Make and fit a corset mock-up

How to make and fit a corset toile

In corsetry, it's essential, if you want a perfect fit, to make a corset mock-up or toile from calico or plain coutil before making the real thing in the fabrics of your choice.

How to make and fit a corset toile

The purpose of making a corset toile, is to check the fit and enable you to make tailor made adjustments accordingly.  Obviously with a body modifying garment such as a corset, a good fit is essential for maximum impact, comfort and shape.  "Squish factor" is the most unpredictable element of corset fitting and it is getting this aspect of corsetry right, that makes all the difference to how your corset will look and feel in the end.  A well fitted corset will create the illusion of a small waist, framed with rounded hips and a well shaped bust. 

Fitting is simpler than it may seem at first, so here are a few basic guidelines.  For more comprehensive information on how to fit a corset, I recommend my book "Corset Making, from beginners to intermediate".

The essential things you will need to make your corset mock up are as follows

  • non stretch fabric, coutil or calico is best
  • steel spiral bones and steel flat bones for corsetry
  • vario pliers for punching holes and later, inserting eyelets into your finished garment
  • a stitch ripper
  • a non stop waist stay
  • an accurate chalk marker, the thinner the line, the better
  • fitting is a very complex thing which I have only touched on here, for more comprehensive instructions there is a whole chapter on this subject in my book

Click on the pictures below to see more info on the products I recommend for corset making.


First of all, cut your pattern pieces from coutil or calico, according to the instructions given in the pattern. Look at hints and tips on how to do this HERE.  In addition check my hints and tips below on how to choose the perfect corset pattern.

corset toile pieces
After 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 - this is particularly common in antique patterns that have been scaled up, and sometimes on commercial fashion corset patterns - if this is the case, sew as per the instructions and mark the waist in later when you are fitting.

corset toile waist line is straight
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. This is very important.
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 and it will be good practice for later - see my tutorial on how to insert a corset busk here.

NOTE:  All components can be taken out of the toile and used for the proper corset when the time comes.

how to make the back panel of a corset

On the centre back panel of each side, attach a back facing, press this to the inside of the corset toile, and edge stitch 1mm from the edge. Then add three channels 1cm apart to create two boning channels and a channel for your eyelet holes. Tuck a waist tape in above the waist line and secure under the back facings on each side. Make sure the waist tape is flat along the length of the corset. Do not centre the waist tape over the waist line as this will cause it to crease. Place the waist tape on top of the waist line.

Mark eyelet holes at regular intervals (I do them 2cm apart) down the centre of the middle channel - make sure they match horizontally on each side. Make holes with the vario pliers.

putting corset bones in a corset toile with masking tape

There are several ways to secure bones in a toile so pick an option which suits you best:

  1. Press out the seam allowances and sew down the raw edges on each side to form bone channels on either side of the seam.
  2. Sew the seam allowance together forming a pocket for the bone.
  3. Use boning tape if you want to practice precision stitching or if your corset is uber curvy.
  4. Press the seams apart and stick the bones down on the inside with masking tape - it works a treat but is more difficult on very curvy corsets.

Add more boning as you feel necessary but you should have at least one steel bone 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 especially if you didn't use a busk.

NOTE:  Yes you should use steel bones or synthetic whalebone.  Do not use zip ties.  It's a false economy.  I could write a whole book on why not to but basically - they have no spring, they are not strong enough and they will not give you a true impression of fit.

client corset toile sew curvy

The finished toile needn't be pretty but it does need to be accurately cut and stitched, and if necessary, marked on the outside for ease of reference.  Your toile is going to be an important 'blueprint' to work from.

fitting a corset toile pictures

The lacing gap should be completely parallell before you start the fitting process - if the corset is loose or tight anywhere, then that is where you need to adjust the fitting.  See notes below.

When fitting is done, mark all the adjustments on the toile and transfer these to your paper pattern.  Alternatively, you can unpick your 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 and having an altered copy for ease of reference.


On making your toile:

  • 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 even if you think you'll remember later - you never will!
  • 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 - holes will do the trick. 
  • Detachable lacing panels can be recycled for other toiles.

On fitting:

  • 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.
  • Alter where the toile tells you to ie: over the bust, over the hip, at the back shoulder.  You can slash and spread or nip and tuck. 

On patterns:

  • Patterns from commercial companies do not work well especially for first timers. 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, I repeat 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 tell you 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.  If you make the toile from the pattern first you will have a good foundation to proceed.  Please trust my 10 years of teaching expertise on this... i know how complicated corsetry can seem and altering a pattern before you start is asking for trouble.

Here are some additional products that I use for making corsets and corset mock-ups and that you can see in this tutorial.  Extra long pins are great for fitting because they do what they say on the tin - they are extra long!  Spot and cross paper is marked at 2cm intervals and is good for when you need to add bits to patterns.  The Prym sewing guague is one of my essential tools that I really can't work without.  And the Sophia pattern is a great pattern to start your corsetry journey with.  It has comprehensive instructions inside to help you get the best results.  Click on the pictures for more info: