January 21, 2014

The Edwardian Gown : The Bodice Part 1

The Edwardian evening bodice was something I didn't have a pattern for, and I had really no clue how to make one. I couldn't really drape it as I had no way to accurately gauge the fit when my dress form and I are so very different both uncorsetted and then with the corset! So what did I do? I of course draped a pattern on my corsetted form hoping I could adjust from something wrong. I always figure it is easier to fix something and tweak it than start with nothing at all. So I draped a rough muslin bodice on my form and hoped I wasn't that differently shaped overall. 

I tried this first muslin drape on over my corset on my own body and found that other than needing to add about 2 inches to the center front it wasn't half bad! I'm not sure how accurate the whole thing is but I'd wager it isn't too terrible. That is if you overlook the fact that the underbodice/structure part is made out of polyester taffeta! shhhh don't tell anyone! I also ended up adding about an inch to the back side of the arm/shoulder as it was missing from the muslin I had draped.

So I took the next leap and made up the under bodice which is the structure and sorta lining for the bodice as a whole. The inside seams are cut with pinking shears but otherwise unfinished and I bound all the edges with self bias, adding a drawstring ribbon around the neckline as I sewed the bias around. I had bought about half a yard of real silk taffeta to use in areas that would show in the end, and used the real silk to make bias for the arm hole area as I thought that would be visible eventually. There are two spare steel bones in the center front, I would have rather used something more flexible but that's what I had laying around. I sewed a line of hooks and eyes down the corresponding sides of the center front as the method of closure. I also threw a snap in every two hooks and eyes to keep everything laying flat. At this point I tried the bodice on to see how it was fitting, and thank goodness for the drawstring I had added as it really helped with the fit which was a lucky bonus.

Again taking a rather large leaf out of Natalie at Frolicking Frocks book, I sewed bias strips of velvet over my straps just as she did for her Edwardian gown bodice. This worked perfectly for me as well, only I left some of my binding showing for a different look. I also sewed down some black sequin trim along the outer edge of the straps for some sparkle. Then it was time to fill in the space between the straps and where the main fabric would be. I chose some alenson style lace (I got yards of it super cheap at Denver fabrics last year, its a cotton poly blend I'd guess) and hand sewed/tacked a length of it on across the back edge.

I then cut out pieces from my main fabric using the same pattern that I had created for the base layer. After sewing these together I stitched the top edge down using a sort of slip stitch under the fold of the fabric edge so nothing could be seen on the outside. I then smoothed everything out and basted the side seams down to the base layer. I finally turned the bottom edge inside around the edge of the base layer and stitched it down along the inside, mostly to through the binding layer (remember I bound all the edges of the base layer in bias) so that none of the stitches showed on the outside. I was mostly making these steps up as I went along fearing a disaster at every stitch!

Then somehow the back was done! Whew thank goodness! and it looked good which was an even bigger bonus! Tomorrow I shall write more about the front of the bodice but it is my great triumph to be able to say the entire gown is indeed done and I even have preliminary pictures to show you of myself in the gown soon! I will be taking nice pictures, hopefully at the lone local historic home, after I return from my Washington DC vacation that I leave for later today! ahhh so busy! did I mention after finishing the bodice yesterday evening I also threw together the worlds most un-exciting blue 18th petticoat to wear at Colonial Williamsburg this next weekend? So much sewing to do, so little time...


  1. I love watching this take shape. The original is one of my all time favorite gowns. I love how you're figuring it out as you go along too.

  2. House of Worth was just so amazing, gowns like these are the stuff dreams are made of! and I was definitely making it up as I went along ha ha


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