The Secret of the Single Layer Corset

Somewhere in the Victorian era, people started coming up with ideas for making corsets more comfortable to wear. Gigglishiously ironical though that may sound, some great innovations came out of it. One of my favs is the single layer corset – no lining, no interlining, just a base layer of fabric and some boning. If you do outdoor events in the summer, it’s a trick worth adapting. (“It’s period! It’s just not quite your period, dear rennie…” says the voice of evil. Heh. ;)  )

So what’s the big secret?


A single layer corset, like any other corset, needs two things:

  1. a way to hold its bones securely
  2. a way to hide the ugly

For the bones, you’ll want a big ol’ batch of bias tape. I recommend making your own, since you’ll save a bunch of money and you won’t be tied to whatever odd assortment of colors the nice folks at Wright’s have decided are worthy of bias-tape-dom. Bias tape will also figure into the “hide the ugly” portion of the single layer corset.

Here’s the trick:

pieces assembled with seams on outside

Start by sewing your corset pieces WRONG sides together. This will put your seams on the outside of the corset. I’ve sewn my seam allowances down about 1/8″ from the original seam for extra strength, and I’m trimming them.

waist stay pieces

The design I’m working with has a decorative waist stay on the outside of the corset. (This is a good idea if you’re going single-layer with a waisted corset.) The real strength comes from duck cloth, but I’m covering it with the same twill I used for the bias tape.

stay pieces ironed

The fastest way to do that is to cut the business portion of the stay without seam allowances, whack out the pretty layer with something at least resembling your normal seam allowance, then iron the seam allowances of the pretty layer over the edge of the business layer. You’re looking at the back of the piece, btw.

If that all seems like a lot of bother, you could just use a pretty ribbon. ;) Heck, you could use ribbons for the boning casings as well. I’m using bias because most of my casing lines are curved.

waist stay stitched

Stitch down whatever waist stay you’re using. (Sorry about the busk in the picture. I was more planning for the busk demo than this one when I did the photography!)

additional bust support

Depending on the size of the bust you mean to support, you might want to add a second layer to the corset just at the bust. 

The original this is based on used corded coutil. Mine is made of two bits of twill and 2 layers of 1/8″ cotton quilt batting channel stitched together. I only need to make the bottom edge pretty – everything else will be hidden by other elements of the corset…

busk inserted

If you’re using a front closing busk, now is a good time to put it in. It’s way easier to do before the rest of the bones are in.

Not sure how to put in a closing busk? Try this.

seams covered with bias

Cover all of your seams with bias tape. Your seams are now super-reinforced, so you can stop having nightmares about spontaneous corset explosion… Not that I still have those or anything…

I’m actually using these as functional boning channels, as well. I find that boning the curved seams really helps shape the finished corset.

boning channels added

Add the rest of your boning channels.


inserting boning with pliers

Insert your boning. This can get a little dicey in the channels that have seams hidden in them, and where the boning goes over the waist stay. I like to use pliers to push the boning into the channels. It’s easier on the hands that way.

edges bound with bias

Bind the edges of the corset off with bias.

Whack some grommets in, and you’re good to go.

inside of corset showing stitching lines

Here’s an inside view of the corset – you can see all of the stitching lines, but there aren’t any unfinished edges lurking about.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s unfinished bits inside of a project. It’s like they’re just waiting for a chance to rear their ugly little heads and shame you publicly…

So, if this is a single layer corset, how come the back of the body is different to the front? The reason I’m using this technique is because I wanted to make the corset out of this lovely, completely inappropriate, chocolate brown twill. So I flat-mounted the twill pieces on duck that matches the twill I used for the bias. (Flat-mount is a clever way of saying, “I stacked two pieces and treated them like one while sewing.”

finished corset

The finished corset.

12 thoughts on “The Secret of the Single Layer Corset

  1. Ava Trimble says:

    (Flat-mount is a clever way of saying, “M ……?

    But where did the end go?!

    7 years ago | Reply

    • missa says:

      Yikes! Sorry – lost something in an edit! That should read, “Flat mount is a clever way of saying treat-these-like-one-piece-now”

      More better? ;)

      7 years ago | Reply

  2. Jamie says:

    I am SO going to try this for next year? I’m going to try my hand at going all lady-like and this corset might make it half-way bearable in So Cali heat! Thanks!

    6 years ago | Reply

    • missa says:

      Hey, Jamie – If you’re not trying to support too much of a bust/waist curve, you can actually interline your bodice with plastic canvas instead of using a separate boned corset. While this is entirely apocryphal and Comepletely Wrong(tm), of course, it will give you an effect not entirely unlike those bizarrely stiff Italian bodices while still allowing airflow. (If you have a larger bust proportional to your waist, it’s not going to provide enough structure to support the bust. It will keep the bodice stiff around the bust if you give it a titch of ease, but you’re on your own for cleavage.)

      6 years ago | Reply

  3. Britt van der Meer says:

    hey, I’m used to making corsets with coutil… this can never be as strong right? I’m very curious, please let me know!

    5 years ago | Reply

  4. Lacey Russell says:

    Curious what pattern did you use. I am my mother are using duck and denim to build a corset. I was very curious about your pattern.

    4 years ago | Reply

  5. Priscila says:

    I wish I could see HOW you sewed the bias tape over the seams. I have a good idea on my mind but I’m not sure if this is what you did and if it would work… To be honest I’ve only worked with bias tape once and I’m not THAT familiar with it

    3 years ago | Reply

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