Today we were going to start construction of the period bodice. We were meant to have finished our petticoats, but I still had quite a bit to do.

In the morning, I had a fitting so that Claire could see how far I had got. I still hadn’t quite finished the ovals, a few missing at the top centre back, but these would be covered by the overskirt. More importantly, I had not got the petticoat on to a waistband yet or sewn the bias binding round the hem.

Fitting the quilted petticoat

Fitting the quilted petticoat. You can see the excess wadding needs to be removed at waistline

Clare said that I should just make a centre back placket opening at the back, which would be simpler and correct for ‘theatrical costume’ to allow the actress to easily get in and out of it, but I ☆.•really•.☆ want to finish the petticoat by hand  - 90+ hours so far hand stitching,  what is another few hours? I also would really like to use ties and have pocket slits. I always have to much bumph on me I need pockets.

Still to do on petticoat:

  • take out excess wadding round waistline
  • sew on to petersham
  • add pocket slits and bias bind
  • finish waistband
  • add hook and bar fastenings at front
  • bias bind the hem

Period bodice construction

In the afternoon we started on the bodice construction. Clare had given us a boned bodice overview at the end of last term, partly to explain what materials we would need to get during the holidays:

  • cotton drill – 1m
  • cotton lawn – 1m
  • domette – 1m
  • top fabric – 1m (more if matching pattern lines)
  • steel boning 8mm – 10mm (no rigiline)

The main aim today were:

  • to understand the construction of the bodicebo
  • adding boning positions
  • adding seam allowances
  • cutting out and marking up lawn layer
  • machine basting lawn to drill


We will be using  flat steels (not rigiline) for the bodice boning, even though the corset will be providing a good foundation to the shape.

The steels tend to placed in the centre of each panel, usually sloping towards the centre front or back, along straight seams, and either side of centre front and centre back. For more support,  such as on the side front panel, 2 bones can be placed next to each other. If boning is required down a seam,  channel tape can be used. If the seam is curved used spiral sprung boning.

The boning on the back only goes as high as the shoulder blade, except on a laced back opening where the bone go all the way to the top on the opening. At the sides, the bones tend to stop at the breastline, but at the front they are full length as the stomacher tends to stop quite low.

Period bodice pattern pieces with bone placement

Period bodice pattern pieces with bone placement and standard seam allowances (before changing them depending on the openings/design)

The bones on the stomacher in 18th century styles tend to fan out being wider at the top than at the bottom, rather than being straight which was characteristic in Tudor stomachers. Even though my stomacher was not very wide, I used 4 bones on each side.   If there is no CF opening, place two bones straight down the center front. If there is an opening, place a bone down each side leaving space for fastenings.

You can add channels down the seam allowance, just in case the bodice is too tight.

Seam Allowances

Generally before for the first fitting it is good to leave at least 25mm seam allowance, but more in some cases:

  • CF opening – add at least 50mm
  • CB opening –  add 100mm if it is to be turned back and eyeleted
  • CB/CF without opening – 50mm unless cut on the fold
  • front side opening/stomacher – add 50mm on each side
  • top/bottom – 25mm, more at neckline if you think it might need adjusting.
  • side back – 25mm, or more if very curved.
  • shoulders – 40mm

Starting the construction

Once the pattern was all drawn out, I started on the construction.

  1. Press lawn
  2. Cut out lawn and drill
  3. mark out with bone placement
  4. machine mount drill on to lawn (drill – good side faces the body)
  5. machine sew  bone channels (all the way down to bottom edge in to the seam allowance)

The drill and lawn should be mounted ready for next week.


  • Bodice: mount drill and lawn layers and sew boning channels
  • Overskirt: gather on to waistband
  • Quilted petticoat: remove bulk wadding at top, pleat on to waistband, add placket, biasbind the bottom, finish quilting, add pockets.