I have made so many iterations of Regency corsets, gradually streamlining the process until I have found what I think to be the easiest (yet most effective) way to make a Regency corset. For this tutorial, I will make a long line corset, but I'm sure that you can use the same techniques in the making of short stays too. In this first part I will be going over cutting out the pattern, inserting the gussets and prepping the busk pocket before you sew it onto the main body of the corset. If you're after specific instructions I also have:
Part 2: Joining the pieces, boning channels and binding the corset. (Coming soon)
Part 3: Almost there! Inserting eyelets, boning and making the straps. (Coming soon)
Now that the introductions are over, let's get into it, shall we?
What you will need:
2 Metres Cotton Drill (I'm using medium weight because it's lovely and crisp, but you can use any weight of drill) and matching thread
x28 Eyelets and eyelet tool
Frixion pens (optional but useful)
If you're unsure about any of the supplies listed above, you can check out my Corset Supply Essentials post that breaks down all of the supplies I can't live without when making corsets!
For the pattern, I drafted my own from Mandy Barrington's book, 'Stays and Corsets'. If you have no idea what pattern drafting is then you can buy a commercial pattern. I would recommend Redthreaded's patterns, but I'm sure that there are other patterns available too!
I have added a 1.5cm seam allowance around all of the pieces.
For this pattern you cut:
2 Back Pieces
1 Front Piece (Cut on fold)
x4 Bust Gussets
x2 Hip Gussets
x4 Strap Pieces
There might be slight variations in other patterns, but I'm sure most of the pieces will be the same. I also have cut 2 rectangles on the straight to encase the bones. I have cut these 6cm wide and as long as the centre back of my pattern.
The busk pocket is also cut on the straight and measures 7.5cm wide and as long as the CF plus 5cm.
You will also need to cut bias strips to make your own binding. I would thoroughly recommend making your own binding instead of buying it because no only does it match the rest of your corset, it also is so much easier to work with. You will need to cut enough bias to cover the top and bottom of your corset.
Now all the pieces are cut, now we can get into making!
Inserting Bust Gussets
Inserting gussets can be a little tricky, especially the first time around, but you'll soon get the hang of it! Now is when the frixion pen is really going to come in handy. You can also trace around them lightly in pencil, but what makes the frixion pen such a godsend is that the marks go away as soon as you iron them! Draw around all of the gusset panels on the front piece and then draw around the actual gussets themselves.
In this pattern there are 2 slightly different gussets. If your pattern has the same, please try to keep track of which is which and put them in the right place!
Now that you've drawn around all of your pieces, you can snip the gusset panels on your front piece. I like to cut it forking out at the bottom instead of straight down because I find that it frays less, but you can also just do a straight cut. We're going to try and cover the cuts anyway later.
To try and keep track of which gusset goes where I'm doing to two inner gussets first before moving on to the outer ones.
Now to insert the gusset pieces, you can fold back the front pieces and match the lines together. I like to start at the bottom.
Now that everything's pinned into place you can get sewing. Try to sew as close to the edge as possible, without the line wobbling off the edge!
And voila! Now to neaten everything up, we're going to french seam everything so there are no raw edges. The first step is to trim down the front piece fabric to as small as you possibly can. Don't forget the little triangle at the bottom!
Fold the gusset pieces underneath and you can iron them down to make your life a little easier when sewing later.
Then sew around all of the sides, again going as close to the edge as you can without falling. And there you have it! A nice little bust gusset with all of the edges sealed and neat.
Now to do it three more times...
Once you have all of your gussets inserted, it's time to neaten up. Do a very small zig-zag stitch along the bottom of the gusset to stop any fraying from the cuts you made earlier. This step isn't necessary, but I think it just adds to the overall finish of the corset.
You also don't have to do this, but I like to gather the tops of my gussets. I didn't used to do this, but I find that it really helps to 'cup' the breasts instead of just squashing them!
Sew a very long stitch 1.5cm in along the tops of the four gusset panels.
And you've finally finished all of your bust gussets! I'd like to tell you that that's all the gussets you have to do but unfortunately the next step is...
These are done in largely the same way as the bust gussets, but I thought I'd go over them anyway. If you had no problems with the bust gussets, you'll have no problems with these. If you didn't quite get my instructions above, hopefully this might make it more clear?
Again, trace around both the back pieces and the hip gusset pieces.
This time, the line to cut is a lot easier to follow.
Fold back the back piece lines and pin the gusset to it, starting at the bottom and matching the lines.
Then sew them together (sticking close to the edges) and trim the sandwiched parts down. Fold the gusset panel back, iron and sew into place. Once you've done that, you can neaten up the edges with the small zig-zag stitches. And there you have it, some lovely finished hip gussets!
I like to embroider my busk pocket using a pattern from the era.
However, you can embroider anything onto it, or not embroider it at all!
To start, iron the busk pocket into the centre, almost like you're making bias binding.
Then hem the bottom. Roll it up twice and sew. It can be a little bulky, but your machine should be able to handle it.
Then I like to add eyelets to the bottom. Make sure that you go through all of the layers, and that there's enough room either side of the eyelets for you to sew it to the corset afterwards.
Next I like to position it onto the centre front of the corset. Mark out 1.5cm from the top and bottom of the main piece, then position the pocket on top of it. The hemmed side should go above the bottom seam allowance and you can mark out the top in the frixion pen. This will give you an idea as to how much you should embroider.
Using your frixion pen, you can trace out your pattern onto the busk pocket. With everything hemmed and eyeleted it can be a little tricky, but I like to do all of that first so I know where to embroider up to.
When you come back next week, I'll have this thing embroidered and we can move on to part 2! In the next part we'll attach all of the pieces, make the boning channels and bind the corset. Imagine me in the meantime sitting with a cup of tea in front of the telly, stitching away.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask me below!