Thursday, 3 December 2009

Dress foundation with corsetry

The dress foundation ... Sometimes it's called a 'corsolette' but really, a corsolette has bra cups built in - it's a cross between a girdle, a waist cincher and a bra. Corsolettes are used alot in couture garments and I would have made one for this, only I haven't mastered bra cups yet!! So this is the other type which just goes straight over the bust - like a corset, and extends up to 6 inches below the waist. Mine is 3 inches below the waist, ending at the upper hip line as shown.

Foundations are used in couture not for figure control but to add structure and support to the bodice - the garment itself. In couture, they are made of thin cotton fabric or net with light metal bones but my foundation is made from coutil - a traditional corset fabric. More about that in my next post.
Here is a basic body block. This is what all patterns are drafted from. It has your basic darts at the shoulder, waist and hip lines. The shoulder and waist darts meet at the bust point. The bust point is where your nipple is. Exactly. So it's different for everyone. All darts above the waist, pass through the bust point before they go anywhere else.

This block has an extended shoulder dart (width) - this is because of the strapless nature of the foundation/dress, there is no 'arm' to hold the dress up from the shoulder, so it needs to be a bit tighter - no ease allowed.

To make the shape of my dress, after extending the dart, I draw in a curved line where I want the top of the dress to be. Yep .. it's as simple as that. There will be further adjustments to be made during fitting but really, making a pattern is just knowing how to place a series of lines and curves. It's experience which improves technique!

So here are the four pattern pieces for the foundation. Can you see how they relate to the modified block? All I've done is cut through the darts and over the top curve that I drew in. Cutting four pieces like this will give a much closer fitting than if it was done by sewing darts into the pattern as you might do in a dress. Essentially, this is how corsets are made too.

Once the peices are cut on a double layer of fabric, you have 8 peices (obviously) forming 2 sides. And here's what they look like.

This is the toile. Actually ... this is the SECOND toile!! The first one didn't have the right line - too low cut, so I altered it and cut it again. I was a bit lazy and made it only from a single layer of calico with bone chanles made from cotton twill tape. The trouble I found with this is that although the bust line was perfect, as soon as I put a metal bone through the bust chanel the boob flattened out! That's not supposed to happen! Also the calico wrinkled up - my bones are probably too heavy for it.

So I had to decide which bones to use in order to provide the best bust contour. I used a combination. Flexible spiral steel bones for the curvy channels either side of the bust, and down the side seams, flat steel bones in the flat channels - the back and chest middle. Plastic riglene over the bust. These are warped into shape with an iron to match my exact contour. They become quite rigid after heating, and slip very snugly into a bone channel made from bias tape. When in the correct place, the shape of the plastic boning holds because that's the shape the seams are.

The toile then has to be fitted very very snugly - it will be tighter than the dress but not uncomfortable or restricting. There are bones over all of the seams and also in the middle of each panel.

Tomorrow I'll show you the finished foundation and explain how it fits together.


  1. I think maybe you should have been making Elizabeth's dress!! And I can never rely on my nipples to be in the same position from hour to hour so would be unable to line anything up with them exactly. Maybe I could line the darts up with where I'd like my nipples to be? x

  2. You've just given me some very useful hints for altering a pattern I have been stuggling with - and made me realise why the darts look so wrong - surprise, surprise, my bust point is not where they think it should be!

  3. Wow,how you draw up a pattern for your corsets or dresses always amazes me. I know for me I just wouldnt have the paitents or perserverance. But I so love seeing how you work.

    Cant wait to see more, hope things are not too manic for you judging from your last post. Hope you can take some time out for yourself.


  4. Thanks for your kind comment on my dress! This entry is so relevant to me right now - I am making a strapless dress for a Christmas dance, and although it will have only a slightly boned bodice (being an A cup, it really only has to stay up!) there is still a lot to think about. I have lots to learn, and this is very interesting!