With the skirt post done, it’s time to move to the bodices of the gold 1880s dress! I started the evening bodice after making the train base, and worked on the skirt/bodice interchangeably. I also planned the ball bodice at that time, but as this project had a deadline, I did finish the full evening version of this outfit first before starting on the ball version. In the end, I had enough time to finish both!
I used the Truly Victorian TV462 tail bodice as my base. Interestingly, the current cover of this bodice includes a keyhole neckline exactly like my target dress, but my pattern doesn’t have that image on the front, and neither does it have the keyhole on the pattern. It might be that I have an older version, but it meant I ended up drawing the neckline on me by myself. I also changed the back, removing the pleats. As TV patterns tend to fit me reasonably well, I made the mock-up out of the black cotton I also planned to use for the lining. After fitting, I cut the silk, flatlined all the pieces, and did the main construction aside from darts and side seams. The darts I did while fitting another time. The side seams I waited with until after I finished the bottom. This way, it’s easier to let out in the future if I want to, a theatre trick I learned from one of Redthreaded’s videos.
I marked the keyhole neckline first when fitting, and then used a silk facing piece in the exact shape. This was sewn on right sides together, the neckline was cut out (this was scary!), the facing flipped to the wrong side and stitched down. I have no clue if this is a period way to do it, but it worked for me. I decided on a facing rather than bias tape because of the sharp corner, and I like how that turned out.
The next step was finishing the bottom! I made my own piping by stitching a cord into a bias strip, and sewed this to the bottom fronts and back. After this was done, I could finally finish the side seam. It was a bit odd for me to use this order of sewing, as I’m so used to construction first, finishing edges second, but I do like the size flexibility it gives! The next step after this was to add the collar, and finish the neckline like that.
The original garment has a lot of self-fabric covered buttons, and I decided I wanted the smallest ones possible. Of course, this meant covering a lot of little buttons, which was fiddly at best… The official mold for these self-covered buttons didn’t work too well with this small size (I’ve used it for larger versions without problem). So I ended up running a gathering thread (by hand) around the edge of the fabric to pull it in tight around the button that way. I do really like the look of the finished buttons!
The final steps were button holes (sewn by hand, as I do really prefer that look), and to sew on the pearl trim. I decided to go with a plastic, pre-made pearl string. The original has very tiny pearls, and given the deadline I decided to not find individual pearl beads and string them. You can see the difference up really close, but I called this a ‘good enough’. I can always go and change the trim later if it does bother me in the future.
And then it was time for the ballgown bodice! I designed this in photoshop based on some originals. My main concerns were: have some black; but the black should be removable if I ever want to wear this with a different underskirt. I ended up deciding to do a ruched black panel on top of a gold base. If I really want to change it up, I need to unpick some trim, but not deconstruct the entire thing.
For the pattern, I went with the adapted version of the evening bodice. As I tend to make any adaptations directly on my mock-up, I just traced pattern pieces from the bodice directly. Then I could cut the flatlining (white cotton) and silk fabric! Again, I fitted it again after flatlining and basic construction, and pinned the darts directly on the body.
With the base done (I finished the neckline with bias tape), I could create the draped pieces. I did delay the center front and shoulder seams, as I wanted to make the trim disappear inside them. In the end, this didn’t actually work for the center front, as the ruched piece will go on top. I cut the basic shape for the draping out of cotton first, and then experimented with increasing the width to get the gathers. I cut two pieces of this, and draped it on the bodice, pinning it down in strategic places to get the folds to lay nicely.
For the black ruched piece, I followed a similar strategy, cutting it out of cotton first, widening it so it could be gathered up, and then cutting and gathering the black silk. This panel was finished by turning in all the edges, and stitched on top of the bodice beneath the gathered pieces. (I made the gathered pieces first to determine the size of the black panel, but I did stitch on the black panel first, as it goes below the other one)
To finish the bodice, I hand sewed eyelets around boning in the center back, and I finished the bottom with piping. There are a couple of boning pieces inside, the most important one which is in the front, as it keeps the center front point from flipping up. I also added very small gold sleeves (which I didn’t take pictures of…)
And then it was time for final touches, the bows! I found a tutorial for fabric bows here. Basically, you create one long ribbon strip, and loop this to get a bow with two loops on either side and tails. I ended up using a bit of organza ribbon to go around the bow and tie it together. I originally planned on just having bows on the sleeve heads, but I also added one to the bottom of the gathered pieces, and I am really happy with how that looked!
And then the whole ensemble was finished, with an evening version with long sleeves and train, and a ball version with short sleeves and train bustled up! Some pictures of the final ensemble on me and about the event will follow in a future post!