Fire in Cairo -- Part Five - the building

When we last spoke, I was working on the hip drape.  Today I'm working on a much more structred and less-forgiving piece -- the bodice.

The secret of a well-fitting bodice isn't all in how you sew it. Much of your sewing success or failure depends upon how you build it. That's right: "build", not sew. The difference between a bodice that fits like a glove as opposed to one that fits like a bag isn't the skill of the seamstress but rather the proper use of materials. I don't think this is what they meant when they said you couldn't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but it's close.

Any jacket or bodice must begin with the right structure. We'll talk about this more during our next project, the 1880s "Cairo" riding outfit. But even everyday bodices need structure.

Our bodice gets its structure from two things: interlining and boning.

Please note that interlining is different from interfacing. Interfacing is a lighter, often fusible, fabric applied to the inside of a garment piece to give it stability. Interlining is like the great-grandmama of interfacing. Interlining is always a fabric, always more stiff and thicker than the outer material.

For my bodice, I'm using 5.3 oz white linen from to coordinate with the stripey linen I got from Carolinia Calicoes last year. It is just stiff enough to give the stripey linen body without compromising the look.

First I cut two backs, fronts, side backs and side fronts from my outer material and from the interlining. Then I sewed each outer material piece to each interlining piece around the edges, making sure I had a right and left of everything. Then I pressed them to make sure all the wrinkles were completely gone.


Before I go on, I want to stress the importance of pressing as you sew. Fabrics shift and slip and stretch. If you are constantly up and down from the sewing machine to the ironing board, you will find that your garments go together more easily and fit together better as well. You won't be sorry if you take the time and press at every step.

Note that I checked the fit of the bodice in my muslin mock-up yesterday. I transferred all the tweaks from the muslin to the interlining and outer material before sewing.

Next, I sewed the darts into the front piece and sewed the side fronts and side backs together. Then I sewed the backs to each other, and the fronts to the side fronts (and side backs).


Finally, I sewed the side backs to the backs. At each step, I pressed the seam allowances open. This not only makes the pieces lay flatter, but it smooths the fabric and allows you to catch any sewing inconsistencies before you go any farther.


After everything was pressed, I tried it on the mannequin.
Not bad, eh?

Tomorrow:   More hip drape!