This page shows you in detail how to lace a corset the typical modern way (standard crossed lacing pulling from the waist), and how to spiral or offset lace (lacing stays with offset grommet configuration).
Standard Corset Lacing
This is one of the most common ways to lace modern and Victorian style corsets. It’s used for any kind of corset where the grommets are spaced identically on both sides of the opening. Very often the two grommets at the waist are spaced slightly closer together, but even if they are not it is important that the lacing pull from the waist.
The first step is to estimate the amount of lacing material you will need.
To estimate the length of lacing you will need, decide how wide you want your corset back to open. If you have a front opening, this is usually the lacing gap plus waist reduction plus an extra 2”-4”. If you have no front opening, it needs to be wide enough to allow the corset to be slipped on over the head.
Take the maximum back opening width and multiply it by the total number of grommets down the back of the corset. That is the length of lacing you will need.
Start at the top of the back of the corset and, keeping both ends of the lacing even, lace your way down the back of the corset following the diagram. The loops for pulling should be at the waist of the corset, even if that means there is more lacing and grommets above or below.
As much as possible, keep the “X” crossings to the front or the back of the corset. If your lacing crosses from front to back or back to front when going across the gap, it will create extra friction and abrasion on the material, and it will put extra stress on the grommets.
I usually find it’s helpful to put the corset on the floor and kneel on it while lacing. That way I can keep the width of the back even and quickly pull the lacing through without lifting or tangling the pieces.
Tie it off at the bottom.
Offset lacing is found on historic examples of conical stays and corsets, as well as medieval gowns. The biggest advantage is it is much faster lacing into the corset vs. even grommets which require crossing the laces and handling two ends. The corset must be grommeted specifically for this style of lacing. If you try to cross-lace a corset with offset grommets, or offset lace a corset with evenly spaced grommets, the corset will not tighten evenly and one side will sit higher than the other.
A corset which is set up for offset lacing will have grommets that are offset. The very top and very bottom grommets will be even. Then the next grommet on one side will be fully spaced, and the next grommet on the other side will be half-spaced. The half-spacing is repeated at the other end of the corset on the other side of the gap, bringing the end grommets even.
The lacing is very simply laced up the corset in a spiral pattern, one end threading through every single grommet along the way. The only tricky part is tying it off, and once you get the hang of it, that’s not hard at all. It’s simply not a knot that many people will have encountered before.
I like to use two half hitches at both ends. This particular knot holds very firm under pressure, but also comes undone very easily when pressure is released. On the end where lacing starts, it is tied without a loop. After lacing, it is tied with a loop so the end can be pulled free, loosening one half of the hitch so the other half can be pulled free.
You can lace from either the top or bottom of the corset. Try both and use the direction that is most comfortable for you. Some people will find they settle into the most comfortable fit lacing from the top, and other people will be most comfortable lacing from the bottom. For some people it won’t make a difference. There is no right or wrong direction to lace the corset.
To start the knot, run the end of the lacing through the outer grommet with the half-spaced grommet next to it. It is critical that you start at the side with the half-spaced grommet, or the corset will not lace evenly.
Loop over and then under the long part of the lacing. and then up through the hole made by the lacing next to the edge of the corset. You now have a half hitch. Tighten it against the edge of the corset.
Loop the end away from the edge of the corset and then underneath the long part. DO NOT cross in front of the long part.
Loop over the front of the long part, and through the opening you just made. If this end is the starting end, pull the loose end entirely through and tighten down the knot. If you are tying the knot after lacing, leave the loop so you can pull the end of the lacing and free the knot.
Congratulations, you now have two half hitches.