Saturday, February 9, 2013

Good Foundations: The Corset

The off the shoulder, draped effect is created over a simple corset.
Historically, the corset is a garment designed to create the illusion of a slimmer figure or to hold the torso into a desired silhouette. For the Haute Couture ateliers in Paris, the corset is an essential element. It is used as a basic foundation garment over which the couturier realizes his fleet of fancy. In many cases, it supports elaborate drapery, intricate embroidery or other whimsical detailing.

We are going to use the doll as the mannequin.  But first you need a bit of (medium weight) cotton. You want to mark the direction of the threads of the fabric (pictured here in red), both horizontally and vertically. Then I've made another vertical line (in black) which will be aligned with the center of the doll. (Mark that CF.) You are only draping half a pattern. Attach the fabric to the doll with tape. Turn her over and make a vertical line down the center of her back (this will line up with the middle of her buttocks). Drop still another line under her arm and mark "side."
Make a dart (a triangular pleat) and pin in place.The apex of the dart should fall at the doll's breast. Keep the right side of this triangle straight (parallel to the CF). Fit the dart do that your corset fits snug around the doll's body, making sure the center back line remains straight. Mark the fold of the dart as well as her waistline. Now remove the cotton pattern. It should look something like photo to the left.
Using a rule, straighten up the line of the dart, side and back guide lines. Smooth out the curve at the top and bottom. Now it's time to transfer to paper. I use tissue paper (the transparent paper foundin gift boxes will do) for the first pattern. When you've finished, fold the pattern down the CF line and flip so that you can trace over to the other side. This will result in a rull pattern. Add 1/4 seam allowance at the top and bottom and at least 1/2 inch at the back.
I tape the darts closed then put the pattern back onto the doll to make sure of the fit. Make any adjustments or corrections, then transfer to regular paper once you're satisfied with the fit and are ready to make the definitive pattern. We do all of the work on such a basic pattern because you will want wnat to make other garments without starting from scratch each time. Beware: dolls of the same length "are not created equally. You must make basic patterns (slopers) for each body type. The pattern featured on this page is based on Mattel's "So In Style" Barbie doll. (She's a teenage doll who cleans up very well into an adult model!)

Now it's time to make our garment. I like to use a medium weight fabric with a bit of body. If you are making this for someone else or you're interested in a more "couture" presentation, cut out a second pattern in a lightweight material you will use for a lining. Pin the pattern onto the fabric and trace the darts and waist off your pattern.

Pin the darts (on the wrong side of the fabric). Hand sew using a simple straight stitch. Then using a sewing machine, stitch down the darts. You could hand stitch the darts using tiny stitches since this garment will remain hidden. When you're finished, cut the darts down to about 1/8" and press them open. Place the right side of the corset to the right of the lining. (The seams will be facing outside. Stitch on the side and top. Clip the top corners diagonally and turn everything inside out to reveal the near finished corset.
Put the corset on the doll and pin the back. Clip at the waist a tiny bit to release the tension. Remove and stitch the two layers down at the waist, cutting away any excess fabric. Use a bit of self adhesive Velcro and attach to the back. The adhesive might not hold over time, so it is advisable to stitch this down.
If you are not lining your corset, after stitching your darts, simply ford the top and side edges and top stitch in place. You could use felt or another fabric that does not fray, to make this corset as well, in which case, simply stitch up the darts, trim away the seam allowance and add the Velcro.
You could really stop there. But the purpose of this exercise is to create a real couture garment. For the embellishment, you can use fabric, ribbon, almost anything you like. The corset is your canvas and you are limited only by your imagination. Start out by manipulating the fabric into the desired effect. Pin in place as you go. Now take needle and thread and make tiny hand stitches to hold the material down where you want. The stitches snake underneath, out of side, between the outer fabric and the lining. Be sure to tuck the raw edges out of sight. I leave the back for last, cutting away the excess then finishing my design.
If draping is planned to wrap around the shoulders and arms (as featured on the doll at the top of the page), put the basic corset on the doll and then proceed with the drapery, pinning in place first. Remove from doll and carefully hand sew in place with tiny stitches and matching thread.
Outside and in, here is my finished result.
Content & Photos: © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.




  1. I love your site. I have already shared your site with much enthusiasm. I have checked other sites and your's really is the best. I am not sure how to vote for your site. Can you simplify this procedure? Thanks Debra Fleshman

  2. Debra, I'm so happy you enjoy my site. I certainly have such a good time putting it all together. Thank you for your kind words. Voting for us is quite simple. When you click on the "Vote for Me" button, it takes you to the TopFashionDoll 100 site. Scroll down to my blog name and click "Rate this site." Enter your vote and that's it. It's kept pretty much up to date thanks to monthly voting, which eliminates stagnant sites from the list. So feel free to vote once every 31 days.

  3. Hello do you have a tutorial to make a corset pattern from duct/sticking tape please? I thought I saw one here but cant find it. I'm desperate to make corsets for my Barbies, but without boning. More of a full body corset. thank you, I love your talent

  4. Hi. Thank you for your kind words. There is another tutorial on the full torso corset "Dolly Boudoir: The Full Torso Corset" (8/8/2013). I used boning for two, however there is a demo on making one without. There's also a tutorial on making a bra pattern using tape (6/19/2013). Hopefully, either of those should be able help you. Good luck!!!


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