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icon freeMaking a corset was my first sewing experience. I was fourteen and it was 1991. I wanted one so badly! I was obsessed with nineteenth century clothes and, although I had never seen real corsets, I was already determined to make one with the ‘right stuff’.

Since I lived in a country town, on the mountains surrounding the city of Genoa in Italy, I decided to ask all my neighbours whether I could search in their attics for old clothes in the hope of finding something interesting. I was lucky enough to find a trunk full of Edwardian underwear, chemises, corset covers, drawers, brassieres and just what I needed, a corset! This garment was not the shape that I was looking for - it was a low bust, straight line, long corset of around 1913 and I was more interested in the hourglass, curved front 1880’s silhouette - but it was a real one, and with the original laces still in place! This corset was a medium size and it was made of one layer of coutil, boned with 10mm wide flat steels on the main body, 6mm steels at the centre back and a 12mm wide straight busk at the front. Two frilly garters down the centre front and an edging of filet lace with a pink ribbon bow at centre front were the only decorative elements. There was no flossing and no petticoat hook. It was a respectable peasant woman’s garment and I immediately fell in love with it!


1 - The 1913 corset found in the trunk. In the 1950’s, the niece of the previous owner, stitched some darts in it to wear it at a carnival party. I removed all the darts to bring it back to it’s original shape.


At the time I was a student at the fine arts and architecture lyceum so the study of geometry enabled me to take a pattern from the garment I had found and, with some modifications, I was able to turn it into a shorter, more curvaceous 1880’s shape. Once I had the pattern, finding the right materials proved more challenging, but after a month long search I was able to find everything I needed in an orthopaedic corset shop. The coutil I found matched the old one exactly, the busk was a remnant of old stock, made of steel covered in paper (perfect!), but the steels were not what I expected. In the real corset the boning, although metal, was light and bendable while the modern equivalent was not only covered with a plastic coating, but much more rigid! I asked if they had anything lighter and I found out that I could get this boning in three different thicknesses, each providing different support. I got the lighter kind but it was still more rigid that the bones in the old corset.

I was really careful in marking and basting all my seams together, after all the trouble I went through to draw the pattern. (The mathematics nearly killed me, and I did not want to mess up all those delicious curves I drafted!)

When the moment came to put the bones inside their casings, however, I found that the flat steels got rid of the subtleties in the curves and killed the shape a little bit. Nevertheless, I was happy with my first corset. It brought my 56 cm (22") waist down to 48cm (18 3/4") and it felt like a great achievement, so I decided to wear a corset every day and I continued to do so until the age of twenty-five.


2 - Me at the age of 24 wearing a dress from 1908. My waist at the time measured 20”1/2.


I spent the next few years experimenting with the shape of the pattern. I had a terrible problem with comfort. I always wore a chemise under my corset, but the flat steels always rubbed against my ribs or my hipbones in one way or another, so I knew that there was something wrong! It was only when I found my first 1890’s corset in an antique market that I really understood how the shape that I was looking for was achieved.

This new corset was extremely curvy and three-dimensional. The roundness of the bust, hips and belly was amazing, exactly the line that I saw in all the fashion plates of the time. I always thought that the perfect Victorian shape existed only in the magazines and that reality was similar but not quite as perfect… I was wrong. From that moment I realized how this garment’s function was not only to draw the waist in, but also to change the shape and posture of the body from bust to hips according to the fashion. No matter what size a person was, it turned the body into the perfect silhouette, the one in the fashion plates!

This corset was made of one layer of cotton sateen and one layer of ivory silk satin but the main difference from the one from 1913, apart from the pattern, was the nature of the boning. It was narrower, much much lighter and much more pliable than any metal boning, flat or spiral, that I had seen. I had finally found a corset boned with real whalebone!


3 - The 1890’s corset I found in the antique market has cording over the bust and is completely boned with baleen, a part for the busk and the side steel.


