May 7, 2015

Building and decorating

We now return to scheduled dressmaking.
I've made some decent progress on my party dress. I'm fairly confident I'll be able to finish it today (we'll have to leave around noon tomorrow to be on time for the wedding, so that's fine).

I think the trickiest bits are behind me now:

I started by sewing the real bodice. Not very difficult in itself (at least not more so than the toile) although I did quite a bit of thinking about the order of construction before I got started. 

According to my design, the grey fabric should be draped over that structured bodice. It's something I have seen A LOT on RTW wedding gowns I've worked on in the past few years. Those have a fairly solid bodice, usually in satin or lining material backed with interfacing, which forms the base for the draping. This is done separately on the front and back and then joined at the side seams.  The top edge is then sewn to a lining which usually has an interfaced and boned bodice. 
There is nothing wrong with this method. It works just fine. If you are dealing with a normal strapless bodice. I'm not. Mine has bra-style cups with underwires. 
I thought about lining it anyway, just to get a clean finish on the inside but I didn't think that would work well. This took quite a bit of thought. I think I just about gave myself a headache trying to figure it out on Tuesday.

This is what I came up with: I do my draping on the structured layer itself, with front and back separate. On this layer, I sew the bone casings with a piece of twill tape at the waistline, passing under the casings (I own a corset on which the waist tape is treated like that). This means the waist tape will have to be 'retro fitted' under the bone casings on the back pieces after sewing the side seams. On this layer, at the inside, there is a cotton lining. Bodice and lining are treated as one layer at their top edge, first when inserting the cups, sewn from lingerie foam and when attaching the fashion fabric. 

This finishing of the fabric on the inside was the most difficult thing to figure out. I didn't want any unfinished edges on the inside. In the end, I've sewn stay tape to the top edge of the bodice (bodice and lining treated as one) and attached the fabric through that, at about 1 cm below the top edge of the bodice (which I cut without seam allowance at the top). Then, I turned it to the outside of the bodice for draping.

The draping is something I haven't really done before and I was a little worried. This is where I could really have used a perfectly sized and shaped dummy which I can put pins in. Lacking that, I used my second hand adjustable one, just pinning the bodice pieces to its fabric cover as well as possible (the cover came loose at the side by the time I was done with the front bodice).

I did know in theory how to do this: The pieces of fabric for draping should be cut on the bias and it's usually more practical to use several pieces to cover such a complicated shape as a busty front bodice. 
I covered the left cup first, than finished the edge of the right one with a separate strip of fabric. Then, I covered the right one and part of the bodice under it. Under that came yet another piece which ends at 3 cm below the waistline. I draped each piece on the dummy, pinned it in place, took it off, sewed it down and then repeated the process for the next bit. 
The back pieces were simple by comparison because they don't have much shaping above the waist. 

Then came the moment of truth: Sewing the side seams. I was really eager to check the fit. I had started to worry about pulling the pieces in with the draped fabric. 
So, after sewing the side seams but before doing any finishing on the inside (like fiddling with that waist tape) I sewed in the separating zipper I had used for the bodice toile and tried it on.

And it fit! In fact, I had to take in the waist a bit more. 
I made the alteration at the side seam, neatened at clipped the seam allowances, dealt with the waist tape and got started on the skirt. 
When I stopped sewing last night, the skirt was on but the center back seam was still open. I actually had to unpick a part of the bodice side seams again in that process because I wanted to have the small bit of draping below the waistline to go over the top edge of the skirt. 

Now, I only have to finish the lining, set in the zipper, do some little bits of hand-sewing on the draping and make that one-piece bolero...


  1. Fantastic! I had to reread some of those steps to understand it and I'm so tired I think I'll read it again tomorrow. It's looking really gorgeous though.

  2. Dat wordt mooi! Succes met de laatste loodjes.

  3. WOW! i can't wait to see the finish, and thank you for sharing the process!

  4. This is going to be fabulous! Your skills are made! Karen

  5. Brilliant! and gorgeous! and meticulously elegant! (sigh)

  6. This is really working up nicely! I can't wait to see the finished dress. I really enjoy reading all the technical details you include about your garment construction. So interesting.

  7. beautiful draping across - it is really lovely. enjoy the wedding!

  8. That is absolutely beautiful, what lovely work

  9. This is stunning. I don't know what I wish for more, the talent to sew something like that or the figure to wear it.