From left: “Corset illustration” by Sun Young Park for The School of Making Book Series and Patterns; “Original Corset” from the Alabama Chanin archives; Bloomers Fabric Detail in Natural/White Reverse Appliqué; “Corset” from Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns by Natalie Chanin (pages 74–75); “Corset”, 1870–89 by Maison Léoty via the Metropolitan Museum of Art; DIY Corset featuring embroidered quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” from Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Corset, once a form of female subjugation, has been around for a very long time. From page 145 of Alabama Stitch Book, “[corsets] often conjure up images of women with cinched waists, constricted by tight contraptions ribbed with whale bone and steel. Since whale bone and steel don’t fit into my lifestyle, I took this classic utterly feminine form and gave it my own modern, comfortable twist. I found that cotton jersey, constructed with strong handmade seams, provides the perfect support and at the same time allows the corset to fit any woman’s body. I’ve heard that some of our clients call this corset ‘Wonder Alabama’ because it shows off any woman’s best assets and enhances the lovely curves that we have so naturally.”
Our very first Corset pattern was designed, drafted, and graded in 2001 for use with recycled t-shirts.
Since then, it has appeared in countless Alabama Chanin Collections and is currently offered in ready-to-wear, machine-sewn and hand-sewn versions in Alabama Chanin’s Collections. 12 years ago, the pattern first appeared as a DIY project in Alabama Stitch Book. One project featured it in our classic Reverse Appliqué Bloomers (pages 144–147), and one featured a deconstructed printed t-shirt (like this) on beginning on page 154. It is also featured in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns (page 74), which can be used as a guide to alter our garment patterns, like raising the neckline or adding to the overall length.
The Corset’s design and construction are synonymous with classic “Alabama Chanin style” that is translated, with our open-source hand-sewing techniques, to The School of Making. Designed to enhance a woman’s natural curves, this flattering top has classic lines, a snug fit, and a deep scoop neckline. Reminiscent of a Victorian-era top, the design of our Corset creates a comfortable, yet secure, fit (no ribbed whale bones necessary). And over the years, it has proven to be the perfect canvas for a wide variety of colorways and techniques.
Following suit of the Swing Skirt and A-Line Dress—more classic and best-selling styles, the Corset is now available as a stand-alone pattern that you can add to your home pattern library. Like all of our patterns, the Corset is offered in nested sizes XS through XXL and is available in both physical and digital formats.
Whether it has been embellished with appliqué, beading, a favorite quote, or constructed from a well-loved sports jersey, the Corset has been a staple in our wardrobe for years and its timeless design will make it one in yours. Explore the Journal for your own inspiration, find a pre-cut and stenciled kit here, or pair the Corset pattern with any of our Studio Books for instruction on a variety of appliqué, beading, stenciling, and embroidery stitches.
Indigo Corset, 2010 from the Alabama Chanin Collection; at right: The Corset Pattern, 2020 from The School of Making
Shop the Corset pattern here and share your completed design with us on Instagram using the hashtags #theschoolofmaking and #TSOM20in20 for a chance to be featured.