Making a Modern Corset: Lessons I’ve Learned in Corsetry

After making my 1910s corset, I knew my corsetry adventures would not end there. There’s something so satisfying and addicting about corsetmaking- you get to see it form into shape and become firmer and smoother every time you add a bone to it. And you have complete control over the shape of the corset. So recently, I started on a project to make a modern corset that could be worn every day, and I applied some lessons I learned from the Edwardian corset to the making of this one.

  1. The importance of waist tape. What is waist tape, you may ask? It’s when you add really strong ribbon or twill tape to the inside of the corset to keep it taut at the waist. The purpose of this is to reduce wrinkles at the waist, especially for corsets with big waist reductions. I didn’t know about this technique when making the Edwardian corset, and decided to give it a try with my modern one. I still haven’t been able to completely eliminate waist wrinkles, but I do think it helps.
  2. Comfortable corsets should not go over the hip bones. This makes it difficult to sit normally. The bones of my Edwardian corset are actually a little bit too long for my torso, so the corset actually rides up in an uncomfortable way when I sit.
  3. Take all the waist reduction out of the side pieces, not the front or back. This is because you want to compress the “squishy” area around your waist, not hard areas like the spine, ribs or abdominal muscles.
  4. Corset stretching: The coutil fibers do stretch out over time. As a result, my Edwardian corset is about an inch too big now that it’s been broken in. I made the modern corset slightly smaller than I would have liked, now that I know the fibers will stretch out over time.
  5. Ease and hip spring: Hip spring is the difference between the high hip measurement and the waist measurement. For high reduction or tightlacing corsets, you want a nice big hip spring. Otherwise it compresses your waist and hips, which is not all that comfortable! I made sure to make the hips of my modern corset a little bit big so that there was ease (extra space) at the hips. It turns out your hips actually expand when you sit down, so the corset needs to have extra hip room to make you feel comfortable when sitting.

These are the lessons I learned after making the Edwardian corset, prior to the making of the modern corset.

~Drafting the Pattern~

Drafting is using math, measurements and tools to design the pattern pieces of a garment. I’ve drafted pretty much everything I’ve made, because I find it more natural and intuitive to draw up pattern pieces from my own measurements. Corsets, however, are much trickier to draft because they’re so oddly shaped. They require a lot of mathematical precision and understanding of three-dimensional space. I was a bit scared to make my own corset pattern- and make an actual corset out of it! But a beginner tutorial on drafting corsets from Foundations Revealed really helped me work through it. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen the pictures of my initial corset pattern.


You may notice that pieces 3 and 4 (the side pieces) are way curvier than all the others. This is because more curve equals more waist reduction. As I mentioned in my most recent Corset Mythbusting post, you want your corset to reduce at the sides- not the front or back- because the flesh at your sides is squishier and more flexible than your front and back.

I made a mock-up of the corset out of canvas. This is how it looked before it had any boning.


(The front is in one piece because I also used this mock-up as the strength layer for my upgraded Padmé meadow picnic bodice.)

It was a little wrinkly from not having any boning, but it was really curvy and awesome!

Before putting in the boning, I added waist tape (stitched some grosgrain ribbon down by the waist). Then I used zip ties to bone it.


The mock-up was definitely wearable, but the back came out really wonky. It was wrinkled and bunched up and it overall just didn’t fit right. I didn’t realize the problem until I was already working on the coutil version- back pieces should not be convex! This is because, well, your middle back is not a convex curve. On the final version, the back fit a lot better once I took the seams in and made it a concave curve.

Another alteration I made to the pattern when making the final version was that the underbust was too big and had to be adjusted (because I forgot to take the lacing gap into account), and I changed the waist reduction from 3 inches to about 2.5 inches.

~Construction of the Final Corset~

I used the leftover materials from the Edwardian corset (plain coutil and ivory fashion fabric), and bought more spiral steel boning and a 10 inch busk for this corset.

After cutting out the coutil and fashion fabric pieces from my modified pattern, I basted the fashion fabric to the coutil and stitched all the pieces together with a half-inch seam allowance, I think.


I was really happy that there were no wrinkles at this stage, that the fashion fabric laid flat on top of the coutil- this was the result of some really aggressive use of the iron!

Next came the back facing and the eyelets.


This here lovely ribbon used for the lacing matches the ivory fabric so perfectly because I dyed it. The ribbon was whiter than paper when I bought it, so I soaked it in a tan dye bath for a few minutes, and now it matches perfectly.

After I inserted the busk and tried it on, it was totally curvy and awesome even without the boning.


Remember, everyone: the shape of the pattern pieces, not the boning, determines the shape of a corset. Adding boning does not make your corset curvier. It only reinforces the shape you gave it in the first place. So, if you want your corset to be curvy, it better be curvy before you bone it! Don’t ever think, “It’s not as much of an hourglass as I wanted, but hopefully the boning will fix that.” It won’t.

At this stage, I altered the corset one last time- I took out the weird little bumps at the right hip and left upper rib, and fixed the stupid convex back. Also, I was not comfortable in a 3 inch waist reduction. I thought it would feel good, but it really didn’t. With my waist being naturally 25 inches,  3 inches is relatively a big reduction. I was way more comfortable with just half an inch of extra ease. That’s what I love about corsetry- you have so much control over how much you choose to reduce or not reduce.

Here’s the corset as some of the boning was going in.


And before/after I used bias tape binding to finish the edges.


Final pictures:


The gold embroidery is called flossing. It’s pretty, and it helps keep the bones in place.


~Feedback on this Corset~

I’m a member of the Corset Makers group by Foundations Revealed on Facebook, and I asked the professionals on there for help on improving it for next time. Here are some of their suggestions I’m going to put into practice for next time.

  1. In those pictures, I’ve not laced the corset tight enough- it needs to be tighter around the ribs and hips. Ease for breathing and sitting is a good thing, but too much creates wrinkles.
  2. The back is a little bit uneven. This is because my body is not perfectly symmetrical; I actually have a mild degree of scoliosis. Not enough that I need a back brace or treatment for it, but just enough to make a symmetrical corset look and feel a little bit funny on me. So next time, I can draft the left and right sides separately, and alter each corset half separately to better accommodate my measurements.
  3. The back needs more eyelets closer together, and the bones on either side of the eyelets should be closer together.

Making this corset was a great learning experience, and now I get to try modifying the pattern and making it for a friend. If you have any comments or questions, please leave a comment below! I love hearing from you. Thanks for reading!

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