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Au Bon Marche, 1902 Corset Catalog, Page 5a This month we have three questions and lots of great answers!

  • Tilia asks for help in creating a corset pattern for an asymmetrical figure, and receives lots of great advice!
  • Alessandra asks for advice with dealing with models, corsets and photoshoots
  • Suzannah wonders how to clean everyday corsets

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your questions, letters and advice by June 1st, 2010 for next month's column.


Tilia writes:

I'm slightly asymmetrical, it's a family thing. I need full patterns when I'm patternmaking, but it's been awhile since I made a full pattern and I've forgotten how I did it.

So for loose clothes I've been ignoring my asymmetrical shape, it isn't obvious, just slightly less well fitted. But now that I made my first corset I've come into trouble with using half patterns, there's no room for errors.

I have a left shoulder that drops down and my hips are asymmetrical but hard to explain how, just that the rounding is different. If you measure form my waist to the ground one side will be longer that the other. The problem with my first corset (which wasn't noticeable during the fittings since I didn't bone it and wore it for a longer period) is that my left hip pushes my corset into my dropped shoulder.

How do I measure these differences and how do I transfer them onto my pattern? Thank you,

Tilia, you need someone experienced to measure you and calculate the exact differences from one side to the other. Then it will allow you to make the best choices with your pattern and mock-up.

There are two different ways to go :
Symmetrical and pad one side to match the other (a good option if it is a noticeable difference)
Asymmetrical and fit the mock-up very carefully in attempt to disguise the asymmetry.

Lara A Greene of Lara Corsets


Hi Tilia,
I’ll open this response by saying that I haven’t done an asymmetrical corset through to completion yet, so these are simply some observations and ideas that may help :-)

I think that essentially, there are two routes to corseting an asymmetrical body: fitting and flat pattern drafting. They’re heavily tied up with one another of course, but one approach may suit you better than the other.

Option 1- Through fitting. Draft a symmetrical full pattern. Make an un-boned or lightly boned toile (don’t bone the seams) and have someone there to help take fitting notes and make alterations to the toile whilst you’re wearing it. Leave the seams unfinished (give yourself about an inch or more of seam allowance) and to the outside of the corset so that you can unpick and pin/baste where necessary to get the lines correct. I might even draw any new stitching lines directly onto the toile.

Once you have let out or taken in the seams where necessary (and also marked where the top and bottom edges need to fall), remove the toile, unpick, and transfer the changes onto each side of your flat pattern. As this toile wasn’t properly boned, I would then do a new toile based on the altered pattern, fully boned with the appropriate seam finishes, so that you can confirm the changes you have made.

Option 2- Through drafting. Draft an asymmetrical full pattern, based upon extensive measurements and observations of your body. For this, you would need to take all the usual measurements, but then break them down further. So for example, along with “hip” and “front hip”, you would also want “left front hip” and “right front hip”, which would be taken from the centre-front line of your torso, out to your side seam. The same is true for the vertical measurements, eg: “waist to high hip, left” and “waist to high hip, right”. You would need assistance taking the measurements, and need to ensure your posture is as relaxed and normal as possible. You then use the measurements to create a pattern as normal, but with left and right drafted separately. Again, a toile to check fit and shaping would be a good idea!

Do also note that each change may have a knock-on effect. For example, it sounds as though you may need an inch or so extra space over the left hip to account for that roundness you mention, and that you may also need to cut down the left underarm slightly. But what could happen, is that once the extra fullness is given to that hip, the corset is no longer being thrust upwards by it. Therefore, the left underarm might now sit comfortably, without any alteration required. This is why I may be tempted to go with option 1, so that you can make quite immediate changes and see the effect they have, whilst the toile is on your body.

