Crafts – Make a Child’s Play Corset

Make a Child’s Play Corset

During our 2014 Heritage Square summer camp, our campers got to view the underwear exhibit Victorian Secrets. To help them better understand how underwear has changed over time, each of our girls got to take home their own play corset (the boys got suspenders).

Advertisement from Montgomery Ward’s 1895 Catalog

Advertisement from Montgomery Ward’s 1895 Catalog

Children as young as 3 years old would wear a version of the corset called a corset waist or stays. This was less about creating shape and more about improving posture. As girls aged, they would graduate to more traditional corsets which were designed to create an hourglass shape.

This activity provides step-by-step instructions on how to make a child’s corset using drinking straws as “boning.” The corset design is courtesy of Heritage Square volunteer, Heidi Walsh. This corset is flexible and intended for play/dress-up only.

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Materials needed

–        Cotton twill fabric

–        6 small grommets or rivets ¼”

–        Thin ribbon

–        Thread

–        Sewing Machine

–        Iron

 

Steps to make your corset

1. Cut a rectangular piece of cotton twill fabric. Sizes are below

Small – raw fabric cut 24¼ x 13” (Completed dimensions 21” by 6” )

Medium – raw fabric cut 26¼ x 13” (Completed dimensions 23” by 6”)

Large – raw fabric cut 28¼ x 13” (Completed dimensions 25” by 6”)

2. Iron a small ¼” fold on both long sides of the fabric (folded toward the wrong side of the fabric). Stitch along the fold creating a hem.

3. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise. The wrong side of the fabric should be on the outside. Iron a crease along the long fold.

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4. Stitching on the wrong side of the fabric, sew both short ends of the fabric together leaving ¼” seams.

5. Flip the fabric inside out, the right side of the fabric should now be showing and you should now have a pocket-like piece of fabric with 3 sides stitched and one long side open.

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6. Crease the long, folded side with your iron.

7. Pick which side of your fabric will be the outside and the inside of the corset.

8. Fold and pin a 1” flap on either short end of the fabric. The folded flap should be on what you want to be the inside of the corset.

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9. Double stitch along the edge of the fabric.

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The next part of the instructions involve creating small vertical pockets for plastic straws that can be inserted into the corset as “boning.” This is an optional and time consuming step. If you wish to leave your corset non-boned skip this step and move to step 15.

10. Pin or mark lines running parallel to the short ends of the fabric. For the example corset, the spacing was one line every 1¼”  and another line every ¾”. The example corset had a total of 20 parallel lines, which created 10 pockets with a width of ¾”  (This left a little extra space at the end of the corset, you can do different spacing between pockets, but a width of ¾” works best for straws.)

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11. Sew along the lines or pins, creating vertical “pockets” in the corset.

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12. Cut regular drinking straws off just below the elbow. The cut straw length should be about 5½”.

13. Insert cut straws into the ¾” wide pockets in the corset. Insert all the way, so that the straws are not visible.

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14. To make the straws permanent, stitch along the upper portion of the pocket (where straws were inserted). The pockets can also be left open.

15. Using the 1” hem on either short side of the corset, install 6 small grommets or rivets in the corset, 3 in each side. Pay attention to the front and back side of the corset.

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16. Cut a long length of narrow ribbon and lace through the corset.