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Tight-Laced Corset With Steel Boning

“Do I really want a tight-laced corset with steel boning?” you ask yourself. Okay, so you’ve finally set down that romance novel with the beautiful heroine wearing the tightly laced corset with steel boning that trims her figure to a waspy 18” waist. She is tiny, gorgeous, and she has “the man”! Now you’ve become that damsel, swept away by the handsome rogue. “I need that damn corset,” you say to yourself! “But do I really want a tightly laced corset with steel boning? Does it need to have steel boning?” So you begin your pursuit on the internet to find something that will make your dreams come true.

You pour over all the websites offering corsets of many kinds with a very wide range in price! Some will insist that “a corset with steel boning is the only kind of corset to buy”! What’s all the hype about the steel in a corset anyway?  Your curiosity leads you to follow the trail.

You do some research. You discover that corsets have been around for a very long time! There must be something to that “waspy figure” that the heroines have.

There have been many types of boning and support used in corsets over the years. Tightly laced corsets have not always had steel boning. Other forms of corset support were used at first. Reeds, wood, whalebone, and even carved ivory were some of the options.  “Why is steel boning better for a tight-laced corset” you ask yourself?

Types of Boning Used:

Let’s delve into this subject and compare the various types of boning and their uses, starting with the most popular or well know types of boning used today. The topic of tightly laced corsets with steel boning is a popular subject today.

1) Flat steel Boning:

Flat steel strips are strips of steel that are painted and cut to a variety of lengths.  There is also steel sold in a continuous roll format, sometimes known as “sprung steel”. These can be found in basically two widths, ¼” and ½”; galvanized and fusion coated to prevent rusting. After cutting, the ends must be covered with end caps or dipped in a rubberized coating to prevent the sharps edges from cutting through the fabric and possibly impaling the wearer of the corset.

This type of boning is very strong and rigid and has a fairly flexible bend in two directions. It provides strong support for keeping the body properly confined while retaining the shape of the corset. Since it does not have the ability to curve sideways, this type of boning cannot be used on curved seams. It is perfect for the front and back openings, however, where there are straight seams, thus producing the tight-laced corset with steel boning.

2) Spiral Steel Boning:

Spiral steel boning is a type of steel boning has the appearance of wire that has been coiled in a tight loop repeatedly to form a long steel strip. It is sold in ¼” and ½” widths by the roll or precut strips. It can be cut to the desired lengths with a strong pair of wire snips. End caps are then used to prevent the sharp cut wires from cutting the fabric or poking the body. This type of boning is flexible in four directions. It can bend sideways and can also twist.

The ability of this boning to flex sideways makes it perfect for seams and curves in the corset. The emphasis on spiral steel is the flexibility, and not necessarily the ability to retain the shape of the garment. (‘The World of Corsets; Steel Boning, Why, How Many and What Does It Do’, by Another Lone Gunman)

The design and seams of the corset will limit how much the boning can mold out of shape. Because of this, there will be a “compromise between the corset and your body”. Some corsets are inexpensively made with little emphasis on actual support. Lined or unlined makes a big difference. Steel boning, the weight of the fabric and the strength of the lining all have an impact on the strength and shape of the finished corset.

3) Plastic Boning or “Zip Ties”:

Plastic boning is a type of boning that many seasoned corsetieres are getting to know and love. Zip ties that are used in corset making, however, are not to be confused with the thin, flexible, zip ties that are used to bind your stereo wires together. The only plastic zip ties that are useful can be found online through a company that manufactures heavy duty construction cable ties. Cable ties of this form are produced incorporating stabilizers in the nylon resin, giving them strength to hold up to 175 pounds each strip!

This makes them a fairly thick and definitely resilient, strong form of boning. I have found this type of boning to become more comfortable than steel with body heat, yet it retains its strength and shape without the fear of breakage. The ties can be cut with tin snips and the edges filed down with a 100 grit nail file until smooth. This means no edges to cut fabric or poke into the body.

While I continue to use the steel boning at the front and back openings, I sometimes back it up with an extra layer of the cable ties. I can ride all day on a motorcycle and then dance all night, still in comfort, without losing any support. And best of all my corsets stand the test of time. They are still beautiful and hold their shape after many years of wear. I definitely do not agree with people that say the corset is cheaper when made with “plastic boning”. It can last even longer than its counterpart while providing much more comfort in the process.

