This tutorial walks you through the process of taking a scale underbust pattern and transforming it into a full-size pattern, altering it as needed to fit your measurements. Included are four vertical-panel underbust patterns you can use to create your own pattern. The alteration information in this tutorial can also be used to help you modify a commercial pattern to fit.
I use inches in the description because that is the measurement scale I work with the most often. The scale patterns are marked with a grid, not with specific measurement marks, so you can count the squares in centimeters instead of inches. If you are working in centimeters, when in the instructions it says to round to the nearest 1/4″, or add/subtract in 1/4″ increments, instead round/modify by 1cm or 1/2cm increments.
Whether you self-draft, work from scale, or start from a commercial pattern, you will need some pattern-making supplies. On the cheap end you can use a pencil, tissue paper, tape, any ruler, a length of string, and a basic calculator. On the expensive end you can use a pencil, butcher paper or pattern drafting paper, tape, a large clear ruler, a flexible ruler, and a graphing calculator.
In this tutorial I have included four scale patterns for you to work with, or you can work from a scale pattern from elsewhere. Many books on corsets will contain scale patterns and photos of finished corsets. Scale patterns can also be found on the internet from time to time, and in patent databases. No matter where you start for your pattern, expect to alter it if you want a perfect fit.
Your Body Measurements
Take your measurements. Be sure to take the measurements described on my How to Measure for a Corset page. The instructions in this tutorial assume you are working from the same measurements I use.
You want your finished corset to be barely snug at the top and bottom, thereby avoiding muffin-top or looking like an overstuffed sausage. You will need some waist reduction or the corset will shift and chafe when worn, but exactly how much is comfortable will vary from person to person. 10% is typical for a light-lace corset, and a safe number for a first-time corset. I also strongly advise leaving a 2”-3” gap in the back for fit adjustments when wearing.
The waist of your corset should fall somewhere between your natural waist and smallest waist. If you place the waist of the corset lower than your natural waist, as you move around the corset will have a tendency to try and travel to your natural waist. However, if the waist of the corset is at your natural waist and your smallest waist is significantly smaller, the uneven compression can cause discomfort and the corset may travel towards the smallest waist. In general, favor the natural waist unless the smallest waist is much smaller. If you can’t decide, put it half-way between and reduce the waist measurement based on the larger waist. After wearing your creation a couple times you will have a better feeling for how your body wears a corset and what might help your next corset be more comfortable.
To figure out your waist reduction, take your waist measurement and move the decimal place to the left by one number. That means if your waist measurement is 30”, you will reduce by 3”, making your corset waist 27”. If your waist measurement is 25”, you will reduce by 2.5”, making your corset waist 22.5”. If the number you get sounds scary, add back a bit. The lacing gap in the back will allow you to cinch tighter or let it out as needed for a more comfortable fit.
Corset patterns usually show ½ of the body, expecting your left and right halves to be symmetrical. To find out what the measurements of the pattern are, simply add up the width of the pattern pieces at the height you want to measure. Be very careful you do not measure the seam allowance. Add 1”-1.5” to allow for the lacing gap. Multiply the total by 2. Compare that number to your measurements and choose the closest pattern for your starting point.
For simplicity, I am describing underbust corset patterns for four generalized body types: Square, Ample Hips, Curvy, and Men’s. All sample patterns are scaled to the same waist measurement for easy comparisons between the types, and so if the upper shape from one pattern and the hip shape from another work for your shape, you can combine them.
There is no seam allowance on the scale patterns given below. Read on and you’ll find out how to alter the patterns and add seam allowance.
I based my draft on a scale of 4 squares = 1 inch, but one of the wonderful things about scale patterns is you can use whatever scale you want. If you are making a larger corset, you can use 3 squares = 1 inch, resulting in a waist of 33″-36″. If you are making a smaller corset, you can use 5 squares = 1 inch, resulting in a waist of 20″-23″. If you are working in metric, making 2 squares = 1 cm gives you a waist of 50cm-58cm.
This body type is characterized by very slight differences in circumference measurements along the torso. This proportion works well for straight or slight figures, and many plus-sized figures. This type of corset shape will also work for most men, but unlike the specific men’s pattern the curves are intended to give a feminine silhouette. The measurements for the sample pattern are underbust 28”-31”, waist 25”-28”, hip 30”-33”. The smaller measurements are with no lacing gap, and the larger with 3″ lacing gap.
This corset type is for women who have no visual smallest waist, resulting in a reduced waist measurement that is very similar to the underbust measurement and a hip measurement that creates a plentiful curve. This will work best for many pear-shaped and plus-sized figures. The measurements for the sample pattern are underbust 26”-29”, waist 25”-28”, hip 32”-35”. The smaller measurements are with no lacing gap, and the larger with 3″ lacing gap.
This corset type is for women who have a naturally curvy figure, where even a small reduction in the waist measurement creates dramatic curves both above and below the waist. The measurements for the sample pattern are underbust 29”-32”, waist 25”-28”, hip 36”-39”. The smaller measurements are with no lacing gap, and the larger with 3″ lacing gap.
This type of corset is shaped to give a more masculine silhouette while cinching in slightly and ensuring a flat abdomen. The measurements for the sample pattern are underbust 28”-31”, waist 25”-28”, hip 30”-33”. The smaller measurements are with no lacing gap, and the larger with 3″ lacing gap.