Friday, June 19, 2020

Re-Making the Blue Velveteen Bodice

I was never really happy with how this piece turned out originally, when I made it back in 2014.  I wore it twice, then put it away with intentions of fixing it somehow at a later date.

Then I forgot about it until last year around the beginning of May, when I was creating a database of pages for all of my garments to make my blog a bit easier to navigate.  And since I was also preparing for the England trip at the time and still finalizing wardrobe ideas, I decided it *must* come with me to England!  It would be the perfect thing to wear to tea at the Royal Pavilion.  But it needed a serious overhaul.  Partially because it no longer fit, but I also wanted to correct the issues with the overall design.

My original inspiration was this image, found on Pinterest:

Looking back at it, I saw what left me dissatisfied with the original version of the bodice.  The neckline was not wide enough, and the bodice front was not short/high enough.  The crux of both of my issues came from the fact that I had patterned it to go over my Blue Day Dress, so it had to follow the lines of the bodice of that dress.  Well, no more.  First of all, that dress no longer fits, and secondly, I realized that I didn't actually have to wear it over a dress at all!  I was inspired by Fabric & Fiction's beautiful spencer jacket that attached to a petticoat with hooks at the waistband, and decided that arrangement would be perfect for this bodice!  Now I wouldn't have to worry about a gown bodice peeking out from the neckline of the velveteen bodice and spoiling the look.

So, first order of business was to take the thing apart.  Here is how it looked before I started:

You can see that I never finished putting all the skirt hooks on, and ended up using a safety pin in place of the middle bar.

Also the closure was off-center, which I never really liked.  This was done because I had accidentally cut the lining too small, and needed to compensate by cutting the velveteen much wider at the front, creating a self-facing.

Turns out this was a very good thing, because my chest has expanded since I wore it last (pregnancy + nursing will do that), and I would need all the space in front I could get!

It was about 2" on either side, so I had plenty to work with.
Ok, continuing the tour of how it looked before I dismantled it:

The lining was some weird slinky stuff, likely synthetic, and I know now did not need to be the same color as the outer fabric.  :p  The shoulder sausages, as I call them, were never quite as full and perky as I wanted them:

I had used bias tape as armhole facings, the first time around:

Luckily I've learned a lot about period-correct construction since then.

(I also flat-lined the lining, not the fashion fabric!  LOL)

Anyway, I took it all apart, and discarded the lining.  I was left with these pieces:

It had good bones!  And the back didn't need any alterations at all.

I started with the shoulder sausages, which just needed more oomph:

I replaced the tired, flat bits of batting with actual stuffing harvested from a dead pillow.  

I sewed them shut by hand this time, with the seam allowances on the inside.

This would make them much easier to apply to the top of the shoulders, without the need to sandwich the raw edges in the seam allowance of armscye.  And this made them much more sausage-like, and less like weird little wings sticking out horizontally like they had done before.

Setting those aside for the time being, I turned to addressing the fit of the bodice.  I started by padding out the bust of my dress form with some random pieces of batting I had, and put my old Regency stays on over top to give her the proper shape:

Actually I did this before I took the bodice apart, as you can see by this photo of the intact bodice struggling to close over my padded-out form:

The photos are out of order on my computer because some were taken on my phone and some on my camera, and it's been almost a year since I worked on this so I have to play detective going through them to figure out the correct order and what I was actually doing.  There's a lot of guesswork in writing my making-of blog posts.  :p

I believe I started with widening the neckline.  To do this evenly, I folded the bodice in half and pinned the two sides together in strategic spots so they wouldn't shift:

Nope, just kidding - first thing I did was enlarge the armscyes!

Then I trimmed away portions of the neckline at the shoulders.

I thought I cut off more material than that, but there are no pictures of it...  Anyway, then I used the adjusted front to cut out the lining from white linen:

I also used the (paper tracing of the original) pattern piece I had drafted for this project, mainly so I wouldn't have to take the bodice completely apart:

I have used this pattern for so many projects now!  And it's been adjusted to fit me better over time.  

Anyway, next I stitched the lining pieces together at the side back seams, and lined them up with the side back seams of the velveteen pieces.  I pinned the lining to the inside of the bodice:

I had left the shoulder seams open, so when I got the lining pinned in place I folded the seam allowance of the shoulder strap inward:

Pinned it in place:  

And stitched it down, taking care to catch only the lining layers:  

Then I needed to trim away bits of the lining to true it up to the outer bodice fabric:  

Once they matched up, I clipped the seam allowances along the curve and turned them to the inside:  

I started with the armscyes, then moved on to the neckline:  

All these edges got prick-stitched in place, but I have no pictures of this.  

I also added pearls to the shoulder sausages, which I had wanted to do when I first made it but ran out of time before the first event I wore it to.  And then I was unhappy with it and knew that simply adding pearls would not fix the problems, so I never bothered to do it.  But I added them now!  Unfortunately there are no pictures of this, but I think I strung them on my thread, knotted it and wrapped it around the sausage in segments, made another knot over the first one, then went back and individually stitched each pearl in place so they were evenly spaced and stayed where I put them.

The shoulder sausages were rather straight across the top and curved - but in the wrong direction - across the bottom:

To solve this, I pinched each section together at the bottom edge and stitched in place across the seam.

When I was done they looked like this:

And I hand-stitched them to the outer edge of the shoulder:

It's starting to look like my original vision!

To modify the shape of the front, I tried it on myself and marked where I wanted to lower edge to be with pins:

I then marked the lower edge line on the lining side with a fabric marker:

And cut along this line:

I used the piece I had trimmed off one side to mark how much to trim off the other side - that way they would be symmetrical:

Then I pleated the center front edges:

To create a wide v-neck:

Once I had this pinned where I liked it, I marked the center front where both sides overlapped with vertical pins:

I marked this line on the lining before removing the pins:

Then I cut off the excess:

Don't worry, I wanted the center front edges to butt up against each other, not overlap in the front. 

To reduce bulk at the center front, I opted to bind the edges with royal blue linen, cut on the bias from an unused sleeve lining piece I got in a bundle of scraps from the Costume Design Center back when I still worked there:  

I apparently didn't take any pictures of the rest of the construction, so I'll have to extrapolate from the finished piece.  I reattached the original waistband, then engineered a complex closure at center front to hide the linen-bound edges:  

Looks simple enough from the outside, no? Well, here's where it gets complicated:  

The velveteen strip in the center is only attached at the lower right corner.  On the inside are all kinds of hooks and snaps:

But it makes sense once you start to put it on.  First snap the lower left edge to the center strip:  

Then fasten the hooks and eyes:  

Now the center strip...

...wraps up around the bound edges: 

And snaps in place on the inside:  

I am much happier with the bodice now!  The neckline and waistline are much closer to my inspiration image, now.  And I think the pearls add just the right touch:  

For comparison, here are the original version, inspiration image, and final version side-by-side: