Hot! The ‘Serendipity’ underbust corset

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: .5 metre of red & white spotted cotton (inherited from Nana), .5 metre of linen interlining (thrifted for $1), .5 meter white lining (from stash).

Pattern: Mine own

Year: 2012

Notions: One steel busk (free) , plastic whalebone boning ($10), self-made piping, bias binding rescued off another item, corset lacing ($4).

And the insides? Picture perfect inside and out.

Hours: 5 (plus hundreds developing the pattern, but those don’t count, right?)

First worn?: Monday 17 Sep for the photoshoot

Wear again?: Not sure.  It’s kinda cutesy for me.

Make again?: Yes, I make (and teach) this pattern all the time

Total cost: $15

Five challenges ago I was sewing like mad, desperately trying to get everything made the four challenges I would miss while I was visiting my parents in Hawaii, where I wouldn’t much in the way of sewing accoutrements or internet access.

Other than being frantically busy, I had one massive problem: Mena hadn’t put the challenges past Gatsby up before I left, and I would get back Friday the 14th Sept, with the next, unknown, challenge due on Sunday night. Not a lot of time to sew, especially since I would kinda need to spend time with Mr D too!

So I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers, prayed, and tackled my UFO pile, hoping that I’d get something finished that would fit the next challenge. After all, we’d had so many specific challenges in the recent past: yellow, and collars, and plaid. Surely Mena wouldn’t be mean enough to throw another challenge at us that required a very specific fabric or technique, right?

As you know, this week’s challenge is polka dots.

Ack! So specific!

And yet, amazingly, through the most fortuitously providential and serendipitous coincidence, the last thing I manage to finish in my last big rush of sewing was a polka dotted underbust corset for me, and for display for an underbust corset class I’ll be teaching starting this week.  Just the thing. Hooray!

I really don’t know how I got so lucky. Not only does this perfectly fit the challenge, it’s also probably the only polka-dotted garment I have ever sewn in my entire sewing career (the next closest thing is my ice-cream banana blouse). It even has polka dotted ribbons. Someone was really looking out for me with this challenge!

The other serendipitous thing about this corset?  The photoshoot: this was probably the least thought out and organized photoshoot I’ve ever done for Sew Weekly, and I am so happy with how it looks!

So hooray for Mena’s choice! Hooray for serendipity! Hooray for my underbust corset!



Leimomi Oakes - The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes learned to sew as a child in Hawaii, and hasn't spent a day without doing it in the-more-years-than-she-would-like-to-admit-to since. When she was 18 she was nicknamed 'The Dreamstress' and bought the domain name, and now she's stuck with it. After getting degrees in Art History, Costume Design and International Relations she worked in a number of fabulous museums before going freelance as a textile and fashion historian and historical seamstress. She lives in Wellington New Zealand with a lovely husband and a world-famous cat.


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  1. Fantastic! Really fantastic! Constructing a corset is not on the top of my list until I get more experience. But, wow! You did this. And it is so wearable!

  2. Beautiful! I’m tring to think where I might have the opportunity to wear such s garment. Three local events come to mind; Frontier days, the Renaissance Faire, and the Kenetic Carnival (somewhat steam- punk theme). I believe one could wear one to these costumed events and fit right in. But first, I’d have to take one of your corset classes. Hmmm, New Zeland, ehh? That’s pretty far away, so maybe you have an online class I could take?

    I once made costumes for the play Romeo and Juliet for the local Shakespeare company, when my daughter played Juliet. The corset I made was just a simply thing. I’d love to know how to make a real one.

    • Hehe. As someone in the historical costuming community, I strongly advise that you should try the Kenetic Carnival for a garment like this – it would totally out of period for the other two, and I do like to promote historical accuracy when possible! ;-)

      I’m hoping to offer this as an online class – it’s something I’m working on, but all the computer things are a massive learning curve for me, and I’d always rather be sewing ;-) Of course, NZ is a great holiday destination, and what a line that would be: “I went to NZ on vacation” “Oh, did you see the geysers and the LOTR film sets and go bungy jumping!?!” “No, I made a corset”

      • Yes, I guess I’m putting anything that laces up the front of the bodice under the corset category. Thank you for setting me straight. Hahaha! Went to NZ and made a corset. I’m still laughing. So funny;)

  3. Wow, this is sooooo cute. Who would have thought of a polka-dotted underbust corset? Polka dots seem to be such “non-corset”-material but, oh boy, they look great on this and make the corset so wearable in everyday life – at least, I’d try to wear this in everyday life. To me, it doesn’t look very costumey because of the polka dots…although I am not sure how comfortable the corset is – so maybe it wouldn’t work in everyday life? You look great in this and it really makes me want to make one for myself right away (I’ll put it on my Leimomi sewing list together with the capelet and the swagger coat…) And what an absolutely lucky coincidence that this fitted into the polka dot challenge!

