Choosing the right fabric for corset making
When making a corset one of the first choices you will have to make is what fabric to use. (you can also use leather, and Xyla Foxlin made one out of wood, but both of those are beyond the scope of this blog post). When choosing fabrics there are several questions one should start with:
- What is the corset for?
- Is it intended to be an accurate historical reproduction?
- Will it be worn around an open flame?
- Do you want it to be machine washable?
- Will it be worn as an undergarment or a top-layer garment?
In any case, you want a fabric that is woven and not knit. Knit fabrics will stretch and not provide the support you want/need. You will also want a fabric that is reasonably sturdy and stable. If you are going to be wearing it in hot weather (say at a ren-faire) I would suggest a 100% natural fiber. While it is possible to make a corset from poly-rayon it will have an effect similar to wrapping your torso in plastic wrap and going out in the hot sun. (Silk works well but will be a different blog post)
Cotton duck or canvas is a good choice. It is easy to find, generally affordable, and pretty rugged. (Different weights exist of duck). In general, the default duck cloth will be off-white but many other colors exist. The off-white version of duck is quite good for making a corset that will be worn as an undergarment. Or duck can be used as a stiffness layer.
Denim is also a solid choice. (just make sure to get one that is 100% cotton and not stretchy). Like duck, it is a pretty hard-wearing cotton fabric which is why it is often used in jeans and similar types of garments.
Many other kinds of cotton can be used. Shirt-weight cotton will work well for a lining but may be a bit too thin for an actual corset body.
Linen is wonderful to work with. It presses really well and breaths very nicely in hot weather. I like 5.0-8.0 oz linens for corset making. Strong enough to do the job but not to heavy for many uses. Linens should be pre-washed and pressed really well with an iron. Linen has naturally long fibers so it sometimes will appear to wrinkle more than cotton but that can be fixed with a steam iron.
A fine wool suiting can make a very nice corset. I suggest finding one on the discount or remeant table if you can as they can be quite expensive. Wool suiting can in fact be quite cool in summer. In addition, wool will be quite easy to form into shapes around the bust or hips with a tailor's ham and a lot of steam. When working with wool press the hell out of it and it will stay in the shape you put it in.
Also know that if you make a corset out of wool you will want to hand wash it or dry clean. In general, wearing a layer under it should prevent it from having to be washed very often.