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02 July 2017 @ 06:45 pm
Bust Support, back fat, and waist tape help  
I'm having trouble with making corsets that support the bust. I have no photos to show, so I tried to illustrate what I think is happening. As the corset cinches in the waist, fat and flesh are displaced upwards to the underbust. This roll of fat pushes the corset away from the body, leaving a gap between the underbust and the corset and resulting in no support for the bust. My friend's corset I made for her wedding had that problem, and we found that lacing the corset tighter allowed for the support, but resulted in a lot of back-fat. This is all from self-drafted patterns, as I am not at a place where I can purchase any. Being male, I have limited knowledge of bust support and cannot practice/test on myself as I lack endowment in the bust area, so any insight and/or recommendations are very greatly appreciated!

Another issue I have is the waist tape. Even when I use coutil (purchased from Britex in San Francisco, if that matters) I can see the waist tape indentations on the outside of the corset. It seems as though the fabric is trying to stretch at the waist but the waist tape is not allowing it to at that area, so you see the indentation. Granted, I've only ever tried making single-layered corsets, or double layer (fashion + strength fabric). Is there any way to combat this as well?

Thank you very much.
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 5th, 2017 08:39 am (UTC)
Corset pattern drafting is a real challenge... and it might have to do with the pattern itself or the lacing style. Corsets are definitely best when laced to the center with *two* separate laces.. so that the hips/waist and the bust/waist each have their own tension. This helps adjust for the flesh displacement and keeps from tension/support being lost at the top (bust) or bottom (hips). Also. it may be how the bust-cup is formed and attached to the busk. Since busks are flat/straight, it is a bit o' magic that allows the breasts to get their lift and not fall south into the gap that may be created by the underbust space as the busk rides the silhouette which can let the body slump.

Without seeing.. I can't say much.
Waist tape is definitely for thicker double/triple layer corsets because of the exact problem you are describing. You can hide it a little better by sewing it to the lining and *not* to the fashion fabric. If it is still showing, it may be that your lining and/or fashion fabrics are not rigid enough and are providing/allowing stretch.

A tightly sinched corset WILL promote backfat, even on a relatively back-fatless human. A busy, befatted lady like me? Backfat is unavoidable. One way I fight it is that my corsets ride very high in the back, up and over the bottom tips of my scapulae, or about 3 inches above where my bra usually sits.
khoc on July 7th, 2017 10:08 pm (UTC)
Good to know about the waist tape and corset layers! I'm not entirely sure what you are talk about with the busk, could you explain it more to me?
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 8th, 2017 02:38 am (UTC)
Long busks travel over the breasts... however, if a woman has large breasts they have trouble "taking the curve" when it comes to following from underbust to overbust... hence "the gap" that breasts may slouch into. Bras with underwires, for instance, are supposed to ride the ribcage and the front ends are supposed to sit *against* the skin at the breastbone...however most women do not wear bras that fit, and so the underwires ride OUT from the body in front, which makes large breasts "pool" in the cups instead of being supported by the cups.

The busk runs/works on a similar principal. Supporting those kittens in the FRONT is half the battle! (Support from the under and sides is the OTHER half of the battle) How to keep them from slouching/slumping/slipping down or being forced into a uni-boob position. A lot of people (and corsets) go for the overboob position of the busk, but really, ideally, the top of the busk should fit against the breastbone, with the tension on the cups coming from the back lacing. This ensures that there is NOWHERE for the breasts to go... but up.
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 8th, 2017 02:51 am (UTC)
I found this pic on wikipedia which (to me) shows a badly fitting corset where there is no definition of the bust area from the underbust/waist...


the conical shape does not support, it flattens the breasts...pushing them down into the corset, instead of up and above the busk. This flat, straight busk ensures that the breasts are not allowed to BE breasts... they are flattened in a style that was popular from time-to-time historically... but unless you're looking for that flatfront, barrel chested look... (which most modern silhouettes are not looking for) it means the cups are not fitting the bust. There should be no way for the breasts to fall down even when the corset is only moderately laced, because the underbust should be riding long the body, like an underwire. The bust, should be riding the body too, as closely as possible.. along the breastbone, not along the breasts... same attempted "style" of corset with VERY different results:
khoc on July 8th, 2017 03:38 am (UTC)
I found the photo of the corset I made. It's the one with the issues with bust support and back fat.

front: https://tinyurl.com/ydacermt
back: https://tinyurl.com/yc5dqbee

Originally I drafted the corset to be more cupped, but had to reduce it at the underbust and bust more and more until it became like this. Even cinching it as much as we could, she said the bust support was just enough.

