I am happy with the adjusted pattern of this bodice, and I like the simplicity of the inside of the bodice. It is neat but decorative. It did take quite a long time; at least as long as any other method, and sewing the bias on invisibly was tricky in places. It was a good way to develop my skills and to think outside the square in terms of the way I make my dress bodices. I also plan to make another bodice in this way but with a full lining hand sewn in, and another bodice which will have bound edges at the neck, front and armholes. It will be interesting to compare the different techniques and results. Whichever is the best choice for future projects, I consider this experiment a success because:
- a have a new, much needed tourney dress
- I feel much more confident about tackling new dress projects
- I like having more than one way of making a bodice, it stops things getting dull
- I've enjoyed thinking about different ways of making bodices
- I think I am starting to hate sewing slightly less!
Once the pattern was done, I cut out the fashion fabric, interlinings and lining. The grey cotton fashion fabric has a seam allowance to allow for the edges to be folded over the lining and sewn down. In period, silk, wool or linen would most likely have been used, but I have to use what I can afford.
I like to interline my bodices with cotton flannelette to reduce visible bone ridging. I would use wool if I could afford it. There are currently no extant examples of late period Italian gowns with boning, but I am large busted and I prefer the security of a bit of boning as well as the smoother lines that boning produces.
Boning channels marked out and getting ready to sew. Always sew your boning channels in the same direction (e.g. all top to bottom or all bottom to top) to prevent the fabric distorting.
The bones have been inserted, now to secure the fashion fabric layer. The red fabric is a nice strong cotton denim. If my budget stretched that far, I would prefer to use a stiff linen as it would appear to be closer to what they used for bodice stiffening in period.
I turned the bottom edge up and whipped it to the denim layers.
Bottom edge being sewn, neckline and armhole waiting to be sewn. The grey fabric was whipped to the red linings. Thimble essential for sewing so many layers of heavy fabric by hand!
I was unhappy that there was a bit of bunching where the strap joins the front of the bodice.
A bias strip was handsewn to cover the edge where the grey fabric was sewn down.
The finished bodice ready for trim. I took a break from the armholes because they were a little tricky to sew because the fabric was on the bias.
Looking at the inspiration portrait and deciding where to place the bias trim
Handsewing the bias trim in place
The inside of the bodice showing the bias covering the edges and the first lacing ring sewn on
I couldn't resist and added some lacing rings before finishing the trim, just to break up the monotony
The inside of the bodice showing the boning ridges and the bias edging and lacing rings being attached. They are not as secure as eyelets, but very quick to sew on.
Sewing the binding around the armholes
Bodice almost complete
To pleat the skirt, I cheated and used crochet thread rather than my usual two parallel lines of thick cotton. I don't recommend this method; I was lucky that it worked but the thread could have very easily broken and wasted all my time. I just cheated because I was fed up withe project and decided to live dangerously. I folded down the top of the skirt and marked big gathers of about 5mm, then gathered them up. I usually do smaller pleats, but this is a lower class dress, so not as much fabric is in the skirt as would be in a higher class dress (so fewer pleats were needed).
I mark my skirt panels with a centre point and two quarter points, and do the same on the bodice. I pin the skirt panels to the bodice at these three points and then arrange the pleats evenly between the points. It is a really quick way to do cartridge pleating. I am a really slow sewer and I can pleat a 3-4m skirt onto a bodice in an evening using this method. Just make sure that you have pinned the fabric so that the 'good' side of the fabric matches the 'good' side of the bodice!
There is an un-pleated section at the front where the dress opens. I will pin the edges together here when I wear the dress. You could also use hooks and eyes. My weight varies a bit so I like the adjustability of pins.
The pleated skirt pinned to the bodice at the quarter and centre points.
I use a very strong thread, usually three or four strands. Basically I whip through the point (or "vee") of the pleat and take it through the bodice. You want a nice strong stitch which connects well to the bodice without being visible. I do 2-3 stitches per point, depending on the size of the pleats. I have a tendency to step on my skirts when I get tired so I don't want to risk the stitching pulling through.
Then just continue....
On and On and On
Until all the skirt is securely attached. When you have finished and everything is knotted off securely, remove the gathering threads. I knot my threads off every ten centimetres or so- if my pleats did rip out, I hope the extra knots would stop the whole thing coming undone.
This dress still needs sleeves and hemming. It is hanging up at the moment to let the skirt drop.
I made the back neckline high to reduce my chance of sunburn in summer. I will cut it down a bit on the next dress as it is now too high and looks a little odd. Apart from that, I am happy with the dress. It is comfortable.
The inspiration for this dress: "Fishmongers" by Vincenzo Campi
Image from: http://www.wga.hu/art/c/campi/vincenzo/4fishmon.jpg