The Materials of A Corset Training Corset
Fabrics and Bone Materials
Corset Training Boning Materials
I'm often asked exactly what goes into a corset and what materials are best to use. Well there are several elements to the corset that it doesn't have in common with other garments. There are the 'steels' or corset bones, the busk, the waist tape, the eyelets and the heavyweight coutil fabric designed to be used in a corset. Today we concentrate on two aspects; the different types of corset 'boning' and selecting the right fabric for your corset.
The bones are the biggest difference between the corset and other forms of clothing, steel bones are unique to corsetry and don't really come into sewing anywhere else, so people are often scared of tackling corsets for this reason. Bones should always be made from steel if being sewn into a proper corset training corset. Plastic ones tend to snap or at the very least get kinks or weak points where the body regularly bends. The plastic bone should be reserved for fancy dress costumes and underwear.
Steel bones come in two types; sprung steel and spiral steel. Sprung steels have been around the longest and are made of a solid, flat piece of steel, often coated in a white plastic which keeps the steel from coming into contact with water. The ends are often double or triple dipped in this white coating. If you hold one in your hands and bend it then let go you'll notice that it both bends easily and springs back to its original straight position when the pressure of your hands is removed. This makes it ideal for corsetry as it allows the body to bend and stretch while always returning to it's original shape. This is a must for corset training garments as they're worn all day every day.
Spiral steel is made from steel wire, two lengths of wire are wound together and flattened into a length of steel boning. The ends are capped with little steel hoods called U caps which contain the sharp ends of the wire. Spiral bones are a lot more flexible and are believed by some to act more like the strips of flexible whalebone originally used in the Victorian times to bone corsets. Unlike the sprung steel corset bones, spirals will bend in all directions - back and forward, side to side and they'll even twist. There is less of a springing back when pressure is released too, so these bones make a corset a lot easier to move in and less restrictive, although less supportive to an extent.
Fabrics for Corset Training Corsetry
A corset training corset needs to take, or rather exert, a lot of pressure as it squeezes the body. Tight lacers will wear their corset up to 23 hours a day, so the garment needs to be able to take the constant pressure. As a result coutil was invented, a fabric designed specifically to make corsets from. This fabric is normally 100% cotton, I don't recommend the polycotton blends as its harder for the skin to breathe under these and sweating can cause pressure sores. It's easy to spot as it has a distinctive herringbone weave and when you hold it in your hands and give it a sharp tug, it has little to no give, ie no stretch. The smaller the herringbone weave the stronger the fabric should be. This fabric is always used to line a corset training corset, some people will swear that twill or canvas etc is just as strong but this simply isn't so, they will all have more stretch to them than coutil.
As for the outer fabric, you can be a lot more creative, but lighter weight materials tend to pucker and wrinkle at the seams. Lycra's and stretch fabrics are a no-go. For a professional look opt for a heavyweight material as these will lay flatter and add strength alongside that of the coutil. There are some lovely heavyweight brocades and damasks out there, silk dupioni is a popular choice amongst professional corset makers but may be a little lightweight for first timers. There are also satin coutils available from corsetry suppliers but these are all expensive options. You will only need a half meter for a corset, a waist corset or short underbust can often be cut from a meer quarter meter, so if you can buy by the quarter these materials become much cheaper.
However, if your going to make a corset for the first time, or your just on a tight budget this month, here's a money saving tip - Upholstery fabrics are perfect for corset training requirements as they're thick and robust. You can recycle old cushions, sofa fabric or hunt though secondhand shops for old curtains to use.