Technically, I should post about the effective muslin I made which was an 80’s rocker style dress, but I want to get better photos of that first, so it’ll come shortly after all this. But suffice to say, that I had made basically 2 versions of this bodice before I actually started working on the one for Totally Minnie.
When I made my rocker bodice, I started with a classic Vogue pattern from the 80s. I made my usual modifications (shortened the waist, took in a little near the armpits) and that was pretty much all I did. It seemed to fit fine and I was on a deadline for that one since I was making it for a holiday party.
Now that I had the blank canvas for the bodice it was time to make it look like my design concept. Here are the changes I made:
- After making the first version in brocade, I could see there were some fit issues around the hip. Surprisingly, it was too big around the hips. So the first adjustment I made was to take those in.
- I wanted the dip in the front to be lower for more of a sweetheart neckline so I dropped that down.
- I needed the slit on the side to be higher, almost to my hip bone. But I knew I could always cover it with the bow if it were too risqué.
- I also needed the entire bodice to go a bit lower, more butt hugging and also just to elongate the torso. I wanted to still be able to sit in it so I had it end on the front right at my hip crease on the longer side, but a bit lower at the back. Of note, I didn’t actually need to be able to sit in it for the purposes of the show though I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’m really glad I did it this way since it works as a cocktail dress.
- I wanted this one to cinch in the waist, so I added an inner corset back as well.
I made all these changes and made a mock up in some upholstery fabric I had. It was terrible fabric because it frayed terribly but it was good enough to see how it fit and see where things were working and not. I just used some zip ties for this muslin.
Overall, it was pretty good, but there were some fit adjustments around the hips and neckline and I decided I wanted the seam lines below the waist to flare more so I adjusted those, too. I thought about going straight to my coutil fabric because the changes were so small, but decided I wanted one more muslin just to double check the tiny adjustments I was making (some were only 1/8” as you can see in the photo below). This was too important to me to not go through all these steps especially at this crucial fitting step.
So it was on to the next muslin. I made this one out of some black twill I had. I also switched up the corset back for a hook and eye closure. There were a few reasons for this: 1) it would be lower profile under the outer fabric, 2) it was more couture in my opinion since it was very Dior style which was one of my inspirations for this design, and 3) it would be much easier to get in and out of back stage.
For this one, I also cut the actual bones from spiral steel (except the middle front which was straight steel). I new they would be the same length so it would save me time when I went on to the actual bodice and I could make sure they fit.
This muslin was pretty much perfect. So much so that I decided it was okay to move on to the coutil. However, first I had to figure out where the bodice cutouts were going to go.
I wanted the cutouts to enhance the shape of the waist on the sides. I placed the cutouts by taking some of the circles I was cutting to test the dots and laying them over the bodice until they were aesthetically pleasing—and also over a minimal number of bones, tracing the circle onto my muslin and then tracing the shape back on to my pattern pieces. Then there was lots of matching up of the pattern pieces to ensure the circles all matched.
Now I just had to cut it all out and sew it together. This was the easy part, right? Lolz.
I started with the lining because that would be easiest to redo if I screwed it up. And screw it up I did. I ended up cutting out the multiple times because of various errors or things I didn’t like and having to reprint the lining at least twice.
I designed the lining fabric myself. I digitized some licensed (so I knew it was accurate) art of Minnie’s bow and created a pattern with polka dots. I knew I wanted black with white polka dots for the inside and that would have been fine, but I wanted it to say Minnie without actually saying Minnie. The bow was perfect for that and I really love how it turned out. It’s actually a little sad that the audience didn’t get to see this part, but I did show it to the judges.
I printed the first version at Contrado on their Silk Sensation Fabric. I wanted to go with a polyester rather than real silk because it’s more durable for something against the skin and it didn’t hurt that I could save a little money since it was inside so not quite as visible. Their silk was great, but it also had a bit more stretch crosswise than I had hoped, so I ended up interfacing all of it before cutting it. This was no biggie.
But after cutting it, I didn’t like the direction of the bows based on how I had cut it. While I tried to make the bow directions somewhat ditzy/random, there was still some pattern and it was very different along the grain versus the cross grain. Also, I cut one of the side pieces wrong side up.
So I ordered more fabric, this time from Spoonflower as I was familiar with their satin and wanted to see the difference (on the right above). I was really quite happy with theirs. The black seemed blacker and it didn’t have any stretch in either direction. I did end up ordering this one at a smaller scale as well. I think both would have looked good, but I did like the smaller scale better as well. Nevertheless, I ordered another 25” from Contrado just in case I screwed up the Spoonflower one.
I did actually cut at least one of the Spoonflower satin pieces wrong, but I had enough to make up for it. I couldn’t be as conservative with the fabric as I normally like to because I was fussy cutting the pieces to get the bows just where I wanted them. In the end, very happy with how it turned out.
Next I basted the lining and the coutil together using fusible web. I did this because sewing through the lining creates little holes where the white of the base fabric could be seen. I figured out how to deal with that later, but I was trying to minimize the stitches in the satin. Then it was time to do the cutouts. I’ll do a separate post detailing those. But the summary is that I inserted the cutouts into the holes and then could treat the bodice pieces like “normal” solid bodice pieces. After that it was just a matter of attaching it all together.
The top of the bodice went together similarly except that I cut it out of silk and flatlined it with white muslin. Again, I’ll go into more details about the cutouts when I get to those.
I matched the lining and outer fabric at the top and stitched them together. Then it was all the grading and clipping of that top seam which was a lot because of all the layers. After clipping, I underlined the seam so that it would lay nicely and the silk would curve nicely over the top for a perfect edge. Underlining is an extra step but it really makes a difference and gives a more professional look.
I originally thought I was going to put the bust cups for shape between the out fabric and the lining like I had in a previous bodice, but because the silk was so thin, I didn’t like how you could see the shape and it did weird things to the seam of the bodice.
I also didn’t like that you could sometimes see the seam allowances due to the thinness of the silk, even with a muslin layer underneath. I figured out a way to fix this by inserting pieces of batting between the outer silk and the inner lining. I shredded the batting at the edges so that it had a smooth fall off. I did some over the breasts and one of the center bust. It smoothed them out very nicely! I’ll definitely use this technique again.
The cups ended up just being tacked lightly inside, mostly so there were no wardrobe malfunctions during the show.
Just the zipper, but . . .
So just need to stick in the zipper and I’m done, right? Well, not quite . . . The one “change” I decided to make after finishing the last muslin was that the inner closure flaps were too long so I shortened them by 5/8” each because of how I thought I would construct them. I was wrong. Also I didn’t realize how much give the twill had compared to the coutil as I had never used good, high quality coutil before. High quality coutil has pretty much no give.
I was able to fix the issue by adding an extra layer of hook and eye tape. It looked pretty seamless as you can see above, and I could just get it small enough that the outer fabric could still close with the extra allowance of an exposed zipper.
By the time I realized this issue, I had already cut and attached the outer layer and completed the cutouts and I did not have time to redo all that (and those cutouts were hard).
Plus I was keeping myself on a pretty strict exercise and diet until the show, partly because I wanted to look good, but mostly because I was paranoid about getting sick and not being able to attend. I had already started to lose weight so I decided to hold off on the zipper to see where I ended up weight-wise closer to the show. Five pounds makes a noticeable difference on my frame and I wanted the fit to be perfect so I waited to do the zipper until the week before the show so I could fit the zipper seam allowances to the set of hooks that fit best. I’ve got a post about just the zipper but in the meantime, enjoy this gratuitous photo of the zipper to reassure you that it worked out.
Stay tuned for my next entry on how I did the cutouts!