Edited at 2017-07-08 03:39 am (UTC)
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 9th, 2017 01:02 pm (UTC)
O, I see! O yeah, the bust cups are too big for her, which is why I needs cinched till her back squishes.

I see so many things that you did right with this pattern, though! Great job!

However, because of the extra room in the bust, augmented by the unboned deep-v, it means that you are pushing the boobs *out* rather than *up*... which also means they are pretty "free", which could allow for unflattering things like the breasts falling together in the middle, or remaining jiggly when you might actually want them very controlled, like as if wearing a minimizer bra. The easiest fix (but depending on the style wanted, perhaps not wanted) would be to bone/lace the V-neck, with maybe 4 or 5 eyelet sets allowing the bust the be tightened to two places. Otherwise, it would be a total re-do to take in the bust seams, especially the overbust (#3 seam) seam and side-bust seam (#4 seam). (Center seam being seam #1)

It is REALLY EASY to overestimate the bust curves, especially on a busty lady. I make my OWN corsets, and I still did it on my first two or three corsets.

And as a quick finishing tip, a way to heighten the quality of the corset is to trim the modesty panel in the same fashion as the corset itself, as well as cut it to about 1/2" shorter than the actual back opening, tacking it to the inside to keep it from dropping down and becoming a 'tail'.

Corsets are THE HARDEST things to fit right.. because you *really* don't know if they are going to fit until they are sewn and tightened up! Mockups just don't have the thickness to honestly tell you how the finished corset will fit. Keep at it! YOU ARE SO CLOSE!

(I can show you what I am talking about if you want visuals)
khoc on July 9th, 2017 03:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! The cups ended up so big after taking it in at the underbust so much to try to get the support she needed. And they are so very "bug-eyed", but I ran out of time to experiment and fix it. Would I have to take it in even more at the underbust along with the bust? Logic tells me that what I take out from the bust, I should add to the back as well. It would probably help with the silhouette too..

Visuals would be very nice, if you don't mind.

All the mockups were made from duck canvas purchased from JoAnn's. I think I should find a different mock-up fabric though, because the final corset in coutil is 2 inches smaller than I would've liked, so I assume the duck canvas stretched a lot, and I transferred all the changes to the pattern without realizing that. Using coutil as a mockup fabric is not an option, it's way too expensive! Do you have any recommendations for this problem too?
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 10th, 2017 01:04 am (UTC)
Cinching at the top (at the "V", adding lacing) would pull those bug eyes a little together. Also, just a weird little biology thing to know... that at the underbust, along the breastbone there is the thoracic lymph duct that can be 'cut off' from the rest of the body by a too tight bra or corset, weakening your immune system during the time of wear. Real! A corset should feel like a firm, equally-squeezing hug.

Don't add what you take out of the bust into the back. The problem is already that the upper body is not being evenly hugged and remains loose. Getting rid of 1/8" on cut seams #2 and #3 on each side will tighten the bust, while only removing 1/2" from the circumference at the bustline, making it so it doesnt need laced-to-backfat-eruption to control the bust.

Canvas duct can be used as a mockup if you realize that it comes in one-way, two-way, and all-way stretch varieties. If the mockup is ironed to an interfacing *and* lined with muslin that is workable. I use 100% cotton denim (usually from a pile of used fat-people jeans... especially mens the ENSURE they don't have lycra/nylon) because you can get those narrow strips for corsettry, and you can even use the double-seaming to help support major seams at the front-back. Remember, denim retains some bias-stretch.

Occasionally I've found heavyweight cotton twill canvas at goodwill or value village in decent yardages. One batch I got, I think it was sail material or something, I have NO idea but checking for stretch is BIG. If it is one-way stretch, you can use it for mockups but the stretch MUST run up-down and not side-to-side or you get the problem you had. Look for 100% cotton, ...look for fabrics where you can hear the "snap" when the fabric is pulled fast between your two hands. Wash your mockup fabric in hot water and dry in a hot dryer, first.

khoc on July 10th, 2017 04:02 am (UTC)
That is very good to know, about the lymph duct! Thank you for telling me!

I'm a bit confused about not adding to the back. It already has a lot of back-fat spilling over, so if I were to take it in at the bust, wouldn't there be even more back-fat?

