All about corset making and corsetry components

A blog with plenty of information on Corset Making and corset making supplies.

A new "From the Archives" series will be published every Wednesday and Saturday from 25 February 2023, until 26 March 2023, and these posts will contain 'old' information on corset making which will be updated for the revamped Learn Corset Making information portal whereever that may be.

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Category: Corset Mock Ups

  1. From the Archives : An old tutorial on how to make a corset mock-up

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    It is essential, if you want a perfect fit, to make a corset from ‘scrap’ fabric before you make the real thing.  The purpose of this is to check the fit and enable you to make tailor made adjustments accordingly.  Obviously with a corset, fit is very important as you will want the waist to be reduced enough for good definition whilst allowing for everything else to be pushed up or down.  This is the "squidge factor" and allowances may have to be made by simple adjustments to the bust and hip area.  This is where your toile or 'mock-up' comes in.  Look at it as a practice run.  You not only get to see the fit, but you can figure out construction methods along the way.

    These are just a few basic guidelines to making a corset mock up.  Some of these points are also extremely relevant for making up the real thing.

    You will need:

    • Plain 'scrap' fabric - a medium to heavy weight calico or plain cotton coutil is ideal.
    • A marker pen
    • A seam ripper
    • Sharp Scissors
    • Corset Boning
    • Tapered Awl 

    Cut your fabric pattern* pieces according to the instructions given in the pattern.  Look at  hints and tips on how to do this HERE

    toile2After cutting and before taking the pattern paper off the fabric, number each side of each piece, 1,2,3,4 etc., for one side, and for the other side 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a etc.  This way you wont get confused as to which side is which.  Keep the piles separate and work on one side at a time.  Organisation is KEY to corset making success.  Trust me on this.
    Mark up the balance points (notches etc.,) if your pattern has them and most importantly mark the waist line on all peices.  NOTE:  The waist is not always marked on the paper pattern - if this is the case, sew as per the instructions and mark the waist in later (see 'fitting' below).
    It is a good idea to keep the marks on the outside of the toile so that when you eventually try it on, you can see what should be where and what isn't!

    Sew the pieces of each side together according to the instructions aligning the waist markings - the finished article should show a nice straight line at the waist.
    When both sides are sewn together, attach them together at the front.  

    There is no need to insert a busk if you are in a hurry, just sew the two centre front pieces together using the prescribed seam allowance, however, you will get a better result if you do include the busk.  All components can be taken out of the toile and used for the proper corset.
    Press the centre front seems out and sew down the outside edge of each seam in order to form a channel.

    On each side, press the centre back edge in by the seam allowance and stitch 10mm from the edge creating a channel. Sew a re-inforcing line of stitches next to this.
    Mark eyelet holes at regular intervals 5mm away from the second edge seam on both sides - make sure they match horizontally on each side.

    Make holes where you have marked with a tailors awl
    There are several ways to secure bones in a toile.  Either, press out the seam allowances and sew down the raw edges on each side to form bone channels on either side of the seam, or sew the seam allowance together forming a pocket as shown, or, simply press the seams apart and stick the bones down on the inside with masking tape - it works a treat.  
    Add as you feel necessary but at least one on each seam
    When your bones are in the toile, it's ready to try on - you may need somebody to help lace you in.

    The waist line should have a crease running right through it.  If this is the case then the corset is in the correct position.  If the crease appears elsewhere on the corset, either pull it up or down until it feels comfortable - the marked waistline should have the crease running through it, if not, check that it was marked properly.  If the waistline was not marked on the pattern/toile it will be where the crease is.  Mark the toile accordingly.

    Note:  On Sew Curvy patterns, the waist is always marked and this is the matching point for all seams.  I always advise that a waist tape is used in the toile in order to avoid stretching if using calico.


    The gap at the back should be 2 inches wide all the way down.  ie: the back edges should be straight.  If they are curved inwards or outwards the corset is either tied incorrectly or it does not fit. 


    You can adjust minor fitting problems by letting out the seams or taking them in as appropriate and where there is strain or space in the corset .. either pin and tuck or slash and spread.

    If you want to reduce the waist, do so at the sides and/or back.  If you want to adjust the bust or hip, then these alterations should be done at those points.  In other words, do not do what some patterns advise which is to take the amount you want to reduce/increase by, divide it by the number of seams and then add incremental amounts per seam.  If you do that you will end up with a very very unsatisfactory shape.

    If your corset has a very small waist, and large hip/bust spring, then inserting gussets may help with shaping.  Cut a line where you wish the gore to be, insert a peice of calico behind the cut, and pin out a gusset shape in situ to make the extra space required.






    Mark all adjustments on the toile and either transfer these to your paper pattern or unpick the toile and use that as your pattern.

    it is good practice if using a multi-size pattern, to trace the pattern onto tracing paper thereby preserving a master copy for future use and reference.

