The Parts of a Corset - Vol. I, Part 1

To have a basic understanding of corset owning, caring and designing, it is helpful to understand the various parts of a typical corset.  First, it is best to define exactly what a corset is.  Based on some recent, rather loose, marketing terms – it may be necessary to set the record straight about a few things.

A close-fitting undergarment, stiffened with whalebone or similar material and often capable of being tightened by lacing, enclosing the trunk: worn, especially by women, to shape and support the body; stays.

Another important distinction about corsets should also be noted here: A bustier is not a corset. Many lingerie brands incorrectly market their products. Most bustiers are actually long line bras and do not offer any of the waist cinching or support that a corset does.

Night Flower has an elegant sweetheart neckline and is faced with a layered floral lace.

Necklines and Waist Shapes

The Parts of a Corset - Vol. I, Part 2

One of the most common corset necklines is the sweetheart corset, pictured above. Images of various corset frames (or silhouettes) are detailed in remote corsetry. The corset in our example also has an hourglass waist, which helps to create the idealistic silhouette commonly associated with corsets. While there are other waist shapes, each one better suited to a different body type or purpose, the hourglass waist is the most common.

Night Flower has an hourglass waist and a center front busk.

Corset Part Descriptions

The Parts of a Corset - Vol. I, Part 3

A corset is a complex garment and understanding the components can be helpful when you’re corset shopping.  Let’s go over some of the basics.

Binding: A strip of fabric that encases the top and bottom edges of a corset. Because of their thickness, created by the layers of construction, corsets rarely have a turned-under hem as would other garments.

Bone casing: An additional layer of fabric that is topstitched in place to create a bone channel.

Bone channel: The path between layers of fabric that holds each bone in place. Bone channels often, but not always, follow seamlines.

Panel: Each piece (or stack of pieces) of fabric, cut to a specific shape to create fit. Most corsets commonly have six panels on each side of the body.

Waist tape/waist stay: A sturdy “tape” (non-decorative ribbon) that reinforces the waist to minimize stretching.

“Bunny ears”: The most popular way of lacing a corset creates loops at the waist level, to provide greater leverage where it is most needed. This is sometimes called the “bunny ears” method of lacing and the loops themselves are the bunny ears in question. Ideally, the waist loops should create an extra cross-over, such that pulling on the lower portion of the loop tightens the top, and vice versa. This provides additional support to the area of greatest strain.

Lacing gap: The space between edges of the center back panels. A lacing gap allows for flexibility in fit, though some may choose to lace their corsets closed. A standard lacing gap is 2″; larger sizes may wear their corsets with a gap of up to roughly 4″.

Modesty Panel: An extra piece of fabric that sits behind the laces. A modesty panel serves several purposes, but is most commonly desired to cover the skin crease created by tightening a corset.

Coutil: A specialty fabric designed specifically for corset making — tightly woven with a minimum of stretch. There are various types of coutil, including the classic herringbone, spot broché, and brocades. Coutil can be used as a fashion fabric as well as a strength layer, or in a single-layer corset.

Fashion fabric: The outer fabric of a corset, which need not be as strong as the inner layers. Fashion fabrics may be very sturdy or delicate and chosen purely for their aesthetic value, be it color, pattern, or texture.

Strength layer: The “load bearing” layer of a corset, if you will. Coutil is a popular choice for this layer. Other fabrics such as canvas, duck, and poplin are also often used. This is particularly the case in America, where import fees can make good quality coutil cost-prohibitive.

Lining: The layer closest to the skin. Some corsetmakers may also refer to their “strength layer” as the lining. For others, the “lining” would be an additional layer that protects the strength layer from your body’s oils and sweat.

Interfacing: A lightweight layer of specialty fabric that is heat-fused to the fashion fabric to stabilize it. With the use of a dual-sided interfacing called Wonder-Under, a fashion fabric may also be fused directly to a strength layer fabric for maximum reinforcement.

Learn more about corset terminology…

Images enhanced by Intimatology