4) Rigilene Boning:

Because it is sold in fabric stores and referred to in articles on corset making, I will talk about Rigilene boning. It is made of polyester “threads” which are fused together to form a somewhat stiff, but flexible form of stiffening for a garment. Associated with Rigilene is the Featherlite or polyester boning also sold in fabric stores. Because of the scant thickness, however, it will conform and stay out of shape with applied pressure over time. It can be used for lingerie and costumes. I would not recommend this to be used in a corset of any durability that would otherwise stand the test of time. Even with many layers of fabric,s the rigilene boning will not be sufficient support for a corset.

Other Types Of Shaping Materials:


Exciting products in the design world are the use of Fosshape® and Wonderlflex®. Industries such as “theatre, costumes, millinery, mask or armor making, puppetry, props, cosplay, craft work, model making, set design, and the entertainment industry” use these materials.  Fosshape® is “limited by your imagination material”.  This inspirational material can be heat shaped and formed with steam. In appearance, Fosshape is a fluffy white filler resembling quilt batting. When steamed it shrinks and becomes dense and conforms to the desired shape. The benefit is that it is durable, lightweight, breathable and you can sew through it!  Costume professionals call it the “buckram replacement”. If you have never tried this product I highly recommend it. But be careful as you may become addicted.

Item from Wonderflex® material


The other product sold by this company is known as Wonderflex ®. It is a different form of support or stiffener in that it is sold as a “thermoplastic composite sheet. Made of a unique synthetic polymer that when heated in the range of 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit, Wonderflex® will soften and activate a built-in adhesive for molding and forming”. The Wonderflex® can then be cut with a good pair of sharp scissors or a utility knife and shaped with a heat gun so is easy to use. Wonderflex® cannot be sewn through. But it can be formed to shape, and inserted into those high bust sections that would otherwise be unsupported efficiently. If you have not yet discovered these fascinating products I highly suggest you check out the website:

In Conclusion:

So once again you ask yourself, “Do I Really Want A Tight Laced Corset With Steel Boning?” From my own personal experience, I have discovered that a combination of various types of boning in a corset provides the best form of support and structure. I use strong and durable fabrics, often having 3-6 layers in the body of the garment. And, do not underestimate an authentic coutil lining. It is perfect for structure, support and comfort for your corset. At the front and back openings, it is best to use strong steel where strength is required for support. This will prevent your corset from breaking and creating an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

If the front steel busk is not thick enough, the thickness can be enhanced with plastic zip tie boning. In the curved seams or where you wish to provide the curve in your corset, the spiral steel boning would be the best choice. For design, or to strengthen weak fabric, I have used multiple rows of cording along with boning on a separate layer of fabric. The options are endless. However personal preference should be left to the discretion of the skilled corsetiere. Not the client that is requesting a tight-laced corset with steel boning due to the internet hype.

A good corsetiere with knowledge and skill can make the corset of your dreams. It is an investment. You want that investment to last for many years to make your dream come true.

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How a Corset is Made

How a Corset is Made

makes all the difference.  You can achieve the perfect fit but still, have inadequate construction.

A true corset is substantially made with several layers of heavy-duty fabric and durable boning of some form.  Since the withdrawal of whalebone, steel has been the preferred reinforcement.

There must also be a frontal steel busk and heavy-duty grommets at the back lacing. These are the minimal requirements for a well-made corset that will stand the test of time. Even a quality lingerie corset needs to have the structural support of dependable grommets and lacing to do the job.

Starting with the outer layer

The outer layer can be made of a variety of fabrics. The more durable the fabric the more permanence it will have over time. There are many layers of different fabrics in a true corset.

A Sultry Lady Corset will almost feel like a well-made flak jacket when finished. We can proudly say that our corset can “stand alone” on its own merit!

The Final Pattern Is Made For A Custom Corset


The Central Part of the Corset

In a very well made corset, you will find an inner layer (or two) of interfacing. The interfacing is inside the outer layers or layers, and inside the lining layer that sets against the body.

At Sultry Lady Corsets, How a Corset is Made is key to our business. We use a layer of ’hair canvas’ that is made from goat hair, polyester, cotton and wool of different amounts. This is the same type of interfacing fabric used to give body and shape to men’s tailored suits. It is quite a costly though unseen part of the corset. Without this particular material, the quality of the corset drops dramatically.

Many companies will skimp on this important part of the construction because it is not visible. To skip this part, however, is like building a body with bones but no muscle! The added expense means you get what you paid for; the quality that stands the test of time.

The Inside Lining

The inner layer or lining can also be made of a variety of fabrics. This is to protect the body of the corset from wear and tear. It is also used to provide structure and comfort. The corsets ability to breathe is of real significance as well. No one likes the thought of wearing a garment that makes them feel like they ‘can’t breathe in it’.

