So now that you know what style of corset you want to make, now it’s time to get out the measuring tape.
- Hand it to someone you love who can keep a secret.
- Have a drink.
- Now strip to your undergarments and start being brutally honest.
You want to pick that friend who can always discreetly tell you when you have spinach between your teeth – the one who is honest without being judgmental. He or she will take your measurements (preferably without telling you the numbers!) and write them down for you. This isn’t really something you can effectively do on your own, and you do not want to fudge the numbers here at all. Think of it like your taxes… the real numbers might be frustrating, but it’s better than the consequences if you lie!
(I don’t really endorse having a drink, but if you’re of legal age, it’s not a half-bad idea!)
Start by tying a ribbon or twill tape or yarn around your waist; really whatever you have on hand that won’t move around and isn’t too wide. Bend forwards and backwards, side to side, and where it settles we’re going to call your waist, even if it’s not where you normally wear a waistband. It very likely will be around your belly button.
You’ll need the following circumference measurements:
- Waist – right over top of the ribbon you’ve tied
- Hip – fullest part of your hip
- High hip – where you want your corset to sit
- Under bust – under your bust. That one’s a gimme.
- Bust – fullest part of your bust
- High bust – where you want your corset to end
- Tight waist – do this one last, you’ll want to tighten up that measuring tape as tightly as you think you can handle.
Next you’ll need the following length measurements:
- High bust to bust – at front, side, and back.
- Bust to under bust – at front, side, and back.
- Under bust to waist – at front, side, and back.
- Waist to high hip – at front, side, and back.
- Hip to high hip – at front, side, and back.
- Total length (high bust to high hip) – at front, side, and back.
These measurements assume you’re doing an overbust Victorian corset, if you are planning on a cincher, underbust, corset dress or other styles, you may need more or fewer measurements.
If you find it hard to remember where you measured to – add additional ribbons, or even sticky dots – whatever will help give you accurate measurements.
In doing all of these measurements, does it start to make sense why often off-the-rack corsets (where you order or purchase by waist size or bust size) often don’t fit you perfectly?
There are some individuals who can aim for a 4-5″ waist reduction, while others feel lucky if they can get 2″ and others can brag about a 8-10″ difference between their corseted and corseted waist measurements. Let’s ungraciously call this the ‘squish factor’ – some of us are just a lot squishier than others! When you measure your waist and your tight waist, you’ll get an idea of what you can handle – but keep in mind if this is your first corset, you probably don’t want to go too tight for too long right away. Think of it like wearing a pair of jeans that really is far too small for you. Muffin-top aside, you know that queasy, uncomfortable, gross feeling you get? You don’t want to have that with your first corset!
With that in mind, even if your tight waist measurement is swoon-worthy, that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily want to use that number – you might want to find one closer to your natural waist.
If you have worn corsets frequently, put on your favorite, and measure your waist difference – you might find even then that the measurement is not that different! (Or it might be, your mileage may vary!)
The other consideration for body type is simply the way our bodies put on weight. While some individuals may have weight equally proportioned across their bodies, others may carry a lot of weight in their midsections or hips, or chest. Corsets can ‘redistribute’ your natural shape a bit, but they’re not likely to turn an overweight pear-shaped individual into Jessica Rabbit. Love what you’ve got, and work with it – not against it!
Let me know what you think so far in the comments below!