Sewing a Boned Bodice With Plastic Boning

Hey, remember this dress? Here’s the third post in the Padded Bust Series! First we sewed abutted seams in cotton batting, and then we made padded bra cups by layering cotton batting.

Today I’ll finish up the tutorial! We’ll sew a muslin version of our bodice, and add plastic boning to the seams. I’ll show you how to sew boning to a bodice, how to soften the plastic boning if it’s tightly coiled, and how the whole thing came together in the Summer in the City dress.

First, we’ll cut a set of bodice pieces out of muslin. In this dress, the main pieces and the lining pieces are shaped completely differently. I’m using the lining pieces, because the shape is more suitable for adding boning. In most cases, your bodice lining and main bodice pieces will be similarly shaped if not exactly the same.

As we do this, put your kettle on, as if you’re going to make tea. We’ll need boiling water later on!

Now, sew the muslin bodice together along all of the seams, except for where the zipper goes in. In my case, it’s centre back. Press seam allowances open.

Trim seam allowances down to 1/4″ (6mm).

Here’s the boning I’m using – plastic that comes in this fuzzy fabric casing:

Sorry for the slightly blurry photos – my preview screen broke on my camera so these were taken ‘blind!’ Mr Sewaholic has kindly lent me his camera now so I can keep on blogging.

Now, take your boning, and measure it off against all of the seams you want to add boning to.

At minimum you’ll want to add to both side seams, using 2 pieces of boning. Two pieces will add structure to the sides and keep your dress up.

I’m going to add it to the sideseams (2 pieces) and the front princess seams (2 more pieces) for a total of 4 pieces.

Take the boning out of its casings. You’ll have curly plastic strips, like so:

If your kettle’s gone off by now, that’s great! Fill a shallow plastic bowl with boiling or very hot water, and drop the plastic pieces into the water.

Why on earth are we doing this? Hot water softens the boning and allows you to straighten it out. Otherwise, it will curl against your body. I tried it, and it works!

While you’re waiting for the boning to warm up, let’s sew the casings to the bodice. Centre the casings along the seamlines, and pin to the bodice.

Pin casings to all of the seams you’re going to add boning to.

Take the bodice to the sewing machine, and sew on either side of the strip, through the original casing stitch lines.

Here’s what it looks like from the other side:

Once the boning has sat in the hot water for about 5-10 minutes, take it out and press it under something heavy and flat. I didn’t take photos, but you can use a heavy book, a stack of magazines, anything that will keep it flat while it cools off.

It won’t be perfectly flat, but it will be better than tightly curled, especially if you bought the last few metres of the boning roll (the inside of the coil)!

Insert the boning back into its casings.

Almost done! You can see that my boning sticks out farther than the edge of my bodice. What I’m doing there is taking off 5/8″ (1.5cm) off each end of the boning. I suppose you could simply measure 3cm and trim it off one end, now that I think of it! Our goal is to make sure that when we stitch our seam allowances along the top and along the bottom, that we don’t stitch through the boning. If you’re worried, trim extra! Trim 3/4″  if you like.

Before we close off the boning, let’s remove the sharp corners. Grab a nail file, and file the ends into a slight arc, smoothing out any sharp points.

If you leave the sharp corners, your boning might poke through your dress and make a hole. (It happened on my prom dress, it’s definitely possible!)

Here I’m checking to make sure that my boning ends at least 5/8″ (1.5cm) from the raw edge. Feel where your boning ends, and make sure it is far enough away!

Baste along the casing openings, to keep the boning inside its casing.

And you’ve sewn a boned bodice! Sorry for the blurry photo, but this is what it looks like, more or less!

Some questions you might have:

Where and when can I use boning?

Boning is usually seen on strapless or halter tops and dresses – anywhere where the garment needs a little help to stay in place! You can add boning to a dress with straps if you feel it will add structure.

What happens if my boning looks different from yours?

Boning also comes in metal, and in plastic without casings. If your boning doesn’t have a casing, you can use self-fabric or bias tape to create casings, just like we did with the casings in this tutorial. For metal boning, you can buy it in different lengths so you can avoid cutting it. If you do have to cut it, do it carefully! There are little caps that go on the ends of metal boning to protect your garment.

Where can I buy boning online?

I did a quick check and found these sources. I haven’t shopped from any of these stores, as my local store carries plastic boning. If you have a recommendation, leave us a comment below!

Just to finish it off, here’s a quick run-through of what I did after making the padded bodice, bra cups, and this boned muslin bodice!