The Duck Canvas I use is 100% cotton, and I do prewash and dry on hot, and steam it to be sure again to be extra sure. It doesn't stretch when I pull it, at least barely. Could you explain the "snap" test?
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 10th, 2017 04:56 am (UTC)
The backfat is because the whole torso is likely being overlaced (tightened overly) just in an attempt to support the bust and make it tight THERE. If the bust fit better (tighter) you wouldn't need to overtighten the lacings just for support.. which should cut on the spillage of backfat and make it more comfortable to wear.

It sounds like you are mostly doing everything right, it is just the little things that are keeping this corset from being how you (and your customer) really want it to be. It sounds like you're doing a great job picking and pretreating fabric and all those little things that are just such a PAIN, but make all the difference.

The "snap" test is really just my way of saying pull fast/hard on the fabric in two opposite directions and hold it there.. see if you hear a crisp, clear *snap*, *crack*, or *pop* when you do that... that is a fabric that has rigid fibers, a tight weave, and minimal stretch. Fabrics missing these qualities (like linen, which is a tough-wear fabric but usually has a loose weave) will *floof* instead of *snap*. Do it in two or three directions (warp, weft, and bias) and see if it sounds different or the same. If it sounds the same in all directions, there is little/no stretch. If it sounds different in different directions...there is some stretch.

khoc on July 13th, 2017 04:21 am (UTC)
Oh I see! But, assuming I still want the same gap width in the back, would I need to add to the back?
The snap test seems like it will come in really handy!
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 13th, 2017 04:43 am (UTC)
Nope, don't add to the back. If you do, you will get a "flare" at the top in the back and it will narrow the gap in the laces. The breasts need supporting by flattening your cup-curves just a bit. That way it will fit the bust well, AND fit the torso without overcinching.

I know why you're thinking you want to add it to the back... I get the logic that's tapping on your shoulder... but don't do it. The back looks great... which seriously means "leave it alone". The bust will redistribute with the reduced cupsize (which is miniscule, but will make all the difference) and the backfat is coming from having to overtighten the corset just to control the bust. Control the bust without overcinching, and the corset can be worn more gently (not so cinched) which will ease the overflow in back, make it more comfortable to wear, and keep her with a very sexy silhouette and an even-spaced backlacing.
khoc on July 13th, 2017 04:57 am (UTC)
Thanks for being patient with me! Haha, I think I understand now. Hopefully the next corset I make will have it right! Thank you so much!
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 13th, 2017 05:29 am (UTC)
I've made mistakes in every corset and bodice I've ever made... I feel like I'm inventing the wheel EVERYTIME, even when I *think* I thought it through SO WELL!

I'd recommend finding some of the corset/costume people around here... I really love JenThompson (find her in my friends list?) who does lovely work, including the occasional foundational garment.

Making MY OWN corset was hard enough. Making them for others? It's SO much harder. And, I think it's cool (and extra challenging) project for a male (SEAMister? ha!)sew-er to make!
khoc on July 14th, 2017 01:43 am (UTC)
Haha! I'm glad I'm not the only one! I wish there were classes on drafting a corset pattern (not from scale or photocopies, but actual pattern drafting), and all fit issues and how to fix them. I know Foundation's Revealed has a tutorial, but I haven't had much success with it, the ones I draft fro scratch seem to work better initially than the pattern I get from the tutorial, but that might just be me.

How do I access your friend list? I can't seem to click the button, haha.

It is pretty frustrating and challenging for me. I'm more into making structured garments, so corsets are just another step for me. It also doesn't help that I don't have a dress form... haha Thankfully I have a couple friends to help me learn!
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 14th, 2017 05:30 am (UTC)
I got into corsets through costuming, especially period costuming and fantasy costuming where corsets are pretty crucial. So that is where a lot of my info comes from. I can offer you some tips like:

Laughing Moon Patterns
(Instructional DVD on sewing corsets SOLD HERE!!)

Janet Arnold books
are SO INTERESTING! I won't link to amazon, but you can find them through most good used book retailers.

I like the youtube tutorials for *small* technical things but not for over all processes. Want to learn french seams, or use a ruffling-foot, or make smooth welted pockets, YOUTUBE IS AWESOME. So if you go with a specific question, there are good vids. Overall corset process vids/series I am less impressed.

I added you to my friends list, if that helps?

I've used patterns (and have a purchased pattern collection) but I prefer drafting my own, and just... started doing that, because that way I got WHAT I WANTED. As time went on my mistakes are smaller and smaller... but, I still make them ALL THE TIME. I am not a perfectionist, though. My patterns come out good, but my technical sewing is subpar. :/
khoc on July 14th, 2017 06:07 am (UTC)
My sewing accuracy and skill isn't where I want them to be either. I do use youtube for things I forget or don't know. It really is fantastic.

