How to Choose Boning for Your Dress

Each day, I receive many emails with great questions and today I thought I’d post one I received yesterday as well as the answer to it.

Here’s the question:

Hi Linda,  I am making my daughter’s strapless wedding dress.  I used the fabric store feather weight boning for the muslin corset .  We got it fitted very well but I am wondering when the weight of the dress gets connected if this is the best boning choice.  I have been researching the topic but am still undecided.  Can you tell me what would be the best choice so she isn’t always pulling it up.  We will be using a waistline stay but I want to do it right the first time!  Ha!  Thanks!  Love your website.  It is so helpful and very interesting.  Mom with Question

First of all, kudos to this mom for making her daughter’s wedding dress! What a cherished memory for you both.

There are a couple of things I wanted to address in this question.

First, lets talk about the strapless dress in general and then we’ll address the boning issue.

Brides and their mothers often hope to find the perfect strapless dress that will not need to be “hiked up” at the bodice. Unfortunately, that is a rare find because gravity will always win in the end. Because the bust area is larger in circumference than the waist, it will always travel the road of least resistance and want to gravitate down towards the waist.  There are some dresses that need tugging less often, and that has to do with the design of the dress and how it fits the bride. First, those dresses are designed with a high bodice. In other words, the dress sits high above the largest part of the bust (think: no cleavage and sitting closer to the collar bone than not. Certainly, it is not up to the collar bone, but it sits higher above the bust than most dresses) and second, that high bust area should fit snugly around the chest and underarm area. When altering the dress you have, just make it fit as snugly as possible, without being uncomfortable, and go with that. The bride will still have to tug, but not as often. She can experiment using double stick tape to hold the dress to the skin and see if that will help the problem. To eliminate the tugging problem altogether, you’ll need to add straps to the dress, but many brides don’t like that look. That’s why they bought strapless to begin with.

Now let’s talk about boning. This mom asked about whether her featherweight boning would  be appropriate in her daughter’s gown. That depends. I would buy boning based on the weight of the fabric you are using. If you are using a heavy satin, you’d want a heavier boning. If you have a lightweight chiffon, a featherweight boning would be appropriate. The reason here is that you want it to function as much like the fashion fabric as possible.

But let’s look at another facet of the answer.

First, boning is inserted in a dress to give it rigidity through the vertical portion of the bodice. Without boning, the dress would have little support, much like a house needs walls to give it structure. However, thinking about the law of gravity again, boning only helps with the structure or the rigidity of the dress. It doesn’t keep the dress from falling down. With boning inserted, it just means that the dress moves with gravity all at the same time. It doesn’t slump down in one area and leave the rest smooth. Does that make sense?

Here is a link to my post on Fixing Boning Issues. It will give you a little more insight into some boning issues you might come across. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Thanks to all of you who have written in asking questions or leaving comments. I appreciate all your sweet words and I thank the Lord that this blog is such a wonderful resource to you!

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13 Responses

  1. i know it seems crazy that a little ribbon can really help that much, but what it does is help support all the weight of the dress at the waist, which keeps the top of the bodice from slipping, as if the waist stays in the perfect place, the bodice has nowhere to go!

  2. I had one very short bride with a triangular shape so that there was little place for every thing to sag. Her dress on the form was fine with the boning I used but on her, it was not going to stay up even with a long line strapless bra! Our solution was sending her to the Renasiance Faire where she bought a steel boned corset! Once this contraption was properly adjusted, she had a real waist line, and her bust was up where it needed to be. She said it was surprisingly comfortable too.

  3. One trick I have learned on putting boning in strapless dresses which makes it easier to adjust the bust area later is to not put boning directly over the princess bust seam. Instead on the side front piece, place a strip diagonally from the side waist up toward the top of the bust seam stopping just about an inch from the seam and neck edge. This gives good support and is comfortable and is something I figured out from my engineering training.

    • I’ve never heard of this! Its fu to get such varied input on boning issues. Thanks!

    • I totally agree with not having the boning over the bust seam.
      I cannot tell you how many Bridesmaid gowns I have seen this problem.
      You usually can’t adjust those cups. I have done so many side bust darts to also help with this fitting problem. The cup should hug the bust.
      I also am a great fan of waist stays. They work well on many brides.
      You learn a lot after 17+ years of body shapes.
      Have fun sewing. Judy

  4. if its a satin wedding dress, heavy satin or not, can it still get boning?

  5. how do you know which side of the boning is the inside or outside and which is applied to placement in corset?

  6. how do you put in diagonal bust stays?

    • This answer is in response to your question about knowing whether the boning is facing inside or outside. I make sure that I pay attention to how the boning looks before I take it out of the dress. When you’ve done a few of them, you won’t need to anymore. But, for now, just lay it on your table right side up the way it lays in the dress and you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you’ve already taken it out and don’t remember how it goes back in, just hold it up and you’ll see that it looks bowed, or like a half moon. It should bow in toward your stomach when placed in correctly. Place it against your stomach and it should follow the curves of your body. Hope that makes sense.

    • I’m not sure if I’ve seen diagonal stays before. Can you send me a photo of them in the dress?

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