Corset class – preparing your pattern

Laying out the pattern for the Cranach gown bodice. I wanted the seam allowances to be precise, so I noted them in pencil right on the fabric.

adding seam allowance to a no-allowance pattern

So, you’ve picked out a commercial corset pattern and have selected the size that you want to use – but wait!  There is a discrepancy between your measurements and the pattern measurements!

If you have ever adjusted patterns before, you know that it can be a frustrating task – that’s why picking a pattern that is as close to your size as possible to start out with is the best idea.  Making up your muslin will help with finer details, but before you start cutting out your fabric, you might want to make some of these adjustments now.

The easy adjustments


I’ve found that a number of the commercial pattern companies need to be adjusted for body length.  (At least for me!) These are usually well-marked on your pattern – just identify the lines on the pattern for this adjustment, and either fold out the necessary length (if the pattern is too long) or add in additional length (if the pattern is too short).

Once you’ve made this adjustment, you’ll also need to “true” your lines with a curved ruler and a pencil.  Keep in mind where this length adjustment point is (the waist area usually) – this won’t add extra coverage to a full chest or drop the corset down over your hips.  You’ll need to repeat this adjustment for each pattern piece.

A bit harder

Minor adjustments to circumference

If you need an extra bit of room in the waist, or need to take off a few centimeters on the hips, this is pretty simple as well.  Find out the desired number (from your measurements) and the actual pattern number (from measuring the pattern) and divide the difference and then apply to each of your pattern pieces.  Again you’ll need to true all of your seams so that they’re smooth and consistent.

Between two sizes

If your bust measurement suggests  you cut out one size, while your waist suggests the size up or down, you can use your curved ruler to draw a connecting line for each pattern piece to bring those two lines together.  This works well for one or two size differences, but if your measurements are drastically different from the patterns’ you’ll likely run into trouble with this.

Harder still

Major adjustments to circumference

Back-laced corset in purple hand-dyed dupioni silk

Back-laced corset in purple hand-dyed dupioni silk

Often, people find the “free” patterns online (often vintage pattern scans) and think that they can just print that out, blow it up on  a photocopier, and it will fit.  First off, it’s unlikely that the modern person is an ideal Victorian standard model size, and secondly that doesn’t account for the grading (making a pattern in multiple sizes) that is needed for YOUR body shape.  For instance, if you are increasing the waist measurement by 1.5 times, that doesn’t mean you should also increase the length of the overall garment by 1.5 times.

If your measurements are really different from the standard pattern proportions, then you have a few options.  First off, you can take the pattern and do some major adjustments to it.  You’ll likely need to do other adjustments when you get to the muslin stage. You’re hopefully used to this from previous sewing experience.  Secondly, you can look for a pattern company that better fits your proportions.  Thirdly, you can draft (or have someone draft) a corset based on your measurements from scratch. Fourth, you can use the pattern as inspiration and drape the design on your dress form if you are skilled in draping.


Unfortunately, I think of pattern adjustments as largely personal and hands-on, and I am not able to advise on specific pattern modifications – if you have the resources, pick up some magazines or books to learn more about modifying patterns for different shapes and figures!

Otherwise, if you’re local (or in an area where I travel) chat with your local groups about having me come out and teach my corset class in person!

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