Regency bodiced petticoat - Part 1
I've experimented with a chemise and both short and long stays, but haven't been happy with the silhouette they produce. Spent a couple of weeks making long stays from J.S. Bernhardt's scaled up patterns (below), hoping to distribute the pressure of lifting my bust evenly across my torso.
Unfortunately, even extensive fitting left me with something made for a woman with a more slender torso, tapered waist (my underbust and waist are the same size), and larger bust without the amount of lift desired. The first two photos of me trying it on, I wore a camisole underneath in place of my chemise, which was being washed. The final photo is the stays themselves showing the uneven back gap even with reinforcing boning. I decided not to invest more time in refitting and moved on.
I also have a set of short stays (which I can't find photos of at the moment) meant to be worn over a chemise with more of a lifting effect, but wasn't happy with the overall silhouette.
A couple of years of research and reading had left me thinking that a bodiced petticoat wouldn't be enough to support my figure, as I'm a generous 34D with most of my bust at the front and "top". Given my failures with stays, however, I thought it wouldn't be a waste to try after all.
I began by dyeing a selection of cotton with Brilliant Blue iDye. After years of white and off white foundation garments turning up, I assume they were par for the course when gauzy sheer muslins were being worn over them. Since I plan to go for colored fabrics, and blue is my favorite color, it didn't seem like my choice of petticoat color would show through.
Below is the final results from dyeing. Half a package of Brilliant Blue, one cup of salt, and 45 minutes of soaking. Original colors were, clockwise from top left: baby pink, unbleached, unbleached eyelet, and white. I chose to go with the fabric on the lower left for the outer part of the bodice, and more of the unbleached heavy cotton for the inner part.
For a pattern, I started with Jennie Chancey's lovely Elegant Lady's Wardrobe dress bodice. It's meant to be gathered, and so is wider at the front than needed, but the back is already perfect. My measurements are 31 underbust where I want to put the high Regency waist and 37 inches at the fullest part. Based on a side to side measurement across my back of 15.5 inches, I knew I wanted the front to measure approximately 21.5 inches to start with and work down from there. To achieve this, I traced the bodice pieces out onto a fresh sheet of paper, and got out my ruler. The pattern originally measures a little under 14.5 inches across at the widest point or a total of 29 inches across the front. I added lines lowering and widening the back neckline to prevent it from peeking out too far under the outer gown. I then lowered the front neckline, narrowed the shoulder straps, and removed excess from the center front, narrowing the front piece to 11 inches, or a total of 22 inches across.
Resized pattern pieces. The side back pieces were not altered in order to keep the armscye the same size.
Next step was the pin the pattern pieces to the unbleached muslin and cut them out.
I used short (0.75 inch) pins to hold the pieces together at the seams. Seams are 5/8 inch. Photos below show the side backs being pinned to the center back and the entire bodice shown on my dressmaker's form.
The initial darts ended up too low and too far off to the sides. After moving them closer to the center front and lengthening them, the bodice fit much more closely. Note the change in "lift" once the darts were in the correct place. Please excuse the shaky camera hand; I was holding the side seam together and am not left-handed! (I put on a camisole for decency while shaping the front - it doesn't change the shape of my bust at all. )
The first photo below shows the darts when the bodice is laid flat. Ignore the diagonal line from the side seams: I originally thought I would be placing a line of cording or boning for support, but ended up not needing it. I traced the darts out with chalk and transferred the markings to my paper pattern for future reference. The darts were symmetrical on both sides.
I then cut out the pieces of my blue fabric, identical to the lining.
The pieces were pinned together at the necklines and armscye edges and stitched inside out so that I would be able to flat line the entire bodice neatly. I used a 3/8 inch seam here, followed by turning and pressing. The second photo shows the right sides of the fabric after pressing with much narrower shoulder straps.
The side seams were next. I like to machine stitch parts that are hidden (all of the seams themselves), followed by hand finishing. I originally planned to flat-fell the sides, but was afraid of the seam ending up too bulky.
The darts were sewn in next, and I tried on the bodice again to be sure I liked the fit.
I decided to add a third set of darts closer to the center front. Unfortunately, I didn't take photos of the second fitting, but the darts were needed to evenly support my bust all the way across. This is where stays with a busk would normally function to hold everything in place. The side back seams are flat-felled, and the shoulder straps turned in, finished, and whipstitched to the center back.
I finished the darts by stitching them down for added strength. The left side seam has been turned under and finished and will be fastened with either hooks and eyes or buttons.
Everything needs a good pressing to remove those pesky wrinkles. More to come once I get started on the skirt portion of the petticoat, and hopefully some more photos showing the fit!