to go. The way I usually place them is
  • One down the very center of the front of the corset
  • One directly over the spine
  • Two down the front of the body, passing directly over the nipples
  • Two at the outside of the ribcage in front (Hold a finger or two at your shoulder in front. Trace directly down. The seam will probably run right about there.)
  • No side seams directly under the arm
  • Two at the outside of the rib cage in back (same sort of placement as in front)
  • Two midway between the spine and the outside of the ribcage (this is where a trustworthy friend is especially helpful.)
  • If you put shoulder straps on, draw seam lines running along the highest part of the shoulder, or just go with there the seams are on your t-shirt.

Cut yourself out (very carefully!) at either the middle front or middle back seam.
Shrug the duct-taped shirt off and get dressed in something a little more comfortable.
Straighten the seam lines where necessary. Get them as symmetrical you can, given the inherent asymmetry of the human body. Draw where you want the edges to fall, or just cut off the excess tape. Make the straps look better (e.g. sexier, curvier) by cutting off tape and/or adding additional tape.
You’re sure everything’s perfect?

Label all the pieces so that you can tell what’s what (e.g. left center, left center front, 1a, 1b, whatever). Draw interesting little marks across the seam lines so you can see where they meet up. Cut the thing apart on the lines. Voila! You have a pattern!

Well, you probably have a pattern. If the pieces don’t lay (mostly) flat when you put them on the table (or other level surface of your choice), you may need to make some small adjustments. This is usually only an issue for corsets with built-in straps.
Lay the piece that’s bubbling up flat as you can on a level surface. Eye the bubble; figure out where its lines of symmetry are and which edge it’s closer to. Cut from the closest edge along one of the lines of symmetry. Cut to the center of the bubble or so, then see if it lays flat. It won’t be perfect, but if it’s still pretty hideous, cut a little farther. If you end up having to cut all the way across, make sure you mark where the two pieces lined up when they were whole so that putting it together isn’t as much of a hassle.

Finally, how much of a gap do you want in the back of the corset? If you want it to lace closed, you’re probably done. If you want a great gaping amount of flesh at the back, you may do well to discard the center pieces in the back and straighten out the seams going down from your shoulder blades. Otherwise, if you want a two or three inch gap, just shave some off the edges of the center back pieces that face the spine (be sure to do it symmetrically).

Key points
  • Are you absolutely sure you’ll always want to wear your best padded black lace bra under your corset? Are you absolutely sure you’ll even have the bra for as long as you have the corset?
  • Patience, young grasshopper. While you can take back a cut you’ve already made, and everything is fixable, it can be very frustrating trying to put your new 3-D jigsaw puzzle back together so you can figure out how to line it up properly.
  • Even if you suck as horribly at this as I did the first time, you can always buy a pattern.
  • Are you absolutely sure you marked everything before you cut it?




Buying a pattern: Simplicity 5726 is my own personal favorite, though there’s a good variety out there. When you’re figuring out what size you’re going to make, don’t go by which one “seems closest” to your own. Buy whatever size it takes so that none of your measurements are bigger than the measurements specified on the pattern. For example, I have no waist, in addition to having no breasts. I bought the size that is perfect for my waist, even though it’s too big for my hips and far too big for my bust. It’s much easier to take in than it is to let out.

Fitting a pattern
Cut the pieces out carefully.
Trace the pattern pieces onto the fabric you’ll be making your mock-up corset out of or pin them to the fabric and cut around them.
If you trace them, make sure you copy the various marks (witness marks) that indicate where the pieces match up. The mock-up corset can become a “real” corset, but you’ll want to make it out of a fairly tough material like denim so that it’ll stand up to repeated sewing and seam-ripping.
Label all the pieces appropriately, then cut them out. (Yes, I know I’m a “type A,” thank you for noticing.) You may want to increase the seam allowance before you cut, just in case.
Sew them together as indicated in the pattern directions.
Put the corset on inside out. Make sure that the undergarments that you have on are what you’re planning to wear with the corset.
Rig some way to strap the unfitted corset together in back and in front. Large safety pins can be highly effective.
Pin and mark every seam that needs to be taken in.
Look at your very sexy self in the mirror. Grin.
Take the corset off, and adjust the seams as needed; try to keep it symmetrical.
Put it on again, and jury-rig it as before.
Adjust seams again, if needed.

Once you have it right, mark exactly where the seams are. Take your newly perfect corset apart (make sure the chalk or pencil labeling the pieces hasn’t worn off). Either cut the pieces exactly along the seam lines and use them as patterns forevermore, or figure out a way to transfer the location of the seam lines directly onto paper.
Voila! You now have a corset pattern!



Sew it all together

If you bought a pattern and fitted it, you know how to do this already. Go forth and conquer!
If you made the pattern out of duct tape, it’s easy. Really. It’s just a bit time consuming.