Then, I took this muslin layer, and sewed it into the dress. Basically I treated it like a lining, just a heavily constructed lining!

I sewed along the top edge of the bodice, turned it right side out. I planned to slipstitch the lining along the waist seam, but added purple ribbon along the seam instead for extra softness.

That’s it for the padded bust series! These posts are meant to give you some insight into how to add padding, cups, or boning to your dress projects, and for a peek into the inner workings of the dress. Let me know if you have any questions on this little how-to guide. (It feels good to have finished off the series, finally!)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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47 Responses to Sewing a Boned Bodice With Plastic Boning

  1. Lisette July 8, 2011 at 6:32 am #

    Thank you SO much for this tutorial! I’m sure it will be very helpful to me in the future!

  2. Paula July 8, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    Fantastic tutorial. Very clear pics and instructions! Beautiful dress!

  3. Jaime July 8, 2011 at 6:41 am #

    When I saw various comments on your Lonsdale release about not being able to wear a bra, I wondered if something like this might be feasible in that dress. Not sure the style is conducive to this type of internal structure, but I’m envisioning a sweetheart neckline on the internal piece , similar to this dress, that attaches to the dress most everywhere except a few inches in the center front so the knotted part is uninterrupted…? Again, not sure if that’s possible, but was curious about your thoughts.

    Love the idea of built in bra cups/bust padding. Will definitely file this for future use!

  4. Bri July 8, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    This is awesome, I’ve worked with boning before but never heard about putting it into hot water, makes total sense though!

    So excited to of found this blog!

  5. Katharina July 8, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    thanks for the tutorial! How do you laundry this dress?

  6. TanitIsis July 8, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Oh, nice! I have seen this kind of boning at my local fabric store, as well as the stuff you can sew through (Ridgeline?) but I haven’t tried any yet. That hot-water soak is genius. I also have a packet of heavy duty plastic cable ties to try out, too…

    I have heard recommendations for this site for corset supplies in general, including of course boning. It’s a Canadian site, which is nice for those of us up here who don’t want to add cross-border shipping to the charges.

    https://www.farthingalescorsetmakingsupplies.com/

  7. Kathleen July 8, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Great tutorial, I love how you break it down step by step and I understand each step! Can’t wait to get my machine!!!

  8. Lauren July 8, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    i’ve never heard of the hot water trick – that’s really interesting! alternatively, if the boning isn’t terribly coiled (like it’s at the beginning of the roll), you can use an iron to press it flat. my rowenta has a non-stick plate so i just press directly on the boning, but you can also press while it’s still in the casing. at any rate, the hot water looks like a good way to take care of those teeny spirals you get when you get stuck with the end of the roll :)

  9. Susan July 8, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Thank you thank you for this tutorial! Boning has been one of those mystifying things that I’ve stayed away from because it seemed so complicated. Thanks for breaking it up into clear and easy steps for us :)

  10. jadestar July 8, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    This has been a really useful set of tutorials. Thank you so much. I really love this pattern myself, but having a typical pear shaped problem of not having as much up top the padding info is very useful.
    Looking forward to getting my Lonsdale dress pattern! :)

  11. Jessica July 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I’ve only ever purchased boning from Dragontown Corset Supply- I need some metal spiral boning for a set of 16th century stays (obviously not historically accurate, but definitely very effective). BUT they have a great selection of all kinds of boning and were very pleasant. Also, they’re based out of one of my favorite towns in the Northeastern US- Jim Thorpe/Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, so that makes me like them even more.

    That’s my recommendation!

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  12. Ryan July 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    @Jaime: If I were to do this…I would made an internal boned bodice (very similar to the one in the tutorial) and match up and attach just at the side seams. This way the front of the dress would just float over top and avoid any weird pulling. You could finish the top of the internal bodice with bias tape to finish the edges and make it comfortable to wear.

  13. nicole July 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Great tutorial Tasia! Love the tip about putting the boning in the hot water, I have struggled with trying to straighten plastic boning long enough to get in place in the past.
    I am making a 50′s tea length wedding dress and had planned on using the bodice from this vogue pattern, i will definitely also incorporate the padded bra cups also!

    :-) Nicole

  14. Megan July 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Where in Van do you buy boning? Not only am I making a halter dress soon, but I have a corset pattern I am desiring to try. I just don’t know which fabric stores carry it!

  15. Tasia July 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Hey everyone! I’m so glad this was useful – I’m always curious what happens on the inside of people’s sewing projects!