I had always known about whalebone but I had never seen it. Its magic power lies in the fact that because it is made of keratin, it softens with humidity and becomes completely elastic and soft when soaked in tepid water. When a whaleboned garment is worn, the heat and humidity of the body softens the bones and the garment becomes more pliable and more comfortable. It also has a memory, so that if the bone is dried in a certain position it will remain so, while retaining flexibility. This amazing quality meant that corsets could be steam-moulded, turning this garment into a sculpture, a process that could not be done with a corset completely boned with steel. Other invaluable qualities are that, unlike steel, it will follow diagonal seams smoothly without twisting and pinching the flesh, and that when moist it’s possible to stitch through it while flossing, thus anchoring the bone to the fabric and preventing any poking through.

I was determined to find something similar, so after a very bad experiment with Rigilene I turned to spiral boning, since the new pattern had diagonal seams at the front and the flat steels would just not do it! Spiral boning was better, softer, more pliable (a bit too pliable) and more comfortable but extremely thick and lumpy. I was not happy. I had made so many corsets since I found the perfect one, that my pattern drafting was now almost perfect, the fabrics I used were alright for the period, but the boning was just not the same thing, and most of all I was not 100% comfortable. I tried on the real corset a few times: apart from the bust (being a man I don’t have breasts!) it fitted me quite well and it felt so comfortable!

As the years went by, I came across more antique garments and I started making Victorian clothes as close to the real ones as it was possible for me at the time. It became an obsession, and by the age of eighteen I was wearing Victorian ladies' clothes every day. Every stitch had to be right, every fabric or trim had to have been available at the time. Such discipline caused me to meet Jenny Tiramani, who was gathering tailors to recreate hand made Elizabethan garments for the plays at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, and from 1999 I became part of that team. That year Jenny introduced me to synthetic whalebone from Wissner of Germany. She had found out about it through a friend, and from that moment my corset life was changed forever.

I had seen plastic boning before, but I had never taken it into consideration for two reasons, the first being that plastic was not available in the nineteenth century, the second that the thickness and the rigidity never felt right. This product was different, in fact the name "plastic whalebone" indicates that the producers created it with the purpose of reproducing the characteristics of real whalebone. Until the eighteenth century, baleen was mostly sold in big plates covered in hair, which the stay maker had to boil, shave and cut into strips of the thickness and width he required. By the second half of the nineteenth century, it became more common to buy it in ready-cut strips, in a variety of lengths and thicknesses which changed greatly depending on whether they served to bone the sides of a corset or the front and back, the front and back or the sides of a bodice, the arms of an umbrella, a bonnet, etc.… Well, the plastic whalebone from Wissner is sold in rolls or ready-cut lengths of many of the width and thicknesses available in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century.


4 - A strip of antique whalebone compared with a strip of plastic whalebone the same size. The rigidity and flexibility is the same.5 - A strip of antique whalebone compared with a strip of plastic whalebone the same size. The rigidity and flexibility is the same.


Working with this new product was easier, once I chose the width and thickness I wanted (6mm wide x 1.5 mm thick). I did not have to worry about the individual lengths of the channels. The first corset I used it for was made of one layer of black coutil, with bone casings topstitched on the right side in yellow cotton and fine cording on the bust. Once the corset was stitched, I only had to cut the bones in the lengths I wanted and file the edges with fine sandpaper, just like real whalebone. I then flossed it with yellow silk and trimmed the top edge with crochet lace. Steam-moulding the corset in the same way as in the nineteenth century, with a heated metal mannequin, was not going to be possible, so with the aid of a tailor’s ham I steamed-pressed the corset with a professional iron, thus shaping the bones to follow the curves in the seams. To my pleasure, I found that the property of memorizing a shape while retaining elasticity was another characteristic this product shared with whalebone.

When I finally tried the corset on I was amazed! The first thing that struck me was the light weight. Compared to any other corset that I made before, this was the first one with a weight comparable with an antique one. Once worn, it followed each subtle curve that I drafted in the pattern, giving me a much smaller waist, with curvier hips and an altogether better shape! I was really happy! This corset was light, pliable, had a great shape and most of all was comfortable! Just like a whaleboned garment, the more I wore it the better it became. No pinching, no twisted bones, no rubbing against ribs - all of the unpleasant problems of steel boning were solved for me that day!


