Friday, 27 February 2015

The Great British Sewing Bee Does Corsets - Part 1

So last night was the ‘Structure’ episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, which meant corsetry. Making corsets was the technical challenge for the episode, followed by a short piece on the ‘history of the corset’. I’ve put that in inverted commas for a reason, which I’ll get to in my next post!

First things first, thoughts on the contestants’ corsets.

The Corsets

Image from The Great British Sewing Bee Facebook page.
(Of course, this is also another gratuitous Patrick pic, what can I say?)
I’ve got to say, I’m really impressed with what they made! Particularly considering the limitations, which I’ll discuss in a moment, they produced some really pretty garments!

Amanda (a fellow teacher) made her own bias binding, but alas that slowed her down and meant she didn’t quite get finished in time, but top marks for effort and trying to give that fine finish.

Some of the materials they used were appropriate, such as eyelets and spiral steel boning (no rigilene, as some feared, which is a small victory in itself). Rigilene doesn’t work well for corsetry (it’s far too flimsy, for one thing), so it was great to see them working with steel boning.

And I must say just how envious I am that they had access to hand presses for the eyelets! I so badly want one, but they are so expensive! A hand press is definitely on my to-save-for list, but they’re not a necessity for corsetry, so we can do without!

But, those limitations:

  • They had four hours to make their pieces – I definitely couldn’t make one of my corsets in that time (though I do cut and tip my own boning and hand-finish my binding, for example).
  • There were some nice things about the pattern they followed – the seamlines down the front and the top and bottom lines were attractive – but there wasn’t much curve to the pattern. It clearly wouldn’t give any reduction and was quite tubular.
  • It didn’t look like they had access to fabrics specifically made for corsetry, ie coutil.  Instead the contestants were left to choose their own fabrics from the usual haberdashery. If they’d been able to use coutil, they would have had much better results, without so much rippling seen in some of the pieces made in finer cottons (looked like a couple were made in poplin, for example).

Get Your Supplies

If you want to make a corset using the right fabric, my favourite suppliers are Vena Cava and Sew Curvy, both UK-based (both ship internationally, though, so go ahead if you’re not in the UK yourself).  

In celebration of the Sewing Bee's corsets, Burda Style are currently giving away this downloadable corset pattern for free - I haven't used this pattern myself, but it does look quite tubular, I'm afraid.  But fear not, if you want something more curvy, Sew Curvy have launched their first corset pattern this week, which promises to be more hourglass - again, I haven't tried this one myself, but Julia is a specialist in corsetry, so she knows what she's doing!

Over to You

What did you think of last night’s Sewing Bee?  Did it give you the courage to try out making your first corset?  Do you have questions about how to do that?   What did you think of the contestant’s pieces?

Watch out for my next post where I'll look at the 'history' part of the show!


  1. I was very annoyed at the history segment. If you can't breathe in all corsets why aren't I dead? Silly people.

    1. I know, right?! I felt so much rage, I had to separate my thoughts on that into a separate post ... and then wait almost a week before I published it! So disappointed in the BBC!

    2. Are you wearing modern corsets or vintage ones? I used to stage manage at a London fetish club and remember the agony my friend went through at the end of every night when we helped her unlace her corset as all her internal organs went back to their allotted places. She said that the old whalebone and steel corsets were far more restrictive - so I'm not so sure the programme got the historical aspect wrong. Modern corsets tend to be designed by women for women - rather than men imposing their "ideals". It was disappointing that they didn't mention the amazing corsets you can now get - but showing how easy it can be to make one will, I think, make people dip their toes in. :O)

  2. Me too! I think they need some REAL history lessons from the REAL experts in corsetry. I was really disappointed that they did not mention anything about finishing the inside of the corset, nor interfacing flimsy fashion fabric or lining the inside. What they made were just strapless tops, not corsets.


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