An 1880s Bodice Plastron – Refit

Me and Abby in our bustle gowns – totally different styles but we actually used the same pattern for the apron.

Do you ever pop into your Costume Closet to decide what to wear for an upcoming event only to find out nothing fits anymore? Then the slight-panic of “what can I refit? what can I let the darts out on? can I re-pleat that petticoat or move the closure?” sets in and you’re left reeling with plausible-and-achievable options in what might be a short time frame.

Lucky for us, ladies in the past also went through these moments of fashion terror, and they’ve left us some pretty good records of how they solved the problems. It’s well known that 18th century women would have gowns re-made, re-trimmed, re-fit quite often. Victorian women also had their ways and means, letting out darts, piecing in, and extending bodices in various ways.

One of my favorite methods, and the subject of this post, is the underrated plastron A plastron is defined as an ornamental front to a bodice decorated in contrasting fabrics and trims. I’ll contest that solely “ornamental” definition, for plastrons are epic at extending a bodice that’s become a little too small.

In my case, I have both gained weight and changed the corset I wear for late 19th century, resulting in a different body shape than the one I originally made the dress for. I had about a 2 – 3 inch gap where the bodice front edges wouldn’t meet, so instead of trying to adjust the darts, I pieced in an extension.

Shirring the linen with a gazillion lines of gathering stitches.

My plastron was very simple to make – a base shape of muslin covered in white tissue-weight linen shirred below the bust and left in looser gathers over it. I simply serged the sides and turned under the top and bottom edges, then stitched it to the inside of the bodice on the button-side.

All stitched down – not perfect but good enough. The edges were serged (omg, best thing ever) and the bottom and top edges turned under and hem stitched.

I added matching buttons to the plastron ,which then buttoned through the original buttonholes on the bodice. The last addition, just because it looked a little plain and open at the top, was a very simple jabot made with the linen and a re-purposed 18th century sleeve ruffle. The jabot is a separate collar that hooks in the back.

Stitching buttons – I actually did two whole steps I didn’t need to in re-stitching on the buttons. I didn’t think it all through well enough – don’t be like me!

The separate jabot collar, just a quick throw-together with a big impact. I made a band with linen gathered onto it, then whipped on an 18th century sleeve ruffle I wasn’t using. Worked a treat!

I wore the re-fit-re-fashioned 1880s bustle gown to a local museum tour at the University of Nevada. Abby and I were bustle sisters, although she was so springy and fun and nautical in her *incredible* new bustle gown that I had all the envy! I think this means a new Summer bustle gown is in my future. <3

Because it wouldn’t be me and Abby if there weren’t shenanigans šŸ˜‰

For those wondering –

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