Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Embellishing a lace corset

This article was first published in 2012 on the amazing corset-making website www.foundationsrevealed.com  Thank you to the lovely team at FR for allowing me to publish the full article here!

Tutorial - Embellishing a lace corset with Swarovski rhinestones and beads

Embellishing a lace corset with Swarovski rhinstones & beads

By Flo Foxworthy - November 2012

This month i've been working on a costume for a New Zealand-based burlesque performer named Leda Petit.
Leda is a stunning young woman with a face and figure straight out of a black & white film from Hollywood's golden age, and I always enjoy creating costumes for her that are elegant and striking, while still remaining feminine and pretty.

In this article, i'll be looking at choosing the embellishments for her corset, and how I go about attaching these delightful sparkly things to garments.
The main colour theme for this costume was Navy lace on nude, to give the impression of lace against bare skin - this is one of my favourite looks, and it can be really effective when embellished with sparkling details.

Choosing the embellishments

When considering the embellishments for this costume, I decided to use a selection of Swarovski rhinestones and beads in various sizes and shapes to compliment the design of the lace border.
Rather than use one single colour, I chose to use two shades of blue and a lovely steely-grey as an accent.
The variety in colour and shape helps to add depth and interest to the overall design – the Dark Indigo stones give flashes of deep blue/black, and the Meridian Blue stones appear to be blue/turquoise from the front but reflect violet, red and gold from different angles.

Swarovski rhinestones & beads for a burlesque costume

I estimated what i'd need by looking at the floral design on the lace and counting how many times each feature was repeated.

The final list may seem excessive, but from past experience i've found that it takes far more rhinestones and beads to cover an area that you initially think!

Corset embellishments:
Round flat-back rhinestones (size ss20) – Dark Indigo x 700 pieces
Round flat-back rhinestones (size ss20) – Meridian Blue x 700 pieces
Round flat-back rhinestones (size ss34) – Dark Indigo x 50 pieces
Round flat-back rhinestones (size ss30) – Meridian Blue x 100 pieces
Bicone beads (4mm) – Dark Indigo x 700 pieces
Bicone beads (4mm) – Jet x 80 pieces
Rivoli sew-on rhinestone (10mm) – Crystal Silver Night x 10 pieces
Teardrop sew-on rhinestone (12x7mm) – Crystal Silver Night x 90 pieces
Bugle beads (not Swarovski) – Royal blue and Steel blue

Total 2430 pieces (excluding bugle beads) 

Constructing the corset

To begin, I drafted an underbust corset with four attached garters. Leda wanted the appearance of a dramatic waist reduction, but still needed to be able to perform in the garment, so I gave the corset eight panels per side and curved it up around her ribcage to give her plenty of room to breathe.
The corset had four layers in total:
Nude satin (fused with a firm cotton interfacing), lace overlay, white coutil, floating lining.
I used a combination of flat and spiral steels, and because the panels were so narrow (around 3cm at the waist), I used only one bone per seam.

Cutting the corset pieces

I wanted to have as few visible seams in the lace as possible, so instead of cutting the lace in panels to match the corset pattern I chose to use pattern manipulation to re-create the corset in as few pieces as possible.

Cutting the lace overlay pieces

Placement of lace overlay on the corset front

In the end I used three lace pieces per side:
1: Centre front extending around the side above the waist
2: Side front below the waist
3: Back
4: Filler piece for the back (this piece was not needed after all)

The lace I used for this costume had pretty floral sprays all over, so I was able to shape the lace pieces around the curves of the corset by carefully trimming around the edges of the sprays and overlapping instead of creating darts (this helps to give the appearance of an almost seamless layer of lace around the body).
I trimmed away the excess fabric, and using tiny stitches I secured the lace to the corset while closing the “seams” in the lace. The lace overlay needed to be secured to the nude satin layer, so I used a clear nylon thread to stitch through the layers with tiny stitches, catching the coutil layer along the corset seam lines to prevent it from slipping around or pulling and getting saggy.

Hand stitching lace to the front of the corset

When stitching the layers together, I kept the turn-of-cloth in mind so the layers won't pull in opposite directions when the garment is worn. To do this, I never held the garment flat when stitching - I used my free hand to support the garment from the inside, allowing it to curve over my hand while I stitched from the outside.

Beading the corset

My corsets are mainly worn by performers, so the embellishments need to be as secure as possible – I can't have them catching on other costume pieces, or coming loose easily.
A bridal or evening corset may be worn only once or twice, and you may need only to stitch through each bead once to secure it to the garment.. but a burlesque costume will be worn many times (especially if the performer has invested in a serious piece), and may even be thrown around on stage or piled into a suitcase, so all embellishment needs to be as secure as possible.

