Sunday, 16 March 2014

Bodice - part one

The current Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge is Bodice. You can see the entries that other challengers have completed, on time, here and here.

This may sound strangely familiar, but I’m way behind on this challenge. I do have a good excuse this time, though. Mr Tulip is currently in hospital, having had a feeding tube fitted last week. What with sitting in the hospital for the best part of two days while our splendid but chaotic NHS trundled through pre-op admin, followed by twice-daily trips for visiting hours, I’ve not had a lot of sewing time.

The challenge is defined as:
"Make a bodice – a garment that covers the upper body. You can either abide by the strictest historical sense (see the blog post for history of bodice terminology) or can explore the idea of bodices in a more general sense."

I’ve gone for the latter definition, and am making a 1930s camisole to go under my slightly-more-translucent-than-expected entry for the Pink challenge. My inspiration is this rayon 1930s camisole from Candy Says, a UK-based online vintage shop.

Front view, with bust shaping and embroidery

Back view

Not having anything suitable to use for a pattern, I decided that as it is a fairly simple shape, I’d try to create it by draping fabric on the dressform. Because my fabric wasn’t bought locally, and I had a limited amount, I decided to wimp out and create the pieces in frost fleece first. Obviously this would have an entirely different drape to bias-cut thin satin, but my (very fuzzy) logic was that it would be a good start, and I could alter the satin version as I went along.

I started with the front but unfortunately I forgot to take any photos of the first few steps, so will have to use images of the back to illustrate the process.

As the camisole is to go under the pink top, the first thing that I did was put the top on the dressform, and mark with (large-headed, pearlescent) pins where the neckline lay. Then I marked where I wanted the upper edge of the camisole to be, with red-headed pins.

Neckline and camisole top edge marked with pins

Next I pinned on a piece of fleece, laying its straight edge along the V of the back neckline. I cut the other side of the top edge along the line of pins, cut straight down for the centre back and initially straight across for the lower edge.

The first piece pinned on

The front was done in the same way, with three small pleats pinned in place for the bust shaping. Then I marked where I wanted the bottom edge to be, in pen.

Front top, with bust shaping

The two pieces overlapped at the side, so I cut straight down through both of them to create the side seam.

Side seam

For the lower parts I repeated the process, pinning on fleece and cutting it to size. I also changed the shape of the upper back sections, to bring them in line with my inspiration piece.

Lower back piece, and realigned joining seam

Once I was happy with the shape, I unpinned everything and cut tissue pattern pieces, with seam allowances added. Then I cut out the satin, all on the bias. The lower front and back are each sigle pieces, cut on the fold.

The pleats were pinned in place. and then for both front and back the top and bottom were sewn together. I checked each completed seam against the tissue pattern, to make sure that they hadn’t stretched in sewing, then pressed the seam allowance towards the bottom and top-stitched very close to the seamline, just like the original. The side seams will be French seamed, but I only got the first part of that done before I ran out of time, so it looks rather baggy on the dressform.

Progress so far - front

I may need to take the side seams in a little at the top, but overall I’m surprised by how well a pattern draped in resolutely unstretchy fleece has translated into very floppy satin.

Progress so far - back

Next jobs are to finish the sides, hem top and bottom, and make and attach rouleau straps.

Mystery object

But what is the purpose of the mysterious white diamond pinned onto the front here? All will (hopefully) be explained next week. . . .


  1. From the HSF, the bodice/camisole is turning out lovely. I'm guessing the diamond is a design feature, like I've seen in 1930's clothing. I'm looking forward to actually finding out what it is for.

    I'm saddened to hear your husband needs to be in the hospital. My prayers are with you both.

  2. Thank you Laurie. You are spot on about the diamond; it's currently coming along nicely.

    Hopefully Mr Tulip will be able to leave hospital tomorrow. I am so looking forward to having him back home.