What is Corset Flossing?

Ever wondered what those little colourful flashy bits are on corsets both antique and modern?  Well here's a full explanation on who is responsible for the art of corset flossing and why you see it a lot on antique corsets.

Article written by Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy quite a long time ago, and re-vamped November 2018

Corset flossing, sometimes called corset 'fanning',  is a form of embroidery invented by the Victorians to preserve the life of their corsets by strengthening the ends of the boning channels where the corset bones may poke through the channels with wear.  Being the Victorians, they insisted that everything useful also had to be beautiful.  Therefore, antique flossed corsets look very pretty.  Back in the day, during the height of mass production of corsets, they had special machines which flossed factory made corsets but before machines, and for special hand made corsets, flossing was also done by hand.

Corset bones poking through the fabric of a corset.  Image by Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy

These days we also have to floss our corsets by hand and a variety of materials can be used to do this.  I love a bit of flossing it must be said, especially self coloured flossing where the flossing thread is the same colour as the corset - this is quite a modern iteration of the art and I think it lends a certain elegance to a peice where the effect is purely decoative.

Modern corset flossing with swarowski crystal detailing by Julia Bremble of JBcorsets

Modern corset flossing with swarowski crystal detailing by Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy

antique corset reproduction with Victorian style flossing

An antique reproduction corset flossed in the manner of an antique corset, by Izabela Pitcher of Prior Attire

Black corset flossing on a black corset

Here the corset is flossed with the same colour thread as the corset itself.  This is quite a modern thing. Corset by Julia Bremble

There are lots of way to floss a corset, the best way to learn is to make a flossing sampler and learn by experimenting.  Some people do not like the flossing to be too obvious on the reverse, some people like the workings to show as a sign of craftmanship.  Download a free flossing sampler template HERE.

There are many resources for corset flossing teqniques online, just search Google for 'corset flossing ideas' or 'Symington corset flossing sampler'.

The Symington Flossing Sampler is a huge quilt sized sampler made from lots of samplers sewn together.  It illustrates all the corsetry flossing designs that were available on Symington Corsets during the late 19th century and early 20th century.  You can see the sampler in person if you travel to the Leciestershire County Council resource centre where it lives.  Check the resources below for further links to the Symington Collection of Antique corsetry.

These days, flossing a corset is more of a decorative pursuit but of course, can still be used as a protection against your bones poking through the channels prematurely.  Design scope is as endless as your imagination!  Go forth and explore - or read our detailed tutorial on how to floss a corset, including video!

Modern corset with flossing inspired by an antique corset in the Symington Collection

Further resources for corset flossing

Click HERE to see our own tutorial with video on how to floss a corset.

Buy thread for corset flossing HERE

Buy the best needles for corset flossing HERE

DOWNLOAD a free flossing template with instructions HERE

Online Corset Flossing Tutorials and further reading:

Sydney Eileen's tutorial on how to floss a corset, complete with diagrams

Corset Flossing Design library at Foundations Revealed featuring the famous Symington Flossing Sampler.  A fabulous pictorial reference with close up picutures of original antique corset flossing designs from the Sampler