6 - My first plastic whaleboned corset became one of my favorites. Although it was worn everyday for several years the bones still retain their original shape and no poking through occured.


Although I was really happy, I still had a lot of doubts about the performance of such boning on different body shapes. I have always been very slim and my waist has always been slender. My ribcage is very elastic and making corsets for myself has always been relatively easy, but how would the boning perform on a much fleshier figure that needed a bit more help? Would it be strong enough? Would it alter after a long period of wear? All these problems that corset makers usually relate to plastic boning constantly came to my mind, but one thought reassured me. When the best boning around was whalebone, larger women wore corsets, boned with whalebone, just like the slender ones. The difference could not have been the use of a different material, but how it was used in corsets for different figures. The answer came from analysing antique corsets in my collection, this time looking specifically at how they were boned, depending on the style and size. Immediately I realized that the bigger corset in my possession was boned with strips of the same thickness and width as the slimmer ones but, while the smaller sizes have single or double boning on each seam, this one had double boning on some of the seams and as much as four bones in a row in the places that needed more support.


7 - 1910 corset boned with triple and quadruple lines of whalebone and two side steels.

8 - Width of the quadruple bones9 - Width of the double bones

10 - 1910-11 ca. corset boned with double and triple lines of whalebone and one back-side steel.11 - 1910-11 Corset, width of the double bones


Another earlier example, from the mid 1880’s, that was still a generous size had a different arrangement. The front and bust were fully boned with narrow strips of whalebone, the back with wider ones and the sides with two wide steels which had also been shaped to follow the curve of the waist and hip. I had always known about corsets boned all over with whalebone and steels on the sides, but only then it occurred to me that I had never seen anybody try to make a corset mixing different types of boning in the same garment.


12 - Mid 1880's corset boned with steel and whalebone13 - Mid 1880's corset, detail of the side steels


The more I looked, the more I learned. From that moment on I started looking at all the corsets I could find in books and in other collections to understand how to use the boning to achieve different results. Nineteenth century corset adverts have proved a great source of information since the boning is often an important part of the description. In many, we find corsets that are double boned, heavily boned, heavily boned with double side-steels, all whalebone together with the image showing the boning arrangement and advice such as "desirable for stout or medium figures", "desirable for full shapes", "for stout figure", etc.


14 - La Vida corset advertisement15 - Cleopatra corset advertisement16 - Alpha corset advertisement


After years of research and experimentation, one of my first conclusions is that the bones' number and arrangement, depending on the figure the corset is being made for, is more important than the thickness and width of the bone itself. Thin-cut bones were used for all kinds of figures, but for the larger ones they were used in a larger number than a single strip per seam. I was amazed when I saw my first French woven corset from the early 1870’s, in the Hopkins collection, a garment shaped directly on a loom, without seams, and made of a cotton that is woven as a double layer to create the bone casing, no sewing apart from the flossing and the embroidered scalloped edges. This corset was completely boned with thin strips of whalebone just a couple of millimetres wide, closely placed together, not one inch left unboned. An extremely light garment with a beautiful shape, its strength was not given by the thickness of the boning but by the quantity of it, a light armour that would mould even the most difficult figure into the fashionable shape.


17 - French woven corset


Basing my work on these principles, since 1999, in all the corsets, stays and bodies I have made, whether historical or modern, I have used plastic whalebone from Wissner and have always had excellent results. By mixing different widths and thicknesses I was able to transform any kind of figure into the silhouette I wanted to obtain, often finding that the fleshier the body, the smoother the shape I would get. Before I found this amazing substitute for baleen, I always thought that I would never achieve those perfect period shapes that looked so round and curvy. The bust shape, especially, never satisfied me. In all the modern corsets I saw, I never found the roundness of cup so typical of the nineteenth century. The breasts are always somehow flattened in the lower part, and in many cases pushed too high.


