To date it is the only First Bustle era dress I've made, and while TV patterns are excellent and I had the help of two original mid-Victorian dresses then in my collection to use for construction assistance, I made some novice mistakes that haunted the dress so that on the Fit-O-Meter it never hit more than "meh...".
Now's the time to rectify the issues as much as I'm able. It has become the year of the refit anyhow, and I am still working out kinks with the 1895 wired and hairclothed petticoat.
The first fix: adding bust padding. Often called bust pads, the padding helps to smooth out the fit of a bodice and prevent the sudden dip or heavy horizontal wrinkling just above the bustline that can occur when wearing a corset, especially as a woman grows older. They're not augmenting the main body of the bust, but the space above and to the side of it. Added to a bodice, they often look like the first pads I added, below.
|The bodice inside out, with bust pads, version 1, in the first position I had them.|
How the Bodice Fitted Before the Pads
Look at the photo below. What do you notice about the bodice's fit?
|Oh my, the poor bodice |
doesn't fit at all.
What happened? While the bodice was fitted over a toile, the issues were baked in from the get-go... If you look carefully, the tell-tale folds are there.
wanted to be in the picture.
|I thought it fit then,|
but no, it didn't.
- bust padding fills in weird hollows above the bust that occur with some women when they wear a corset;
- always do your fittings with the proper undergarments;
- if you can, write down the steps in making your bodice, so that you don't forget to do something -- like add padding -- in the heat of making.
Making the Bust Pads, Version 1
|Four-layer pad tacked together, next to the little cover that |
I've just stitched together with combination stitch.
|The cover is turned right side out and the pad is slipped inside.|
|Here is the pad being overcast to the bodice lining|
using large stitches.
Bust Pads and Padding in 19th Century Dresses
"Padding is a wonderful thing. I used to work for a Savile Row tailor..." she wrote. "At work, we habitually padded areas for clients. Fixing uneven shoulders, broadening shoulders, lifting sloping shoulders, smoothing out a hollow chest, smoothing out back curvature or scoliosis. It is no different to padded shorts now to lift or boost a flat booty, or a padded bra. Only the aesthetic has changed."
If you've had qualms about padding, the above should have dispelled them. They're normal.
She showed photos of a once-glorious late 1880s-to-early-1890s silk lavender jacket and explained, "I have extant garments with it, this is one... the maker has put the padding inside the lining on this one, you can just about see the wool padding where I have lifted the silk away from where it is shattered."
|The wool padding tacked in place with creamy white thread|
between the fashion fabric and the lining.
Image courtesy Felicity Rackstraw.
As she said, "the lavender jacket is padded from the shoulders down to the bust inside the lining; there are no pads added 'after the event', as it were." In this case, then, the wool padding was added during initial construction of the jacket, thus rendering the padding invisible inside. No one need know it was there.
Here is the jacket as a whole.
|Jacket front. Image courtesy Felicity Rackstraw.|
|Padding peeping out. Image courtesy|
She and I traded comments on the FB post, and later on Messenger. A specialist vintage reproduction dressmaker, she owns Esme's Vintage Closet in Stoke-on-Trent in England, and maintains a Facebook presence at https://www.facebook.com/esmesvintagecloset/. We had a delightful chat, and I am grateful for her insights.
Bust Padding, Version 2
I started over. This time I cut a pattern in paper that covered, like Felicity's bodice, from shoulder right out to the armscye. Then I cut scraps in batting and layered them. Whoopsie, I layered them such that the smaller pieces come inwards towards my bust, not outwards towards the fashion fabric. Backwards mounding. No matter, it ended up not making a difference.
|Cutting the pattern.|
|Layering the padding.|
|Not perfect yet. This time, I marked |
the wrinkle with pins. The
rest of the padding looked a little
much up near the shoulder.
|Aha! See the pins I am pointing towards?|
The wrinkle is below the padding!
Well. I had set my test padding too far up. Remember what Felicity Rackstraw said about adding padding where it was needed? I had added too much as well as misplaced it.
The patterning and pad-building was repeated.
|This time, as you can see,|
The padding runs into the armscye,
but doesn't climb all the way to the
Here is the final effect, below.
|The bodice fits smoothly at last!|
The padding worked -- perhaps even too well. The bodice fits much more smoothly now. I might take a layer of padding out in the section up towards the shoulder and not close to the armscye where it might be a tad too much. In any case, am very pleased to have learned the technique.
By the way, you can see that the removable fichu-collar that's tacked to the dres consists of two sides that pin together at bottom with a bow to cover the join. Here, the bow has not been put on.
I am hopeful that you found the above helpful. Once again, let's review:
- Mark the position of the wrinkles in your bodice from the outside.
- Match the positioning of your padding to where the wrinkles are, and shape it accordingly. The padding certainly doesn't have to be round. Shape it to add smoothness where it's needed.
- Pin in place and test as needed. Your first go may not be the last one.
Other Tweaks to the Dress
The dress still needs work, I think. Here are pictures from Hallowe'en and from the last few days.