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  • Writer's pictureAisha

How to Make a Georgian Corset

Hello darlings!

As I'm making myself a Georgian corset for the first time in a long while, I thought I'd bring you guys along for the journey! This isn't an official tutorial, just a step-by-step of my own process, but as always if you have any questions please do ask down below!

I started by flat drafting the corset in the style that I wanted. I thoroughly recommend Mandy Barrington's 'Stays and Corsets' if you want to get into flat drafting; if not, there are plenty of purchasable patterns out there.

For this one, I'm using the 1735-50 fully-boned corset bodice pattern from her first book. I've sold a few corsets in this style so I thought I'd make myself one as it is a really cute pattern!

I taped the pieces together quickly just to see where they joined and to help me visualise how the corset was going to be constructed.

Then I was very good and I made a mockup. I used to not do this, but I've found that corsets are much better fitted and more comfortable when I do a mockup so I'm really trying to get into the habit of doing it, even though I hate how long it takes!

Before Fitting

For this mockup, I used some old bedsheets and inserted bones in every seam. The back will be laced in my final corset, but to save time I cut the piece on the fold for the mockup.

I used the method that I learned from SewCurvy to secure a bone in the centre back by sticking it in place using masking tape. I wanted to make sure that the back wasn't so long that it would bow outwards when I sat. I also placed one horizontal bone on the stomacher using the same method.

After Fitting

I only had to make minor adjustments to the mockup. I was very happy with the waist placement (it hit just below my ribs where my waist is the most squishy), the strap length was good and there were no alterations needed for the back, hence why there's no picture.

I did decide to take in either side of the front panels by 2cm to bring the panels out a little wider at the front as I thought they were too close. The stomacher was also not the right height or width, but I decided to stave off fussing too much with that as I could make a new pattern later when the main corset was constructed.

Sometimes I remove the corset, stitch the alterations and fit it again, just to ensure that all of my notes were correct. I didn't do that for this one as the alterations were all relatively small.

Next up, bone placement!

With all of the alterations made on my paper pattern, I could draw where I wanted all of the bones to be. I use books like 'Stays and Corsets' and 'Corsets and Crinolines' for reference, but I often draw my own bone configuration to what I think would suit the person/pattern best.

I'm using 5mm false whalebones everywhere except the centre front (CF) and centre back (CB), in which case I'm using 5mm steel bones. At the CF and CB, I do two bones with an eyelet channel (1.5cm wide) between them.

I cut out the lining from cotton drill, adding a 1.5cm seam allowance around everything except the CF and CB, where I added 5cm. I will need four of each piece, but I started by cutting only two, and I'll explain my reasoning why in a moment.

To trace the bone placement on my fabric, I used carbon paper, but there are also loads of other methods you can use to trace the pattern.

If you do use carbon paper, you're going to need a tracing wheel in order to transfer the carbon over.

I trace around the whole pattern first and then do the bone channels. With cotton drill there is a very obvious 'right' and 'wrong' side so it's very easy to make sure that you trace the two pieces as mirrors of each other, instead of tracing the two pieces in the same way.

After I've traced around all of the pieces I cut another set of panels on the double like before. I can then sandwich the two pieces together, one traced and one not, and hand-tack (following the pattern lines) to keep the pieces together as I machine stitch the bone channels.

I only stitch the bone channels and, for a corset with tabs like this, along the separation line between the tabs and the main body of the corset so the boning in the tabs won't accidentally ride up and start floating around!

*For the front and back panels: I left a lot of room at the CF and CB because sometimes I turn them back and stitch the bone channels. As this corset has a lining and top fabric, if I did that it would be very bulky, so before I tacked the two pieces together I stitched the CF and CB right sides together, then ironed them open, turned them back and tacked them together like the rest.

Then I cut out the top fabric, with exactly the same seam allowance as the lining.

