Corset – Basic Explanation

Corsets are tricky things. With all the ready-to-wear corsets available nowadays, its very easy to assume they are somewhat simple to make. It is true that the theory of their construction is easy to pin down; understanding how their relatively few components are put together is not all that difficult. However, the trick is in putting them together properly and precisely, to exact measurements, with each of the panels being the right shape to create the right silhouette. Corsetry is an art; a skilled constructor will be able to tell you exactly how to create a certain silhouette with the right shaped panels, how many layers of fabric it would require, what type of bones and how many of them it would require, before ever getting into the all the smaller aesthetic details.

Because I believe in custom made-to-measure corsets, almost all of the details of my designs can be altered if desired, which is why I have created this section; by giving you a basic explanation of the make-up of most corsets, even a complete novice may feel a little better equipped to order exactly the corset they want.

FABRIC – Although many would disagree, corsets can be made of almost any fabric. As long as lighter weight fabrics are backed and/or have inner layer/s, it is possible. With corsets that have more than one layer, these layers are generally constructed separately and then attached together meticulously to ensure they line up exactly. Besides the type of fabric, the number of layers in a corset depend primarily on whether the channels for the bones will be visible on the outside or not. If they are visible, there will be many more lines of stitching and possibly that the bones themselves will show under the fabric. This can be a very effective detail if desired, especially on those corsets with a lot of bones, however sometimes a finish without visible boning looks better with the design or is preferred by the individual whose corset it is.

BONES – I try to keep boning simple; steel or plastic. I would usually suggest steel, and corsets with heavy weight fabrics or those that need to give any kind of shape need the strength of solid bones. However, basques for example are often made with a lot of chiffon panels which cannot hold the weight of steel bones and require plastic. These would keep the shape of the basque but DO NOT alter the shape of the body significantly. If you require steel bones in a basque it must be made of heavier fabric than chiffon.

BUSKS – Busks are completely optional for the most part, and again there are few different choices. They are mainly used to have a closure in the front to make a corset somewhat easier to put on by yourself. The most common are the simple steel busks, which again cannot be used with chiffon and there is no plastic choice. These have a little bit of give and can be used with almost any shape. There are also stronger steel ones that have no flexibility and are only for straight-fronted corsets. Lastly there are wooden busks; these act as a bone and are almost exclusively used in Regency corsets, as they have no other bones in them. The busk provides support and simple cording in specific places creates the shape. (Cording is the process of stitching many narrow channels, through which cord or thick string is pulled to create an effect and add strength to certain areas.)

EYELETS – These are used as the main closure, which are simply steel reinforced holes down the back edges of the corset through which a lace is pulled to close it and pull in the body to the desired shape. The eyelets are spaced equally, though I always like to use ‘rabbit-ear’ lacing; this simply means that two sets of eyelets are put close together so that the lace is pulled into an extra bow in the middle which make it easier to put on and tighten the corset by yourself. The eyelets available here are black, silver, gold and antique steel. There are also loop eyelets available, which are simply an extra feature if used, though cannot be done with rabbit-ears.

LACING – This is exactly what you’d imagine and look like the laces from any pair of shoes you may own. Available in natural, black, white, pink, red, blue, green and purple.

BASQUES – As mentioned here already, basques work a little differently to corsets, mainly in that the ‘bra’ area is visibly separate from the torso. Whether the basque has cups and/or underwires depends on the design. Basques also have the option to add bra straps and/or suspenders if desired. (Strictly speaking, corsets may also have the option of suspenders however please enquire and I will advise.) Please note that straps and suspenders only come in black or white, so you may want to match eyelets and/or another detail if the main fabric is to differ dramatically; any fabric is an option, including the chiffon or lace. However please note that all the lace comes in white, two of which also come in black, but not in any other colour.

Lastly, although not always added to corsets, I prefer to include a modesty panel behind the back lacing. This covers that strip of skin still visible under the lacing for anyone who prefers for it not to be on show, but mainly I include it because it protects the skin somewhat from the lacing when the corset is pulled in tight. All designs comes with a modesty panel unless noted that a certain design does not for whatever reason.

The notes on each design will give you more specific details.