I do want to get to the point where I can make reliable self drafted patterns. Do they have corset pattern drafting books?
GeminiWenchgeminiwench on July 14th, 2017 06:35 am (UTC)
I really appreciate that I can sit on a couch, staring at a bolt of fabric, and then attack it with my measuring tape, pins, and a piece of chalk and MAKE IT HAPPEN by myself.
I *love* that feeling.

I just do the measurements,
do the math, and know how garment pieces (piecing) work along different fashion rules/styles historically and learn my fabrics strengths/weaknesses.

Absolutely there are corset patterning books, but I'm not well versed in what's available, so my recommendation wouldn't be worth much.

I think the big deal is getting better at *technically* sewing and understanding fit, because THAT is what making a corset, tests. Which is probably why I love/hate them!
khoc on July 19th, 2017 02:57 pm (UTC)
I would love to be brave enough to do that! I have a long way to go before then though. And you're right, technical sewing and fit is the majority of the battle in sewing clothing.
helenatroy on July 5th, 2017 10:02 pm (UTC)
Somewhere on this community (I think you'll be going back to the 2012 time zone...) there was an excellent post about this - I think the OP was Cathy Hay, but she used a different name...)

Anyway, the long and short is (if I can recall correctly) to add more room/ease (if you can speak of ease in a corset) in the upper part of the panels at the side of the body.
khoc on July 7th, 2017 10:07 pm (UTC)
Do you remember the name, or the name of the article? I'm not entirely sure what to look for.. haha
So you're saying to add ease to the top of the corset to fix the back fat? Wouldn't there be even less bust support?
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on July 26th, 2017 07:19 pm (UTC)
Greetings! I'm very, very late to this conversation, so please forgive me my tardiness.

I'm pretty sure it was Cathy Hay, and the entry helenatroy is referring to was in her journal, at one point under the name "harmonhay and more recently under peacockdress.
The thrust of what helenatroy is and Cathy was saying is this, that when you cinch in the waist of a corset with an hourglass figure---more or less an hourglass, anyway---that displaced flesh, even on a very slender person, has to go somewhere, and where it goes is up around the shoulder blades, resulting in "back fat," or down over the abdomen, hips and buttocks, depending on its original distribution in the case of the lower body.
So, when you create ease in the corset, either below the corset's (and your) waistline, that lower body flesh has someplace to go, just as it has some place to go and still be covered without creating "back cleavage" above the top of the corset back.
BUT---it does matter where this ease is created, not just whether it's "at the topline" or "at the hem," but whether it's added as a gore or to one or both edges of a piece of the corset other than the center front piece or pieces or the center back or other back pieces.

Edited at 2017-07-28 03:33 pm (UTC)
khoc on August 13th, 2017 06:13 pm (UTC)
I see! I've always wondered about the amount of ease in the corset. In drafting patterns, do you know how much ease is added around the ribs to create certain silhouettes? Assuming it begins as just an absolutely straight line from the waist to the underbust, at what point does the additional ease cause the corset to go from being a conical, to a hourglass, or cupped rib? I was thinking of doing test corsets of increasing ease to figure it out, but perhaps asking might me more efficient.
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on August 15th, 2017 11:56 pm (UTC)
It's not additional ease which changes a conical "paire of bodyes" [payre of bodies and other various spellings but we're talking here about 16thC/1500's "corsets".) Those conical corsets were meant in the 1500s and early 1600s to create a look very much like a man's torso: flattened breasts and, in cross-section, an oblong waist which was not much compressed, the entire paire of bodyes being only snug enough to keep everything in place and not intended to compress anything either abnormally or painfully tightly.
I know you're not talking about creating a conical set of stays, here, but just so you know, as a general rule the "stayed" part of that undergarment comes only to the waistline (the natural waistline) except in the very front if the stays have that pointed dropped waistline in front. The tabs you see do no functional shaping: they're there to keep the stays in place (you put the waistband of your petticoat or verdugarde/farthingale) under them at the natural waistline if there's that front point/dip or at the sides and around the tabs to the back if there isn't or if the front dip isn't very pronounced or isn't sufficiently pronounced. This is for stability and comfort, so the stays don't shift and don't dig.
Originally, these stays or "paires of bodies" were stiffened with "bents," a type of sea grass found on sand dunes, or with "lady's bedstraw" or something called "cleavers" which was also sometimes used to stuff mattresses,or other vegetative matter, but understand: "other" doesn't mean "any."