I tacked the top fabric to the lining pieces. When doing this, I try to remember to have the traced side against the top fabric, so there won't be any evidence of the tracing on the finished corset. I also follow the pattern lines as closely as I can when tacking so I can use it as a reference when stitching my pieces together.

Finally, we get to construction!

All of the pieces go together, with a little backstitch at the join of the pattern pieces (not the ends) at the top and bottom for extra strength.

You'll notice that I've already finished the centre front and centre back, too. As the lining CF and CB was already finished, I turned the excess top fabric under and stitched it in place, leaving enough room for my bone channels. I also stitched the bone channels at the same time for ease.

Now, what I forgot to do here first was bone those little horizontal bones on the front before joining the panels together. Even when you make corsets all the time, you still have to make at least one mistake. So I had to unpick a little bit of the front panel join and add in the bones before I got to the next step...

...Which is French seaming the seam allowances down. I really like doing this with corsets as it gives more strength to the seams, provides an extra bone channel for free and looks really neat.

At this point, I added all of the bones in the tabs but not the rest. It's best to be wary of when you insert the bones when corset-making as the stiffness makes the corset so much trickier to work with, especially with tricky tabs like we have coming up soon.

Binding time!

Binding tabs is literally so tricky and time consuming, but so worth it for the finished product. For this corset, I made my own binding in this size from the same fabric I was going to make the stomacher from. You can also buy pre-made binding if you don't want the faff of making your own.

What I've found works best, and this may not work for you, is to pin all of the binding in place first as best you can and then stitch around the main bulk of the tab on the machine, but stopping when you get to the top curve. I skip that and move on to the next tab.

In my experience, the machine can never get around that tight a corner comfortably and I'd end up every time unpicking that curve and re-stitching it by hand anyway so I thought I'd just skip the step entirely. If you've pinned it well there shouldn't be any excess binding in those curves, and if there is you can just cut the tab a little higher (so long as it doesn't end up looking ridiculous!).

If there are any sharp angles, like on the front panel of this corset, binding and finishing the front first, then applying new binding on top of that works best.

I finish the binding by hand, trimming down the seam allowance and turning the binding back to hand-stitch it.

I was umming and ahhing over whether to have the strap separate or not as I love how it looks when they fasten to the front with a little bow, but I decided to do finished straps as I'd never done them before. I French seamed these too.

I boned the rest of the corset and bound the top.

Then I marked out the eyelets. For this corset I decided that I was going to hand-bind them as I hadn't done that before on any of my Georgian corsets and it's more historically accurate.

Usually I use a frixion pen or chalk to mark out eyelets, but this tapestry fabric was a nightmare to draw on so I just used pins. I spaced 10 out evenly, then added an extra one at top left and bottom right, as is found on many extant examples.

At the front I only did 8 and evenly spaced them for a more decorative look.

It took me around 2 and a half hours to bind all of the eyelets front and back. I only did it roughly, as found on many Georgian corsets, and didn’t use buttonhole stitch to finish them.

Now I had to return to the stomacher.

I donned my newly assembled corset and put the initial stomacher back on to see what changes needed to be made. As I'd taken in the side front by quite a bit it needed to be wider, and I could actually get away with it being quite a lot shorter with the way the corset sat on me.

Making these adjustments to my paper pattern, I cut one out of the lining, double checked it would work, and then stitched all of the bone channels and bound the edge.

I usually use buckram to make stomachers, which is wonderfully easy to do, but as this is a corset of firsts I thought I'd try and make a boned stomacher. I'm not 100% happy with the bone placement but I didn't want to have to do it again- I may one day.

I then cut out my top fabric and tacked it to the stomacher.

To fasten it in place, I turned it over and stitched it to the lining.

And voila!

If you have any questions about my wording please do ask, describing some of this stuff was really bloody complicated and of course I didn't take enough pictures to illustrate my points! If you want an in-depth step-by-step one day, let me know and it may happen!

Until next time,

Aisha x

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