This article describes how to add a triangular or trapezoidal gore into a fabric panel on a finished corset. When modifying the size and shape of a corset, every situation is unique. No one method will work for all situations, but where possible I mention alternatives while describing the process I used for one particular corset.
Why does this matter? Well, if you have a corset, but the bottom or top is just a little too small, you may want to consider adding gores to re-create it as a unique garment designed to fit you. In eras where corsets were a common (or required) undergarment, this kind of modification was a common approach to changing fashions, or fitting an existing corset to a new owner. Many extant corsets underwent modification and alteration, because it sometimes takes less time and is far less expensive than the materials required for an entirely new corset. Other times the difficulty involved in modifying a corset is prohibitive, so approach your modification project creatively and critically.
Before doing anything to your corset, examine it carefully, looking at the locations of the bones and evaluating their locations relative to how much material needs to be added and where it should ideally be placed for the most comfortable fit. There needs to be enough un-boned fabric in the right locations for adding the gores and securing them to the body of the corset. You will need at least 1/4″ of unboned fabric on all sides of the intended gore location. If your corset does not allow this, it may not be possible to modify by adding gores.
For this particular corset, I needed to add nearly 2″ to each half of the corset. In order to evenly distribute that circumference along the hip I wanted to add two gores, one towards the front of the hip, and one at the back of the hip. Where the panel is wide enough to bunch between the bones are the places where it will be the easiest to add gores.
Inserting a Triangular Gore
For the gore at the front of the hip, the only possible location was on the fourth panel back, which on this particular corset sits at the front of the hip as part of the transition to the side of the corset. The space between the bones is angled to a point, so the only kind of gore I can insert here will be a triangular one, inserted into a slash in the fabric.
The first thing to do is mark the location of the slash in chalk and again examine the location before doing anything permanent to the corset. I decided to place the slash at the mid point of the panel, and will shape the gore so it helps spring the hip out more from that point.
Set your machine for a very small stitch. I used just under the “2” setting on my machine. The smaller stitch will help to secure individual threads from fraying or pulling loose while working with the slash later on.
The first stitch should be precisely down the slash line. It will be cut later, but in the meantime will serve as a solid guide for all preparations.
After stitching the slash line, stitch again approximately 1/16″ (or just a couple millimeters) to either side of the slash line. Again, this is to secure all the threads from pulling apart while working with the fabric.
Stitch again to either side of those stitches. Be sure to come up to the point of the slash, and taper down slightly so none of the stitches peek out later.
Before cutting the corset, prepare your gores. Measure the length of the slash and use that distance as the length on either side of the gores. I want to help the hip spring out, especially higher along the gore (due to specific fit issues with this corset – you may want a gentler slope for yours), so the gores in this case let out rather quickly and then more gently. Another issue with the fit of this particular corset was some slight asymetry, requiring a bit more room on the left hip than the right.
Each gore has a 3/8″ allowance on all sides (including the bottom, so I have some room to adjust when inserting), and the point where it matches the top of the slash is marked with a dot. I cut the core fabric and the cover fabric. The left hip is on the right (stage left) and the right hip is on the left (stage right).
Flatline the layers of the gore so you can treat them as a single unit. The stitches are 1/4″ from the edge of the gores, which will leave me with 1/8″ of overlap past the stitches when inserting.
Once the gores are prepared, slash the body of the corset.
Variation: If there is enough room on your corset, you may be able to fold over the slash edge to create a nice border for the gore. If you plan to do that, be sure to add the width of the fold-over to your gore.
I did not have room for a fold-over on this corset, so I decided to bind the raw edges with bias tape. Stitch the bias tape to the edge, tapering down slightly towards the tip of the slash so it will be easier to cover with stitches later.
Fold under the edging and top-stitch to secure it.
Repeat on the other raw edge. The tip of the slash will still be raw.
Place the gore so the dot is at the tip of the slash and insert the machine needle to hold it in place. Arrange the gore so the side you are working is 3/8″ overlapped by the corset body and hold it in place. Depending upon the relative shapes of the corset and gore, you may need to hold only a short distance from the needle, secure it, and re-position the next short distance until the side of the gore is entirely stitched to the body of the corset. You can also try pinning to hold the gore in place if you have trouble manipulating the layers by hand while sewing.
Stitch at the very edge of the slash and again 1/4″ into the corset.
Those stitches will hold it while working, but may not be sturdy enough to hold once the corset is being worn. I strongly recommend adding more stitches of some sort to ensure the gore does not pull free. I used a decorative machine stitch, but multiple straight stitches will work just as well. Try to pick something that blends with the overall look of the corset you are modifying.
To finish the gore, hand-stitch at the apex. This will cover all remaining frayed edges, and secure the tip of the gore in place. Most period Victorian corsets with gores had some sort of hand treatment to hold the points of gores, so there are a lot of examples to view for inspiration. If you are reluctant to hand-stitch, an alternative would be to apply a small placket over the tip of the gore. Again, stitch it down securely because this point will be prone to pulling free if not firmly held in place.