18 - The bust area of the mid 1880’s corset I found at the antique market. Note how the curve to shape the breast was fixed by the steam-moulding process.19 - A corset from 1885 I made for a film. Note how even after several months of hard-wear on set, the bones retain the shape I impressed with the tailor’s iron.20 - The filming took place on a mountain and the actress wearing this corset had to climb up and down several times a day. Although some of the flossing got slightly loose, not a single bone poked through the front fabric.


With plastic whalebone I have since been able to create nice round shapes, the steaming process ensuring that the curve is fixed in the bones. Even when a garment is worn by different people, it will always try to go in that direction. A good example of this is an 1872 corset I made for a dress I had to make with my students in Rome. I made the satin corset for a girl with a full figure to fit her and mould her into the perfect 1872 shape with the low bust and curved belly. The dress turned out so well that the Bowes museum asked me to bring it to England to get it filmed to show the layers.

The Art of Dressing in the 1870's' - Bowes Museum

Finding a British girl in Barnard Castle to fit the dress that was made for a Mediterranean body in Rome proved challenging. Even if the measurements corresponded, the overall body shape was completely different. In fact, to find the same shoulders and breast shape proved impossible, so we just chose the girl with the circumferences that best matched my student in Rome. Although the upper part of the body could not be controlled, the steam-pressed synthetic whaleboned corset moulded the new girl’s body into exactly the same shape, so the dress could be worn quite successfully.


21 - My student in Rome wearing the 1872 corset I made for her.22 - My student in Rome wearing the 1872 corset I made for her.


Trying to make historically accurate corsets pushed me into researching and experimenting with many different materials, and wearing a corset myself for a long period of my life gave me the opportunity to self-judge the results and comfort that any of these materials provided. When working with earlier corset-like garments I used many other materials for boning, such as cane, bents, wood, horn and iron, but the best substitute for whalebone, for me, still remains the product from Wissner.


23 - Front and back view of a lightly boned corset from 1862 I made to fit one of my students in Rome in 2014. The pattern and construction were based on an original in the Hopkins collection.24 - Back view of a lightly boned corset from 1862 I made to fit one of my students in Rome in 2014.25 - The bust area of the 1860’s corset was moulded to create the typical curve of the period.

26 - A front and side view of the 1862 gown I made with my students at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. The bodice as well as the corset is boned with Wissner plastic whalebone.27 - A front and side view of the 1862 gown I made with my students at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. The bodice as well as the corset is boned with Wissner plastic whalebone.

28 Princess Alexandra detail 1884 sm29 Princess Alexandra side 1884


Sadly, the majority of modern corset makers take for granted that the best boning is flat steel or spiral, and although the web is full of discussions about them not always working, the synthetic whalebone tends to be known just by few members of the re-enactor’s world and by some costume makers.

Shouldn’t we start looking more into what professional corset makers did when people wore corsets every day and they were made by the thousand? Shouldn’t we use those sewing techniques that were created by craftsmen that were basing their work on the evolution of a garment that was worn for hundreds of years? The techniques from those periods in history when all the corset producers battled over who made the best corset?

Since the majority of modern corsets are based on nineteenth and early twentieth century shapes, the boning techniques seen in examples from that period should certainly be taken into account and applied to the new designs. If whalebone was the preferred material of the corset makers that created the best corsets of the past that we all admire, why isn’t plastic whalebone the preferred material of corset makers today? I assure you, it’s worth a try!



About the writer: Luca Costigliolo

Luca CostiglioloLuca works as a designer and costume cutter for theatre productions and films all around Europe. He recently worked in Hungary as a cutter on the Showtime costume drama The Borgias, creating all the costumes for the role of Lucrezia Borgia, designed by Oscar winner Gabriella Pescucci. For nine years he was the Head of Wardrobe for the Spoleto Opera Festival in Italy, and he was a member of the wardrobe team at Shakepseare’s Globe Theatre from 1999-2005, cutting and hand-making clothes for award winning productions.

He teaches accurate historical cutting and sewing techniques at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome along with world famous costume designer Piero Tosi, as well as at the School of Historical Dress in London.

