Corset class – Waist and Penny-Pinching

Picking a pattern

Pattern by Jay D

So the next step once you have your measurements is to pick a pattern.  If you’re extra-ambitious and want to draft your own pattern, there are a few online resources to help you – however most (if not all) assume that you have a fairly decent understanding of pattern drafting before you start.  If you only vaguely know what a ‘square’ refers to, or get flustered at the idea of  “1/2 UB + ease” as an instruction, then you’ll probably want to look at commercially available patterns.

The “big four” have come out with a range of patterns for corsets in the past few years.  Most of these are designed for costume wear, not for regular wear.  This means that although they’re meant to look good, they’re not really meant to fit 100% or last especially long right out of the box (erm.. pattern envelope).  BUT, you can still work with them, just by modifying the instructions (and following the instructions that I’ll have in future tutorials instead!) and adjusting the pattern.  There are also a number of other small, specialty corset patterns out there from smaller companies, but few of these will you be able to buy at your local fabric stores.

When looking at a pattern, consider:

  • Your sewing level of experience.  If you are an experienced sewer, you can select from any of the available patterns.  For less experienced sewers you might want to stick with the more established companies because they have a lot of experience writing good, clear instructions and testing their patterns well.
  • Reviews from other corset makers/sewers
  • Does the pattern work for your size & shape? Starting off with something that is closer to your measurements to begin with will be a better start than finding a corset pattern that looks amazing, but will require a lot of work before you even cut out the pattern.
  • Experience with that pattern brand.  Different companies use different body types for their patterns.  You might notice that Vogue patterns for instance always fit wonderfully, while McCalls patterns always seem to have extra fabric, or that Simplicity always fits better than Butterick.  Using a brand that is familiar and you’ve had reliable success with can help with a better fit with fewer adjustments.
  • Cost & shipping – yep, here’s the penny-pinching part of this tutorial.  You can likely find patterns from the major companies at your local fabric shop.  Better still, most of the major fabric stores have sales on patterns from time to time.  Instead of spending the 15-25$ list price for the pattern, you might be able to get it as cheaply as $1.99 if you can find a really good sale!  In contrast, some patterns are only available through mail-order, where the cost is never (or certainly rarely) discounted, and you’ll need to pay shipping (and perhaps duty) as well.  With that being said, I’d personally recommend picking the right pattern first, and considering cost second.

Non-commercial patterns

If you want something designed especially to fit YOU, there are alternatives to commercial patterns or drafting the pattern yourself.  You can also hire someone to draft the pattern for you.  For this you’ll want to find someone who has a lot of experience drafting patterns for a variety of body types (or at least body types that resemble your own).  Experience drafting corsets is another requirement too!  Keep in mind that with this alternative you likely will not receive ANY instructions for sewing, and the pattern might not even have seam allowance on it.

Since the pattern will be untested, you can still assume that you may need to do minor modifications, just as if you were working from a commercial pattern.  Generally unless you ask otherwise, this will be a basic corset pattern – if you want to do fancy things like adding straps, buckles, etc, you’ll need to do those yourself, or discuss your needs with the pattern drafter.

The cost on this will be substantially higher than going out and picking a corset pattern off the shelf, since the draftsperson is devoting this entire project just to you.  Discuss with the individual the cost before hand, keeping in mind that you are paying for their time and materials, but also their training, skill, and experience.

A note on using commercial patterns for profit

I’ve heard a lot of people comment that they intend to purchase a pattern, and when they get really good at making corsets, that they intend to make additional corsets to sell at fairs, online, or to their friends.  Please remember that most commercial patterns are for individual domestic use only.  Using a commercial pattern without permission of the publisher is a violation of the publisher’s copyright.  If you believe your skills are that good, in my opinion, you should be drafting your own patterns from scratch, or hiring yourself out as a seamstress.  (Where someone else buys the pattern for you to use to make a corset for him/her, and him/her alone.)


How are things going so far?  Are you feeling inspired?  Let me know in the comments section below!


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