The 1630 Thang – Finishing the Bodies

Dayum she looks good! 1630 Dutch formal basque bodice with ribbon points.

It’s been a few weeks since I started the yellow and black bumblebee-lobster bodice/bodies/smooth-covered stays for my 1630 ensemble, and I’m pleased to report that they are now done!

The foundation layer for this bodice is two layers of heavy linen. The front pieces are heavily boned while the back has no boning at all. Initially sewing the boning channels was no big deal. I opted to use the machine, and fully intended to use the machine wherever I could, but I quickly found out that that was *only* the boning channels…everything else had to be done by hand. As usual (lol).

A look at the inner structure before lining. I did the boning channels by machine and I initially tried to do the padding on the back piece with zig-zag machine stitches but ended up going back and pad-stitching by hand to get the curve.

After the boning channels and the bones were in, I applied the wool padding to the shoulder strap and upper chest. I used dark blue heavy wool melton and roughly pad-stitched it on. I then added another layer of white muslin because the blue wool was showing through the yellow taffeta of the cover.

Padding the bodice front with wool

I added a layer of white muslin over the wool to mask the dark color. I ended up adding more muslin padding over the whole thing, but next time I’ll use flannel.

Applying the cover was the biggest hand-aching, awkward, pain in the tuchus! I debated backing the taffeta with something because it is so lightweight and now I wish I had. After handling the front pieces even just a little, the boning started to show through in that annoying ridgy way and I had to nip in between the layers from the side and smoosh in a couple layers of muslin to try to pad the area a little. So for the future, and for anybody doing smooth-covered anything, pad the silk layer. There was a great tip from a reader to pad with thin cotton flannel, and if I’d had any on hand I definitely would’ve used that. As it stands now, the cover isn’t perfect. Oh well – live/sew/learn.

Bah! Wrinkles! This happened because I didn’t pad the thin silk taffeta layer enough and the boning started showing through.

Applying the covers to the front pieces was straightforward in some places, but not in others. I went at it as you would for stays – turning the seam allowance over the edges and roughly stitching it down to the inside, all sins to be covered later by a lining layer. This got tricky on the top neckline, particularly where there’s a rather severe angle at the shoulder strap/neckline junction. Some of the original bodices are turned and cleanly stitched there somehow, but others are bound on the top edge, which is what I’ll be doing since I have annoying fraying silk sticking out at those two points.

The two sides of the bodice assembled but not yet joined. There are a bazillion stitched in there that you can’t see because the thread is white. This is also the last time the bodice could lay relatively flat.

With the covers mostly finished, I also finished applying MOAR TRIM to the basque, and stitching the eyelets in the back edges. Time for a fitting! This required helping hands – Christina and Nicole, whom I cannot thank enough.

More trim on the basque, plus I did the eyelets for the points and added on the buttons, which were a lucky find from Tinsel Trading.
Chrissy and Nicole fitting this thing on me, lacing up the back and pinning the shoulder straps and side seams.

I put all of the skirt supports and petticoats on – it’s the first time I’ve had everything on my own body, woo! – and pinned the center front overlap securely which created the S curve of the bodice front. Then Chrissy and Nicole pinned the side back seams while I held the bodice front tightly against my body, to get a snug fit.

And after the holding and pinning, the verdict was in about the back lacing. We left a 1 inch gap for adjustability, and there is no pulling on the back edges/lacing. The bodice fit smoothly and tightly in front without yanking on the back and pulling the eyelets out of shape. All of the complex fitting is achieved with curved seams, both the center front and the side back seams, which is a fascinating and very clever feat of engineering. So I am confident in saying that no, another pair of stays was *not* worn beneath this bodice.

The shoulder straps and side seams are pinned for this fitting, and the front curve looks really good. No other foundation is worn beneath this.

That being said this bodice does not feel like wearing stays at all. There is no waist reduction. It presses on the bust but it doesn’t lift, shape, or otherwise noticeably alter that area. The shoulders are a bit restrictive, as in I won’t be reaching over my head lest I pull the entire dress up (but just in case I do, it’s all tied together with points so at least it will go back to where it ought to be). Generally, though, the entire thing is more of a manufactured shape that the body sits in rather than a garment for manipulating the body into a certain shape, if that makes sense.

Like the examples in Patterns of Fashion 5 and the Cologne book, the fronts of these bodies are fully lined with silk, including the basque. This was a massive pain to do with the shoulder straps sewn and I recommend doing the lining with the pieces still flat as possible for anybody working on something like this.
Blood, sweat, and tears later the bodice is done! I bound the neckline and armholes with black twill tape, stitched the side seams with English Stitch, and roughly stitched on the basque as best I could. This is the only project I’ve done where it actually got harder and harder the closer to finishing I got. Eegads!

So now it’s onward to the next piece. I have choices. Do I make…
The vlieger (surcoat)?
The shirt/shift?


  • Vincent Briggs

    March 11, 2020 at 5:52 AM

    I love it! It's so weird and fun, and it's lovely to see under-represented historical periods! I really look forward to reading about the ruff, and the other garments.
    Ah, yep that machine sewing thing happens to me too with my 18th century tailoring. I (usually) want to save time by doing machine stitching where I can, but I also want to do things *nicely*, so there's machine stitching on the centre back and pocket bags of waistcoats, and also on the long sleeve seams of coats, and that's about it…

    Holy heck I just realized I've been following this blog for TEN YEARS! How quickly time goes by. It was that velvet suit commission you did that showed up in my google search results and first got me interested in the 18th century, so thank you for that!

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