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icon freeI don't know about you but the one big challenge I still have in corset making is the bust, especially big cup sizes, and even though I've been doing this full time for six years, and have over 200 corsets behind me, I'm still more stressed out when I have to pattern for a D cup or above. It's always delicate: my clients don't all want the same thing and it's important to be able to create a shape that'll enable them to enjoy their corset and want to wear it. This article was a good reason for me to take time out, experiment on the subject and hopefully, learn or at least consolidate what I know! I hope it will enlighten you as well.

My guinea pig for this project is a good friend of mine. I met Emilie when she commissioned a made-to-measure corset, and during the course of the fittings we discovered a common passion for everything laced. She is a French 95E cup (US 36DD ) and she is not a tight-lacer. She is just well proportioned and very squishy. (You'll understand very soon why I'm pointing that out! Some people are just made to wear corsets - I am SO jealous!)



I have purposely rounded the heights for conversion reasons.

Full measures



Full bust





34½ "



32½ "

Small hips



Full hips


47½ "

Waist to full bust



Waist to underbust



Underbust to nipple



Waist to small hips



Waist to full hips



Nipple to nipple


8 3/8 "


Starting point : Emilie's Green Corset

Over a year ago, I made Emilie a custom corset in which she didn't want her breasts to be too high up, nor feel like she had them right under her throat. However, she liked her corset tight and since she has a constantly changing weight, we decided to give her a lot of room in the back.

There are ten ¼" (7mm) spirals here, and four steels in the back.


Emilie's green corset, frontEmilie's green corset, three quarters viewEmilie's green corset, back view


Let's look at the pattern and analyse what I did.

The pattern has twelve panels total. It's custom drafted, but if you want a good base to start from, with a similar shape, the Truly Victorian 110 or the Laughing Moon Dore corset seem to be quite similar as they both have the princess cut at the bust.


Custom drafted pattern for Emilie's green corset


I followed Emilie's wishes and started the bust curve very low, almost immediately at the waist actually. This means that this corset almost does not push her breasts up at all.  

Here is a side view of what this pattern does: we can see that her breast is in a very natural position. Even if I like what this corset does to her breast, I always thought I should have placed her bust line a bit higher, and start the curve higher as well.


Here is a side view of what this pattern does, we can see that her breast is in a very natural position.


About bones...

We started talking about number of bones and support right after I made her my very first Edwardian corset, which had much more bones at the front.

As you can see in these pictures, her breasts are a bit higher and the corset comes higher up as well, since it's an Edwardian design. We know we don't want to achieve exactly the same result as this, since Edwardians are really flat fronted corsets, but it gives us an idea of where we want her bust to be.


Emilie's Black and Gold EdwardianEmilie's Black and Gold EdwardianEmilie's Black and Gold Edwardian


She could then compare the support given by each corset, and we agreed that more support was needed to compensate for the weight of her breasts. I ended up adding four more spiral bones in the front of her green corset for a grand total of fourteen spirals, eight of which are at the front.

Conclusion: don't hesitate to add extra bones in the front.


Supporting the Bust

For the purpose of this article I did some thinking and tried to come up with a more logical little rule.

For a B cup, the natural instinct would be to start the breast curve at the underbust height (10cm above the waist in this case), well, for an E cup, it's not as simple, look at the measurements:

The waist to underbust height is 10cm (4"), shown in red in the image below.

The height of one breast is 12.5cm (5"), shown in blue, making a total of 22.5cm (9"), but the height from the waist to the full bust (measured almost in a straight line) is 20cm (8"), meaning that we have 2.5 cm (1") to put somewhere...


For the purpose of this article I did some thinking and tried to come up with a more logical little rule.


What does this mean?

It means that the volume of one breast, when in the right position and correctly supported, is making the breast spill out of the breast base diameter.

So if you want to create a beautiful shape you have to lower the starting point for your breast curve.

Here is our mysterious 2.5cm (1")!


If you want to create a beautiful shape you have to lower the starting point for your breast curve.


Does this mean that we have to start the curve at exactly 2.5cm (1") below the underbust line?

