Today i’m blogging about another bodice that I have in progress. This one is based on one of my favorite 19th century dresses, which was worn by Countess Anna von Hallwyl in 1865. The portrait of her wearing it can be seen here, and the actual dress can be seen here. I’m pretty sure that’s the same dress, but the exact details are hard to track down since the gown is part of a swedish museum archive that doesn’t allow english search terms.
I discovered this painting years ago, before I was even making historical costumes. I was instantly charmed by it and those feelings haven’t changed at all. I still adore the dress and think it’s a really interesting example of 1860s fashion. I love how it has the traditional bertha style neckline, but instead of being created with pleats or ruffles it’s ruched! And the banding details on the collar carry over to the sleeves, which create a paned effect that dates back to renaissance times.
I bought fabric for this project shortly after seeing the painting for the first time, but I didn’t have the confidence to make it until now. So i’m very excited to finally be working on this gown.
Even though this project is based on a specific painting, and has the same color scheme, i’m not aiming to recreate the dress linked above. The finished project will be a mixture of elements from the Boutibonne painting and my own design choices. But the similarities are pretty clear in the bodice! Since one of my favorite things about this dress is the collar, that will be prominently featured in the version i’m making.
Here is the sketch that I started out with.
And a full length sketch.
I started by draping the bodice, then turing it into a paper pattern. At this point I realized the collar would have to be a bit wider, and the neckline a bit higher than I had originally planned.
I made a mock up to check the fit, which made it clear that some alterations were needed.
I lengthened the basque waist and trimmed a half an inch off the waistline. I took in the front seams by half an inch, lowered the shoulder by a half inch, and made a few alterations to the arm holes. Overall these are pretty major changes, but at this stage they were easy to make.
(also I should mention that this is pictured over my Cotton Sateen Corset)
After fixing the pattern I began cutting out the bodice. The bodice has two layers – a top layer of pink cotton sateen, and a base layer of stiff cotton to prevent the top layer from stretching.
My fabric choice for this project was kind of poor (in my defense I made it three years ago when I had way less fabric knowledge) the material is too lightweight for the bodice, so I backed the cotton sateen with lightweight fusible interfacing before cutting it out.
I created boning channels on the front and side panels with twill tape. The boning channels are visible on the front panel (sewn after attaching the cotton sateen to the stiff cotton layer) but the side ones are hidden.
This bodice will be worn over a corset, so the boning isn’t for reduction purposes. It’s just to support the bodice and keep the material laying smoothly over the body.
I sewed the right sides of the sateen/stiff cotton layers together around the arm hole, so once they were turned the right way out I had a finished edge. Then I hand stitched around the edge to keep it in place.
The bodice was sewn together by machine with half inch seam allowances. A few things didn’t line up as well as I would have liked, but overall i’m happy with it.
I boned the bodice with quarter inch steel, then sewed an alencon lace applique to the front. This lace was another one of those bad material choices, since alencon lace looked very different in the 1860s and wasn’t common at the time. But I love this fabric and it matches perfectly, so i’m using it anyway.
I folded the bottom edge inward by a half inch, then sewed piping to the edge. I tried doing this a few different ways with various sizes of piping, but this looked the best.
When the bodice is worn tension keeps the piping smooth and it looks symmetrical. When it’s flat the piping does it’s own thing and it looks like this, which is a bit unfortunate!
At this point the exterior looked pretty, but the inside was quite messy. I didn’t want to line it, since that adds bulk to the garment, but I didn’t want frayed edges either.
So I trimmed each edge slightly, then whip stitched lace hem tape overtop. this was a little time consuming, but i’m really happy with the end result!
Now I could finally move onto the collar! The collar started as a single piece of cotton sateen, which was also backed with fusible interfacing.
Then I pinned lace appliques overtop. All the appliques used on this project were fussy cut out from a piece of lace fabric. That lace fabric had borders on each edge, which were also fussy cut out and used to trim the skirt. It’s a much more affordable way of buying lace appliques/trim as long as you don’t mind spending a few evenings cutting it apart!
Here the lace is after being sewn on. It looked very pretty at this stage, but unfortunately that didn’t last, because the next step was covering the collar with two layers of gathered tulle.
After adding the tulle the lace became really difficult to see. But even though it’s barely visible it still adds a lot of dimension and sparkle to the collar, so I think it was worth doing.
I made the bands for the collar out of one inch wide strips of cotton sateen. I ironed the edges inward, then fused a small strip of interfacing over the back side. This isn’t the most secure method, but it was much faster than hand sewing them and it looks much cleaner.
The bands were pinned in place two inches apart, but after draping the collar over my dress form I made a lot of changes. I probably spent and hour arranging them until I felt they were perfect.
The bands were sewn on by machine. Then the raw edges of the collar were covered with bias tape that was stitched on by hand.
Close up showing the lace detailing beneath the tulle.
I liked how this was coming along, but it was a bit dull looking. So I did the obvious thing and added sequins.
They really do fix everything! They should be advertised as the duct tape of the embellishment world.
Now I started adding the frills. The first addition was a scalloped lace from etsy, which was hand sewed around the top and bottom edge.
Then I sewed a bit of lace trim to the center of the neckline. I had to sew the lace to tulle, then sew the tulle to the collar to get it to stay like this.
Now it was time for the lace ruffle which goes across the underside of the collar. I used chantilly lace for this, and trimmed the edges so the lace will be longer in the back and shorter in the front. I also saved the bits I trimmed off – they were helpful when it came to making the sleeves!
I gathered the lace down by machine.
Then pinned it onto the collar. This was almost as time consuming as placing the bands, I spent so long lifting portions by a quarter inch only to drop them again. There was also a big struggle in getting both sides to be symmetrical, but I think I got it figured out!
Here it is sewn in place.
I love how frilly this is. Everything should involve a minimum of four different types of lace.
Then the collar got sewn onto the bodice, and suddenly it started to take shape!
I tried putting it on my dress form so you could see how it drapes, but that didn’t work so well. The proportions don’t look right since my dress form doesn’t fill out the shoulder and bust of the bodice. I guarantee that it looks much better when worn.
On the bright side it does show how nicely all the materials work together!
Now it was time to finish and bone the back of the bodice. I did this by making a one and a half inch wide facing. One edge of the facing was turned inward by a half inch and sewn down to create a boning channel, and the other edge is sewn to the centerback of the bodice.
The facing was supposed to be attached with a half inch seam allowance, and hidden by the exterior of the bodice…but when I measured the waistline it was only 25″ and I didn’t want to lose a whole inch of seam allowance. So the facing was sewn with a quarter inch seam allowance and didn’t get folded under completely.
Then I sewed a quarter inch away from the edge to create a boning channel. The end results looks pretty bad, but it’s at the back of the bodice so i’m not that bothered by it. The lacing will mostly cover it, and If I have leftover chantilly lace when i’m done making the skirt i’ll stitch some overtop to cover it completely.
I lined the collar with muslin since the interior of it was a mess.
And that’s about it! I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I think the materials work nicely together and it’s just as frilly as i’d hoped it would be.
I haven’t included a worn photo in this post since the silhouette didn’t really come together until after I added the sleeves. But I promise there will be some in the next post about this project!
In the mean time, here is a detail shot.
Thanks for reading! I don’t think I have any more bodices in progress right now so the next post will probably be about poofy sleeves and skirts!