When last we left off in March 2020 by photo date or July 2020 by post date, I had more or less finished the bodice, except for the closures.
Since the April 2020 convention had obviously been cancelled, I threw the bodice into the corner until I felt like finishing it. In August 2020, I had on my corset for an 1830s tea party, and decided I might as well try the bodice on:
This was the result:
Side silhouette was perfect and everything I wanted out of this!
Back silhouette was pretty good, but you can see some ominous pulling at the shoulders.
The front was a problem.
Then I threw the bodice into the naughty corner because after so many mockups I was not ok with finding the damn thing didn’t fit.
It fit decent before the sleeves and collar (which admittedly I had never tested in the mockup), so I knew those were part of the problem. So I started by taking off the sleeves to see what that did. That revealed there were still problems in the neck shape.
So I took the collar off as well. Even though it really had fit in the mockup, suddenly the neck was too tight, and the wrinkles only went away when I opened the shoulder seams up a bit. So I did that, and ended up adding a 3/4″ gusset into each shoulder seam at the neck.
Pinned the collar back on, but now that I had made the neck longer, the initial shape I had drafted didn’t fit. I also remembered that I look awful in “high” collars that go all the way around the neck. (Where high = 1″ in this case. I have practically no neck at all, which means a collar with any height cuts into my chin. Plus if the collar goes all the way around, if I look down I instantly have a couple more chins).
So to solve both those problems, I cut the collar off where the bodice ended, leaving the center neck open.
Then it was time to deal with the sleeves! First I remembered sewing 101 and actually clipped the curves of the armscye, which freed up a surprising amount of space. I had a hard time pulling the sleeve on my arm, so I let out each of the two seams 1/4″ (that was all I could do due to the serged seams) but that actually gives 1/2″ per seam, which means 1″ more width total!
Last, I figured out that I actually had too much fabric under the arm, which bunched up and didn’t let me pull the sleeve high enough up on my arm. Rather than piece more fabric onto the cap, I just trimmed away ~3/4″ right at the underarm, which let me pull the sleeve up higher onto the arm and get rid of the pulling at the shoulder seam.
Me smug as hell that I actually managed to fix this thing into something that fit:
Then doing the irrevocable step of adding buttonholes
This was done using the buttonhole attachment on my singer featherweight which makes beautiful buttonholes using a template, so you know it’s the exact same size every time. Unfortunately the clamping mechanism is a little rough to hold onto the fabric, and really wanted to chew mine up due to all the layers, so don’t look too closely at the sateen there.
Cutting through these was also pretty painful; but it seemed silly to buy a buttonhole chisel just for one bodice…
Also decorative buttons on the sleeves and peplum! Since these buttons had a shank, if you just sewed the button on top of the fabric they would flop over in an unattractive way.
The solution to this is to hold the button on with a cotter pin. I believe the reason these were invented was to easily remove buttons from a garment for washing? You could make an eyelet to protect the fabric, but since I’ll never be removing these I just used an awl to poke a hole and shoved the button shank through. These cotter pins actually came off a bunch of buttons I inherited from my grandmother, but you can buy them new as well.
The buttons on the plastron just went on top, because you *want* the extra space of the shank here so there are room for the layers when you button it on.
Some little cuffs that get tacked into the wrists. This is a detail that is generally missing from museum extants, but show up in 99% of portraits/fashion plates, because these were so often detachable in order to change up a look or make them washable.
And some final details:
The inside! Turns out once you see inside one Victorian bodice you’ve seen inside them all more or less.
The whole bodice is flatlined (meaning the outer fabric and lining are treated as one. There is boning on most of the seams and inside the darts. The boning casing is sewn only to the seam allowance. I serged all my seams to hold the fabric and lining together; in an original this would be overcast or a narrow binding. The edges are finished with self-fabric on the bias.
The waist stay is a twill tape is tacked to the back seam, and fastens at the front with hooks and eyes. This helps hold the whole bodice in place.
The silly green crescents are padding. Wearing a corset generally pushes up the bust in such a way that there is a hollow right between the bust and the shoulder, and this causes unattractive wrinkles right there. Adding a bit of padding (whether tacked on at the end, or actually sandwiched between the lining and outer fabric) was a common period solution.
And testing the whole thing on without accessories, a few days before the convention!