    @Megan: I bought this plastic kind at Fabricana in Richmond, and I’m sure the other Fabricana in Coquitlam has it too. If downtown is closer to you, I bet Dressew will have it, possibly a more varied selection? In fact I’m SURE I saw metal boning at Dressew, so they likely have plastic too.

    @Katharina: Hi! I’m thinking I will have to dry-clean the dress, so that the cotton batting doesn’t matt or clump or fall apart. I could probably hand-wash it very carefully, too.

    @Jaime: Wait till you see the pattern pieces for the dress – they’re pretty unusual! I haven’t tried to add any padding or support to the Lonsdale dress yet but it’s on my ‘to try’ list. I think you’re on the right track, letting it ‘float’ between the layers and attaching at the side seams.
    @Ryan: Thanks for the suggestion! You could keep it on the inside, or sandwich it between the two layers so it’s hidden. Something for me to experiment with later on!

  16. Amber July 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Fantastic! I made a strapless bodice a few years back and I had trouble with the curling bits too. If I’d known the hot water trick it would have been sooooo much easier!

    PS Loving your blog!

  17. AllisonC July 8, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Thanks for the hot water tip, I usually have to leave my plastic boning under a pile of books for days when I just want to get on and sew!

  18. boocat July 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    This is very cool! Thanks for the tutorial! I must try it/

  19. magdamagda July 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    I’ve never tried boning! That’s brave and exciting, waiting for the final pics!

  20. little betty July 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    I’m incredibly excited about these posts. As someone who normally does a SBA to all patterns, I like that there’s finally something out there in blog land to actaully help me! I think I’ll pick up this vogue pattern next time they are on sale. Cheers :)

  21. Anna Neah July 9, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    When using plastic boning I use the fire from a candle to burn the tips of it slightly. The boning Will get a “knob” on the end this way and Will never split apart. Very useful!
    Thank you for a great sewing blog.

  22. Doreen July 9, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    I sew a lot of formal and bridal wear that require the inside corset/lining so I hope you won’t mind if I add a few tips.

    First, the corset/lining should be cut about 1/16th of an inch smaller all the way around on each piece. This accounts for the turn of cloth so that the edge will not show the corset and there should be no puckering. I also interline the outside fabric with flannel (wash several time in hot water to shrink completely) to give a soft but smooth finish to the outside. This does not seem to make the top too hot to wear….I find that amazing but true.

    I do use the spiral steel boning because it bends with the body, unlike the plastic. This is especially important if the the top goes beyond the waistline. I have even used the spiral steel boning in a 4way stretch baton twirling costume (much like a very fancy swimsuit) with no adverse effect to movement. She said it was very comfortable.

    To completely avoid the constant tugging up of the bodice when being worn, it helps to make a grosgrain ribbon (does not stretch) waist stay. The finished ribbon should be 1/2 to 1 inch smaller than the waist measurement. A finished waist stay will have a swimming suit hook sewn on one end and a loop to accommodate the swimsuit hook on the other end. Hand tack the ribbon to the waist only at the point of contact with the boning. Since the ribbon is smaller than the waist the completed bodice, you must cause small gapping of the bodice to the ribbon. When the ribbon is hooked, it will go into the flesh (yet still be comfortable) and the bodice will be held into place by the waist stay. No more tugging!. I use this method on all bodices that need boning even if it has straps.

    I learned the method from a Threads Magazine article by Kenneth King many years ago. It has made all the difference in the world! So, I thought it was worth passing along.

    • Abigail February 27, 2013 at 7:54 am #

      Doreen, thank you for these invaluable tips. I’m an intermediate (to advanced?) sewer and, because I haven’t had any formal training, it helps immensely to have advice like this. I’m about to make a bridesmaid’s dress and am looking forward to incorporating these tips.

  23. Gail July 10, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    The tip on filing the ends is great! I had this problem with a cocktail dress I made for my daughter. I’m not clear on how you secured the ends – did you just stitch across the top?

  24. The Slapdash Sewist July 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    The pokey ends of boning are so annoying. I tried a nail file in the past and found it time-consuming and not entirely effective. I now trim the ends into as rounded a shape as possible with scissors and then light a candle and melt the ends to smooth them. Do it near a window as the burning plastic smell is unpleasant, but it is fast and effective.

  25. Tasia July 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    @Gail: Hi Gail! Yes, I just stitched across the top, about 1.5cm from the raw edge. Where the seam would be, if I was sewing a real seam! That way when/if you do need to sew a seam, the boning is kept out of the way.

