Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Edwardian "Lingerie" Dress Diary, Part 2: Bodice Cutting and Lace Insertion

At this stage of the Edwardian lingerie dress creation process, I am constructing the bodice. As a reminder, for a base pattern I am using Jennie Chancey's Sense and Sensibility Beatrix shirtwaist pattern as a base.

My dress design calls for 1/4 inch tucks at center front, then a wide band of lace insertion
at each side of the tucks, set on an angle to visually narrow the bodice, then a one-inch wide tuck at each shoulder line, as bretelles. Another band of wide lace insertion is to be set horizontally to mark the high waistline.

Photo 1: first bodice fitting.

Creating Tucks for the Center Front of the Bodice

If tucks are to be used in a bodice, most period instruction manuals, such as the 1905 edition of Butterick's Dressmaker manual (republished as Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques, Kristina Harris, ed.), direct the seamstress to make the tucks in the fabric first, before cutting out the pattern pieces. This is what I did -- mostly -- because I wanted more tucks than Jennie's pattern allows ease for.

Photo 2: detail showing two sets of three tucks at center front of bodice. Picture was taken after pattern pieces were cut.

First, then, I cut a rectangle of linen from selvage to selvage that was big enough to hold the front pattern piece. Then I proceeded to hand-set six tucks in what would be the center front of the bodice. Following the photograph of an extant centrally tucked shirtwaist advertised on Ebay sometime back, I made the tucks in two sets of three, facing inwards to the center front.

To hand-set the tucks, I spray starched the linen so it would easily hold creases, and then pinched and pinned each quarter-inch tuck, pinning, pressing, and sewing each tuck one after the next. Here are the results, in photo 1.

Then I aligned the front pattern piece to the center front line in the middle of the tucks, and drew the pattern line. Because Jennie's pattern is marked for both a fitted waist version, with no ease for tucks, and a bloused or tucked version, I subtracted that part of the pattern piece that holds the ease.

Adding the Bretelle Tucks: A Matter of Trial and Error

After this, I added width to the front pattern piece to leave room for the two one-inch bretelle tucks...I measured the one-inch amount and added it to each side.

Then I hand-set each bretelle tuck and basted it in place, and looked at the effect. Eek: the bretelle edges were taking up part of the seam allowance! Out came the basting and I redid the tucks, checked them again, and stitched them in place. In retrospect, the bretelle are a bit more angled than my original design called for, but they still look nice.

Photo 3: the front bodice piece with one bretelle tuck set and basted in place.

Cutting the Bodice Back Pieces

Since the dress opens at the back, this meant cutting two back pieces. Just as for the front, I added an extra inch to each side for the bretelles, then eyeballed and hand-set each bretelle, basting it to check to make sure it ended at the shoulder line as well as matched the bretelle positioning on the bodice front piece before stitching the final bretelle tucks.

Photo 4: the two back pattern pieces with bretelles set and the placket hems pinned.

First Fitting for Setting on the Vertical Bodice Insertion

Now I basted the bodice pieces, wrong sides together to check fit and to place, and then baste, the wide vertical lace insertion bands.

Photo5: first fitting, showing vertical bands and portion of horizontal waistline lace band pinned in place.

The lace I am using dates to the Edwardian period. It was cut in pieces from a lingerie dress at some point by a previous owner. The dress may have been homemade, or at least repaired at home, because two of the pieces came with the snap fasteners used apparently to close the back of the dress, and the three sets of fasteners are all different. In time-honored fashion, I am reusing the lace on this dress.

Photo 6: detail view of a piece of the insertion.

Photo 7: Edwardian-era snap fasteners from the period lace I am reusing. Two fasteners are of the same type, but different sizes, while the third, smallest fastener, is of the simplest design.

Photo 8: Reverse side of each fastener. Note that the two fasteners on the left both use spring wires to keep the nubs tight.

Recutting the Front Bodice Pieces

The fitting showed that the bodice needed to be taken in to fit more closely around the torso (see photo 5). Further, the underarm seam had gotten skewed towards the back. So, I took two vertical tucks under the armscye and pinned them until the fit was right.
Photo 10: shows the bodice pinned at the new underarm seam.

After removing and pressing the bodice, I removed the basting, remarked the seamline, and recut the underarm seam.

It proved instructive to lay out the bodice front and back pieces, still connected at the shoulders, to show the difference between the recut seamline (bottom right in the picture) and the original seamline (top right in the picture).

Photo 11: shows the bodice pieces laid out.

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