Making a pair of Bodies

My first “The making of” post for this year! I think it has been over a month since I’ve done one of these, which is crazy! I have quite a few things in progress right now, and two dresses i’ve completed, but I thought I would start with I finished yesterday: A pair of bodies.

As I mentioned in my last two posts, i’m going to be making a tudor ensemble! It will consist of a chemise, a pair of bodies, a hip roll, a farthingale, kirtle, sleeves, and a dress. I decided to start with the pair of bodies first, then built up and under from them.

“Bodies” were the 16th century equivalent of stays or corsets. A stiff foundation garment to give your body support and to create a conical shape, which was all the rage in the mid 1500s.

My pair of bodies isn’t meant to be seen, which is good because visually it didn’t turn out very well!! Like most of my attempts at foundation garments, it was a not complete success. But they fit, and are functional, which is more than I can say for some of my creations!

The pattern i’m using is from Norah Waugh’s “Corsets and Crinolines”. This pattern is labeled as being from the early 1600s, but i’ve seen very similar ones used for recreations from the mid 1500s, so i’ve decided to use it for just that!


For materials I decided to use a hand embroidered linen napkin. I was given this a while ago and it was either embroidered by my grandmother or great grandmother many years ago. It is very pretty but stained and a little worse for wear, so I decided to repurpose it!

I’m using yellow thread for the boning channels, plastic boning, a canvas base, and green broadcloth for lining and bias tape.


I copied the pattern from the book, then altered it a lot. I let it out almost two inches, changed the straps a bit, and made it longer in the waist. The tabs had to be adjusted as well.

Eventually my pattern looked like this!


I cut everything out from the canvas first.


Then drew out all the boning channels with pen. I also marked out where padding would go in the bust.


I used the canvas as a base to cut out the top material. I tried to get this as symmetrical as possible – I thought I did an okay job, but it was almost a half inch off, boo.


I stitched all the boning channels and ended up with this mess! You can’t backstitch with these things so all the threads have to be tied off and buried by hand.


The fabric puckered really badly but it (luckily) ironed out with a bit of water.


Unfortunately without me realizing the top layer of fabric slipped, and the pattern slid up half an inch on one side. Which makes the pattern difference almost one inch, since I cut them unevenly as well. It is my own fault for not checking the front of the garment between stitching, but still, i’m annoyed!

Here one side has the threads buried – can you tell which one I didn’t iron?


Here all the pieces are just before adding boning! I was pretty pleased with how it was coming along, despite the embroidery not really lining up…


Then disaster struck. I was using a purple sharpie to mark the boning lengths and a little spot got onto the front of the fabric. I, oh so cleverly, jumped into action and dabbed at it with alcohol which faded the mark completely! Unfortunately the alcohol lifted all the pen ink I used to mark the boning channels. Within minutes my tiny sharpie mark had turned into this…


I scrubbed at it with dish soap and a toothbrush. I tried a bleach pen too, and it just made things wore. This was really frustrating, even though this garment won’t be seen I was trying hard to make it look pretty.

On the bright side, this has taught me a valuable lesson: Never use ink on a garment again. I don’t wash my dresses since they don’t get much wear, and it honestly never occurred to me that detergent or alcohol or potentially even water would lift the ink and damage something beyond repair.

I tend to use pen since I don’t  mind permanent markings on the interior of things and it doesn’t tug at fabric the way chalk and pencils do. But after this is experience i’m going back to wax/chalk pencils because I don’t want this to EVER happen again!

For salvaging the garment, I attempted to put patches over the mark, but the patches had raised edges which could create bumps and make the dress worn over it look a little lumpy. Which I definitely didn’t want.


I tried patching it with muslin, but the ink stain showed through, and I couldn’t patch it with the linen because it frays too much. I ended up using a scrap of cotton sateen, trimmed the edges with pinking shears, and fused it over the spot. A few people suggested I dye the whole garment blue, or to add a patch on the other side, but both of those things felt wrong to me. I don’t think a mistake should effect your entire project, so I covered it and moved on!

I made bias tape from green broadcloth and stitched it on by hand.


Before attaching the bias tape to the top layer, I padded the bust with some quilt batting.


Then added the bias tape.


