Using boning in your costumes: Part 2

Boning channels in the front panels of a garment

Hello all! Earlier this week I provided you with an introduction to the various types of boning and how to prepare them for use in your cosplay. Now that you have your boning nicely cut, filed, and tipped, you might be wondering just what to do with it! In today’s article I will be discussing placement options for your boning channels as well as a few of the most common options for creating the channels. Listed at the end of the article are some online retailers who sell the materials mentioned in this week’s articles. Let’s get sewing!

Where and when should I use each type of boning?

Seamstresses and costumers differ in their choice of boning for a given type of project. Some prefer to use exclusively steel boning, whereas others might advocate for rigilene or plastic in some instances. Fortunately in cosplay, we have the freedom to use whatever materials best suit our needs, skill level, and budget. In this article I hope to give you enough information that you can decide for yourself which type of boning works best for you and your cosplay.

Spiral steel has a slight inherent curve.

Spiral steel. Note the slight inherent curve.

Spiral steel boning is flexible and able to bend both front-to-back and side-to-side; therefore, it is a suitable option for use in both straight channels and curved channels. For example, spiral steel boning would be an optimal choice to use along a side seam, as side seams typically curve in at the waist. Because of its strength and resilience, it is great to use in corsets, especially if your corset will create a waist reduction greater than two inches. It can also be used when only light support is needed, for example to keep up a strapless dress. Spiral steel boning has a natural curve to it, so make sure that you insert the boning in its channel so that it bows with the curve of the body.

Sarah Marie used spiral steel boning throughout the bodice to support her lovely beadwork.

Ohheyabear used spiral steel boning throughout her Princess Serenity bodice to support her lovely beadwork. Photo by Just Another Pretentiously Titled Cosplay Photography Page

Flat spring steel boning is more rigid than spiral steel boning and flexible only in the front-to-back direction. It cannot be used in curved channels. Instead, it is best suited for use in straight channels that will be bearing a lot of stress. Flat spring steel is great for use in the center front panels of corsetry and other shapewear when you will not have an opening such as a busk closure. It is also a great option for the center back of a corset as it can be placed on either side of your lacing grommets to help reduce stress on the fashion fabric.

Boning placement for M7218 phoenix costume

Flat spring steel (red) works well when placed at CF and CB, whereas spiral steel (yellow) is a better choice for the side and princess seams.

Flat spring steel was placed next to the zipper in this bunny suit.

Flat spring steel was placed next to the zipper in this bunny suit.

Rigilene and plastic boning are somewhat less durable than steel boning options and can be prone to warping, which could permanently alter the shape of your garment. However, they can be a suitable choice for a cosplay that will only be worn a few times and/or will not be put under a lot of stress (e.g. a cosplay corset with a waist reduction of less than two inches). Rigilene and plastic are also good options when you only want light support, such as in a day dress. Because it is lightweight and very flexible, rigilene might also be a better option than spiral steel boning if you desire boning in the bust area. Rigilene has the tendency to curl because it is often stored in rolls, so flatten it with an iron on low heat before sewing. Use a press cloth between the rigilene and the iron!

Rigilene can be sewn through and doesn't need a casing.

Rigilene can be sewn through and doesn’t need a casing.

How do I install boning in my cosplay?

Rigilene is the only type of boning that can be sewn directly to the garment. For other types, you will need to sew in channels. A channel is basically a tube of fabric that houses the boning, and can be made in a variety of ways using a few different materials. First I’ll talk about the types of materials you can use to create a channel, and then I’ll demonstrate a few methods of installing them.

When creating boning channels, remember that the channel should always be a bit longer than your boning. The standard rule allows for ¼” extra space above and below the boning. To think of it another way, the boning should be cut ½” shorter than the channel it will be placed into. This is needed to allow for space for the boning tips if you’re using spiral steel. It also gives the boning a bit of ease so that it doesn’t strain and inevitably break through the seams or fabric layers. Boning channels should be 3/16″ to ¼” wider than the boning you are using. Therefore, if using ¼” boning, the channels or casings should be about ½”. If using ½” boning, the channels should be about ¾” wide.

Options for boning channels:

  • Twill tape: Twill tape is a flat woven ribbon, usually made of cotton, linen, or polyester. Because of its twill weave it is very strong and ideal for use as boning channels. Twill tape can be used on the interior and exterior of corsets, or on the interior of a lining or strength layer.
Twill tape comes in a variety of colors or can be dyed to match your fabric

Twill tape comes in a variety of colors or can be dyed to match your fabric

  • Tubular casing: Tubular boning casing is double-sided tube of cotton fabric that encases the boning. You can buy this pre-made, or make your own by sewing together two layers of twill tape. I love using this type of casing, as the extra layer of fabric between the boning and strength layer helps to prevent the outline of the boning from showing through the fashion fabric.
Tubular casing comes ready to encase boning!

