1860s Embroidered Ballgown, Part VI: Finishing the Bodice

ivory bodice fixed

So as you recall, I had some issues with the seams rippling in my bodice— I wasn’t sure what was causing it, but after some consultation with other costumers online we determined that it was likely due to the bodice being too long. The extra length was being pushed up and forwards by the curve of my skirt, causing the seams to buckle.

ivory-bodice

One way to remedy this issue is to fix the shape of the bottom of the bodice– since the original pattern hadn’t provided a stitching line or directions for how to shape it, I’d just done a basic pointed bodice, front and back. However, closer examination of the fashion plates and extant gowns showed that pointed bodices back then had an entirely different shape– much more curved, with a distinctly long front point when compared to the rest of the bodice. This allows the skirt more room to bell out without pushing out the bodice edges.

41fc91c68357184169d0d4baa662b3e5

I removed my piping and adjusted the shaping of my bodice hem to get it closer to that high arch on each side of center front– I couldn’t make it nearly as extreme as the example above, but I think it’s a little better– besides, not all period gowns had the extreme arch shape anyway.

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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.

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1860s Embroidered Ballgown, Part V: Bertha

So it’s time to make the bertha (weird name for an article of clothing, but whatever). Berthas can be made of flat or pleated/gathered pieces of fabric, trimmed in any number of different ways. TV442 comes with two options– a flat one and a gathered one.

tv442-01

I decided to make the gathered bertha, which was really just a long, hemmed rectangle with angled lines of gathering to form the ruffles. I figured that I’d cover up my gathering lines with some blue and gold trim to add some visual interest. Accordingly, I cut out the fabric, ran gathering stitches along the appropriate lines, and started pinning things to see how it would look.

Unfortunately, it ended up looking like this (ribbon is tacked down as a placeholder only, but you get the idea). Ugh.

bertha-ruffled

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1840s Day Dress, Part IV: Sleeves and Closures

calico-sleeve

I chose to use the sleeves from View A of the Laughing Moon 114 pattern– short mancherons over tight, bias-cut long sleeves. While the pattern said that I wouldn’t need to line the mancherons, I didn’t like the look of them unlined– instead, I cut out identical pieces out of my fashion fabric and self-lined the mancherons before attaching them to the long, unlined sleeves.

I hand-basted the sleeves into the armscyes to make sure that all of the layers stayed where they were supposed to be, then machine-stitched over my basting. Then (important step) I clipped the curves on the armscye seams, allowing for more movement. The piping turned out looking great– such a nice tiny detail.

calico-shoulder

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1840s Day Dress, Part III: Bodice Construction

Once I finished my mockup, it was time to cut into my fabric. I made the bodice lining out of ivory cotton sateen– it’s a nice, firmly-woven fabric that’s silky-smooth on one side, so perfect for sturdy linings. I couldn’t tell from the pattern whether the center front seam was supposed to be facing the right side or wrong side, so I made it face the wrong side. In retrospect, it probably should’ve gone the other way, to make the foldover neckline easier to do on the overlay, but it was fine.

calico-lining

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1840s Day Dress, Part II: Bodice Mockup

calico-mockup

So I had my fabric– red calico– and my pattern– Laughing Moon 114. It was time to get to work!

As usual, before trying to make the actual bodice I made a mockup from the pattern, to ensure that it fit properly. Luckily for me, the measurements and proportions of my dress form are pretty darned close to my corseted measurements, so I can do most of the fitting work on the form rather than having to put on the mockup every time.

The bodice is constructed out of a fitted lining and a gathered overlay, so I figured that I really only needed to mock up the lining to make sure it would fit. I cut out the entire bodice lining (View B, size 14) and tried it on.

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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part VI: Bodice

bodice

So after all of my mockups, you’d think I’d be pretty confident in my finished bodice pattern, right? Not so much. I was still a bit worried about finally cutting out the bodice, but eventually I convinced myself that any errors would be hidden by the sash and bretelles (and if not I had extra satin yardage to re-cut), so I just gritted my teeth and did it.

First I cut my pattern pieces out of the pink voile, and then laid those voile pieces onto my satin to cut it out exactly the same– much easier than cutting from a paper pattern, since the voile didn’t slide around on the satin. Then I flatlined all of my pieces.

I decided to apply the trim on the center front piece first– I had been going to use the full width of my widest trim across the bustline, but decided to cut off the outer borders to keep it from being too overwhelming. I pinned and hand-sewed the new, narrower trim to the front of my center bodice piece– it’s different enough from the sleeve trim to be distinct, but still matching. I was going to stitch more trim on the sleeve pieces at this point, but had such a hard time deciding where to place it that I decided to wait until I could try on the basic bodice and mark the correct height for sleeve trim.

bodice-trim

Anyway, I stitched the bodice together, and then tried it on. Yeah, not so good– not only was the bodice trim not quite properly centered, but I realized that the flatlining was making the bodice look too stiff. I ended up removing the lining from all the pieces except for the center front panel– I figured I’d want the extra body to help it lie smoothly over the torso (though I probably could’ve removed it if I’d wanted to). Talk about a waste of time for the original flatlining…

I drafted a 3″ wide facing to go around the front edges, which I cut from fusible interfacing and then ironed on to plain fabric. I had some issues with getting the correct shape, and the spot where the neckline and shoulders meet is kind of wonky, but it went mostly as planned. I understitched the facing to the seam allowances to get the neckline edge to roll ever-so-slightly inwards, which I think made for a really nice finish (particularly given that my satin didn’t crease well under the iron).

I decided to use snaps rather than hooks and eyes to keep the bodice closed– they won’t be under much stress since it’s not a tight-fitting bodice, so no real danger of coming unsnapped.

bodice-fastening

I stitched my sleeves together using a medium-length stitch, then set them into the bodice so I could try it on and figure out where to place my next pieces of trim. Once I’d figured out the correct height, I unpicked the stitches to about halfway up the sleeve, stitched on my trim, and then re-closed the seam over the raw edges before hemming it. I was able to hand-stitch the hem to the area of satin right behind the trim, so the hem didn’t show.

bodice-sleeve

I will note that this whole post leaves out or glosses over the numerous unforced errors I made in construction of this piece– I mis-cut the facing, so had to piece in extra scraps in two different places to make it fit the neckline; I cut the back neckline square without realizing what it would do to the shape of the shoulder strap (hint: makes it all wonky and weird-looking) and I can’t fix it without replacing the entire back piece, which I may do anyway; I was over-cautious when adapting the shape of the center panel, making it too flat at the bust seam, so I had to let it out a bit and then take it back in an even tinier bit because I’d miscalculated again… so many issues that had to get fixed, so in the end I felt like I’d basically wasted days’ worth of work. So frustrating. I guess it’s all part of the learning experience, right?

I think part of the problem is that I keep wanting the bodice to be good enough to wear without the shoulder bretelles to cover up my mistakes, but I’m forgetting that I designed the bodice with the express intent of covering up the design issues with the bretelles. So I’m trying to overcome issues that are part and parcel of the original design concept– not an easy thing to do. Nothing to do but soldier on, though…