1830s Butter Yellow Day Dress, Part II: Bodice


The first thing I do for any new pattern these days is make at least a partial mockup– and in this particular case I’m extra-glad that I did, because the bodice was just WEIRD on me as originally drafted. I must have extremely square shoulders or something, because when I pulled the neckline out to the correct width, the center front got pulled up to make a really prominent bulgy area right at the bust. 


At first I tried taking a fisheye dart right in the center to pinch out the extra fabric, but eventually I realized that it was a shoulder issue. Once I added a little extra space to the shoulder line (an extra size’s worth, front and back), that opened things up and smoothed out the center front. Whew! I suppose it might not have been a big deal anyway, given that the smoothly-fitted bodice lining is covered up by an over-layer, but I want the fit to be right even if I can’t see it. One more thing I did change was to add an extra 2″ to the side seams to allow for some expansion if required in the future.

I cut my lining out of my good old standby– a heavy ivory cotton sateen, though in retrospect the quilting cotton was heavy enough that I probably only needed a standard broadcloth– and carefully lined up the pieces on my yellow striped fabric to cut out the overlay so the stripes would match at the center.

Next it was time to gather the front and back neckline sections. While I’d originally planned to pleat them, once I’d pinned in some pleats they just made my narrow stripes look off-kilter. So I switched back to gathers, which had the added benefit of enhancing my otherwise less-than-ample bustline. I pressed the gathers down with an iron to control them a bit.

Before I could do any real construction, though, I had to make a bunch of piping for the seams– the 1830s were big on piping. To make cutting the bias strips easier, I again used this amazing tutorial, which I highly recommend. I chain-stitched my strips together, then sewed in a length of kitchen twine with my zipper foot.

I piped the center front seam, shoulders, and the side back seams, then hand-basted the side seams so I could try on the bodice and mark the slightly-raised waistline for more piping.


I piped the waistline with the front and back pieces kept separate– this allowed me to extend the piping into my expanded seam allowances to make future alterations easier (something I should’ve been doing for all of my bodices but never thought of until now).


I will note that I inserted bones into my front darts (after stitching a channel into the dart itself) before piping the waistline, since the piping seam closed up the bottom of the darts. I stitched in boning casings for the remaining bones later.

Putting in the piped facing for the neckline was a bit tricky, if only because the wide facing required a lot of easing and stretching to ensure that the curves at the center front and shoulders flipped smoothly to the inside. On my first try I didn’t allow enough ease in the facing, making it too tight, which made the neckline refuse to lie flat. I had to unpick half my stitching and give it a little extra in the center (and as you can see below, I still think I didn’t get it quite right). Learn from my mistake and be sure to give it a little extra room!


Finally, I addressed the center back– the pattern allows for an inch of extra space on either side of the center line, and instructs you to fold one edge to the inside (leaving the edge itself raw), and just finish the other side with zig-zag or overcasting. I didn’t like this– it just looked so unfinished. I decided to add a facing to each side, which would let me finish off the inside neatly, plus allowing for more wiggle room if I ever need to adjust the sizing a bit. In retrospect I could also have simply sewn the center back edges right-sides together while flatlining to get a nicely finished edge, but I didn’t think of it in time. Lesson learned!

I stitched a length of hook tape to one side, but since eye tape would have been visible I had to hand-stitch thirteen metal eyes to the other side– it was such a pain. I wish they’d make special eye tape that you could install “backwards” to avoid this issue… Perhaps I’ll try modifying some with pliers someday to see if it works!


In any case, the bodice base is finished! Bring on the ridiculous balloon sleeves!


2 thoughts on “1830s Butter Yellow Day Dress, Part II: Bodice

  1. Fantastic description of your process. I’m a sewing nerd and revel in the details of pattern and construction. By retaining a 2 inch side seam, will it lie flat when you wear it?

    Liked by 1 person

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