His knowledge on historical tailoring and dressmaking techniques have led him to collaborate with museums with important dress collections such as The Bowes Museum in the UK, where he completed the reconstruction of a Worth ball gown worn by Josephine Bowes in 1861. A video showing him dressing a model in all the layers of clothing worn by a lady in 1870 is on show in the textile gallery.

Luca was also the historical sewing expert on recent BBC programmes such as Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm.

In 2011 he completed a project with the National Trust for whom he has recreated an 1884 gown that belonged to Princess Alexandra.

Luca is a co-author of Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns: Book One & Book Two for V&A publications.


It is so great to see this article. I currently have made a piece for myself with synthetic whalebone but haven't offered them to clients because many people believe "plastic" means a cheap and bad corset but that is not true! You prove it here which is great to see as I've only just started experimenting with it.
I assume simply always calling it "synthetic whalebone" and never using the word "plastic" would make customers much more amenable to trying it--the power of words and all that.

How pleather became vegan leather and is now marketed as a positive. Synthetic whalebone would be the term I'd use for advertising.

Yup, mind - blown-! Very interesting and also something I've wondered about!
I've always been very interested in high quality plastic boning as an option, and it's really heartening to see a thorough review! Also, I love that controversial title, haha.

A local friend just told me we can get German plastic boning here, so now I'm all eager to experiment with it!

Where do you get German plastic boning? I too would like to experiment with it. Thank You for your help.
So interesting! I shall have to try it now...
Wonderful article! Thank you. I recently experimented with using heavy-duty zip-tie plastic for some of the same reasons you outlined: moldability, lightweight. I couldn't get the Wissner's stuff quickly, so zip-ties it was. I found that it didn't hold up well in the back, with a lot of buckling at the waist (I'm a large figure with a swayback). I was going to replace the zip-ties with steel.

In your own experiments, did you find that steel was necessary in places for larger or curvier figures, or were you able to use plastic whalebone exclusively?

Hi Isara, I do sometimes use one or two wide steels at the sides for some Edwardian or late Victorian patterns. However I have made many large corsets using plastic whalebone exclusively. I tend to use different thicknesses in the same garment, just like whalebone would have been cut thicker for more strength. That's the great thing about the Wissner boning, the variety in thicknesses and widths. Another important thing is to floss the bones at each end so that the bone cannot move and wrinkle at the waist.
Last edited on 17.01.2015 14:37 by Helena Hultén
Very interesting article!
I have never dared to order the plastic whalebone. I use spiral steel which works well for my uses as it rotates around which is good for curvy figures and diagonal boning channels.

But I would love to see more photos of more fleshy bodies with bigger boobs wearing corsets with plastic whalebone, to compare! Here the photos of the fleshier ladies are antique ones with authentic whalebone, if I am not mistaken.

But if the sepia colored modern taken photo is indeed wearing corset with synthetic whalebone it is pretty and quite spot on for the early busk corsets that are low on the torso with bust, you won't see it on modern corsets!

Last edited on 17.01.2015 15:32 by Luca Costigliolo
Hi! All the photos in this article of corsets that are worn are indeed modern. Both ladies are my students and are wearing corsets made by me with plastic whalebone. If you click on the pictures you will be able to read the captions with further explanations. Along the article there's a link to a video where you can see me dressing a fleshy girl in the same corset as in the photographs.
The synthetic whalebone is good for diagonal boning channels just as real whalebone was, as I explain in the article I just put more than one per seam when I work with larger bodies and sometimes I use side steels.

Thank you, I watched the video, so pretty! And then I browsed through the photos.

I think I am sold. I want to try out the synthetic whalebone now.

You can bend steel boning to curve but not spiral steel.

I will look up the availability of the boning now.

Last edited on 17.01.2015 14:42 by Helena Hultén
I had to return when I made some thinking.

You said the spiral steel is a little bulky. At first I did not think much of it, because corset is just foundation garment..

But then I realize I do use spiral steel in the fashion bodice and it does distract from the look sometimes (in particular the end tips could be bulging). I wonder if it would be a better idea to replace it with thinner synthetic whalebone. What do you think for this application?

