The Italian Job

Recently, I was commissioned to make an overbust corset for an incredible woman from Florida. This lady is phenomenal and rocks this corset way better than any woman in her twenties ever could!

Rita corset fabrics

The fabric for this corset is beautiful and Italian. The feel is incredible and the check pattern is classy and cool. Yet, like many beautiful Italian things - sports cars and soccer players included - it's beauty belied a rather temperamental nature; this fabric fraying like crazy. Even interfacing couldn't stop the rot, so I had to work swiftly and efficiently.

I used the PinUp Girls Freedom corset and incorporated a few changes. A higher back ensures the threat of any angel wings peeking over the edge is mitigated. A larger bust on a small ribcage requires the front of the pattern to be according to one size, while the back was scaled down a size. This gives a tidier fit around the bust area.

marking the waist

As there was a lot of horizontal and vertical action going on in this fabric it was critical to choose a consistent point and align the lines accordingly. I chose the waist as this point and ensured that all the pieces were on grain with the waist in exactly the same place throughout.

As always, I find the first stage of the sewing the most daunting - inserting the busk. I'm not sure why I feel a certain tension settle over me at this point, perhaps it's the fear of the zipper foot, the mental imagery of a needle shattering, or perhaps it's just that I'm a bit of a wimp, but once the busk was in, I breathed a sigh of relief and started to whip this corset up in double time.

Rita corset shell

With the shell was made, it was time to start work on the grommet panels. I invested in a grommet press right at the beginning of my corset making. I hated to see people hammering away at something they'd spent so much time and love on. I didn't want to end up making a mess of anything I made, or worse still, cursing the damn thing. I wanted to fall further in love with every step I took in every corset I made, and well, that requires a few special tools. My grommet press is one of them. Installing the grommets is now one of my favourite aspects of corset making, so tidy, so smooth, so satisfyingly aggressive.

Grommet press in action

Once this was done, it was time to insert the bones. I used a combination of different bones in this piece: spiral boning at the front for the best possible shaping at the bust, heavyweight steel bones adjacent to the grommet panels and plastic boning elsewhere. It allows for an excellent combination of durability and affordability. The downside is that I am not a fan of working with the plastic boning, as the cutting and smoothing is a dusty and dirty business that somehow doesn't feel as though it should be part of making something so incredibly feminine.

Next, time to add the binding. This is another of my favourite steps in making a corset. Once the front of the binding is stitched on using the machine, I prefer to put my feet up and hand stitch the back of the binding on, while watching an episode or two of Downton Abbey (again). I find that this is a very soothing and relaxing job and gives a far nicer finish than stitching in the ditch.

And then, the final joy! It's time to lace her up! This corset was laced up with rabbit ears, to allow the wearer to pull it tight herself without the need for a ladies maid to assist.

Rabbit ears

Once it was finished, I couldn't resist putting it on Lucy, just to see how it would look. Lucy is smaller chested than my client, but oh boy, even on Lucy it was stunning! This photo also highlighted a small jog in the binding at the bottom, so I unpicked this and re-stitched; something as linear as this fabric will show up every flaw.

And here's a shot of the finished article, just look at the lovely waist and how the lines streamline the silhouette so beautifully.

Rita Corset

I love how the lines meet so perfectly, and how the grey ribbon detailing really draws your attention to the narrowness of the fit. This gorgeous Italian fabric, difficult and demanding as it had been would make my client look hotter than Sophia Loren at a hot yoga class!

It's pictures like these that makes me so happy to be able to do this for a living!

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