Break out the chalk! (or the colored pencil)
Trace the pattern pieces onto the cloth. Unless you made new pieces with a built-in seam allowance, you’ll also have to put in the seam allowance. To do this, find something as wide as you want the seam allowance to be. You can buy one of those spiffy little rulers with the slider, aka a seam gauge; it's cute, it's adjustable, and it's pretty easy to work with. Alternatively, figure out how deep you want the seam allowance to be (5/8” is standard, 3/4” is easier to measure, 1” tends to be a bit excessive). Cut out a circle of cardboard with a diameter equal to the seam allowance, or cut out a square of cardboard with sides equal to the seam allowance. Draw the appropriate seam allowance all around all the pieces as you trace them. (Yes, this is a pain in the ass, but it is necessary, and worth it.)

Find the pieces that go in the center of the back and/or the front. And/or? If you only want your corset to lace up the back, just find the pieces for the back; if you want it to have a front closure and lace up the back, find all four; mix and match as necessary. Lay them down on the fabric t-shirt side up. Trace the top and bottom edges, and the edge that was the center seam. These pieces will be the facing (what you see on the underside of the “gaps” in the corset, and what helps keep the lacing and fastenings intact and well-reinforced). You’ll want them to be around three inches wide, and both edges should be straight. That is, you’ll want three-inch-wide strips that look like the three inches of the actual corset pattern piece that abut the center seam.
Cut out the pieces. (Are they labeled? Are they labeled?)

Start sewing! If you just want one opening, you’ll end up with one long strip of corset. If you want two openings (one opening and lacing, whatever), you’ll end up with two halves. I find it helpful to lay everything out in the proper order and oriented correctly. Pin almost everything together right sides together, and sew along the seam marks. ("Right side": a lot of fabric has a right side and a wrong side. The right side is the prettier side, the one you want to see on the outside of the finished garment.)
When I say almost, that’s what I mean. You need to put the hardware on the bits directly adjacent to the fastenings (busk, hook ‘n’ eye closures, lacing) before you sew them to the rest of the garment. Get everything else put together properly, we’ll hit the hardware.

You may want to make a felled seam to make the corset feel more finished. This is more of an issue if it’s unlined. For a felled seam, trim one of the seam allowances to about a quarter inch at each of the seams. Take the other seam allowance, and fold it around the narrower one. Press everything down towards the shorter side. If you cross-sectioned it, the wider piece of cloth would be looped around the narrower piece and back under, so that the raw edge is underneath and against the seam. Pick a side and stay consistent; it’s fairly common to fell everything towards the sides or towards the back. For the straps, you’ll want to sew them together at the top first, and then finish the edges. This can wait to the very end; it may make the corset easier to work with if you wait.



Fastenings:

Hook and eye: For this, simply sew the appropriate center pieces to their respective facings, right sides together, and iron flat right side out. Mark where you want the hooks and eyes to go (closer is generally better), and sew hooks to one side, eyes to the other. Better yet, you can buy “hook ‘n’ eye tape” at some fabric stores and just sew that to the pieces.



Busk:
Busks are my favorite form of fastening; I think they look better than hooks and eyes (oooo shiny!), and they’re easier to open and close. They look best in front, I think. They usually come as two pieces of boning hooked together by the bits sticking off of them. One half has studs coming off of it. The other half has loops.

Figure out which side of your corset gets studs and which gets loops. It usually doesn’t matter much. We’ll say right gets the loops and left gets the studs, for this explanation.
Take the right center piece. Lay the stud half of the busk on top of it. Scoot the edge of the busk against the seam line and center it between the top and the bottom of the piece.
Mark where the studs are. Use a ruler to figure out how far the bases of the studs are from the edge of the boning. Mark where the studs will actually be coming out of the fabric.
Sew the right center piece and the right facing together. Make sure the marks are still accurate.
Use something sharp and pointy, like a awl, to punch holes in the center piece for the studs to go through. Put something like fray check around the holes so they don’t unravel too badly.
Push the studs through, and sew the busk in. It should now be in its own happy little tube, with the studs sticking through the center piece (not the facing).

Take the left center piece. Lay the loop half of the busk down on the center piece with the edge against the seam line and the whole thing centered. Place it so that the loops are going over the seam line.
Mark where the loops are (trace around them and put an X in the center, for example).
Pin the center piece and the facing together. Sew them together everywhere that the loops won’t be. Make it extra-strong.
Shove the loops through, making sure that there aren’t any strange bits of fabric sticking through the holes, and then sew the loop half of the busk in.
Again, it should be in a little tube with the loops sticking out into space.

Now just sew these newly metal-filled pieces to the rest of the corset.



