Log in

Most Recent Articles

Draft Your Corset Pattern

Victorian dressmaker measuring her client

Taking measurements is a vital element in the creation of a perfectly fitting block or garment. Extra care at this stage can save you an extraordinary amount of time, effort and extra expense later. So before we begin, I need you to make me a few promises:

  1. You will be honest about your measurements. Telling little white lies will only result in a garment that does not fit. I can guarantee that you will not be satisfied with the resulting corset if you have not given your true measurements.
  2. You’ll take it seriously – too often, a costumer is left working with inaccurate measurements because she had a measuring party involving herself, her best friend and a few too many glasses of wine! Make sure you get it right, I can’t stress that enough!
  3. The measurements have been taken whilst you’ve been wearing what you would normally wear under the finished corset, as much as possible (a slip and well-fitting bra are fine but there’s no point measuring yourself for a fitted bodice block whilst wearing a sweater.) It may help to wear a close-fitting top with sleeves since you'll need to know where your "armscye" (armhole) is.
  4. Yes, that's right, wear your bra too when you're measuring for a corset - it'll ensure that your bust is in a more similar position to its final, corsetted location and make it easier to find the measurements of the corset that'll hold it there!

Do we have a deal? Right, here goes!

Tie a string or ribbon around your waist, where you bend naturally – not too tightly, just snug, and horizontal. This will help you to take the vertical measurements accurately. Move around, bend from side to side and so on until it sits comfortably. Wear a well-fitting bra. (Even though you won't wear one under the corset, it will help position your bust in a more accurate corset-like position!)

Remember to stand up straight (but not overly so) with your weight evenly distributed.

Here are the measurements you'll need to draft your own corset:

Corset measurement chartBust (1) - Around the fullest part of your bust, with the tape straight across your back, as usual.

Bust to waist(2) - Measure at your side from the waist tape up to the level where you took your bust measurement.

Underbust (3) - measured along your bra band, directly under the bust.

Apex to waist (4) - measure from one nipple (ie. the fullest point of your breast) down to the waist tape at the side front, over the contours, not straight there.

Underbust to waist (5) - measure vertically from your bra band to the waist tape at the side front.

Desired waist (6) - Suck it in and pull the tape tight! Alternatively, measure your relaxed waist and take away your desired reduction from this value. (Beginner corsetwearers should aim for 5cm-10cm (2"-4") of reduction only for best results.)

Hips (7) - Measure around your hips at the fullest point. Note how far your measurement is below the waist tape.

Waist to hips (8) - The distance down your side from the level of the waist tape to the level where you took the hip measurement.

Front hip - The part of your hips at the front of your body. Measure along your hip line again as above, from the side seam on one side to the side seam on the other.

Back hip - This is just [your hip measurement] - [front hip], so you don't need to measure it again unless you wish to double-check.

Lap (9) - Sit on a hard chair (like a kitchen or dining chair) and measure from the waist tape at the side front straight down to the point where your thigh meets your torso. This measure will help to ensure that the corset doesn't extend too low here so that you can sit down in it!

Finally, for the following six values, measure vertically from the waist tape to the point where you'd like the edge of the corset to be.

Waist to top edge of corset (centre front)
Waist to top edge of corset (side)
Waist to top edge of corset (centre back)
Waist to bottom edge of corset (centre front)
Waist to bottom edge of corset (side)
Waist to bottom edge of corset (centre back)

Finally, don't forget to check all your measurements one more time, just to make sure. Measure twice, draft once!


Accounting for cup size

You'll need to split your bust measurement into "front bust" and "back bust". This will help the pattern to take account of your cup size, but you can work it out without any more measuring.

Your Back bust (the part of your bust behind your side seams) is worked out as follows:


Work out [Your underbust measurement] + 10cm (4")

Halve this to get your back bust measurement.

So if your underbust is 30", add 4" to get 34". Then halve this to get a back bust of 17".

Your Front bust (the part of your bust forward of your side seams) is


[Your bust measurement] - [your back bust measurement]

In other words, if your bust is 36" and your back bust is 17", then your front bust is 19".


Preparing the paper


Width of the paper = [half of front bust] + [half of back hip] + 10cm (4")

So if your front bust is 24" and your back hip is 26", then the paper should be


[half of 24]+[half of 26]+4 = 29" wide.

The height of the paper will depend on how long the corset is from waist to top and from waist to bottom. Pick the biggest of your three waist to bottom measurements. Then pick the biggest of the three waist to top measurements (or the apex to waist measurement, if it's bigger than all those three.)

The height of the paper is these two biggest measurements added together, plus 10cm (4").

Ready? Here we go!




These downloads require Acrobat Reader - download it free here!

AND DON'T FORGET - the most important thing...

IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND OR CAN'T DO ANY PART OF THIS, IT'S BECAUSE I HAVEN'T EXPLAINED IT PROPERLY!! So if you find any part of this doesn't make sense, email me at cathy dot hay at harmanhay dot com! Good luck, and do let me know how your corset turns out!

"I would LOVE to thank you for actually getting back to me. Every other site hostess I've emailed in regards to their tutorial just gave me something along the lines of "I'm too busy being amazing. Go away." So you rock my socks. Hands down!!" - Chance, California, USA

  I still cannot access the printer friendly version. I am in no mood to use up a ton of toner just to get a hard copy of this article. >:o  
  So sorry, the printer friendly version is now fixed and I've emailed all of you to let you know.  
Pamela Donovan  
  Hello Cathy. I am from Australia and I was wondering if I could purchase a download corset pattern. Please advise. :)  
  I love this!

just a heads up, on the bit where it first says about drafting for the larger bust, it says to turn to page 'XX', instead of the page number :-)
  Oops, sorry Jasmin!! Next time I revise the pdf, I'll make sure I correct that. Thank you!  
  This is fantastic , thank you so much. I have taken my measurements 3x to make sure they are correct and I have re-drawn my graft pattern 3x and still when I get to "p" and "q" (the start of the forth panel from the back) "q" ends up over lapping the previously panel by almost an inch. Any idea as to what's wrong? I've triple checked everything and it turns out the exact same.  
Cathy Hay  
  Hi Thomi, thank you for giving the tutorial a try! You haven't done anything wrong at all - as it says below the diagram on page 30, "the line p-q may cross the line m-n on your pattern - this is fine, you haven't gone wrong."

The pieces you end up with may overlap each other on the draft. When you've finished drafting, you'll just need to trace them onto a new piece of paper to cut them out. This is recommended in any case at the end of the tutorial - then, if you make any changes on your mock-up, you can transfer them back to the original draft and use it again.

Best wishes, Cathy
  Question: Why, when calculating the front and back bust measurements, do you add 10 cm/4" to the underbust? (And for that matter, why do you add that same measurement when preparing the paper?) Does it have something to do with seam allowances or pattern pieces that I haven't looked at yet because I haven't downloaded the drafting directions yet? ;)

It's just a little worrisome that taking my actual side-seam-to-side-seam measurements in a shirt that fits me doesn't give me the same results as that calculation, but maybe that's on purpose?

Thanks much for any clarification. ;D
tracey iris  
  :-D i thought id lost this pattern formula!
I downloaded it when it first came out, this is the kind of patterndrafting i was taught so i found it easy to follow.
I did botch it up the first go i had of course, then had to put it aside for other projects and couldnt find it.
  I've been needing something like this and look forward to trying it out!  

1000 Characters left

FacebookTwitterGoogle Bookmarks Pin It