I bone all my bodices with plastic whalebone as well, for corsets I use a slightly thicker size though. I explain this in the photo captions. When both the corset and the bodice are done with plastic whalebone you get exactly the same bulk as in antique garments and the curves of the pattern are greatly enhanced.
An excellent article. I used synthetic whalebone on a pair of stays I once wore, they were so light compared to the alternatives. The nice thing is now, modern corset makers can choose the materials they need to fulfill a certain task. I shall certainly look at synthetic whalebone on corsets again. Thank you.
How inspiring and reassuring. One question though. What form of boning do you use for the centre back to brace the lacing? Thanks you so much for this wonderful article!
Hi, I still use the plastic boning, just like in many antique ones I have. If only one thickness is to be bought, the 1.5 mm thick works well throughout the garment.
A further question: I am in Australia. How can we buy Wissner boning?
Last edited on 18.01.2015 10:03 by Luca Costigliolo
Hi, I usually give them a call but they do have a website. They are also good at sending samples and they sell all sort of interesting stuff for corsetry.

A fascinating article! I loved seeing your research into historical garments and then how you've applied it and your historical shaping is sublime.

I hope someone's warned Wissner that they're going to have some big orders soon - I fear they might sell out!

I have a quick question - when you're flossing with the synthetic whalebone, do you sew through the end of the bone, as was done with baleen? If so, do you make a small hole (with a drill?) in the synthetic bone before inserting it?

Thanks so much for sharing your research and expertise! (Oh, and I love the 17th C women's dress patterns books!)

Hi, thanks for the nice compliments! It depends which kind of flossing I am doing, with Vs and Xs there is no need but I do often pierce holes in the bones for other types of flossing...and I always do that for bodices.
I hope that more people will start buying from Wissner, I always fear that they will stop making the plastic whalebone! The day they'll stop I might have to stop too!

Hi, everyone, I am from Germany and have been writing to Wisser some time ago.
They only sell really large quantities.
But you can buy the same product at a shop who gets it from Wissner


I did see that Wissner seemed to sell only large quantities. Is there another retail seller anywhere- English speaking? online?
Thanks so much

Last edited on 19.01.2015 14:22 by Luca Costigliolo
Wissner sells a minimum of 200 mt, I don't mind because I use it like bread and butter so I find it actually convenient. They come in 50mt rolls so a good idea would be to make an order to share with more people and ask for samples of all the sizes or any other article from the catalogue that might be of interest.
There are various retailers that keep their bones, I think in London Mc Collough and Wallis sells it in ready cut lengths, while Kleins in Soho as it on a roll.
I hope this informations are useful.

Yes, the usual reputable corset supplies companies. It's the main boning supplier, so no problem to source from retailers happy to supply smaller quantities, and of course support our friendly small business in the process :)
Such a great article! I just have only one question, where you usually order this plastic whalebone? I'm planning to make an another corset, amd I'd like to try your recommendation :)
Thank you :)

Hi I usually do the order with the company Wissner from Germany and the product on their catalogue is called 'plastic whale bone'. As I explain in the previous comments they only sell a minimum amount of 200 mt, there are various retailers that keep their products in London. If you are not in England then I suggest that you join forces and do the order with other corset makers that might be interested, If it's four of you you can get 50 mts each and share the expenses. It's really worth the effort.
The main problem with plastic has always been that it DOES soften with heat, leading to it sagging and bulging over time. Is there something about synthetic whalebone that keeps this from happening?
Hi, I have never encountered that problem and I did spend ten years of my life in corsets boned with it! Yes it does soften with heat, but that's what whalebone did in the past, I find this property to be an advantage. If the whalebone is the right thickness and if it's properly taught in the channel and kept so by the flossing I don't see how it can bulge. As I explain in the article, for people that needed more support, the makers just used more bones rather than putting stronger ones. Another thing is to use whalebone for the front and back and put one or two steels at the sides.There are many kind of plastic boning around, the one from Wissner acts just like whalebone, I have seen no other boning like it. I do advice to try the 6.0 x 1.5 mm as it is of a rigidity that works on all bodies.
Thank you for sharing your vast experience and knowledge. You are super!
Wow this is so interesting! I still haven't quite plucked up the courage to make my own corset yet, but I'm going to look out for some synthetic whalebone to see how it goes!
How do I obtain synthetic whale boning?! Where do I dibdnit? :-)

Amazing artical. Mind blown!

