How to make a corset on a tight budget
If you want to make a corset on a very constrained budget it is possible to do. It is of course possible to spend several hundred dollars or more on supplies to make a corset you do not have to do so. In this blog post I intend to explore how to make a corset for cheap. I do assume that you have access to a sewing machine, iron, marking chalk, and tailor’s shears. If you do not have a sewing machine see if you can borrow one from a friend or check your local public library
You will need a few things to make a corset
- Grommets or some other way of lacing it up
Let us talk about each of those...
Thankfully a corset does not need a lot of fabric. In many cases, you will need about 1 yard each of the fabric for the outer layer and the lining (and there are ways to do it with only one layer). Furthermore, many corset patterns are made of a larger number of narrow pieces, which makes a corset an ideal pattern for creative fabric cutting. If you can find a few pairs of jeans at a thrift store you may be able to cut the various pieces out of them.
Another option is to find cheap fabric. Sometimes thrift stores actually sell fabric, I have seen people getting amazing deals from time to time that way.
It is also possible to raid other sewists' fabric stash. Frequently those of us who sew have a very large stash of fabric that we might be willing to part with a small part of for little to no money or barter. In some places, you might find someone who resells stash fabrics. There is a merchant near me in Connecticut who sells destash fabric for $4 / yard. Now of course when shopping somewhere like that you have to be willing to be flexible. You probably will not be able to find the exact thing you need, but you may well be able to get pretty close.
You will need boning for most corsets. There are several options you can work for pretty cheap.
The first is Cable Ties which actually work quite well. I like to use the wide ones as they provide the best structure. Amazon has 24” cable ties in a pack of 50 for about $15. If using cable ties make sure to use a file to round off the ends before putting them in the corset.
Basket Reeds, were very popular in the 18th century for stays and should still work. I have not tried them (yet) but plan to at some point.
If you want to make a pair of stays for the renfaire there is a free pattern on the side of this page! Just enter your email address and it will render a pattern custom for your body.
Corset Pattern Maker creates custom corset patterns along a number of different designs which can also work.
You need some way to fasten the laces. Metal grommets are the default option but not the only one. They were not invented until the 1830's. Before that people used eyelet holes. Using an Awl put a hole in your fabric and sew a button hole stich around the edge. This will require some hand sewing, having a good buttonhole twist will work well here. You can also use embroidery floss here to give either a matching color or a really strong contrast.
I have also used fabric loops. Take some of the spare fabric from what was left over from your corset and fold it into a long ribbon (and invert it so that the seam is on the inside. Then make loops from that and line those up along the lacing gap of your corset. If you want to be fancy use a contrasting color.
You will need some way to lace up your corset. This can be as simple as a boot lace or as fancy as you want. I have used trim woven on my inkle loom, paracord, and other things. In a front lacing corset you can change the look of the corset at will by just changing the lacing.