Well, yes and no. Yes, if you want a very rounded breast underneath. The drawing below is not an exaggeration - this will actually make your bust look bigger, so I do not recommend it for D cups and above. (Not as big as when you start the curve right at the underbust point, but still perhaps bigger than you'd like!)


The effect of starting the bust curve 1" below the underbust


Or it might really push it up, depending on the depth you allowed for your breast at the front:


Or really push it up, depending on the depth you allowed for your breast at the front.


If you want to achieve a much more flat fronted corset, give it a smoother line, and minimise the appearance of your bust, in the next example I've actually doubled our 2.5cm and started the curve 5cm (2") below the natural underbust line. So consider 2.5cm (1") as the bare minimum measurement below your bust to start your curve.

Note : This method does not work for smaller cups (A,B and C.) I tried but the result was that the breast would disappear and have no volume, which most women don't like when you don't have much to begin with. (*cough cough* speaking from experience :-) )

This method is a general guideline derived from experimentation. There are other methods that work just fine, but if you want a breast shaped like Emilie's in this corset, try it!


Testing the Theory

So now that I knew better, I wanted to test this theory and see what else I could learn. I re-made my pattern and decided to take baby steps. This way we can all see what works and what doesn't.

First test: the same twelve-panel pattern with 5cm (2") added above the waist to take this new data into consideration.


Testing the theory with a new pattern


From this pattern, I made a fully boned mock-up in coutil.


Test corset, frontTest corset, sideTest corset, side, full view


I like the shape of the breast much better, but there are still a few things I don't like :

  •  There are a lot of deep wrinkles under the bust, telling me there are some things to change in that area.
  •  Her breasts look like they're escaping on the sides: I'm thinking not enough bones and not enough height.
  •  When she moves her arms up or tries to bend, her nipples are saying hello.
  •  I also think it's too tight in the back.

I should make it higher, add some bones for support, and make more panels to create a smoother line. I should add some room in the back, both vertically and horizontally.

Before making all those changes I wanted to test my theory that "more panels means fewer wrinkles", and since we're here to experiment, let's do it! I kept pieces 3, 4, 5 and 6 and remade the first two into three panels which are now called A,B,C.

It's exactly the same measurements as before, except that I spread them over three panels.


How to make two bust panels into three

Measure your two pieces at the bust/waist/hips (don't forget to substract the seam allowances or you'll be in trouble!)

Do not touch the center front or the side of the second panel (shown in red below). We are working between those two lines.


First : measure your two pieces at the bust/waist/hips (don't forget to substract the seam allowances or you'll be in trouble!)

Add the measurements of the two panels across this area and get a total for each:


Add it and get a total for each

Locate the nipple = half of the nipple to nipple measure.

(I was off by 25mm (1/10"), not that it's really important, but let's be precise.)


Locate the nipple (= half of the nipple to nipple measure) we can see that I was off by 25mm (1/10 ")

Draw a vertical line, parallel to the center front line, through the nipple.


Draw a vertical line parallel to the center front line across the nipple.

And from there divide everything into three and reorganise it to create three pieces.


And from there divide everything into three and reorganise it to create three pieces.

Draw beautiful curves, add your seam allowances, and Voilà!


Draw beautiful curves, add your seam allowances and Voila!

We are now working on this pattern:


We are now working on this pattern.


Mock-up N°2 : Pieces 3,4,5 and 6 were the same so I kept them and only changed the front. Here is the second mock-up :


Second mockup, frontSecond mockup, front bust supportSecond mockup, side bust support


I think it's a lot better then before. We still have to correct a lot of things, but more panels means gentler curves and fewer wrinkles, and more bones means better support.

One thing I have to add to my previous list of "what to change" :

  • Change the angle above the bust line to embrace the breast better.


So here we go with the final changes :

  • I added 5cm (2") in the back to make it higher and to prevent skin rolls from popping out.
  • I added 2cm (3/4") in the front to cover the breast better.
  • I changed the angle above the bustline, as mentioned above.
  • I added 8cm (3") total to the back of the corset, horizontally, so the corset is not as tight as before.
  • One extra centimetre (3/8") in the high hip area in the front to make this part more curvaceous.