Tubular casing comes ready to encase boning!

  • Satin or other ribbon: You may elect to use a satin ribbon if you want your boning channels to be visible on the exterior of your garment. Since satin is not very strong, you might want to create functional channels of twill tape and sew the satin over the top. Otherwise you run the risk that your boning may poke out of the satin over time.

In this next section I’ll discuss some methods for creating the actual channels. For the purposes of demonstration I have used muslin for my fabric; however, when making your cosplay you will want to use a sturdy fabric such as coutil or duck canvas for the corset strength layer. When sewing allow yourself enough time to be methodical and precise. I like to start by sewing the side closest to the seam from top to bottom with a 2.2 length stitch, then repeating on the other side of the channel from top to bottom. Sewing in this manner helps to prevent the fabric and casings from shifting under your presser foot and causing unsightly wrinkling. Novice sewers should pin or thread baste their channels down to prevent them from moving while you sew, though with practice you may get to the point where you no longer need to pin much.

Methods for installing channels:

Seam allowance method (L to R): seam allowance pressed to one side, stitched (wrong side), stitched (right side)

Seam allowance method (L to R): seam allowance pressed to one side, stitched (wrong side), stitched (right side). Seam allowances are 3/4″ in width.

Seam allowance method: With this method you use your seam allowances as the boning channels and therefore do not need to use twill tape or tubular casing. This method is not as strong as some of the others, and therefore not recommended for heavy-duty corsetry. It is also not suitable for very curved seams, as you won’t be able to clip the allowances so they lie flat. This method works best if you create the channels in your strength layer, rather than a flimsy lining layer such as acetate.

Make sure your seam allowances are at least 1/8″ wider than your finished channels. You may want to add some extra width during the pattern-making stage if you intend to use this method. Sew your seam, then press it to one side (if using a single strip of boning) or open (if “double boning” or inserting two bones side by side).

Sew the edge of your seam allowance down to create a channel of the appropriate width (½” away from the seam if using ¼” wide boning). If your stitches will be visible on the fashion layer of your cosplay, sew from the outside to create the cleanest-looking rows of stitches. Otherwise, save yourself time and headache and sew the seam allowances down while looking at the wrong side of the fabric. After sewing the channels, insert your boning and sew the top and bottom of the channels closed.

Twill tape method. Tubular casing can be sewn in this manner as well!

Twill tape method. Tubular casing can be sewn in this manner as well!

Seam allowance method with twill tape: This method is similar to the one discussed above with the exception that you will be sewing twill tape or another casing to the seam allowance, rather than creating a channel with the seam allowance. This allows the seam allowances to be trimmed down, so they lie flat around curves. The technique can be used on the interior or exterior of the garment.

First, sew your seams together. Press seams to one side if using single rows of boning, or open if using double rows of boning. Next, stitch your casing material to the seam allowance just next to your seam. Trim the seam allowances to ¼”. Press the casing flat with an iron. Stitch along the outer edge of the casing, making sure your stitching is ½” away from the inner row of stitching to allow for the boning (if using ¼” boning).

Twill tape sewn closed after boning has been inserted. Make sure not to sew on top of your boning!

Twill tape sewn closed after boning has been inserted. Make sure not to sew on top of your boning!

Double layer aka “sandwich” method: This method is suitable when you want to have a double strength layer in a corset (i.e., two layers of canvas or coutil). The strength layer pattern pieces are cut out twice so that they are doubled. Use tailors chalk (or something that washes out easily) to mark on one layer where you want your boning channels to be placed. Sew one side of the channel, top to bottom, then the other side of the channel, top to bottom.

This method is a great option when you will be using a lot of boning in your garment and don’t want to bother with twill tape. However, it requires you to be very precise when cutting the pattern pieces and sewing so that you do not create wrinkling in the garment and compromise fit.

Sandwich method, as prepared with muslin rectangles.

Sandwich method, as prepared with muslin rectangles.

Sewing extra channels: Sometimes you might want to add more boning channels at locations other than the seams! This is totally acceptable and very easy to do. Simply use your preferred casing material, mark where you would like it to be placed, and stitch it down as you would in one of the above methods.

An additional channel was placed in the middle of these center front panels. Note the double boning at CF.

An additional channel was placed in the middle of these center front panels. Note the double boning at CF.

So there you have it! I hope with the information provided in this week’s articles you’ll be inspired to use boning in your own cosplay! It really is an indispensible material for garments like corsets, and can be a valuable addition to other projects to add structure and improve the fit of your cosplay. Happy sewing!


Tutorial: using different types of boning for your cosplay, from the Cosplayer blog by McCall'sOnline retailers for boning and boning casings:


New York City local retailers:

Steinlauf and Stoller

Pacific Trimming



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