I’m sure there are many more (and probably faster and more sensible!) ways of patterning for asymmetry, so do continue experimenting and researching. Best of luck :-)

Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren Corsets


Tilia, I've had great success with an asymmetrical body by working completely intuitively. I made a mock-up that fit the measurements but pretty much disregarded the asymmetry, put it on and moved around and let it settle where it wanted to be, and then literally drew on the corset with a big black marker where the edges should be at top and bottom and at the centre back, and where I wanted the seams to be. Where the busk was skewed, I drew a line on the corset down the centre front of the wearer, ie. where I wanted the busk to lie.

This was for a lady with a double scoliosis, whose back was very asymmetrical indeed, and it worked a treat. When we took the mock-up off and laid it flat, we actually found that one of the straight lines I'd drawn down the back (for a centre back edge) was curved, and the other was straight, and one back piece was twice as wide as the other. I altered the pattern trusting the big black lines, however weird the resulting pieces looked when laid flat, and once she put it on, you had to look carefully to notice the asymmetry at all!

Best wishes,

Cathy Hay



Alessandra writes:

Hello, I'm a beginner corsetiere.
I'm starting to deal with models and photographers,and I'm in doubt about what to do.
1) How much to ask when renting a corset ?
2) Collaborations with models. If a contract is signed by the two parties and you send your corset as payment for photos and promotions. What to do if the contract is not respected?


Alessandra, I have had a few bad experiences renting garments to models, stylists and photographers. If the garments are returned they may have make-up stains or other damage. I now rarely allow anyone to borrow or rent anything.

However, if I am convinced to do so, I require a refundable security deposit for the full cost of the garment and permission to use at least one photo from the photo shoot on my website under agreed circumstances (unique to each situation). That tends to scare the irresponsible ones away and demand a bit of respect for your garment. I should also add that certain larger well-known names/publications will expect you to deliver the world for free. That is a choice and risk you need to measure individually. Sometimes it is worth the gamble.

As to a violation of a legal contract, all you can do is begin legal proceedings. Most people pay up to avoid the problem.
Good Luck!

Lara A Greene of Lara Corsets



Suzannah writes:

What is the correct professional way of caring and cleaning for corsets. In my experience unless it’s not everyday wear corset, corset/bustiers with surface embellishments i.e. beading I’ve made in the past I’ve advised specialist cleaning. What’s the correct protocol for everyday wear corsets?
Thank you, Suzannah

Suzannah, Each corset maker has their own specific recommendations on how to properly clean a corset. I most recommend that you brush away or spot clean what you can to avoid washing as long as possible. There is less risk to the corset in spot cleaning.

To wash a corset:

  • fill the sink or basin with warm water and a gentle soap
  • immerse the corset for a few minutes
  • with a gentle scrub brush and bar soap (fells-naptha or Ivory are best) scrub away any deodorant stains and such
  • rinse the corset in warm then cool water to be sure all the soap is out
  • roll corset in a plush towel and squeeze away as much water as possible
  • hang corset to dry in front of a fan to remove water as quickly as possible (sitting water on steel bones may encourage rust)
  • iron as needed with a press cloth to prevent marks.
Good Luck!


Lara A Greene of Lara Corsets





Tilia, thank you so much for asking that question and the ladies for answering it. It has truly been an epiphany for me.

With any corset I wear the busk tends to pull slightly to my left at the bottom and if it's an overbust it pulls slightly to the right at the top. I've been trying to figure out why for ages, I knew my right breast is a full cup size larger then my left but I never connected the dots.
Well, the dots have been connected and my hips turned out to be asymmetrical as well. Time to start drafting a new pattern :-*

Regarding the loaning of corsets for photo shoots: one artist I know uses models for his paintings. He has requested a corset from me, for his work. I told him we could work out an exchange: a painting for a corset. He works in large format, on high-end canvas, and uses a combination of air brush and regular brush techniques, thus, the starting price of one of his stretched paintings is comparable to a nice corset.
The upshot is, I believe that if other artists/photographers want to have a corset on hand for their artwork, they should somehow become customers, by barter or purchase. The above rental scenario is quite helpful for those situations when they request multiple items. Thanks!

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