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!

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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.

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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!

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I cut everything out from the canvas first.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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

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Then added the bias tape.

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

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

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And whip stitched that in place.

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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!

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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)

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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!