I'm going to try this
Is it possible to floss through synthetic whalebone? I never knew they actually stitched through the baleen when flossing! Amazing! Have you tried the synthetic bones on 18th century stays at all?
I have recently found someone making boning from horn - I think it will behave exactly the same way as whalebone the only problem is that it only comes in short lengths - a maximum of about 20 cm (8") I have yet to make a corset using it but I bought some to try. My first effort will be a ribbon corset as they only use short lengths of boning.
Thank you very much for this article. I've been struggling for many years trying to make a corset for myself (I am very thin and boning often hurt my ribs and back). I will definetly try this boning. I never had the chance to see an authentic corset. I hope I'll be able to study them sooner or later.
Bobbie Kalben
I'm having trouble finding Wissner synthetic whalebone. Do you know of a suppler in the U.S. or Canada? Farthingales Canada sells German plastic bones - is this the same thing? I want to try it!
Sarah Cowan
Hello Luca, Thank you for the lovely article! I have been making 3rd and 4th quarter 18th c stays for many years. I use a mix of thick and thin reed boning for different areas of the stay and metal spiral with a flat-oval reed at the center back for durability and multi-directional flexibility. The problem with reed as you know, is breakability. I finally tried using the Wissner plastic boning for the tabbed areas of the stays. It worked beautifully in mimicking the light weight flexible whalebone that was originally used. Cutting a blunt end of the Wissner is easy enough but I found it impossible to narrow the shape of the boning with precision as I had been able to with the reed. Specifically the boning that needs to fit in channels that taper to a point. I have been using shears to shape the boning. Perhaps I should try a chisel and hammer. I am wondering what technique you use to shape the boning.
Thank you so much for this article! I doing mi second corset an it based of the corset from the book of Norah Waughn Corset and Crinolines from the corset of 1880 or 1882 I think? I don't remenbered very well. And the fact is in my country Argentina it has an important restriction on foreign purchases, because of it only plastic whales of different widths and thicknesses is achieved. Even busk are available!
Neither can be purchased through internet pages, you got a limit of $ 25 dollars a year!It sucks...

Although complications, Im doing the best I can :) Y make a toile becase I have Escoliosis and I raised some doubts and complications. Where I can post pictures of my progress and get some help?
Thank you by the way :)

Hi caromelanie

Thank you for your question. Do you know about the group on facebook called "Learn How To Make Corsets Like A Pro"? That's likely to be a good place to share photos of your progress and ask for advice.

Harman Hay Publications

Wonderfully good read, and refreshing after sifting through countless SEO optimized articles on other sites where plastic boning of any kind seems to be regarded as a joke.

We recently decided to go with German plastic boning in all of the corsets we produce, for many of the same reasons you outlined here. I wrote my own post about the differences between steel and plastic boning ( https://www.fiendishimp.com/2019/04/03/steel-vs-plastic-boned-corsets/ ) and it really comes down to how your corsets are going to be worn. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but synthetic whalebone seems to work best for all but the most, erm, hardcore applications of a corset.

Luca, I love this article. Synthetic whalebone is so hard to get in the US. I want some so bad. Most vendors here aren't convinced of it's merits enough to purchase large quantities. Most corsetiers here are still of the opinion that we should go steel or go home. As far as I can tell the only US distributor of genuine synthetic whalebone is Burnley & Trowbridge. They want $107 for 1 roll. That's way more than I can afford. I got very excited a few months ago when I found some on Etsy. What I received was floppy feather boning. I was not happy with that vendor. Vena Cava Design has a US Etsy store but even they don't list synthetic whalebone for their US customers. I asked them about it and they said I have to order it from their UK website. I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to order some from Europe and have it shipped. Maybe someday it will catch on here.
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