1880s Squirrel Dress, Part V: Bodice

So… you know how I said that I’d sourced all of my fabrics, and had picked out a dusty pink cotton I already had in my stash to use for part of the bodice of this dress? Well, I lied. Not so much lied as had second thoughts. And third thoughts. The pink was fine next to the striped fabric, but the velvet I wanted to use for the lapels was so deep and saturated that it just made the pink fabric look washed out and plain. The tough part was that I didn’t know what else to use– I didn’t want another patterned fabric that might clash with the stripes, but I hadn’t been able to find any other solid cottons that matched well. I couldn’t use taffeta or jacquard, because that wouldn’t work with the cotton main fabric– too fancy. I could always choose white, but that seemed like giving up.

Finally, I came across a line of fabrics called “peppered cottons” by Studio E Fabrics. They’re shot cottons– fabrics with the warp and weft threads in different colors so they change color at different angles– and they came in some lovely shades. I ended up picking “Fuchsia,” which has plum-colored threads in one direction and hot pink in the other.

Peppered Cotton FUCHSIA 40 by Pepper Cory for Studio E image 2

It works as a nice “bridge” between the cooler-toned squirrel stripe and the warmer-toned velvet. I also used it as the reverse side of the velvet collar and cuffs.

Anyway, once I had the fabric issue resolved, I was able to use my revised pattern to cut out the real bodice– I was able to use my new rotary cutter and cutting mat, which made the process so much faster! In order to get the stripes to be symmetrical I cut out my striped fabric one piece at a time, mirroring the somewhat see-through lining fabric to get the placement just right.

I will note that I made a tactical error in laying out my front bodice pieces– I should’ve taken note of the dart placement to ensure that the darker narrow stripes weren’t going to get swallowed up by the darts. If I’d had the darts take up the wider, lighter areas between the stripes, the design would’ve had a flattering taper at the waist– as it is, the stripes disappear into both darts, leaving a large stripeless area that doesn’t look quite as nice. Sadly, I didn’t realize this until I’d actually assembled the bodice, which made it far too late to fix.

As per usual, rather than bag-lining the whole bodice as instructed by the pattern, I just flatlined it with white cotton and used a bias facing along the bottom edges where necessary. This made it a bit complicated to figure out the facings on the back panels (where the back pleats are), but I made it work. I do love the finished pleats, though I added my own twist to the back by folding back the outer sides at an angle to make additional wedges of contrasting fabric.

For the center vest section I not only flatlined it with white cotton, but cut a second layer of fashion fabric to act as a facing and strengthen the edges where the buttonholes and buttons would be sewn. Alas, I could not find any acorn-themed buttons, but these floral ones were nice too!

The collar was honestly the toughest part of the whole bodice for me– on the mockup it lay perfectly (though the collar piece was much longer than it needed to be) but all of the extra layers of fabric in the real thing made it uncomfortably tight. Plus I was using velvet, which was not only extra thick, but also had no structure and wanted to crumple rather than hold its shape. I had to rip out the collar twice before giving up and cutting a new one with an added layer of iron-on interfacing on the velvet side. That made it easier to sew, but it didn’t fit properly until I cut down the neckline about 3/4″ in the front to give myself some literal breathing room. Also, the design called for the front corners of the collar to fold down into little points– my velvet was just not going to do that, so I left it standing, but had to separate the center edges a bit for comfort.

Finally, I admit that I didn’t bother putting boning in this bodice. I intended to, but once I put it on it fit smoothly over my corset already, and adding boning seemed like such a hassle that I didn’t get around to it. I may add some later, but for now it’s fine.


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