  26. Tasia July 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Thanks everyone for the tips on melting the ends! That sounds way more effective than filing the ends, as you never get it perfectly smooth with a nail file.

  27. janelle December 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Hi, i have sewn a dress like this, (without the padding in the bust) I am curious as to why my dress looks so flat in the bust area. There is no curve at bust. Can you explain why please?

  28. sheraa October 19, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    This is so helpfull. thank u for great tutorial

  29. marie October 29, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    The clearest, most detailed blog piece on bustier and boning. Thanks so much! This is an excellent blog!

  30. Emma December 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    This was amazing and informational. I will definately give this a try,but I wanted to ask how you would get a designed fabric for the bodice? Do you replace the muslin with the fabric of your choice? Or do you cover the muslin in the fabric of your choice, and If so, how?

  31. Angela January 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Can I ask what pattern you used for the lining bodice? I have been looking to find a simple bodice like this one without much luck

    • Tasia January 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      It’s the inside of Vogue 1174 – the outer bodice has different design lines than the inner pieces, the lining is much less complicated.

      For a simpler strapless dress, why not try Eclair by Colette Patterns? http://www.colettepatterns.com/shop/eclair
      You could skip the ties for a simple, strapless dress with a similar bodice to the pieces in this demo. Hope this helps!

  32. Brittni March 4, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Thank you so much for this! I’m actually looking to make a pageant cupcake dress for my 7 year old daughter, and I think I’ll be able to apply your boning techiniques to the bodice for her dress. Kids are much easier to sew for- no curves to work around! Especially at 7 years old, she’s still somewhat rectangular! I’m wondering if I could find the cased boning like yours at a ‘big box’ chain sewing store? Or is that something that would have to be special ordered online? I think I like the nice, cushy material better than using a bias tape method for a child- less itchy. Or I could always use some flannel as a casing?

    • Tasia March 4, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      It depends on the stores near you, I found mine at my local fabric store and didn’t need to order it specially. Good luck!

  33. Debbie March 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    This tutorial is great. I’m curious about how to put boning on curved (armhole) princess seams. How do you make it curve smoothly from the bust point to the armhole? I always have shoulders and sleeves in the wedding dresses I make and have never figured it out. Thanks again for the clear ideas.

  34. Lydia May 22, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    I am so glad I found your tutorial. The great pictures and tricks with the boiling and filing are just brilliant! I have never sewn with boning before, but I was able to follow this and I think I did a fair job. ;) Thank you so much for all the effort put into a great tutorial!!

  35. ooobop! June 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Hi Tasia. Just curious to know if I should use a bone centre front? Yours doesn’t appear to have one. Is there a reason for that?

    • Tasia June 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Hi! It’s up to you, if you think that the bodice would benefit from a centre front bone then you can add one. Say if the neckline needs the extra support, perhaps your fabric is not strong enough to keep the neckline straight without the added support of a centre front bone and tends to dip or sag without it. In this garment the cotton sateen is pretty stiff, and I also added shoulder straps, so there wasn’t really a need to have a lot of boning.
      Also you can add boding to either side of a zipper, if it needs support as well. If your dress is strapless, then support is important as you want to keep it as upright as possible! And then again the more boning you add, the more restrictive the garment will be. If it were my project, I’d add just enough boning to keep it upright and supported without adding so much that the garment starts to feel restrictive and uncomfortable. (You can always try it without one at centre front, baste it all together and see if it needs more or if it’s fine as is.) Hope this helps!

  36. Gloria August 11, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    This is the answer to my prayers!! I’ve been meaning to construct structured strapless gowns, and I was looking towards creating a corset as an undergarment. After viewing a few tutorials (and the ensuing mini heart attacks) I came across this tutorial, and is the absolute perfect alternative to a corset! It’s everything that a corset provides, but easier to do! Thank you a bazillion!

  37. migdalia September 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    Thank you SO much for this tutorial! it will be very helpful to me in this moment. I sew a dress for the girlfriend of my son.

    • laurie November 7, 2013 at 3:56 am #

      I m looking for wire insert for sweetheart neckline, had one in dress in past, trying to convert n existing dress from round to sweetheart. do you know what they re called & where to find one? thanks

  38. Elizabeth December 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    I use the plastic zip ties from Home Depot. The temperature is a right rating than the “featherlight” boning, so it can be washed in all temps and dried and won’t wilt when you wear it in the summer heats!

  39. Cindy April 16, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Thanks so much for the hot water to shape the boning trick!

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