    • Thank you! Funny – I always thought of polka dots as total corset fodder, as long as you aren’t aiming for historical accuracy.

      It’s a very comfortable corset – I’ve worn other corsets made from this pattern for whole days with no problem.

      It just makes me feel kinda cutesy, which I’m really not used too, and very…umm…lush, which I’m not exactly comfortable with. I’m the kind of girl who old men compliment and say “my wife looked just like you when we were courting, she was so beautiful”, not the girl who gets wolf whistled at. And this is a wolf whistle outfit ;-)

      • I just love it so much because I used to wear this kind of style when I was still at university…but never had a real corset – just a wide laced belt and blouses with very wide sleeves…I still miss wearing this – I always felt like some crazy cross between snow white and the 3 Musketeers. You’re right, it is a wolf whistle outfit. ;) But the nice thing about German is that men don’t wolf whistle often (unless you’re walking past a construction site…) and they usually don’t approach strangers in the street and try to hit on them. So I guess it’s safe to wear here. ;) Besides, Berlin is a big and crazy city…I don’t think such a polka-dotted corset would attract a lot of attention – I have seen fashion here that are definitely more overtly sesy than this cute little corset of yours.

  4. PS: You said that you developed the pattern yourself. I know you’re a professional so you probably have very high standards and there are certain things that don’t look right to you about the commercially available patterns from BMV and Simplicity…but do you think their patterns would work for someone who doesn’t have quite such high standards or is there something about them that makes them practically useless? Or is there a pattern from an independent company that you’d recommend? I figure you don’t have yours ready for sale…particularly not in my size. :(

    • Some of the commercial corset patterns are reasonably good – just check out the reviews on Sewing Pattern Review and GBAC. I think the ones from Laughing Moon and Truly Victorian are considered the best.

      I just felt they were unnecessarily complicated, hard to fit, and not great for teaching from, so I developed my own pattern. I am hoping to release it commercially, just have to force myself to do all the computer & design work to get there. When I do, would you like to test the pattern?

      • Yes, yes, yes! Would love to be the corset guinea pig! :) A simple corset pattern sounds so much more attractive than a pattern that is unnecessarily complicated and hard to fit…

  5. I would definitely try to wear this somehow. It looks very sexy on you-you’ve got great curves! I hope your time at home was everything you needed it to be.

  6. Wow! I’m always impressed by your sewing prowess, but this takes the cake. That corset is amazing and you’re right, the pictures turned out good too. Glad you had a good time away. Hawaii is definitely somewhere I’d like to go sometime.

  7. I so love this! I actually have a half finished corset in my UFO pile. I kind of ground to a halt when I got to the bits that needed hand sewing. Maybe I’ll try again for the next UFO challenge.

  8. Looks amazing!! Ive always wanted to make a corset but I’m not game enough yet. Love the pics!

  9. Oh Leimoni you are such a talent. I wish I had the time to take that course with you. I’d love to learn how to make a corset.

    My daughter would LOVE this, she’d wear it in a Minnie Mouse kinda way with black pom poms resting on her ponytails as ears and a black tutu with her chunky boots.

    Your photos are fab.

    • Thank you! I do actually teach in Melbourne on occasion – just so you know ;-)

      As soon as I finished the corset I realised how Minnie Mouse it was. I almost styled it like that, but it looked ridiculous on me! I just had to be myself. But someday I want to see it on someone who can get away with the pom poms, tutu and chunky boots!

  10. I don’t always comment (shame on me!) but I just love seeing your posts, I am eaten alive with jealousy at your ideas and skills
    PS Have you read Dodger yet?

    • Well, thank you for the extra special comment this time then ;-) Both for its rarity and the immense flattery you do me!

      I haven’t read Dodger yet – I’m funny about things being released – I won’t watch US/UK TV shows before they screen in NZ, and I buy new Terry Pratchett books only as airplane reading (as special treats that help keep me from turning into a total bitch 5 hours into a 9 hour flight), and (of course) Dodger was released the day AFTER my return from Hawaii! So it will have to wait until my next trip.

  11. Dude!!! This is so ridiculously super SEXY!!! I love the whole look you’ve got going on here. The all black looks wonderful against the red and you have seriously gorgeous hair!

    • Thank you! I’m so pleased with the whole black and red thing – my photographer kept telling me it wasn’t working and the pictures were washing out (and, to be perfectly honest, a lot of them were immediate throw-aways), but when it worked, it worked!

      And thank you especially about my hair. I have a love-hate relationship with it, in that I love the way it looks, but live in a windy city where leaving it down for 5 minutes is just asking for an impossible to untangle rats nest.

  12. This is freaking rad! Loving the whole black/white/red mix and the construction is wonderful. I agree with Kazz- there is a total Minnie Mouse vibe going on here! Love it :D