The Grey Lady, Part VIII: Fixing the Bodice

Once my back closures were finished I eagerly tried on the dress, figuring I’d swan around in it for a while and gloat over how well it had gone so far. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and I blame it squarely on my dress form. Or rather, on the fact that my dress form isn’t shaped quite the same way I am. Because while the dress bodice looks fine on the form, with all the seams in the right places, it does not fit all that well on me.

Sure, it fits in terms of circumference, but the seams are just awkwardly placed. Princess seams are supposed to be flattering, which is usually accomplished by curving the seams in a bit at the waist to suggest an hourglass shape. Here, the princess seams aren’t quite far enough apart over the bust and they don’t narrow much at the waist, so they make my whole torso look kind of barrel-shaped. The curve of the bust is also very shallow and doesn’t have much definition, exacerbating the “barrel” issue.

Annoyingly, I’d already clipped the curves of the seam allowance before I realized this (my fault for not paying closer attention when I’d tried it on in the past), so I couldn’t just re-do the seams and make them further apart at the top to balance things out. Nor could I just make the seams closer together at the bottom, because that made the whole bodice look weird.

GL front before

I thought long and hard about whether it was worth fixing, particularly given my limited fabric supply, but decided in the end that it was necessary.

Rather than try to actually calculate the appropriate measurements using (gasp!) math, I laid out my original center panel pattern and traced out a neckline-to-waist panel (didn’t have enough fabric for a whole new center front panel, so this involved creating a waist seam), widening it by about an inch and a half on each side to leave ample space to alter things. Then I unpicked the seams of the sewn-in center panel down to the waist and pinned the new panel in its place, adjusting the pins until it seemed to fit. I hand-basted the new panel in place and (like I should’ve done in the first place) tried on the dress to make sure it looked right on me and not just the dress form.

GL front panel down GL front panel basted

Once I was satisfied that the seams were placed properly (and it took several tries, plus adding a padded bra to the dress form), I machine-stitched the new seams and tried the dress on again, just to be sure. Then I trimmed the seam allowances and tried it on AGAIN before finally clipping the curves and pressing everything flat.

GL bodice fixed

Okay, so perhaps the difference isn’t immediately obvious, and the lighting on the second shot isn’t the best for seeing seam placement, and it’s not quite a fair comparison because I didn’t actually bother doing up the lacing in the first photo so it’s not as tight… Let’s try a side by side:

GL front beforeGL bodice fixed

If you look at the the ratio of center panel to left side panel at the bust, you can definitely see that the ratio is much higher in the “fixed” version. Or maybe you can’t. But whatever, It fits better on me in person, so that’s all that matters… Also I’m fairly pleased with how unobtrusive the necessary V-shaped seam at the waist is.

So remember, folks– it’s not just “measure twice, cut once,” it’s “measure twice, try on half a dozen times, sew twice, cut once.”

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