    Further notes:

    • A toile made from plain herringbone coutil will give the best result
    • Use a waist tape for accuracy - you can see the waist line, it will feel more comfortable, and stretching while fitting will be minimised
    • Use a busk for increased accuracy - or two flat steel bones at the front, depending upon the final effect of the finsihed corset
    • Write notes on the toile and take lots of pictures.  It's surprising how much you can see from a picture
    • Bone your toile with steel bones for the best results.  These can be recycled in your finished corset.
    • No need to use metal eyelets in your toile
    • Lacing panels can be recycled for other toiles
    • The starting point for sizing your toile is the waist.  Get the waist size on the pattern right and alter the bust/hips around the waist.  it's much easier than trying to make the waist bigger or smaller
    • No two bodies are the same, only experience will allow you to eventually predict what might happen when you corset.

    On patterns:

    • Patterns from commercial companies do not work. This is because they are submitted through a process which adds ease to everything regardless of purpose.  The commercial companies include Vogue, Simplicity, Burda, McCalls.  If you want a proper fitting corset, do not start there.
    • DO source patterns from independant companies who specialise in historical costume and corsetry.  There are plenty  of those companies around now and they create proper corset patterns which are designed to modify the body.  These companies include Laughing Moon, Truly Victorian, Sew Curvy and a few others.  At Sew Curvy we do not sell patterns that will make you cry.
    • Do not attempt to alter the pattern before making an initial toile.  If you try to do that you will get hoplessly lost.  This is because all pattern makers have a different system.  Measurements will not tellyou the whole story, nor will they tell you how each body will compress in that pattern.  Always make an intial toile according to the pattern instructions, and make alterations afterwards.


  2. Making a Corset Mock Up

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    Corset Mock Ups

    I've written a detailed tutorial on making and fitting a corset mock up on the Tutorials page of this website.

    You can find it HERE.

    How to make a corset mock-up

    This is a supplementary blog post with a few extra pointers following questions i've seen in online groups and in my inbox.

    Use the best type of fabric for corset mock-ups

    cotton calico for corset making

    Fabric should be non-stretch.  Idealy Coutil.  If you can't make it from coutil, then a medium weight non stretch calico will do the job just fine.  This is only a mock-up.  You want to check fit and shape once.  That's all.  Calico is all you need.  Unless you're fitting a client, then only coutil will do.

    Fabrics NOT to use:  Any and all types of linen, upholstry fabrics, stretch fabrics, twill unless it's herringbone twill, drill, denimn (especially upcylced), poplin, ripstop, nylon, scuba, synthetic fabrics such as a thick satin unless it's corsetry cotton backed satin.

    Fabrics I personally wouldn't use because I think it's too thick:  Ticking, canvas

    What is Coutil? And why should you use it?

    corsetry coutil fabric
    Coutil is a special fabric made especially for corset making.  It is very densly woven, but very smooth and light.  Plain cotton herringbone coutil is ideal for making a mockup.  At under £10 a metre it's not that expensive. You'll only need half a metre for most size of toile if you cut carefully.

    Follow the instructions on the corset pattern

    sophia pattern instructions

    All indie corset pattern brands are owned by professional corsetieres.  They all have different methods of pattern making.  Their metrics are all different.  They all include very specific instructions with their patterns, on 

    1. Measuring
    2. Making a toile
    3. How to alter it.

    Read the instructions in your pattern through several times before you start.  Make notes.  Highlight important parts.  Corset patterns are not the same as dress patterns and if you're a first time corset maker, trust me, you don't know how they work on your body.  Follow the instructions, make the toile.  Take each step one at a time.  Remember, all corset makers are different.

    Note:  Don't even think about using a corset pattern from a commercial company if you want to make a real corset.  Just don't.  There are plenty of explanations as to why this is in the blog post linked above and in other articles on this website.

    Eyelets and Facings

    corset toile on the inside

    You need facings on your corset mock up at the centre back.  You don't need metal eyelets.  Remember this is only ever going to be worn once.

    Having said that, your lacing panel does need to be strong enough to withstand pressure for that one time fitting so use your facings.  That's a double layer of non stretch fabric for your centre back panels where you will then cut the holes for your lacing to go through.  If you want to make it a triple layer, then do so.  

    A single layer will rip as soon as you start pulling the lacing in, so double or triple face and you're good to go. No point wasting corset grommets or eyelets, they're not re-usable.

    I personally am not a fan of lacing strips.  They are innacurate, they look untidy and they get in the way.  Just make your back panels, add a 'seam allowance' of 3-6cm, fold it under once (3cm) or twice (6cm), et voila! automatic facing with no extra sewing.


    corset toile with marks

    Personally I'm a fan of sewing a corset toile more or less as I would sew a corset, with a few shortcuts.  This means that I do use boning tape.  And the reason for this is because it's good practice!  Yes, i'm sewing all the time, but you can never know everything, and you can always improve.  So I don't use lacing strips, I don't use busk strips (these seem to be a new thing!), and I don't use lacing tape either.  Getting to know a corset as it goes through all of it's stages of development is in itself, an essential tool in your mental toolkit and will ensure that the final item is really tip top.

    One more tip.  If you don't stitch your bones in the channels at either end, you will get wrinkling as the corset bones force their way out of the channels under the pressure of you wearing the corset mock-up.  I was absolutely horrified to read a corset making book which gave the reason for these wrinkles as a sway back or an asymetry whilst at the same time showing a picture of bones poking out of the top of their channels.  If your bones are not secure in their bone casing, then you will get wrinkles, so stitch them into the corset mock-up at the top and the bottom before you try it on.