Saturday 20 June 2015

Wedding Dress Progress Part III: Constructing the bodice

Disclaimer: This post is a pure construction post with no pretty pictures. I've tried to put some more detail into the construction of the bodice in the hope that it might help somebody else when making a structured dress. At least I struggled a lot with deciding what to do.

Another month has passed since my last Wedding Dress Progress Update! Two more month to go before everything has to be ready. I'm making good progress with the dress:

The bodice is assembled, voila!
It consists of 5(!) layers:
1. Pleated chiffon shell
2. Silk dupion underlining for the chiffon shell.
3. Cotton batting with sewn-in bra cups.
4. Old bed sheet with boning to which the cotton batting is attached.
5. Silk lining.

It took me a while to decide in which order and which way around to stack layer 3 and 4. So here are a few more details on the bodice assembly.

I hand basted the pleated chiffon to the silk dupion bodice pieces with silk thread and then sewed the bodice pieces together (layer 1 and 2). 

Right side of silk lining (top) and chiffon pleats basted to silk dupion (bottom)

Wrong side of silk lining (top) and chiffon pleats basted to silk dupion (bottom)

Following the tutorial from sewaholic, I made a cotton batting layer just for the three front pieces (the ones connected by the princess seams). To avoid fabric bulk at the princess seams, you have to cut off the seam allowances and then stitch the side and front panel together on top of twill tape. I bought simple sew-in bra cups from amazon and after a bit of trial and error managed to get a good placement of the cups on the batting. I sewed all the way around the cups with a zig zag stitch to secure them.

Right side of cotton batting with bra cups (top) and bed sheet with boning (bottom)

Wrong side of cotton batting with bra cups (top) and bed sheet with boning (bottom)

Then I constructed the "old bed sheet" bodice which I wanted to use to underline my silk lining. I added the boning to this layer because it was the most stable one. I had to make the princess seams for this (and the silk lining) a bit smaller, because they are on the inside of the bra cups. Next I stitched the cotton batting to the bed sheet layer.

Boning attached to the bed sheet layer.

Close up on bra cups sewn onto cotton batting
I then sewed the bodice a fifth time - this time from silk to make the lining. The assembled silk bodice got attached to the bed sheet layer as well. Now the bed sheet layer was sandwiched between cotton batting and silk. I hand stitched the cup of the silk lining to the bed sheet bodice by stitching in the seam line of the princess seams.

Stitches in the seam line of princess seams to secure lining to bra cups.

Close-up of all layers sewn together.

Construction wise the most challenging part for me was to attach and position the bra cups. The boning was very easy to put in. I was contemplating for a while to add some horse hair braid to stabilise the neckline but decided against it. Because there were already 5 fabric layers at the neck seam line and I didn't want to add more bulk.

I first trimmed the batting.
Finally I stitched all bodice layers at the neckline together. To make sure I had a nice crisp and flat neckline seam, I graded the different layers at the seam during trimming before understitching. And voila here we have a really structured bodice. Despite being stable I do not trust it to not slip down thus I've added ribbon straps to have some security :)

Trimmed and graded seams at neckline seam.

Neatly understitched and trimmed neckline seam.

Understitches on the right side of the neckline seam. Pretty ribbon straps have been attached as well.

Are you still with me? Well done! Then let me tell you what to expect in the next progress post: the assembly of the dress and lining and first hand stitching :)

One question, please: Does the train have to be lined? My lining has a train :O And do you have any experiences with bustles? Any tutorial you can recommend? Thank you.


  1. A really fascinating post - thank you! I really can't wait to see the finished frock - it looks as if it will b glorious!

  2. Wow! It looks amazing. There is so much work in this dress. Unfortunately I don't know if a train should be lined. I suppose it depends on the weight of the fabric, but I really don't have a clue! Good luck with the rest of it.

  3. Amazing work. Love a detailed post. I should do more of those. You make a daunting task look super enjoyable. Looking forward to seeing you wearing it. It will be so special :-)

  4. Wow, so much work! But it looks very nice and neat, I'm sure the finished dress will be awesome ;-) Sorry I can't help you with your questions D:

  5. This is so much lovely work. Cannot wait to see the finished product!

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