Corset SNAFU? Here’s how to Repair / Mend (Most Types of) Corset Damage.
Several of you liked the video/post I made on corset fitting issues and how to alter your corset to improve the fit, so I decided to make a “Part 2” where we talk about mending and repairing your damaged corset – and when the repair is manageable, or whether you should cut your losses and “sacrifice” the corset to reuse its hardware in a new corset.
Let’s explore the various types of corset damage, one by one:
A seam rips in your corset
I’m starting with this one because it’s one of the most extensive types of damage, and it’s the one that corseters tend to panic the most over.
If it’s only the threads that have snapped, and not the fabric itself that has torn or disintegrated, it’s mendable. The “quick and dirty” mending job is to whipstitch that seam very tightly back together by hand. Although this mend is visible, it will be quite strong, and if you wish you can cover it in lace appliqué (and put lace on the other side of the corset to make the embellishment symmetric, so it looks deliberate).
Time needed to whipstitch a seam closed: 20 minutes, depending on the size of the rip. If you’ll be embellishing your corset afterwards to cover the mending job, give yourself extra time.
If, however, you want to repair the seam in a way that no one will know that the damage had ever occurred in the first place, the complexity of this depends on the number of layers and the construction of the corset. It can be a straightforward job in a multi-layer corset with laid down boning channels. But in a multiple-layer corset, you’ll have to remove the binding on top and botom, remove the bones in the area, essentially take apart that corset down to its tension-bearing seams and then put it back together. There are risks associated with this method – if the seam allowances were trimmed small and the fabric has a tendency to fray, the corset may not be able to go back together exactly the same way it did before due to extensive damage to the fabric.
Time needed to take apart the corset and put it back together again: Up to 10+ hours, depending on how quickly you work and how complicated the construction is. Some might prefer to just make a new corset half from scratch.
Broken steel bones
This repair is (relatively speaking) easy peasy. Remove the binding on one end of the corset, just up to the affected boning channel. Remove the broken bone, and measure the full length of the bone. Order a new steel bone online, and the most difficult part is waiting for that bone to arrive in the mail. Once it comes in, simply slide the new bone into the boning channel, then sew the binding back on.
Time needed to replace a broken steel bone: 1 hour (plus a few days / weeks of waiting for the mail).
Bones that are too bendy in the back
While this isn’t “damage” per se, it can absolutely cause one grief when trying to lace up and remain laced. The bones might kink and poke into your back, or the lacing gap may bow or warp. In this scenario, you can absolutely replace the bones with stiffer ones if you like (see above for the process). If you don’t want to mess with the boning, try adding more grommets in between between the pre-existing grommets (especially at the waistline), as well as tightening the boning channels if they’re too loose and allow twisting or twirling of the bones within the channels. I have a whole video / article on how to do these modifications here.
Time needed to replace bendy steel bones: 1 hour (see above)
Time needed to add extra grommets: Perhaps 20 minutes if you know what you’re doing.
Time needed to tighten the boning channels: 10 minutes, plus a good quality zipper foot.
The knob / pin / peg of the busk is basically a rivet that was hammered into a tiny hole within a steel bone. Therefore, it’s theoretically possible to get a rivet setter and hammer it back in (or find another rivet of the same size and use that instead). If you lost the knob, if the knob isn’t staying put, and you can’t find a rivet, you can try to get a little screw that somewhat matches the size, and screw it into the busk (use a flat nut or bolt in the back, and obviously get the type with a flat tip and not pointy).
Time needed to install a rivet or screw to replace the busk pin: >1 hour.
If you wanted to completely replace the busk, this is possible with corsets that have a reasonably “self-healing” fabric (i.e. not materials that show perforations, like leather or vinyl). To replace the busk, first order your busk and ensure that your new busk is the same length as your old one, with the same number of loops & pins, and they align in the same spots. If the knob side of your new busk can fit into the loop side of your old busk, this cuts your work in half because you only have to replace the damaged side.
Remove the binding and the anchoring seam (do not touch the center front seam), take out the broken busk, and replace it with a new busk. Sew your new anchoring seam, then put the binding back on.
Time needed to replace the busk with a new, identical one: 30 minutes per side.
Another thing you can do is get rid of the busk altogether.
Time needed to make a closed-front corset: ~ 1-2 hours.
Time needed to replace the busk with front lacing instead. ~ 2-3 hours.
Bonus: What if the loop side of the busk isn’t broken, just bent?
This type of damage on the busk is most often due to not fully loosening the laces in the back before attempting to undo the busk, so that one has to twist and struggle to unclasp the loops and knobs. As long as the corset is sufficiently loosened in the back, the busk should easily undo.
For the bent loops, these can be gently hammered or bent straight again, taking care not to make the loop “ziggly” or bending it too far in either direction. For the knobs/ pins, I would not ever recommend hammering them as they may lose their anchor and fall out.
Bones that have worn through their boning channels
If you’re just starting to notice a bit of wear or thinning along the fabric, you can floss the ends of the bones to prevent them from sliding around and preventing further damage.
Time needed to floss a boning channel: Give yourself like 10-15 minutes per motif, depending on your experience level.
If the bone has already worn a hole through the fabric, depending on how much it’s damaged you might need to patch over it or add external boning channels to cover it up. With external boning channels, this is your opportunity to get creative – use matching channels for a subtle effect, or decorative / contrast channels to spruce up your corset. To make the repair look deliberate, whatever you do to one side of the corset, also do to the other side.
If you’re going to add external channels, you’ll have to remove all the bones from that channel (or the whole corset, if you plan a major overhaul). This is a good opportunity to a look at the bones and be sure that they’re properly tipped and not sharp. If the bones were incorrectly prepared, you might have to take all the bones out and tip them properly and put them back in, which might extend your project by an hour or two.
Time needed to add one external boning channel: ~ 1 to 1.5 hours.
Time needed to add external boning channels to the whole corset: ~ 3-4 hours, depending on number of channels, and removing and putting on the binding again.
Grommets that have fallen out
Once the fabric around a corset has become so frayed and damaged that the grommets are falling out, you have no choice but to reinforce that fabric and / or use different grommets that are larger and have a wider flange.
The hardest part is sourcing your grommets and a matching setter that will set the grommets properly and not smush or crush them. If you already have these on hand and you don’t care about the grommets being all the same size or style (say you just want to replace the one grommet in the back), then it will be a super easy job.
However if you want all your grommets to match, you’ll need to take pliers and remove all the grommets one by one, and (preferably) add a reinforcing interlining in the back panel which will help the grommets stay in more securely
Time to change 1 grommet: 10 minutes
Time to remove all grommets and put in new ones so they all match: at least 2 hours (1 hour to remove the grommets, another hour to put new ones in). For a longer corset with more grommets, give yourself even more time.
I think I’ve covered most or all of the possible SNAFUs that can happen regarding corset fitting or damage that can be altered, modified or repaired.
If there were any I missed, let me know in the comments below! Also, if there were any (practical) modification or repair videos you would like me to make in the future, feel free to comment and ask.