I cut out the pattern from green cotton and assembled it. This is the lining.


I sewed on the tabs and then pinned the lining in place.


And whip stitched that in place.


Then it was time for eyelets! I haven’t sewn a bunch of eyelets in a while, and after trying to do fifteen in a single evening my fingers were not happy with me. It took a few days, but I got them all done!





It definitely isn’t the prettiest thing i’ve ever made, but it is functional, and when it comes to foundation garments that is the most important thing!

Here is how it looks worn.

(Without a chemise, because I haven’t made one yet)


Now I just have to make the understructure for the skirt, the chemise, kirtle, sleeves, dress and headpiece. Yikes. It is kind of scary to think that this was one of the easiest pieces of the set and gave me so many problems! Hopefully I ran into all my problems on this piece, and everything else will be easy.

Thanks for reading!

39 thoughts on “Making a pair of Bodies

    • Angela Clayton says:

      That does work! I’m pretty sure it is the alcohol in the hairspray that breaks down the ink. It is a great trick for getting makeup stains out of clothing in a pinch. But in this case since the stain is so big it wouldn’t have been of much help, and I was worried using more alcohol based anything would make the stain spread 😦

      Thanks for the idea!

      • Patricia Johnson says:

        When my girl was 3 I got her a comforter with hearts all over. She liked it so much she carefully outlined all of the hearts with an ink pen. A friend told me about the hair spray trick and to follow it with harsher denatured or wood alcohol-just be super careful-1 oz could kill you-part of an ounce can blind you and the fumes are flammable. Between the hair spray and the alcohol in her room with the window open and a nice breeze we eventually had her new heart duvet back. To keep the spreading down you can do little drops of alcohol or hair spray and carefully blot blot blot like crazy with white paper toweling. I had to do that to the comforter because the blue ink spread into a lot of the hearts especially some that were yellow-so I had to drip, saturate a little space then blot blot blot…

        Your creation ended up looking awesome and your hand stitching looked very nice!!

  1. isabel says:

    That sucks about the sharpie stain! If you ever end up using sharpie again (if ever haha) maybe using a cotton swab and alchohol would have been better instead of a towel? Anyways, I wanted to ask if plastic boning ever becomes a bother? I’ve read somewhere that it shouldn’t be used because they could break easily? Also, at a recent convention I went to there was a professional costumer/seamstress along with a professional prop maker in the costume repair booth. the seamstress was telling me about using electrical zip ties as boning as they are similar in durability and flexibility as baleen. I have yet to try it but she was telling me they use it a lot in the industry so i just wanted to share that with you since you make a lot of corsets 🙂

    • Angela Clayton says:

      I used a Qtip at first but the fabric needed to be saturated more, so I put a few drops on and that is when it all went wrong. 😦

      Plastic boning doesn’t break, or it would be very difficult to break it! But it will bend, and tends to warp to your body shape instead of staying in the shape of the garment. It is mostly a problem for lightly boned garments, with plastic boning stitched into seams. For Stays or Bodies the boning is so densely packed it won’t really warp much – or at least not in my experience!

      I know a lot of people use zip ties, it is a neat trick! I’ve looked into them but they tend to be wider (as in stick out more) and be more expensive than buying plastic boning in big rolls ($25 for 100 yards) so I haven’t personally used it!

    • sportochick says:

      Very interesting. I do costumes for Entertainment and have never used electrical zip ties and the costumers from NYC don’t either. We never use anything except metal for durability and continual cleaning. Costumes have to last 2 years plus with cleaning daily. I will have to ask them what they think. I love learning new things. Thanks for the info.

  2. Miss Bloomers says:

    This turned out really well! How is it comfort wise?

    I totally understand your stain problem. I made a white blouse with pin tucks and had used a disappearing ink fabric marker to mark all the little tucks. I had used that pen many times before with no problems. So I didn’t even think to test it on this particular fabric first, a white cotton sateen. When I pulled out the blouse the next day, it had little brown spots ALL OVER and nothing would get rid of them. I will never use any sort of ink on garments again!

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Thank you! It is pretty comfortable except it digs in a bit at the hips. But I was expecting that, since the boning doesn’t extend into the tabs it is pretty much unavoidable and made worse by my big hips and short waist. It should be much better once I have the chemise and petticoat layers between me and the bodies!

