Diary of a Titanic Dress: Part Four–Building the Bodice

By Jennie Chancey

It has been so much fun to read your comments throughout this process. True confessions time: When I started out, I was really sure I wanted to go with the lace medallion inset:

In fact, I was serenely confident everyone would agree that this was the prettiest option for my bodice. And, indeed, the majority of commenters on Part Two leaned in that direction. But then I got to playing around with the bodice overlay, trying out the “V” look, and suddenly inset #2 began to shine. I honestly couldn’t see myself preferring this inset to the first, but most of you did, and so did I. It really is lovely:

So last night I pulled out the sewing machine and created the foundation of this dress, which is the sleeveless lining/interlining/inset combination that the silk saree overlay bodice will “float” over. Making a sleeveless lining really allows the gorgeous semi-sheer silk sleeves to shine on their own, and it’s not hard to do. Let’s start with all the components laid out and ready to go:

The first step is to sew the darts into the interlining and lining by following the lines I marked last time:

After sewing the darts in both lining and interlining and test them on my mannequin. They fit beautifully, so I move on to make the inset by laying the burnout organdy over the copper silk, then place the lining on top of both:

Then I stitch across the top of the inset to secure the layers together:

Once that is done, I grade the seam allowance to reduce bulk:

Now I open the inset out by flipping up the lining, revealing the “right” side of the inset:

It’s time to understitch this seam, which simply means stitching the lining piece to the seam allowance of the inset:

Here’s the inset turned and pressed (you can just see the understitching above my finger):

Time to sew the inset to the bodice interlining and lining. To do this, I pin the inset in place, matching the top edge to the dot mark on the interlining bodice and laying the lining on top (thus sandwiching the inset between the two):

I stitch this long seam, taking up the 5/8″ seam allowance, then grade the seam:

Next, I flip the lining out to understitch it to the seam allowance beneath:

Here’s a shot of the understitching in place so you can see it:

And here’s the first half of the bodice foundation finished:

I repeat these steps for the second half, but I let my mind wander long enough to accidentally stitch the layers together at the understitching step! Oh, well. Mom always said, “As ye sew, so shall ye rip!”

Once the second half is completed, it’s time to finish off the armscyes to give a nice edge to this sleeveless bodice foundation. To do this, you simply turn the armhole edges (interlining and lining) until right sides are together and pin them. You will end up with the inset sort of hanging out in between, but that’s okay as long as you keep it out of the line of stitching:

Here’s the seam pinned from top to bottom:

And here’s the view from the lining side:

Once this seam is stitched, you clip curves and turn the armholes right-side out by reaching through from the lower edge of the bodice front and pulling the bodice back through the “tube” you just created:

Repeat for the second half, then press everything neatly, and there you have two neatly finished armscyes:

To finish this bodice foundation, you need to stitch up the underarm seams. Open them out flat and match them in the center so that lining is pinned to lining and interlining to interlining:

Here’s the finished seam:

Press this, and the foundation is complete:

And here’s the back view:

Now it’s time to tackle the beautiful silk saree overlay, which will basically sew up as two bodice halves and be layered on top of this foundadtion using hand-sewing (except at the center back closure, where it will go into the zipper seam). First, I try the halves on the mannequin over the underbodice, pin-basting the side/sleeve seams:

And securing the center back with pins as well:

Now, as you can clearly see, the bodice front is much too long. I cut the halves longer on purpose to give myself room to play with several draping options. I had thought about doing some gentle “scrunches” or even making pleats over the inset, but I ended up not liking the look. This saree material is so delicate and “molds” so nicely to my dressform that I decided to keep it simple. So I created the “V” neckline that won so much admiration last time:

Kind of looks like a pretty blouse, doesn’t it? I may just have to try making one of those one of these days….

Now I trim away the excess from the lower edge, following the line of the foundational bodice beneath:

And here’s the result:

The wonderful saree silk really doesn’t need any darts in it (they would also strain this delicate material, I think), so I’m leaving them off entirely. The crossover “V” pulls in the excess material, and the sash will also cover the seam line anyway, so darts really aren’t necessary here. With the fit confirmed, I remove the bodice to sew up the side/sleeve seams. As always with such material, I use French seams.

First, stitch 1/4″ away from the raw edge, wrong sides together:

Since this is a curved underarm seam, I make small “snips” at the curves to help ease it (no need to clip larger notches into such a small seam). Next, I turn the bodice wrong side out and stitch again, right sides together, taking up a 3/8″ seam (which makes 5/8″ total now):

Here’s a closeup of the finished seam:

And now I need to finish the neckline edge of this bodice overlay. Since I intend to hand-sew the saree’s golden edge over this as a trim, I have no qualms about machine-stitching the hem in place. My rolled hem foot ended up going AWOL during our move to Kenya, but this neckline edge really only has a gentle curve, so I am able to stitch a hem without any trouble:

Press all neatly:

And there we are: a lovely bodice!

It’s officially the “wee hours” here in East Africa, so I’m going to wait ’til tomorrow morning to share the skirt options I’ve played with. I’ve got pictures of several ideas, and I’ll want your input!

Click here to read Part Five
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6 Comments on Diary of a Titanic Dress: Part Four–Building the Bodice

  1. Adica
    April 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm (2 years ago)

    Gorgeous! Love the sleeves!

    Reply
  2. ~Mrs. R
    April 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm (2 years ago)

    I love the “V” options and I love these fabrics! Looking forward to the next step!

    Reply
  3. Emily
    April 5, 2012 at 7:04 pm (2 years ago)

    This is absolutely stunning!

    Reply
  4. Gertrude
    April 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you, Jennie, for the wonderful tutorial! Inspiring and lovely! (I’ve shared your mother’s Sew/Rip quote with my daughters who are learning to sew;-)

    Reply
  5. Katrina - Edelweiss Patterns
    April 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm (2 years ago)

    It’s coming along wonderfully! I can’t wait to see your pictures of the finished dress!

    Happy sewing,

    Katrina

    Reply
  6. Krista
    April 6, 2012 at 6:12 am (2 years ago)

    Very pretty! I am eagerly looking forward to the skirt ideas, and I can’t wait to see the finished results. I do hope you will post photos of you wearing it!

    Reply

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