This tutorial describes how to make a ribbon corset using actual ribbon. It has coutil and boning only on the busk, sides, and grommets. This tutorial demonstrates covering the coutil panels with ribbon, but it is an easy design alteration to use regular fabric to cover the coutil panels.
Materials & Pattern
Suitable ribbon must be high-quality, and preferably natural fiber for breathability. It must have a lot of strength when pulled on. It needs to be at least 1.5″ (4cm) in width, but wider will work better. For this corset I used 2.25″ wide double-face satin ribbon. If you want to use a ribbon that is not sturdy enough to be used alone (like some brocade ribbons), it can still be used if it is backed with a sturdy ribbon. You will need a sturdy ribbon the same width or slightly thinner than your decorative ribbon.
You will need a small amount of coutil for the busk, side, and grommet panels. You will also need boning. I recommend 1/4″ wide spring steel flats for the front and back. On the sides either flats or spirals will work well.
Below is the scale pattern for the corset shown in this tutorial. It does not include any seam allowances. The patterns for most ribbon corsets made this way are going to look very similar, with the main variation being the amount and placement of the curves in the ribbon “panels”.
The busk panel needs to be wide enough for the busk, one adjacent bone, and top-stitching at the seam where it joins the ribbon “panel”. The side panel needs to be wide enough for all boning, plus top-stitching at either side. If the corset is light-lacing and on the smaller side, 4 bones per side should be sufficient. For plus sizes or tight lacing, I recommend 6 bones per side. The grommet panel needs to be wide enough for the grommets, boning to either side of the grommets, any extra desired boning, and room for top-stitching at the seam where it joins the ribbon “panel”.
The width of the ribbon strips is the width of the ribbon, and the overlap is determined by that width relative to the overall height of the ribbon panel. The ribbons should overlap each other by at least 1/4″. More does not hurt.
On the full-size pattern, the upper and lower edges of each ribbon strip are marked on the ribbon “panels” with a line. The markers for each ribbon are parallel relative to the top or bottom edge, and marked by number and panel. On the back, that’s B1, B2, B3, B4, and B5. On the front, that’s F1, F2, F3, F4, and F5. The center or waist ribbon is also marked. The overlap is at a minimum 1/4″, but on many of the strips it overlaps quite a bit more.
The coutil panels are marked with dashes where the edges of the ribbons should match up along the seam.
The coutil panels have seam allowance. The ribbon “panels” do not.
Cutting the Materials
The first step is to cut the coutil pieces. I made each panel from two layers of coutil so I could sandwich the boning.
These are the cut coutil pieces. To the left here is one busk panel on the fold (peg side) and two with seam allowance (hook side). In the center are four side panels (two per side). On the right are two back panels, both on the fold. I marked each piece with the waistline center (noted with a dash) and the ribbon edge marks.
For the side panels I marked both sides of two of the pieces so I can more easily reference the marks when lining up the ribbons. The coutil will be completely covered in the finished garment, so I don’t need to worry about making marks in hidden locations. I also marked the top end of each panel with an arrow to help keep them from getting flipped.
When creating a corset in this style, make as many written notes on these panels as you need to in order to keep them clear for yourself. The pieces are all so similar that it is VERY easy to confuse which is which, and what is up and down.
If you are using regular fabric to cover your coutil panels, in addition to the coutil, cut two busk panel pieces, two back panel pieces, and two side pieces from your cover fabric, and two side panel pieces from lining material.
After cutting out the coutil, cut the ribbon strips, marking them to match the pattern “panel” and labeling them by their location and number on the end that will be sewn into the side panel. I would also advise marking them “L” and “R” for the right and left sides. Whether you mark them this way or not, be sure that you will know which way is up, which end is the front or back, and whether it goes on the left or right side. It is very easy to get the pieces mixed up.
Be sure to make the strips much longer than what will be the visible ribbon, so you have plenty of surface to secure within the coutil panels. The easiest flaw in ribbon corsets is cutting the ribbon too short, and having it pull free from the seam when it is worn.
I strongly recommend cutting and marking all ribbon pieces at the same time. They are very easily confused, and even more so when one part is fully assembled and then you try to make the mirror side. Trust me on this. I made one quarter first (as a test) and then made the rest of the ribbon pieces. I ended up making a duplicate of the back panel (instead of a mirror) and waisted about two hours of work and a few yards of ribbon.
As you cut the pieces for each ribbon “panel”, stack them separately so you don’t scramble them before sewing them together.
Creating the Ribbon Sections
Arrange the strips together as a single panel, matching the marks for the ribbon edges. The seam lines and overlap marks should cleanly line up.
Pin the ribbons together, making sure the lines are still clean, and all the ribbons lay smoothly together. If you have any bumps or ripples now, they will still be there in the finished corset.
After pinning the ribbons together at the marks (and comparing the panel to your paper pattern – it should match exactly), sew along the chalk so you can treat the ribbon strips like one single panel piece.
Arrange and sew one side (left or right of the body), and then the other. Compare them before stitching the second half, and make sure the are reverses of each other. If they are both facing the same direction, one shoud be stacked with the center ribbon on top and the second should be stacked with the center ribbon on bottom, as illustrated in this photo.
Assemble all of your ribbon pieces into their respective ribbon panels before continuing on. You do not want the nightmare of accidentally scrambling your ribbon pieces.