After creating the basic bodice support for my 1780s chintz pet en l’aire, figuring out the general measurements and sewing together my panels of Japanese block-printed obi silk, it was time to pleat the bodice back.
First I needed to find a lining fabric, as I planned to completely flat line the silk, as it was so thin. Thin, crisp unbleached linen? Sounds perfect.
Then for the pleating. My main inspiration garment, the cotton pet from the Manchester City Galleries, has multiple narrow back pleats.
I don’t like it. It’s kinda ridiculous. The Met pet has a much better back.
So that’s what I went for with my back pleating.
This is also when I found out that the silk is kind of evil to work with. It creases, but doesn’t pleat easily and lay nicely. It’s rather like frizzy hair – you press it down and it just springs back and heads off in its own direction.
To get it to work I actually had to unpick some of the panels so that I had less fabric to work with, and iron in the pleats to get them to stay before I stitched them down to the back bodice.
With the pleats finally all figured out and sewed down to the bodice support, and the panels re-attached, I ended up setting aside the pet for a few months while I worked on other stuff.
When I came back to it again I realised afresh how ridiculously difficult the silk was to work with, and how the crisp linen lining really wasn’t helping. Grrrr. I considered continuing to fight with it for the rest of the construction, and how the garment would never look right, and I sighed, bit the bullet, and unpicked the whole thing. Hours of hand-sewing down the drain.
Then I relined it in a soft cotton with a much better drape. It sucked, but I’m sure I won’t regret it.