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Hacking a Menswear Supply for Corset Padding: A Mini Tutorial

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Padding has been a hot topic in the historical costuming world lately. Historically, some women did it, some didn't—much like our personal preferences for bra styles today. However, there are some eras where padding can help us achieve a silhouette that looks “right” for the fashionable shape of the time. We include two hip pads with our S-Bend corsets. If you would like to make your own, here is an extremely simple way to make versatile pads, useful for a variety of periods. Think of this as a “hack” for achieving a curvier silhouette. These can be pinned or stitched into or over top of corsets, into the backs of petticoats, etc.

You will need:

1 or 2 pairs of tailoring shoulder pads

½ yd cotton broadcloth or similar

1” single fold bias tape

Prep: We start with the obvious, simple choice: menswear tailoring shoulder pads. These are stuffed with natural cotton which is nicely tacked into a smooth curve. They are available in a wide range of sizes and thicknesses and are quite inexpensive. If your local fabric shops do not carry them, they can be ordered online from dry cleaning and tailoring suppliers. I like to use two sets of shoulder pads for each finished pad. You can use either one shoulder pad per corset pad, or pair two up, cotton side out, and baste together for thicker padding.

*Most shoulder pads have a right and a left and are sold as mirror image pairs. Make sure to pay attention to this subtle difference in shape as you'll want to make mirror image pads in the next steps.

Covering: I like to simply place the pad down on the fabric with the straight edge following the grain, fold fabric over the top, pin through all layers, and cut (photo 1). You don't have to be extremely exact with this step. Machine baste approx. 1/4” from the edge through all layers along the CURVED side only, being sure to catch the shoulder pad in your stitching (photo 2).

Redthreaded Tailoring Shoulder Pad Tutorial

Edge finishing: The raw edges on the curve of the pad can simply be overlocked/serged, but that is not the most elegant or long lasting solution. I like to bind them. This is my basic machine binding method.

First, open up your bias tape. With “right” side of pad up, wrap the end of the bias around the end of the shoulder pad where you will begin stitching. Match edge of bias to edge of pad, and stitch at 1/4”, wrapping other end under when you reach it. Trim any uneven edges of the pad or bias to true up to 1/4” (photo 3). Press bias out and around the edge to the back of the pad. Tuck under the raw edge of bias, and press so that you have a folded “lip” that extends about 1/8” beyond the first line of stitching (photo 4). From the right side of pad, stitch in the ditch, being sure to catch the lip of the bias underneath (photo 5).

Redthreaded Tailoring Shoulder Pads Corset Padding DIY Tutorial Hack

You're done! Bonus--they kind of look like pacman. Make these in a variety of thicknesses for different hip placements. For turn of the century bust padding, I highly recommend Wearing History's authentic "Bust Improver" pattern. 



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  • Dawn on

    I went to Luca Costigliolo’s talk at CoCo this year, in which he spoke a lot about padding. The examples he showed had the padding attached to the dress. I’m thinking I’m going to make portable ones that can move from dress to dress. If his book about various corset patterns comes out and if I actually make corsets appropriate for each dress, I might then actually try altering the dress itself. Seems silly to alter the dress when I’m still at the “one corset fits all” stage of my costuming journey. Thanks for the tutorial!


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