18th Century Corset Build
I’ve loved costuming since I was a little girl, never limiting myself to Halloween—I could make an excuse to dress up for almost any occasion! My hobby lead to a career in the film industry, sewing for the big and little screen. Working professionally doesn’t leave much time to create for fun, but this year I squeezed in a build for Costume College, a three day convention for historical costumers, hobbyists and professionals in Southern California.
With limited time and money, I decided to finish an 18th Century French Robe à la Polonaise a friend gifted me. It was sixty percent built, but didn’t have any of the historically appropriate undergarments. With a peek through my fabric stash I found a cotton canvas, bonning lacing and grommets. To save time I purchased the 1780’s Front Lacing Stays pattern from RedThreaded.com. Stays are a type of corset and the historical choice for this gown. After a quick visit to the hardware shop I was ready to start my build.
I always begin with a clean work surface and a fresh blade in my OLFA Splash. Thanks to the quick change feature this only takes a moment! With careful pinning and use of pattern weights I can cut out the pattern pieces without tracing. This saves time, but is also an accurate way to cut a pattern when the seam allowance is already included.
Next, I marked all of the boning channels and seam allowances with a tracing wheel and transfer paper. After that it’s time to sew together the front panels and a whole lot of boning channels. It’s important to take your time with the channels–They must be very tight to prevent the boning from rolling and shifting. Once the channels are sewn, the bottom binding is sewn on to finish the tabs.
I used a variety of boning for this set of stays. Remember that trip to the hardware shop? I purchased an industrial pack of zip ties to use for boning. It’s easy to trim, inexpensive, and has a little give without the crimping and pinching you get from traditional plastic options. I only used metal boning at center front, center back, and at the side seams.
After the boning is in it’s time to finish the corset. The top edge is bound, side seams are sewn and the grommets are set. After all that work it’s ready to be worn!
(Historical costume selfie! )
I hope you enjoyed my 18th century corset build. The stays were very comfortable and made the perfect silhouette under my 18th century costume. I learn new tricks with every project I complete, and I hope you picked up a trick or two yourself!
Jessica Lawson is a Pattern Maker and Seamstress for the film industry in Los Angeles, CA. She is an avid maker, teacher and gardener. For more of Jessica’s work follow her on Instagram @HollywoodSeamstress