Once the lace was all attached and secured to the corset, I was ready to begin the beading.
I've found it's easier to do the majority of the beading on a corset prior to finishing and binding the edges, just to prevent any accidental stitches making their way through the lining.
At this point, I tried to bead anywhere that wouldn't get in the way of the binding etc, leaving about 2” from the top and bottom edges so there was plenty of room for stitching the binding on without catching any beads in the process. These areas would be beaded once the binding was finished.

Beginning to bead the corset

Note: remember to leave clearance room around your busk loops so that you can open and close the busk without catching on any beads or rhinestones!

Beading the front of the corset

Once again, I used the clear nylon thread (but it's entirely a matter of preference), doubled and knotted. I began by taking a couple of small stitches in place to secure the thread, then stitched through the bead and back through the fabric.
I tried to keep my stitches as close to the bead as possible, and I usually triple stitch each bead to ensure that it is secured firmly. I also caught the coutil layer with at least one of the three stitches in each bead if possible.
Attaching Swarovski rhinestones to the corset with invisible thread

Another benefit of triple stitching is that some beads have a tendency to cut through the threads, particularly if they are able to move around and rub against the thread due to loose stitching. If your bead is triple stitched then it can't move around and is less likely to be cut.
I finished each bead by taking a small tight stitch through the fabric underneath the bead ) rather than making a knot), then continued to the next bead by taking a stitch under the satin layer of the corset and bringing the needle out where the next bead is to be placed.

It's a slow process, but the end result is firm secure beading that doesn't move when you run your hands over it (or wear another garment over it).

Finishing the corset

Once the majority of the beading was done, I completed the corset by attaching the lining, inserting bones, finishing the back, binding the top and bottom edge and attaching the garters.
Once the binding was been finished, I continued beading any areas that had been left out earlier and then it was time to apply the rhinestones.

Beading the lace burlesque corset

Applying rhinestones

When it comes to rhinestones, not all are created equal.
Swarovski and Preciosa are probably the most well-known brands, and they have their reputations for a reason. Their stones are of excellent quality and are the most reliable when adhered to a garment.
The most popular rhinestones to use on garments are the round flat-back rhinestones. They come in a wide range of colours and sizes, and even some shapes.
You can choose between hotfix or non-hotfix stones. Hotfix stones have a heat-set glue on the back of each stone and require a special tool that holds the stone and heats it ready for application.
Non-hotfix stones need to be glued to the garment using an appropriate adhesive such as E6000 or Gemtac.

There are many imitation stones available, they may be labelled as DMC / Korean / acrylic etc. These are absolutely fine for crafts or for a low budget costume, but the quality isn't great so if you're working on a special piece then I strongly suggest you purchase genuine Swarovski or Preciosa stones – they aren't as expensive as you may think, and the vibrant sparkle is totally worth it.

It's a great idea to lace your corset onto a pillow prior to gluing, so that your corset is stretched out smoothly and you have a rounded surface to work on.

To apply rhinestones to fabric using a water-based glue like Gemtac, simply dab a small dot of glue directly onto the fabric and place the stone in glue. You want to use just enough glue that it surrounds the edge of the stone when it is put in place – but not so much that you end up with a messy ring of glue though!

To apply rhinestones using a stronger glue like E6000 is a little trickier, but worth the effort.
I find it's best to pick up each stone with tweezers and apply a little smear of glue to the back of the stone before placing it on the fabric. Once again, you need just enough glue to cover the back of the stone and slightly surround the edges but not so much the you create a thick ring of glue.
Some people prefer to apply dots of the glue to the fabric using a toothpick before placing the stones onto the glue dots, but E6000 has a tendency to become stringy and you risk leaving little trails of glue all over your fabric.

Be sure to let your glue dry completely - most glues will be touch-dry within 20 mins, but it's best to let the glue “cure” overnight before you try your corset on.

Gluing rhinestones takes a little practise to perfect your technique, but once you get the hang of it you'll want to stick them to everything in sight!

Gluing Swarovski rhinestones to the burlesque corset

The finished corset

Once the glue was dry all that was left was to do a thorough check for any loose beads or rhinestones that hadn't adhered properly (I did this by running my hands over the corset in all directions).
The final step was to stitch pieces of velvet ribbon over the garter clips, this is a lovely finishing touch that's easy and really completes the look.
To do this, just fold a piece of ribbon in half and cut it to the correct length (just a touch longer than your garter clip). Carefully seal the cut edge using a lighter to prevent fraying, then thread it through the bar on the clip.
I then secure the ribbon by taking a couple of small stitches on either side. It's simple and effective!

Garters on the lace burlesque corset

Et Voila! A fully beaded and rhinestoned corset fit for a burlesque queen.

Navy lace burlesque corset with Swarovski crystal rhinestones & beads


  1. Hello, is that possible to make such corset for me? <3

    1. Thanks for asking :)
      I'd be happy to make you a corset in a similar style, you can contact me through my website:

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