I have been wearing corsets on and off since I was 17, however in the last year I have taken a greater interest in their construction and history. In order to learn more, I subscribed to Foundations Revealed and devoured the articles discussing pattern drafting, corset fabrication, materials and fabrics required, and embellishment. Armed with my newfound knowledge (what I could understand anyway!), coutil and a pattern I found on Etsy, I set out to make my first corset. I enjoyed the process of making the toile, amending the pattern as best I could, then making the actual corset, inserting the busk (it’s the best feeling!) and lacing it onto myself. I spent three days on my corset from start to finish, and I loved every minute of it. This is what I ended up with:
What I discovered through this entire process was that, it was easy to make a corset, but its very difficult to make a corset well without a lot of trial and error, or guidance from a corsetiere. I had read all the advice, tips and tricks that my brain could absorb, but I didn’t always understand why I would use one technique over another, or how to execute it well.
As such, I decided to seek out a teacher. I discovered that Lowana, the extremely talented corsetiere behind Vanyanis, teaches classes in Victoria. I was already familiar with her work and knew that she produces some of the most beautiful and exquisitely crafted corsets I had ever seen. I had also read the articles she wrote for Foundations Revealed, and could tell that she was maticulous and exact in everything that she does, which were characteristics I felt that are incredibly important when constructing a corset. I booked myself in and excitedly started counting down the days until the class started.
The weekend of the course arrived, and I was beyond excited! We arrived at Lowana’s studio and met the other ladies who would be participating in the three day course, there were four of us in total, plus Lowana. I really liked that the class size was so small – there were enough of us to make it fun, but not too many that we felt we wouldn’t get enough one-on-one guidance with Lowana.
To kick off the course, we all introduced ourselves and discussed some of the myths surrounding corsetry. Lowana also showed us through some of the beautiful books she has collected over the years, then demonstrated some different construction techniques on her own pieces. It was great to see some of her corsets up close, after following her work, she really make some of the most well constructed and beautiful corsets I have ever seen! It was also the first time that I had seen flossing in real life.
We then took our measurements, which can be daunting, but is essential to getting an excellent fit.
We were then ready to get making our toiles! Lowana discussed how to make a toile by altering an existing pattern, which is something that I was very interested in learning, as I felt that it had been an aspect that was blocking me big time. Sure, I can make a toile and nip it here, let it out there…but then how the heck would I translate it back on the paper pattern?? Lowana guided us patietly through the entire process and I feel like I can now take that new knowledge and apply it not only to corsets but other garments too.
By the end of the day, we each had a custom fit corset, to our exact measurements and with little changes to prevent the dreaded back bulge. Perfect!
The next step was to cut out the fabric for the final corset, and what I mean by this is cut out the bloody expensive fabric that you really must not screw up because $$$. Yes that’s right, I cut something that I shouldn’t have cut, but Lowana always has a solution to every problem, so I only panicked for a few minutes! I didn’t realise how adding even one millimeter per panel, through inaccurate cutting for example, could majorly affect the sizing of the final corset.
I was excited to move on to the busk panels, as this was one of the things that intimidated me before I had even tried. I had successfully inserted and secured the busk using Scarlett Sapsford’s video tutorial, but Lowana’s technique and guidance took my work from ‘ok’ to ‘great’. Scarlett’s tutorial helped me so much, but you just can’t beat one-on-one tuition. However, I would highly recommend paying for her step-by-step corset making course if you’re interested in making corsets.
Another aspect of corsetry that has really frustrated me was bias-binding. I tried so hard to replicate the sewing on the corsets I own, but it invariably ended up being a huge mess. During this course, we learned how to stitch on bias-binding like pros! Check out my before and after photo:
I don’t think I need to say anything else, really!
We then moved on the sewing the remaining panels to each other, applying the waist tape, sewing on the boning channels and then, my least favourite part… putting the grommets in. I have previously struggled with this process, and enlisted Mr Swish’s help – I would I would attempt to make holes in the fabric with an awl (don’t do it) and he would hammer in the eyelets. It took forever and wasn’t fun. Lowana, as she did throughout the course, took us through the process step-by-step and made it easier by… duh duh duh… introducing us to the correct tools!
The final step was to finish the bias binding and add the bones, then I could put it on and lace it up. I was so excited to try on my new corset, and was even more excited to feel how comfortable it was to wear, and how stunning it looked, I couldn’t believe that I had made it! Having worn quite a stiff, two layered corset every day for the last few months, it felt great to wear a single layer corset that felt soft and moulded itself to my body.
I would wholeheartedly recommend attending Lowana’s classes. For someone who, this time last year couldn’t even thread a sewing machine, I think I managed to make a damn good corset to be honest! Not only will you learn skills that have taken Lowana years to learn yourself, but you will also come away from the course with a custom-made corset to wear. I can honestly say that Lowana is a very patient and methodical teacher, who made me feel confident with everything that I have learned, but also with experiementing in the future.
The last thing is that, Lowana has a seriously cute cat called Nomi who you all need to meet. Bonus.