I’ve shown you the skirt construction details for the 1813 Kashmiri dress, and promised to do the bodice construction in just as much detail. I’ve covered them slighty here as well.
I started by cutting out my bodice pieces in white linen, to serve as a lining/under support.
The inner linen lining/under support layer was sewn together first, and I checked the fit of it. I ended up letting it out about 1/2 and inch in the centre front. With the under support sewn together, I began sewing on the wool twill outer layer, starting with the side-back pieces.
Then the centre back piece got sewed on, and the centre back and back neckline got finished:
Then (after lots of dithering and messing with different options) I sewed on the white silk front panel, and sewed the side-front wool pieces to it. Then the front wool drape got sewn down over both pieces (after lots of draping and pinning to get the look right). The point where the drape meets at the centre waist is just raw, with lots of over-stitching to keep it neat. I couldn’t figure out any other way to make it work without too much bulk.
Just before I finished tacking down the top of my wool bodice drapes I sewed a piece of lace across the top of the silk panel, to help snug it in to my insufficient bust and add some texture and interest.
You can see in the detail shots that the silk panel actually has a very fine self-stripe, which shows just how wide the possibilities are for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #6: Stripes are! Even if you don’t like stripes, you could do something like that. Anyway, back to the topic at hand…
Because the lengths of fabric I had to work with with the bodice were so narrow the bodice drape doesn’t continue all the way down to the waistline, but does a diagonal seam from the waist to the underarm, roughly mirroring the line an underwire in a bra takes.
For the first wearing of the dress, it was unfinished and the tops of the bust drape were still flapping free, waiting for me to attach the sleeve drapes to them.
I attached the sleeve drapes by laying them right sides together over the ends of my bust drapes, with the sleeve drapes hanging over the bust, and sewing a seam right at the top of the bust drapes. Then I folded the sleeve drapes back over the sleeves, and trimmed and basted down the raw edges of the seam underneath the sleeve drape to hide it.
I finished the drape in back by unpicking the low-shoulder seam at the top of the back bodice, tucking the other raw edge of the sleeve drape under, and re-sewing it down. I can’t believe how much hand-sewing I re-did with this project!
The back fastens with hooks and hand-sewn hook loops. I know hooks are period accurate, though the examples I have seen have always had metal loops rather than hand-sewn loops to fasten. My hand-sewn loops work a lot better, and are much more subtle, so they don’t bug me.
When the dress was assembled I had armhole edges, and a big, ugly, uneven, raw skirt to bodice seam inside the dress to finish off. I finished the armhole edges very simply: by whipstitching them to strengthen them and avoid the worst of the fraying.
The waist seam was a little more complicated. It started out dreadfully uneven and messy:
I trimmed it just enough to even it and get rid of the worst of the fraying. Then I cut back the wool layer to within 1cm of the waistline. Then I could fold back the linen layer over the wool and sew it down, enclosing the raw edges of the wool in linen.
In the interior shots you can see the sewing lines where I have sewn down the different panels of wool twill over the linen lining/support, and the lines where I have sewn down the silk panel and bodice drape.
So, that’s how I did the 1813 Kashmiri dress bodice. It’s certainly not period-perfect, but I feel it’s a reasonable balance of first-decade-of-the-19th-century techniques, the demands of the fabric, and my learning curve. Next time I’ll aim for period perfect!
I’ll do one last post about the construction of this dress covering the sleeves and some decorative details.