1880s Wool Ensemble – The Bodice and Finished Outfit

1885 Wool and Velveteen Day Dress

In the last post about this outfit, I talked about apportioning rulers and how I made the overskirt/apron for this outfit. I promised you I’d follow up soon with information about the bodice, so here goes!

This bodice started out as Truly Victorian TV420 1879 Cuirass Bodice, but it was too small for me and also too early for the bottom half of my outfit. 1879/80 was still very Natural Form, so it was never meant to fit over a bustle, and the pattern also had slightly dropped shoulder. It still served as a good start, and with hacking, taping, pinching, nipping, slicing, and smooshing, somewhat morphed into Truly Victorian TV460  1885 Cuirass Bodice, which I don’t own, but need to (it would’ve saved me a lot of work!)

Frankensteining my pattern on the dress form. You can see where I slices and taped in extra pieces to expand the too-small bodice to fit over my corset, bustle, and underskirt. I made the apron before I started on the final bodice, so I could fit the bodice over it as well as the other pieces.
The flat pattern. The two pieces on the left are the bodice fronts, showing the funky curve created for the black velveteen piece.

The major changes I made on the bodice were to de-drop the shoulder, cut my own shape for the hem, add the center back pleat, and convert one set of the front darts into the curvy seam that forms the black velveteen section on the front.

A quick fit and adjustment of the soft-paper pattern before cutting the final fabric.

I did quite a lot of fitting and fiddling on this bodice. The many seams and darts on Victorian bodices make fitting accessible and precise, but the form-fitting nature of these garments means they have to be fit on you. I start with finishing the front closure and machine baste the whole thing together, leaving the darts free in the front. I fit the side and side back seams, put the bodice on, and then fit the center back seam and darts temporarily.

On Victorian bodices I always do the front closure first, on the straight, and the darts last. I leave my darts un-cut, even though it creates bulk on the inside, because I may need to let the bodice out in the future.

Then comes boning. I follow the instructions in Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques for sprung bones. It’s taken me awhile to figure out what a sprung bone is and how it works, but I think I’ve got it now. I’m not sure how to explain it simply, but it involves securing the boning to the bodice in an arced, or sprung, position, as it will be worn on the body, thereby creating a smooth surface on the outside. I will do a tutorial on this later, which I hope will explain it thoroughly.

With the bones secured, I revisited the center back seam and the darts, and took in any additional areas that needed fitting. For instance, I needed to pull up the shoulder seams on the back pieces to remove some buckling, and pinch in a bit on the basque at the back so it lay a bit more smoothly over the bustle.

Lots of fitting. Lots.

The final result is a bodice that fits really really well.

The last bits were the sleeves, hem, and collar. I’m happy with everything except the collar, which doesn’t meet in the front (there had to be something, right?), but I applied this piece with a whipstitch, so it’s super easy to take off and replace at a later date. Even not meeting in the front, I’m still very happy with it…and hey, I can at least move my head.

The only bit of color I wore with this outfit was a pair of coral drop earrings by K.Walters At the Sign of the Grey Horse – these earrings are part of a set I will be reviewing soon.

I’m so pleased with this outfit! It fits, it’s fun to wear, it’s swishy and feminine, yet buttoned-up and somewhat militaristic, which I have always liked. I may at some later date add soutache braidwork for embellishment, which would make it more military-inspired, more Russian, as was the original intent.

1885 Wool and Velvet bustle dress – done and fun!

I’m sure I left stuff out, so please feel free to ask questions. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading