Commercial patterns are great for many projects, excellent starting points for others... and absolutely dismal for some. Corsetry is one of those projects that commercial patterns prove to be dismal for. The reasons I say this are:
1) They're really generic. Corsets are form-fitting garments that have negative ease. Everyone's body is different, and even most off the rack corsets don't fit the majority of people well. Commercial patterns don't offer much shape, and can be very difficult to work with to get a good fit. To be able to really use these patterns, you should really have some good experience with adjusting and fitting patterns already. Even then, be prepared for extensive adjustments.
2) They don't mark their seam allowances. This is more of a personal preference for how I construct my corsets. I like to trace my seam allowances on the back side of my fabric, and then use that a guide for my pinning and stitches. I get better accuracy with my seams and overall corset this way.
3) The instructions are absolutely horrible! I'm not a fan of the instructions for most of the Big 4. I tried following the instructions for one of their corset patterns with my first few corsets. It was not pleasant.
I wonder if I should do a video case of revisiting that Simplicity pattern with the years of corsetmaking experience I now have and see what happens?
There are two possible solutions to this conundrum.
1) purchase a pattern from a reputable corset maker.
2) Create your own. If you little or no drafting experience, then a good place to start is creating a duct tape pattern!
I have a rather small chest, I wear a 34A. I needed to create a custom corset for my girlfriend, Morgan, who is much more endowed than I am at a 34G. I have drafted corset patterns for myself, but I had not drafted an overbust pattern for someone with anything larger than an A cup before. I've used other people's patterns when making overbust corsets for other people. So I opted to try the duct tape method for creating this pattern.
The process is rather simple.
- Duct Tape
- TShirt that can be destroyed
- Scissors (I strongly recommend medical shears, even though I didn't have any on hand)
- Sharpie pen
- Once you get the basic pattern in DuctTape you'll want large paper for transferring the pattern to, pencil, eraser, (snacks!), and accurate measuring tools like a straight edge and french curve.
1) Have the person put the Shirt on.
I had Morgan put the shirt over her bra because I wanted the corset to support her breasts as close as possible to how a bra would. Be carefult that the bra is NOT padded, this will drastically change the fit.
2) Wrap the person in duct tape over the shirt covering the areas where the corset would be, plus some along the top and bottom to alow for adjusting the top and bottom edge as desired.
3) Draw your seam lines.
This step is very subjective, and the more experience you have with patterns the better. For Morgan, again because of how much support and shape I wanted to give with this corset, I wanted 3 seams over the bust. This pattern ended up being 8 panels, with four being in the front to support and shape the breasts.
(I can't find my photos of this step. I'll add them as soon as I find them!)
*Note: I initially tried for a 7-panel corset, but double back and went for the 8 panel. This decision was made because as I was cutting out the duct tape pattern I realized that I couldn't get panel 2 to lay flat. In order to get the bust part of panel 2 to lay flat, I had to split it down to the underbust line. However, the rest of the panel was too narrow to continue the split all the way down to the bottom edge and maintain space for the boning later on.
Keep in mind that since most patterns are only 1/2 of the garment, you can create 2 patterns by drawing on one half of the duct tape from center front to center back, and a different design on the other half. However, if the person you're drafting the pattern for is asymmetrical, draw the entire corset.
4) VERY CAREFULLY cut along the center front or center back.
I recommend medical shears that have the little guide to help keep the skin from getting caught in the scissors. Also, be careful not to cut the person's bra!
They should then be able to get the duct tape "cast" off similar to a stiff jacket.
5) Cut the pieces along your drawn lines.
And remember to mark your pieces with numbers and other identifying information!
6) Trace onto large paper.
I should have marked Morgan's waist line on the duct pattern, and added match points, so that I could use the waist line and other match points to keep the pieces in the right orientation to the waist line. I drew a waist line on the paper, and tried my best to eyeball the waistline (the narrowest part at that section of the pattern) of each panel. Lesson learned!
7) Refine your pattern. This is the hardest and most tedious, time consuming part of this process.
Here you will want to smooth out your lines so that all of your seams lines are pretty smooth. It's tempting to skip this part when you later realize you'll be moving a lot of these lines, but you need to this step to establish your measurement point. If you look in the image above, you can see how wobbly my lines, not to mention jagged from my back-&-forth tracing method. All of this needs smoothed out so when I start measuring my pattern pieces I get accurate measurements.
For this step, you'll also want to take accurate measurements of your client at the bust line, underbust line, waist, high hip and hip or where the bottom edge of the corset will be. You'll use these measurements to make the adjustments for the pattern.
Start make your initial adjustments taking into consideration waist reductions and lacing gap. I will try to summarize the process, but I think this topic deserves it's own post, so I'll do one for that soon!
I like a 2 inch lacing gap, so I subtract 2 inches from all horizontal measurements, and then divide in half. I then also subtract the desired waist reduction divided by 2 from just the waist measurement.
For example if you have the following:
Bust: 38-2=36 -> 36/2=18
Underbust: 31-2=29 -> 29/2=14.5
Waist: 29-2=27 -> 27/2=13.5 (for a 4 inch waist reduction, I subtract an another 2 inches from this) -> 13.5-2=11.5 *
High Hip: 31-2=29 -> 29/2=14.5
Hip: 36-2=34 -> 34/2=17
That end number will be the measurement across all of your pieces. *For the waist measurement, this means that once laced up into the corset and stopping with a 2 inch lacing gap, there will be 4 inches of reduction. If the person laces tighter, this reduction becomes more.
To make the adjustments to the pattern, I work top down, so if you're starting at the bust, draw a line across all of the pieces at the bust. Now measure that line only where it's within each piece. Then add all those individual numbers together. It should give you the end result for the bust, in my example 18".
If it does not, and it most likely will not, you will need find the difference between the pattern measurement, and the desired end result. So if I measured all the way across all of my pieces, and got 16.75", that's a difference of 1.25" from 18". I would then distribute this across the pieces at the bust line. At this point I just make a little mark along the bust line where I've added or subtracted from the panel.
Pro Tip: if you get the bust measurement from side seam to side seam across the front of the chest (front bust measurement) and divide that by 2, You can then be able to tell if you need to distribute this across most of the pieces, or the front half vs. back half. Say your front bust is 22. Divide by 2. -> 22/2=11
That means from the Center Front to the side seam of your pattern, your pieces need to add up to 11, and from the side seam to the center back, they need to add up to 7 (since 11+7=18). If they do add up to 7, then you would need to distribute the 1.25" difference to panels from the side seam to the center back, rather than all way across all panels.
Repeat this process for all 5 (or 4 for an underbust) panels for the pattern. Now I connect all of my little marks mimicking the pattern seam lines as closely as possible.
Again, this is the hardest part! I'll write another post going into greater detail!
8) Begin the toile (mockup) process and revisit the pattern. This will be another blog post as well, so check back for that one too!
All in all the DuctTape pattern will provide you with a good starting point to create a custom pattern for yourself or for someone else! This most likely won't be you end result pattern at this point, though, as you'll make more adjustments as you mock up the pattern. But it creates a pattern that avoids being tubular, too long or too short.