Despite the fact that I have made four corsets – one for my fairy costume, one for my Elizabeth costume, one for Rainbow Dash, and one for Fluttershy – I have yet to post a tutorial on corset making. I did post some of my lessons learned from the first round I did back in 2012. Anyway, while that is useful, I hope you find this tutorial on how to sew a corset enlightening!
There are many different types of corsets. This tutorial focuses on your basic waist cincher (no cups, also called an underbust corset), but I believe the construction process is very standard across types. The patterning is different if you want an standard corset or a waist cincher. You’ll see in my lessons learned that you can install a busk in a corset as well. I will do a separate set of instructions someday for installing a busk, and in the meantime you can view these, which are the instructions I used last year. Also, if you need to make your own corset pattern, see this post or this one.
How to Sew a Corset
1. Begin with the outer layer fabric for your corset. Starting with center front piece of one side, layout your corset pieces with right sides together. Seams will be curved differently so pin well, and don’t be too surprised by how awkward this pinning process is. After stitching the seams, overcast the edges and press to one side.
2. Repeat step 1 for the other side of the corset.
3. Stitch the two sides together at the center front seam. (Or install a busk.) Your corset layers should look like below when done.
4. Attach any decorative items (such as beading or bias tape or appliqués) to your outer layer at this point, being careful not to get too close to the lines where you will wind up making boning channels. See the top yellow Fluttershy outer layer in the photo above.
5. Repeat steps 1-3 for the stabilizing coutil layer and the inside lining fabric layer.
6. Pin the three layers together, lining them up along the center front seam first, and pinning all the way to the edges. It doesn’t matter which direction the middle layer faces, but the lining and outer layers should be wrong side to wrong side, with the coutil layer in between. Stitch the center back edges closed. Below is the arrangement you want for your three layers – outer layer in the middle.
7. Turn fabric right side out, press. Line up and stitch down the center front seam.
8. Beginning in the center front, continue connecting the layers by stitching boning channels into the corset. This can be done in multiple ways, but it’s good to start around the seams.
I tend to use the seam line as one side of the channel, which ultimately places the boning to one side of the seam. If you want more support, feel free to add boning channels anywhere that it makes sense for you – in the above, I put my channels right behind the bias tape (the channels were slightly wider). I double up on channels in the center front. On the center back piece, a boning channel ends the corset, the grommet line will be placed right next to it, and then a second boning channel to enclose the grommets.
When stitching the channels, I recommend leaving the channels a bit wider at the top and bottom as the boning tips are a little wider and easily snag on things.
9. Insert your boning into the channels. Make sure to use caps so the boning doesn’t poke through your fabric.
10. Baste the channels closed along the top and bottom.
11. Baste the whole top and bottom of the corset closed. Hmm, this step might be optional as I did not do this on Fluttershy, hah.
12. Finish the top and bottom edges of the corset with bias tape folded over the seam allowance (you may have to trim the seam allowance first).
To help finish the edges of the bias tape nicely, I recommend stitching the edges together first once you have pinned and made sure you have the appropriate length of tape.
13. Cut grommet holes. The grommets should be evenly spaced, so mark the holes carefully prior to cutting. I used this tool, but there are many out there of varying qualities.
Alternatively, you can use an awl to make the holes without cutting or ripping fabric, though this way takes somewhat longer. I just use my tape measure to evenly space the marks for the first side, then mark mirror dots on the other side once I’ve grommeted.
14. Add the grommets. Make sure they grab the fabric tightly! When tied, corsets put a ton of pressure on the grommets. If you want to know the nitty gritty details, I hammer mine at least 30 times. In case you aren’t sure, the side of the grommet that is “T-shaped” should go on the front of your corset, with the flat part against the fabric, and the perpendicular cylinder sticking through the hole you cut. Then put the flat piece of the grommet over the cynlinder on the inside, and get out your hammer (you should also be using your grommet tools for this part).
15. Try it on! Get some shoe laces or corset lacing and have someone help you lace it up, cause it is tough to do on your own. If you must lace it yourself, I recommend loosely lacing it from the front, and then turning it around and trying to tighten it.
That’s it for the corset tutorial. Here’s a quick sample of the different corsets I’ve made using the above method:
One of the reasons I enjoy this part of cosplay so much is that you have all the power to make your corset super elaborate or very simple – be creative, and have fun!