Ta-da! The final pattern!

Tada! The final pattern

Compared to the previous version:

Compared to the previous one

And the final mock-up :


Final mockup - front Final mockup - side view Final mockup - back view

We both felt that the difference was stunning!

Emilie felt much more supported. She could move around without problems, and as you can see she can bend forward without revealing too much.  The breast could be more covered, for those who do not want such a cleavage, but for this corset we liked it like that!

There is still one thing bothering me : when you make the front come up this high, the busk (or centre front boning) is too flat and does not allow for an attractive curve as it does not follow the natural shape of the breast. I think I would prefer to use a shorter busk and close the centre front bust with eyelets and lacing. This also makes the bust area a bit more adjustable, depending on how tight you lace it. But if you do not like it, I think the center front should stop exactly at the bust level to avoid this problem.


Final mockup - the bust is supported even when she bends forwardPossibilities for front closures, busk and eyelets for lacing


The Final Corset


Emilie in her cream and maroon corset


I'm really happy I got to do all this, it made me see some problems I never considered before and help me to draw some general guidelines for supporting large busts:


Guidelines for Supporting a Large Bust:

  •  Start the breast curve 1"-2" below the underbust level.
  •  Cover the breast by a minimum of 2/3 of one breast height.
  •  Under the arm and in the back, go easily 5cm (2") higher than the bust line to prevent muffin top and ensure better support.
  •  Over the breast, the more panels, the better. I showed you an easy method to transform any base pattern into a multi panelled one.
  •  Plan for the busk to end right at the bust level. For a rounder bust, make the the busk end around the underbust line, and finish the rest of the front opening with lacing.


Guidelines for Bones

  • 7mm (1/4") minimum width.
  • The more, the better. One per seam might not be enough. If at any point a panel is wider than 7.5cm (3"), add a bone in the middle.
  • For slimmer people with big cups, add some extra bones to the front for support. Perhaps add some extra panels as well, keeping the "back half" of the corset as is.


A big thank you to Emilie for helping me with this study! I hope you enjoyed it, I sure did! Any comments, questions are welcome!


Part 2: Experimenting with gussets (Members only)


Tammy McDermott
I am shaped like Emily and need support. Thank you for the lesson I think a corset will help more than a bra.
linda simmons
After making three underbust corsets, I finally decided I would have to make an overbust corset to control things. Problem: full bust-50", underbust-37", wasit-34", widest hip-39". Even after making three panels, I can't get enough fullness at the center bust without it being too large at the top. I found that the hip gets bigger as I added the panels. I've reduced the seams around the hip, but lose some of the curve over the buttocks. I'm adding a gusset at the top to increase the size, but will make it football shaped-pointed at each end. Any ideas, anybody???
Hi Linda,

Thank you for your comment. If you are still looking for help and have a facebook account, it may be worthwhile posting in the facebook group
where more people will see it.

Harman Hay Publications

hi there, iv found youre post really usefull but have a couple of questions that you might be able to answer, even though i realize its a really old one it is quite hard to find usable information about this issue

a good friend of mine has long-term shoulder problem due to her larger buste (well and to a smaler degree physical work) after long consideration shes decided to try a corset to test weather it would be more comfortable to support the bust from the waist as aposed to hanging said weight from the shoulders

i myself am very petite and thus cant really place myself in her shoes, so its gonna be alot of failed mock-ups and so on but im willing to give it a go for her, but since the main concern right now is mobility for her, shes always on her feet, carrying heavy things etc so im thinking a overbust mesh corset, with waisttape and maybe a thin cup insert for comfort, how dyou think it will fare with maintaining the support? any thoughts you have on it would be amazing :)

oh, You may have just absolutely saved me. Ive been relegated to underbust corsets for years, as dd is as large as I've found as a practical size. I couldn't figure out how to do the shaping and ended up with so much.. awkwardness trying for a j cup fit. Your angles and curves used will definitely give me a jumping off place to constructing something that will actually look nice.
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