Boning for Costume, Evening and Bridal Wear

The boned bodice and corset are becoming increasingly popular and can be found in many local shopping malls. For those of you who wish to construct your own there are a few things you should know about “bones”.

It is important to realize that there are various types of bones available and each has a purpose, an asset and a drawback. The following list is in order of most available or most commonly used…..in my opinion.

The most easily found bone is “Ridgelene”, it can be found in almost any fabric shop and is relatively inexpensive. It is my least favorite despite the facts that it can be cut with scissors and sewn through. The cut ends become “prickly” and can easily damage light weight fabrics even after the ends have been melted down with the use of a lighter(not a difficult task but an added step for every bone).

The spiral steel bone looks like small wires were coiled together and then pressed flat. These cannot be cut with scissors or sewn through. You need bolt cutters or tin snips to cut this(bolt cutters work best), only cut the outer wires on each side as it takes much less effort and is quicker than trying to cut across the whole piece. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome get someone else to cut them as it does take a fair amount of pressure. Spiral bones can be bought by the metre(approx. 3″ longer than a yard) or by pre-cut pre-tipped lengths, standard width is 7mm(1/4″) but they do come in 10mm(7/16″) also. The 7mm are the best choice for costumes requiring some support and shaping which bones give but needing more flexibility. The spiral allows movements sideways as well as back and forth, these are the most comfortable bones for long wear. Tips can be bought separately to apply to cut ends. This process works best with two small pairs of pliers, one in each hand asserting pressure from top& bottom and either side simultaneously……it is not as hard as it sounds but you may want to test the process first.

Springsteel bones are white strips of steel which come in width from 7mm(1/4″) to 14mm(5/8″) and in lengths from about 10cm(4″) to 38cm(15″), the end have been finished with a white plastic dip and are in no way sharp or rough. These can be easily cut with tin snips if you cannot get the length you need(bind the cut end with white medical tape or use the “tip dip” which tends to be rather messy and awkward). The quality of these bone vary and you need them to be strong to avoid bending out of shape once in the corset. I know more than one woman who upon rising from a “feast” found their corset had developed an embarrassing bulge as the corset bones had bent in at the waist and now created a protruding belly effect which could not be straightened out! Check the spring steel first; if you can bend it – don’t buy it. If you do not have an opportunity to see or touch the boning then ask how thick it is(not how wide) spring steels should be at least .4mm(sorry I don’t know the imperial equivalent for this) thick and .6mm is best. Springsteel bones are flexible front to back only not side to side. They offer the best support and are a definite for larger busted women.

Plastic bones come in various types and for the most part cannot be sewn through but can be cut with scissors. The exception to this is a product we have and call “German” plastic boning, called so for the most obvious reason….it comes from Germany. These are the most versatile of all bones; cut with scissors, sew through, safe in salt or chlorinated water(you can wash your corset with no concern of developing rust stains) as supportive as spiral but without the sideways flex, invisible under more delicate fabrics and remarkably inexpensive even when compared to ridgelene! Sold by the metre, cut with scissors the ends can be shaped easily; angled or curved there will be no “prickly” ends (your cutting ability may leave a few burs which are easily removed with the swipe of an emery board). “German” bones come in four width; 5mm(1/8″), 7mm(1/4″), 11mm(7/16″) and 13mm(5/8″). 7mm can replace the 1/4″ spirals in corsets for equal support at considerably less weight and cost. 5mm can be used in doll corsets and hoop skirts.

Plastic Whalebone is available in width of 7mm(1/4″) and 10mm(7/16″) and is sold by the metre, it cannot be sewn through and is difficult to cut with scissors, try tin snips. It has the advantage of the ability to be steamed into shape and it to is relatively inexpensive. The narrow one is more flexible and both flex only front to back not side to side.

Bones can be a matter of personal choice; what you feel comfortable working with and what you feel comfortable wearing. Just remember you do have choices.
By: Linda Sparks

Written by Linda Sparks
Farthingales, fabrics by mail

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