1915 Picnic Dress, Part II: Bodice

I had originally planned on making this a two-piece dress with a separate blouse and skirt, but then realized that my fabric was so sheer that it would clearly show the tucked-in blouse through the skirt, making the whole thing look weird. I decided instead to turn it into a dress and add a closure to the side front. The layered design of the skirt would help with this, since it would disguise the closure once it went past the bodice.

I started with Truly Victorian’s TVE45, the 1911 Narrow Panel Blouse, cutting out a mockup just to see how it would fit. To my surprise, it did not go well.

TVE45 - 1911 Narrow Panel Blouse

The pattern is so basic– two T-shaped side panels connected by a front and back– that I’d assumed it would go together easily and without much trouble. Well, it went together easily, but the fit was all off. The front panel was far too low on the chest, and the kimono sleeves pulled the already slightly-angled neckline even more towards the sides of the shoulders, causing unsightly pulling across the bust and skewing the neck opening. The sleeves were also too baggy, which is probably a matter of preferences vs. a flaw in the pattern, but which still had to be adjusted.

I endeavored to fix things first by altering the shape of the front and back panels to be wider and less angled. I like the angled look in general, but here it was not only causing the above-mentioned fit issues, but also reducing the amount of visible space available for my lace bodice insert, which I’d intended to show off. Making the panels wider gave me more space, and making the sides straighter kept the neckline stable. I also raised both panels up several inches– the front for modesty’s sake and the back to keep the neckline where it belonged.

The photos below show the difference in the neckline shape– I’d already widened the front panel and raised it up in the left photo, but the low back still let the sides fall towards the shoulder and you can see how the bust is pulling oddly (it’s more obvious when worn– think how much worse it would be with a lower neckline!). The photo on the right shows the fixed version.

picnic-bodice-mockups

I also narrowed the sleeve a bit– the added width to the front and back panels helped make up for the reduced space caused by the sleeve shrinking.

So, cutting out my actual fabric was fine– as instructed I used the selvedges for the long, straight front lines, and I pinked the edges of the front and back panels so they wouldn’t unravel. I was a little worried that the sheerness of the fabric would make the pinked edges show through, but the overlapped sections covered them up just fine. Just to be careful, though, I didn’t pink the edges of the side seams, which would show more– instead I zig-zagged over the edges to make them roll over a teeny bit. In retrospect I wish I’d done this with all of my edges– it seems more secure than pinking.

I wanted to add some decorative tucks to the sleeve cuffs, so I added 3″ in length to the sleeves to account for that, and temporarily cut the sleeves out as straight rectangles rather than tapered sleeves– the straight edges helped keep the tucks aligned. After cutting out the bodice pieces I ran three 1/2″ tucks (okay, they ended up more like 5/8″ but they still looked fine) in the sleeves, hand-stitching pieces of my narrow lace between them, curving the lace so it would peek out here and there. It was a lot easier to do this before stitching up the side seams, since I could lay things out flat. Then I cut the sleeves back to the correct shape for stitching together.

picnic-sleeve-tucks

I stitched the center front and back panels to the sides, leaving open the right front seam, and then stitched up the underarm seams. I will note that while the pattern instructions call for pressing/stitching the long edges of the side panels before stitching the front and back on (meaning that you’d be sewing over the same line twice), I skipped the initial stitching so I’d only have one line of visible stitches down the whole long edge– I just pressed it down really well and pinned the panels in to stitch it all at once.

My cat decided to help me at this point:

picnic-cat-help

At this point I tried on the bodice to mark the waistline (slightly lower than the natural waist so it could blouse over the waistband), and stitched tiny snaps to the bodice opening above that line.

picnic-snaps

I cut 3″ wide strips of fabric to use as the waistband, allowing for a large overlap (something like 10″ at this point just to be safe), and hand-gathered the bodice to the waistband, sandwiching the bodice layer between two waistband layers so I’d have a clean finish on the inside. I only gathered the side panels, leaving the front and back panels flat.

picnic-waistband

So here’s what the bodice looks like now. Next up, the skirt!

picnic-bodice

2 thoughts on “1915 Picnic Dress, Part II: Bodice

  1. Pingback: Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part III: Construction | It's All Frosting...

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