After finishing the skirts for my 1870’s ballgown, it was time to continue with the bodice.
The pattern I used is the same as for my 1860’s velvet ballgown bodice. It still fitted correctly even with my new corset, so that was easy enough!
The base of the bodice is silk with white cotton interfacing. All pattern pieces were flatlined first, cotton and silk stitched together along the edges.
After flatlining, main construction was pretty straightforward. Simply sew everything together and press open the seams. Two darts are sewn on each side in the front panels. These I left double (didn’t cut them open), because they’re pretty narrow.
The top, bottom & sleeve edges of the bodice are finished with piping. One row for the top and sleeves, two rows for the bottom.
To make the piping, I cut 2,5cm bias strips out of the silk fabric. Placing a cord inside & stitching next to the cord finished the piping.
Applying it was done by stitching it to the right side of the fabric along the edge, the raw edge of the piping facing the edge of the bodice. For the second row, the process was repeated with a second strip closer to the edge. I tried to be careful to stitch as close to the cord as possible, and place the second row of piping as close to the first one as I could.
After stitching, I cut away most of the seam allowance, leaving only the top layer of piping seam allowance. The rest was cut to a couple of mm. The top edge was then folded to the inside twice and stitched down by hand over the seam allowance to make a neat inside finish. The double piping wasn’t perfect, at some places it gaped a little, In those places I made some little stitches to let the rows lie closer together. Especially along the point of the bodice this helped, as that’s the tricky spot due to the strong curve. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out as it was a first attempt at double piping.
The inside of the bodice was further finished by stitching down all seam allowances by hand. The typical flatlining construction of Victorian bodices leaves the allowances visible and stitching them down prevents fraying.
After this, boning was put in. I used heavy duty cable ties. They’re a lot cheaper and lighter than steel, and a bodice doesn’t really need the extra strength steel gives when worn over a corset. I made cotton fabric tubes to place the boning in and sewed those down by hand. There are 7 bones in the bodice, center front, on the outter darts, side seams and center back. The bones in the center back were entered slightly differently as this was the edge, so I sewed a cotton strip right sides together to the center back sides and turned this over to the inside catching the bone. I don’t know if this is a period solution, but it worked okay.
Final step to finishing the base of the bodice was sewing the eyelets. The bodice laces in the back and has 12 eyelets on each side, spaced 2cm apart. The first one I sew is always a bit wonky, and they get more even as I go on. Practise makes perfect right?
The last step was trimming the bodice. I originally planned a pleated bertha, but with all the ruching and lace on the skirts I reconsidered. I had just enough of the broad lace to finish the top edge of the bodice in lace. Because I really wanted to let the lace return in the bodice, I chose this option. I had to piece the lace in 2 different places to get enough and had about 1cm left at the end. It’s a bit narrower in the back, mostly because placing it this way was easiest. I do like the effect this gives though. Because the lace only just fits, I also stitched it down on the center front point to avoid it riding up.
I considered putting more trim on the bodice, but I can’t really think of anything that would both look good and retain the ruching/lace theme as seen on the skirts. So I think I’ll keep it like this.
The only thing which might still be added are flowers! My original design features dark red roses along the top skirt and bodice. I still need to pick the exact shade and make these, so that will be the finishing touch!