At Sultry Lady Corsets, we use only the highest quality cotton coutil fabric for the liner. Coutil cotton has been the standard in the corset industry for many centuries. It is a cotton fabric that is tightly woven to prevent penetration of the corset boning and is resistant to stretching. This particular fabric also has an incredible capacity for comfort, absorbing body heat and perspiration. Because of this, it is the only lining material that we will use. Although it is much more expensive than other fabrics that we could use for the lining of a corset, we prefer the quality material.

The Front Closure

The early 19th century brought a very different style of corset (still called “stays” at the time). A return to the natural or classical form was embraced by fashionistas. And for the first time in corset history, the bust was separated. To achieve and enhance the separation of the bust, the front “busk” was used. The busk was essentially a large rigid “Popsicle stick” shaped bone, inserted into a casing down the center front of the corset.

The front closure of a corset today contains a metal busk, usually made of a rigid steel. This busk consists of two long pieces of flat steel, one side with loops and the other with posts. They function in the same way as hook and eye fastenings on a garment. This is to allow a person to easily get in and out of a corset by themselves. It also helps to keep the corset straight and upright.  The opening of the corset by using busks did not come into use until the mid-1800’s.

The busk pieces are sewn into the corset on either side of the center front. Lacing is still used on the back section. In earlier times the busks were “made of wood, ivory or bone slipped into a pocket and tied in place with a lace called the busk point. These busks were often carved and decorated. They were sometimes inscribed with messages, and were popular gifts from men to their sweethearts”.

The Boning Support

Boning on a corset can be done with many different types of materials.  Corsets of the 17th and 18th century were most often heavily boned. They allowed for little or no space between the bone channels. This was necessary to force the body to conform to the desired shape of the era. At the time the most popular materials used for the boning were giant reeds or whalebone. Whalebone consists of a horny material from the upper jaws of baleen whales and used as “stays” in corsets.

At Sultry Lady Corsets, we use only steel and very heavy duty nylon boning. The nylon boning does not warp from body heat or collapse with wear. This allows for maximum comfort while maintaining consistent, uniform shape. During the cleaning process, the heavy nylon boning does not rust. This can easily happen with un-coated steel. Rust can also leave a nasty permanent stain on the inside and outside of your corset, completely ruining the garment.

The Back Closure

Finally, you have the grommets and the lacing at the back closure of the corset.

At Sultry Lady Corsets, we use only heavy-duty grommets. We install them with a grommet machine to ensure the durability and placement of the grommet. Since the majority of the strain on the garment is during the lacing and unlacing of the corset, it is imperative that the grommets be installed correctly.

It is also of utmost importance to apply the grommets to a substantial foundation. If this is not a priority for the corset maker in the construction process, the grommets can pull free from the back fabric. One the grommet is free, the lacing can cause damage to the corset that cannot be repaired.

We also install boning on both sides of the row of grommets. This is to stabilize and provide a rigid form for the lacing to pull evenly against. Thus reducing the strain on your corset back.


The Back Modesty Panel

The majority of well-made corsets will also have a back modesty panel. This is underneath the back lacing and sometimes a front piece under the busk. Certain corsets will not have modesty panels, however, for the look and design of that corset.

It is customary to apply the front piece under the busk only when necessary for comfort. The front closure should be tight enough to prevent any peeking of the skin. The front piece may also interfere with easily hooking the busk together.

It is important to note when purchasing a corset that even the back panel should be as well constructed as the corset itself.

At Sultry Lady Corsets, we do not cut corners on the back modesty panel. Our modesty panel is constructed with the same quality materials as the rest of the corset. We line and interfaced the modesty panel the same as the corset to hold shape and body. There is even boning and loops to hold the lacing and panel in place for a uniform, finished look to the back when needed.  The only time we do not attach a modesty panel is for appearances. Sometimes the desire is to have the skin showing at the back.


The Finished Edges

The top and bottom edge finishing are one of the most important parts of the corset for personal comfort. How a Corset is Made is a key element to this! You can’t wear a corset for an extended period of time if you have boning that is constantly poking you! And wearing a corset for an extended period of time to “train your waist” would be agonizing at best.

Having the edge correctly and securely sewn down is extremely important for the looks, comfort, and endurance of your corset.

Hopefully, this article has been interestingly informative. We believe it can assist you with the purchase of a new corset.

We at Sultry Lady Corsets look forward to providing you a well made, one of a kind unique and beautiful corset.  And, as always we’d like the opportunity of doing business with you!



Richard The Thread-

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