Reversible Corset Top
Project by Alex Holt
This project was my first time adapting an existing pattern. I followed Donlarrie Couture's Youtube video which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3KdA92mrH8&list=PLow2jkVK-xMf9OR5IdW5RIAhQMUY3QfgK&index=21 to create a corset pattern using my own measurements. The original pattern includes a main fabric and a lining fabric. In my version I decided to use two main fabrics so that I could reverse the top and get two tops out of 1! For this top I used Sarah Payne's Birds of Paradise fabrics, which are great for this project as the designs pair together perfectly.
I placed all my pattern pieces onto each main fabric and cut them out, this left me with two identical rows of pattern pieces in two different fabrics. I always lie my pattern pieces in order, so I don't confuse the left and right pattern pieces. It also makes it easier to match them up later for sewing. Once the cutting out was finished it was time to over edge all the individual pieces. I then started pinning all the pieces together, lining up the edges and sewing them together until I had two separate corset tops. At this stage I held up the separate pieces and wrapped it around my body to check I had enough fabric at the back to either install a zip or create a lace up back using grommets. I normally add on an extra inch to my patterns just in case I make a mistake, or the measurements don’t add up, which happens quite often. For this reason, I found that I had extra fabric at the back. This was not an issue as it was easy to trim later once I had finished the rest of the top.
I placed my two separate corset tops on top of each other, right sides together and pinned them. This was the point where my project strayed from the original pattern, as I decided I wanted to add gathered straps to my top. I used dressmakers chalk to mark the areas I wanted to leave unsewn, so that I could sandwich the straps in between the two layers later. It was easier to decide where I wanted the straps to go at the front, so I left a small area unsewn at the highest point of the top. It was harder to guess where the straps would go at the back, so I left a large area unsewn. Once the two layers were sewn together (apart from the marked areas), I ironed the unsewn areas seam allowance. This would make topstitching the top shut much easier. I then turned the newly constructed top inside out, so the correct sides were now showing. It then needed to be ironed to flatten all the seams.
For the straps, I used bright red satin from the Craft Cotton Company, which matched perfectly with the bright red in Sarah's designs. I envisioned the sleeves gathering to create pleats, so I cut out 2 rectangles that were 6 inches wide and 16 inches long. Again, I made the straps a little longer and wider than I needed to account for seam allowance and tailoring adjustments. I folded the right sides together lengthwise and sewed down one side and then across, to close one end of the tube. I then turned the strap inside out, so the correct side was on the outside.
To close the final hole, I folded the raw edges inside and topstitched the opening shut. To try and achieve the gathered effect I sewed across each end of the straps using the longest stitch length on my machine and made sure not to backstitch. I took the straps and gently pulled the top threads of the stitching to gather the fabric. This didn’t work as effectively as I thought, as it didn't create a pleat all the way along the strap. However, I now have the option to fold the strap in half to make it thinner, or I can have a wider strap that drapes off the shoulder. To figure out where I wanted the straps to go I pinned them in different places and tried on the top. Once I was happy with the placement, I topstitched the openings to trap the ends of the straps in the top. This would allow my top to be completely reversible and the staps would look the same each way.
Moving onto the final stage of the project, I trimmed the extra fabric at the centre back, tucked in the raw edges and top stitched the ends shut. It was then time to measure and install the grommets so that I could lace up the back of the corset. This was my first-time installing grommets and it was so easy to do. It was also a great way to let out some frustration for all those failed projects. The finished result looks extremely polished, and because I used grommets to close the top, both sides look as though they are the ‘correct side’. The finishing touch was to lace up the back with a matching bright red ribbon.
I love this pattern so much, it’s a great way to minimise the number of clothes you have and save space. It can also be easily adjusted, as the back can be done up as tight or loose as you would like it. It's also incredibly comfortable as there is no need for boning. I know I'll be making many more of these for next summer, and I'll be wearing this one in autumn with my black turtleneck.
By Alex Holt for The Craft Cotton Company 2021