Fast-forward to the mid-1800's until the end of that century: The hourglass corset is cut differently, without seams at the waist---as a rule, and it is boned or "stayed" differently, too. It is meant to make the waistline of the body smaller which in turn is meant to make the hips and the breasts or bustline appear larger (according to social anthropologist Desmond Morris, this among non-human primates signals readiness for breeding. According to other historians and anthropologists and probably psychologists, too, the cage crinoline of the 1850's/1860's in conjunction with the waist-reducing corset was a way of making the waist look small and the breasts larger and the hips, although artificially so, enormous, and was signaling, "Ready and able, so come hither---but don't touch until given permission" because the crinoline kept a man at some relative distance.)
That hourglass corset has fewer bones, but they were stiffer whalebone or in some instances steel. The cut of the corset did the work of reducing, constraining, and supporting, with the steels or bones preventing the garment from buckling and wrinkling, which fabric under strain is almost bound to do.

I'm not sure what you mean by "cupped rib." Are you talking about a corset with demi-cups to hold the breasts?

Now about the ease. This is my personal take on it, but you are going to have to do a bit of experimenting. Understand that "ease" isn't like dressmaking ease or design ease (even though you'll design it in) with a certain amount of unoccupied space between the garment and the body. All of an hourglass corset must hug your body snugly, but while you may be tight-lacing at the waist, if you make the fit at the hips and the bust less snug but still firm enough to prevent both corset and body parts from moving around, you should be all right.

Are you familiar with this website:
...or the book on which it is based, Norah Waugh's "Corsets and Crinolines?" If you're going to be making corsets, even just one and for only one period, this is a book I think you'll want to read. It's full of the author's observations, will show you the evolution of the "stayed" or "corseted" waist, and it's also loaded with contemporary commentary from various personages throughout the centuries it represents.

Hope this has been some small help.

Please let us know how you get on! :^)
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on August 16th, 2017 12:17 am (UTC)
Also, to supply you with some numbers:

Start with a 2" (5cm) reduction at the waist, the fullest part of the hips, and the bust on your hourglass corset.
Then, if you cinch the waist tighter by reducing the waist measurement of the corset, open the bust line by enough that you can breathe, at least, and the hip line on the corset that you don't feel your legs are being cut off or that any bone (on your fitting or trial corset) is about to puncture your lower body.
You'll know how much ease you need by the "spread" of the lacing gap down the back. Once the corset fits correctly, that gap should lace evenly (at least that's an ideal in the minds of many, many wearers and makers of corsets) so if you have a 1" (2.5cm) gap at the waistline, (expect a gap; these corsets usually laced up with space between the lacing edges down the back) and a 4" gap at the bust line and a 5" gap at the hips, that will tell you how much ease you need, but remember that a corset does have to hold your figure securely.

Hoping this, too, is of some help.
khoc on August 16th, 2017 06:25 am (UTC)
Going to have to read through that a few times to absorb everything, thank you for all the info! I found this image of the cupped rib/conical silhouettes I was talking about here:

I'm more wondering how much extra space is needed to achieve the different silhouettes.
virginiadear: LaBellavirginiadear on August 16th, 2017 05:14 pm (UTC)
The amount of extra space needed above and/or below the waist (of the corset) will be determined by how much extra space you need to feel comfortable while not allowing the corset's upper or lower half, or both halves, to shift around on your body, yet without producing rolls or bulges above the topline or below the bottom edge.

What I was trying to explain regarding the original conical silhouette (which is what I thought you were talking about) and the later, hourglass silhouette was that it wasn't a question of adding ease but rather of an [almost] entirely different cut.

At the link you've provided, it appears as if the difference between conical and not conical is achieved not by adding ease so much as cinching in the corset below the ribs, and possibly above the pelvic girdle. Below the ribs is achieved by pulling in the corset, cutting it smaller and tighter at the waist and up to the floating rib (which may or may not be drastically compressed---I advocate against squishing ribs abnormally tightly.)

You don't actually need extra space to achieve the different silhouettes. The extra space allows you to breathe more easily, dance without getting winded (or fainting) more readily and more easily, and helps to prevent "back fat roll" or "butt cleavage" forming between your shoulder blades, either one or both a singularly unattractive look.
In period, meaning during the decades when such corsets were worn, one solution to the back fat roll which could, would and did get formed even on very slender ladies while wearing their corsets, was a "berthe" of pleated fabric, or of lace, to hide the bulge or ridge.