History of Fashion and Dress
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Flossing Your Corset

Whether you make your own corset or choose to purchase one, "flossing" is a beautiful way to add your own personal touch to this garment. "Flossing" is a term used to describe a hand embroidery technique in which heavy floss (traditionally silk or cotton) is top stitched over corset channels to hold corset boning in place.

After looking at over 75 extant American and European corsets dating from 1790- 1890, I primarily see flossing applied to corsets after 1870. As steel boning began to replace baleen (commonly referred to as whalebone) in corsetry, the need for flossing emerged. Essentially, flossing secured the steel boning inside the corset channel and kept it from slipping or twisting when the corset was worn. Flossing was most often applied at both the top and bottom of the boning channels.

In earlier corsets, I see examples of decorative embroidery techniques applied to corsets, but not necessarily flossing. I speculate this is because prior to the 1870s, the primary stiffening agent for corsets was baleen which did not require flossing.
There is no right or wrong way to floss your corset. If you are using synthetic poly boning in your corset, flossing serves primarily as a decorative touch. If you are using steel (especially spiral steel) boning in your corset, it is more important to floss your corset around (and even through) the boning to secure it in place.

There are some lovely hand embroidery technique books out there. Embroidery is an age old art form and one can assume that any of the techniques in these modern books can be applied to historical garments. However, be warned that embroidering your corset will take a great deal of time. Depending upon the technique you use and the amount of floss you intend to apply, it can take as many as 8-10 hours to floss your corset! But once completed, your corset will no doubt be worth all the time you invested in it!
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These pages are for educational purposes only.  All text copyright Susan Jarrett.  No unauthorized use without permission.
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Page revised January 2013