The Shweshwe Corset Part 4: The Boning

I’ve taken a small break from corsetry while I was busy with other stuff. Now I’m back and moving on to the fun stuff: the boning. This is the part that gives the corset (and therefore the wearer’s body) it’s shape. The shape that you want to achieve as well as the kind of corset you are creating dictate the kind of boning necessary for the proper structural functioning of the garment.

This particular corset leaves a lot of the structure over to the layers of the garment, the direction of the boning,  the shoulder straps and the waist tabs that all work together to evenly distribute the pressure and create a sleek line. In this regard the corset is designed to give the wearer a very simple, conical torso that tapers to the waist and flares out over the hips. There is no shape over the breasts and the waist is not cinched. Steel boning is therefore not necessary, as there is not a great deal of pressure at the waist or at the lacing holes.

In its historical context the corset was boned with whalebone, but since that is now very hard to find (not to mention politically incorrect) I had to resort to other materials. Baleen (whalebone) was mostly used where both flexibility and strength was required, so a likely replacement would be plastic. The closest thing that most amateur corsetieres use today is, believe it or not, the humble cable tie.

Cable ties or zip ties or duct ties used to bone corset or 18th century stays

Cable ties or zip ties or duct ties used to bone corset or 18th century stays
Cable ties are perfect because they are quite bendy and flexible, but also gives a surprising amount of stiffness and structure when it is sewn into fabric. They are also great because they are easy to cut, and the corners can be rounded very easily to stop them from poking through the fabric of the corset. I used ties that were 388mm long and 7,8mm wide.

Corset with sewn boning channels.

Boning channels on the inside of the corset - without boning

Corset with boning channels with bones inserted.

Boning channels on the inside of the corset - without boning

Sewing the boning channels was bit of an operation – there are quite a few bones crossing each other, which means that the channels can’t be sewn all the way through. Especially at the channel that runs horizontally across the bust you can see that a lot of bones cross each other and that the channels had to be adapted accordingly.

Cable ties are fairly flat, but since there are so many of them in a corset, they can eventually take up a quite a lot of space on the width of the garment. In this instance the corset shrank width-wise with about 2cm!

Inside of boned corset. Inside of boned 18th century stays.

Boned corset - Inside

I’m not particularly proud of the way the fabric of the inner layer buckled and warped as I sewed the channels, but it will eventually be covered by the lining. Also, I was more concerned with getting the position of the bones perfect rather than creating a beautiful layer that no one will ever see…

Outside of boned corset. Inside of boned 18th century stays.

Boned corset - Outside

Because of the busy design of the outer fabric, I thought it would be overkill to have the boning channels feature on the outside of the corset. Sewing the channels all the way through is usually a nice design feature, showing that the corset is a garment of both beauty and function, but in this case I saved the shell (outer layer) for last and only added it to the rest of the garment after the corset was completely boned.

So far so good. Next up, the binding –>

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2 comments on “The Shweshwe Corset Part 4: The Boning

  1. Liezel says:

    Brilliant idea using cable tie, not only effective but so much cheaper than strips of boning from fabric store.
    thank you for sharing
    Liezel

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