Corset · Edwardian · evening · formal · S-Curve · silk · steel · TAFE SA

Lace Me Up – Corsetry at TAFE SA

WARNING: this blog post contains BOOBS. Yes they are there, no I won’t apologise for them. *It’s a corset for goodness sake.* You Have Been Warned.

This is a course I have been wanting to do for a long time. The WEA used to run a corsetry course waaaay back when and I always wanted to go and try it out, even before I started sewing “for real” as I call it.

Making a goober face
When I discovered that TAFE SA runs a whole series of short fashion courses I was pretty damn excited…Corsetry! Fashion Drawing! Pattern Drafting! So. Many. Options. Of course corsetry was at the top of my list so I signed up for the 3 day course in July for $450.00 (including corsetry supplies) 

Just Look at that Hip Curve – LOOK AT IT!!!
Our lovely teacher Lesley was a total corset afficionardo and had some amazing samples with her to help us pick our design. I originally wanted to make a corset with bust cups since I have no idea how to fit those suckers when they occasionally show up in dress patterns (bombshell dress much??) While I did muslin a cupped corset I eventually decided that I wouldn’t wear it much since I just feel self-conscious in anything outerwear that looks like it should actually be lingerie. Maybe I should learn bra-making and then I’ll finally master the bust cups?

Muslin with pin-fit adjustments
Since I had such a pretty purple silk dupion for my outer fabric I didn’t really want to make a corset that was just for the bedroom so I switched over to the hardest corset pattern in the room (of course) – the Edwardian S-Curve. This beauty doesn’t have a straight line on her it seems and there are a million pieces to the design to stitch up. But I was in love and just had to have her!

Close up – Look at all those seams!!
Lesley was a wonderful and very understanding teacher – several of us chose more difficult designs than she had originally intended for the class but she was so encouraging and positive we all felt prepared to put in the extra work to end up with something amazing.

During construction – featuring the hip-curve-of-death
The corset itself has 3 layers – cotton lining for wearing comfort, coutil for structure and support and the outer fashion fabric. Each seam is double stitched on 2 different thread lengths to lock them together when under pressure from the lacing. The boning is 12mm spiral steel. I cut a size 12 then had to take in some excess at the hip and bust but the final corset is still a little big in the hip (I commonly have this problem with corsets -apparently I need hip pads lol) and can almost lace shut at the back. I’m assuming this is how it is meant to fit but next time I would consider sizing down to a 10 just to see if that helped with the proportions. I also added about an inch to the top of the bust as this designs was originally a Demi-cup and I didn’t want to be spilling over so-to-speak. I’d was thinking to add another inch again and see if this changed the bust fit in my next muslin just for kicks but looking at these pics I’m not sure that’s needed. I was hoping to get a little more waist compression from this corset but when it’s on I am actually exactly the same waist measurement as normal – I think maybe a waspie or under bust corset could be a better option for me in this department so that’s something to try next time too! And yes, Lesley did inform me that this amount of “platter boob” is how corsets are meant to fit (so sorrynotsorry but the girls are gonna be out for this post hehe)

Eyelets inserted, spiral steel and straight steel bones ready to go in!
The course was great fun, I met some fantastic girls who love sewing just as much as me. No one created the same thing, everyone had such amazing and unique designs – I wish I could see finished pictures from everyone, they were all so fabulous!! We had several wonderful conversations about ready-to-wear fashion devaluing sewing techniques and our pet hates on garment finishes and even ironing – where else would this happen but corset-school? It was also great fun getting to use the TAFE SA facilities at the light square fashion campus (hellooo gravity-feed iron and giant fabric press!!) I had an absolute ball and it even made me consider studying fashion and sewing. That’s on the back burner for now but it was a wonderful introduction to the world of fashion study 🙂

Laces everywhere
In terms of construction I am overall really happy with how my S-Curve came out although there are plenty of mistakes I could obsess over I am trying to see the bigger picture lol. Probably the biggest error I made was inserting part of the busk backwards! This means the front of the corset doesn’t sit as perfectly flat as it should but once inserted there is no going back…but overall this was an intense make and I am pretty chuffed with the final result.

“What this? Oh I just had this lying around”
I’m seriously considering adding appliqué black lace over the hip circles and neckline and/or beading some of the corset for added sparkle. I have enough of this silk left to make a skirt to match the corset but I’m not sure if this look is appropriate for the public – what do you think (some public opinions would really help me out). I could also make a little lace top to go under the corset for modesty but I kind of wanted to let this make shine on her own if possible.

Doing half the chicken dance apparently
My final thoughts on the corsetry process and the course: 
1) corsets are HARD WORK – there is a reason real ones are so expensive- and I would absolutely need to practice a couple more time before even attempting to make a corset for someone else.
2) corsets are FUN and I think once I had the pattern and process down I could get a bit quicker in the construction (this one took me probably 5 days all up, as in 30+ hours sewing!)
3) Lesley is a fabulous teacher – she is soooo knowledgable, positive and encouraging and it was just easy to learn from her – originally I thought this course was a little overpriced but having completed it? It is a bargain!

Table Photo Bomb
I really enjoyed learning sewing technique in a formal setting which surprised me a lot. Many of these short courses are run once a year so I am thinking of making it an annual thing, where I pick a short sewing course once a year to attend and learn new skills etc.

I don’t know how quickly I’ll make another corset simply because they are a lot of work for a garment that isn’t everyday wear but I learned sooo much that can be applied to other garment sewing from this course it almost doesn’t matter. I’m sure the corset fairy will visit again however, I do have rather a lot of purple silk in my fabric box after all…