      Oh gosh that is horrible! Sounds like we learned a similar lesson though I imagine a blouse being ruined is much worse than something no one will see. At least it won’t happen again!

  3. Molly Brooks says:

    sorry about all of your mishaps! At least it functions well. I would be very interested to know how you make bias tape, because I have never seen it done and it looks quite useful. I also thought it was great that you were repurposing an older piece of fabric, instead of letting it go to waste. Anyway, good luck with your future projects! i can’t wait to see wait you create.

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Thank you! You can make bias tape by cutting strips of fabric on it’s bias – this gives the strips the natural stretch and ability to curve. Then you fold and iron the edges inward to a center point. For double fold bias tape (which I used on this project) you iron it half.

      They make bias tape makers which do the pressing for you, but it is pretty easy to do yourself!

  4. hexxwhat says:

    Have you ever thought of doing an entire post about all of your sewing and reference books? I feel like it would be helpful to new sewers as well as informative for us about your process.

  5. Sarah says:

    Can I ask why you can’t backstitch and have to tie off and bury the threads in the boning channels? Is that to be historically correct or is there another reason?

    • Angela Clayton says:

      It’s just more visually appealing. Having thirty visible channels that end in backstitching wouldn’t look very nice! I backstitch all the seams and boning channels that extend to the edges, because they get covered with bias tape. It can also be more difficult to control the backstitch, and you want things to be pretty precise when stitching 1/4″ channels!

  6. Megan L. says:

    How do you decide when to use steel boning and when to use plastic? And how do you know where to place them?
    When making corsets/underthings, you mention “binding” a lot…what does that mean, and how is it done?

    • Angela Clayton says:

      It depends on how much support and flexibility you want a garment to have. If you are looking for an extreme shape or reduction, steel is the way to go, if you just want to give a garment stiffness and structure plastic is better.

      Placement, again, depends on the shape you want a garment to have. I kind of just guess or reference existing patterns to get an idea.

      Binding is an additional piece of material that binds (covers) an unfinished edge so it is no longer exposed. You can use bias tape, twill tape, ribbon, etc. There are a lot of existing tutorials on it if you google around!

  7. Lauren says:

    Have you considered just using Crayola Super Washable markers? Except for the violet one, they all come out with just water and maybe a tad of soap very easily. I use the grey one and blue one to mark on my patterns lol

  8. Jamie Morgan says:

    I’m eagerly anticipating the chemise posts – I recently finished a similarly-shaped corset, but haven’t designed the dress to go underneath it yet. More fodder for the idea mill is always good!

  9. Patricia S says:

    I had this happen to me on a commission I was making (a white scarf) it was blue sharpie too. I know it seems like the stain is spreading but I kept wetting the area with alcohol and dabbing it away with a fresh paper towel. It takes forever this way but it does all come out eventually. For such a tiny line it sure did make a bit mess….

    • Angela Clayton says:

      The sharpie dot wasn’t the problem, it was all the pen lines I had used to mark boning channels which extended all over the the front panels. (which bled when using the alchohal)
      The more I added the more it would have spread.

      I’ve used alcohol to get off sharpie stains many times and it’s a great trick! In this case it was just a little too big this time!

  10. Kimberley May White says:

    This is so beautiful, I admire you so much! I’m a bit of a new-comer when it comes to making corsets or bodices (or in this case, bodies!) and I’m being a bit brave (or stupid) and have decided to make one for a cosplay I’m doing (Doctor who, Ashildr/Lady Me) but I’m a bit nervous about the boning showing through? What boning did you use or would you suggest? Thanks Xxx

  11. Mandy says:

    Have you tried my book ‘Stays and Corsets Historical Patterns Translated for the modern body’. It has a series of patterns and all the calculations you will need to draft an accurate corset. All the patterns have been tested with BA Costume students. I am currently writing a second edition. Good luck with your future projects.

  12. nmitchell80 says:

    I was so happy to find this post again! I’ve finally gotten around to drafting and making a mock up of a similar pair of stays. They’re a surprisingly flattering shape on my short waisted, busty and squishy figure lol 😂

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