Grommets for lacing:
You’ll want to put a piece of boning between the grommets and the edge of the corset to keep the corset from wadding up when you lace it. Half-inch boning is pretty standard, but quarter-inch could work for lighter corsets.
First, sew the center pieces and their respective facings together, right sides together. Turn them right side out and iron them flat. Sew a line approximately 5/8” from the edge. You should have a nice finished edge with a line of stitching a little ways in, creating a tunnel.
Note: if you want to use quarter-inch boning, make the tunnel narrower.

Now, figure out where you want to set the grommets. They should be just in from the boning tunnel, and fairly closely-spaced. Also, you’ll probably want size 00 grommets; smaller ones seem less likely to rip out, and they generally look better. For size 00, around 1.5 cm from center to center works pretty well. It helps to experiment on a scrap before you make a solid decision.
Mark where you want them to go. Make sure it’s right.
Set those suckers in. It helps to have some sort of setter and a hammer. Go slowly; it’s nearly impossible to take them out once you’ve set them.
Sew the pieces to the rest of the corset.


Boning:

First off, it’s a little less frustrating in the long run to figure out what lengths of boning you need at the onset and buy them before you even start working on the corset. If you bought a pattern, it’ll tell you in the instructions. If you didn’t, you just need to do some measuring.
You’ll need one piece of quarter-inch boning along each seam line, not counting where you put the busk, hook-and-eyes, or grommets. You’ll also want one running directly down each of your sides, right where the seam of a tank top lies on you.
If you made the cuts on your duct tape pattern like I did, and you’re doing front and back fastenings/lacings, you’ll be buying 10 pieces of boning for the seams plus 2 more that sit just inside of the grommets (both the same length; half-inch boning will be sturdier than quarter-inch boning). That’s 12 in total for a corset with lacing in back and fastening in front. If it just laces in the back, you’ll need 13 (one more quarter-inch at the center front). If it laces in front and back, you’ll need 14 total (probably four of them half-inch).
Horribly confused? Great!

As for the type of boning, don’t use nylon. Just don’t. It’s annoying to work with, the ends have a terrible tendency to rip out and poke people, and it kinks, which puts nasty creases in your pretty new corset. Steel is good. Spiral steel (the woven type of boning) is quite flexible, and it won’t kink. Spring steel is a little bit less flexible, and it will kink if you really force the issue. You can buy boning of the appropriate lengths, already tipped, or you can buy continuous boning, cut it to size, and tip it yourself (Note: tipped means the cut tips of the boning are finished somehow, either covered or coated.). Just remember to tip it, as it is hella sharp and impossible to work with if it’s got raw edges. You can buy little tips to put on spiral boning or fluid to tip spring steel boning with at www.corsetmaking.com.)

Now you’ll want to sew the boning casing in. This can just be heavy cloth tape you sew securely to the fabric, or it can be pre-sewn tubes. Half-inch tape or cloth casing works best for quarter-inch boning. Either way, center the casing over the seams, pin it down, and sew as close to the long edges as possible. Follow the same procedure for the boning at the center of the side pieces, just make sure to mark and pin them carefully so they end up symmetrical.
Slip the boning into the casings. Get it centered in the casings and hand sew the casing closed just above and below it.


Finishing touches:


You now have a gorgeous corset, except that the top and bottom edges are a little vulnerable to fraying.
If you have straps, this is a good place to sew them together at the shoulders, then you can get to work on hemming them.
Hem the top edge. Hem the bottom edge. You may want to turn the edge down almost to where you want the hem line to be, then turn it down again so it’s folded over and there are no raw edges.
It can be nice to do this by hand. If you don’t want to, just remember to be careful not to sew through your nice new metal boning. Most sewing machines are not too happy when you attempt this.

Take a deep breath.
Put it on.
Get ready to wow them, you sexy beast, you.


References:
  • http://www.softcom.net/users/unicorn/corset.htm : How to make a Victorian corset
  • http://www.waisted.com/index.html : Corsetry at Waisted.com
  • http://www.marquise.de/en/1700/howto/18corset.shtml : How to make an 18th century corset
  • http://costume.dm.net/corsets/ : The Elizabethan Corset Page

I usually buy my supplies from www.corsetmaking.com. Their service is generally fast, and their prices are decent. However, I would also encourage you to shop around, especially if you live anyplace other than North America or you know any European languages (German, for example).



Many thanks to evilrooster and bane221 for helping me out on this node.
I need all the help I can get. ::grin::

Cor"set (k?r"s?t), n. [F., dim. of OF. cors, F. corps, body. See Corse.]

1.

In the Middle Ages, a gown or basque of which the body was close fitting, worn by both men and women.

2.

An article of dress inclosing the chest and waist worn (chiefly by women) to support the body or to modify its shape; stays.

 

© Webster 1913.


Cor"set (k?r"s?t), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Corseted; p. pr. & vb. n. Corseting.]

To inclose in corsets.

 

© Webster 1913.

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