Boning : The different types used in dressmaking

The word boning has the correct connotation – it refers to something that behaves like bones inside our body – giving the garment it is inserted, a definite structure. Boning is long, flat and stiff and is inserted inside the clothing to give it stiffness and structure. It is used in wedding dresses, evening wear, bras, corsets, petticoats, hats, toys swimwear, bags and purses.

If you are looking for other means of creating stiffness in clothes check out these posts on creating volume or stiffness in clothes ; Make and Use homemade starch ; Petticoat skirt

The boning is enclosed inside channels that is sewn inside interlining (a layer of fabric inside outer fabric and lining) and the boning pieces are slid into these slots. It is available in widths from 1/8” to 1/2”

Purpose of boning

The boning is used to stiffen the fabric and stretch it out and even to make it stand upright. It is used to keep the body straight and erect when used inside a corset.

Boning was a very important part in clothing construction during early days because it aided in giving a particular shape to the body – like the infamous S curve silhouette which pushed the bust forward and kept it so.

Different Types of Boning

Earlier whale bones were used inside petticoats and corsets. 

Plastic boning

This is a flexible but rigid boning added to the lining or interlining – it is easy to use, can be manipulated easily and can be melted with fire into the size you want. 

Metal boning

Washable spring steel boning is the best of all – it is flexible and does not get damaged when washed. The way it can bend to the contours of the body or the way you want the garment is the best thing about metal boning. Spiral boning is made of a flattened spring. These are cut with wire cutters and then a cap is put at the end. Flat steel boning coated with resin is another option – you get these in rigid and flexible types. 


Rigilene is an easy to use boning made from woven nylon rods, very flexible and washable and user friendly. This boning has woven borders which is stitched directly onto the fabric of the garment.  This is a very popular boning used in wedding dresses but is not as stiff as metal boning. (Also called feather boning)

Alternatives to boning

Wooden pieces

Bamboo pieces can be cut with a sharp knife. Wooden strapping pieces  are used in a similar way. These pieces have to be cut into necessary lengths and filed to get smooth edges and surface.

Reed pieces that can be bought in shops for making baskets can be used as boning. You have to buy reeds of diameter 2mm for this purpose.

Metal strapping

This is an inexpensive option. But the edges can stick into the body and harm. So you will need to be extra careful about it.

Glue stiffened fabric, stiff rope are alternatives that can be considered. A long strip of glue-stiffened fabric is usually used on the edges of petticoats.

Related post :Thick and heavy weight fabrics; Interfacing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *