Studying Theatrical Costume and other adventures in London - sewing, fabrics and events.

Tag: pattern cutting

Class 32: Final fitting and finishing touches

Painting showing chemise poking out

Painting showing chemise poking out

Today was just for finishing touches as is the last class before we have our costumes ready for the photo shoot in the beautiful surroundings of  the Wallace Collection.

In the class today, I made a toile of the cuffs and fichu as I only had a limited amount of lawn to use.  I also had a fitting and Claire went over some of the final details like ruching the overskirt, attaching the bodice to the overskirt and putting in a placket on the bodice.

Softening – cuffs and neckline

These cuffs would be made of cotton lawn and would be set just inside the bodice sleeve to give the impression of a chemise poking out.

I started by draping some of the lawn to see how much I would need for the gathers.

Working out roughly how much lawn to use

Working out roughly how much lawn to use

Taking some measurements and working from shapes Claire had explained to me, I drew a pattern and cut it out in scrap fabric which was a similar weight to my lawn. The cuff should be baggier at the bottom than at the top and the seam on the inside of the arm (same as bodice sleeve).

Cutting a toile using pattern piece for the cuff

Cutting a toile using pattern piece for the cuff

Checking the cuff toile in the bodice

Checking the cuff toile in the bodice

I also made a toile for the fichu which I tried during the fitting. It was a lot smaller than some of the others, but I didn’t want anything bulky looking. Claire gave me a little cotton lace to add to the bodice to soften up the neckline.

Cutting the cuff in lawn

Cutting the cuff in lawn

Using the fichu toile to cut the lawn

Using the fichu toile to cut the lawn


To remember for the final fitting:

  • make sure you have the costume shoes on (or at least heels with the same height)
  • no t-shirts/tops under corset
Final fitting. The overskirt has been tucked in to the pocket slits.

Final fitting. The overskirt has been tucked in to the pocket slits.

Ruching the overskirt

Several methods can be used depending on the style or fabric you are using:

  • rouleaux loops from inside to out
  • tapes on the underside
  • tacking stitches

I am going to use rouleaux loops made from the same fabric as the overskirt and bodice.

Attaching the bodice to the skirt

  • swing stitches
  • stab through
  • button elastic

Button elastic method:

  1. cut elastic with one or two holes, depending on the size and stretchyness. Cut half way between the one button hole and the next. you will need one for each bone or seam. I used 3 on each side. More on the side and back than on the front.
  2. Machine zig-zag stitch the edges to stop from fraying
  3. use double thread to sew in place
  4. place them so that they finish 15mm-25mm above the waistband
  5. during a fitting work out where to place the buttons on the underskirt
  6. use a flat button on the inside of the underskirt
Zig-zag stitching the button hole elastic

Zig-zag stitching the button hole elastic

Placket/modesty panel/ eyelet guard

Use top fabric and drill layer.

When used behind hook and eye fastenings, the placket can be about 5cm wide and is placed on the same side as the eyes.

If used behind eyelets the placket should be wider to take in to account how tight the lacings will be done up and how close the panels will go together.


Finish the costume ready for next week:

  • Under petticoat – finish waistband and hook.
  • bodice – lace on neckline, button hole elastic, placket, cuffs
  • overskirt – finish waistband and make rouleaux, buttons to attach to bodice
  • fichu – cut and hem
  • pockets
  • cockades
  • shoes
  • hat
  • mop
  • dye under petticoat

Things to bring to the Wallace collection

  • costume
  • small sewing kit with coloured thread, extra fabric, safety pins.
  • packed lunch, snacks and drink
  • no  jewellery
  • make sure you are not wearing nail varnish

Class 27: Period bodice construction

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.

Class 16: Period bodice shape

Aims for today:

Once we finished fitting a basic bodice toile over our corset, we used the instructions in Claire’s handouts to cut a period shape without a sleeve, then fitted this over the corset again.

For this period, darts were not used, so the darts have to be closed. Remember to spread the allowance between the side seam and the dart lines. Additionally, the side seam was usually futher round towards the back ( I had forgotten to move the seam when I drafted the pattern below).

18th century period bodice pattern pieces

18th century period bodice pattern pieces

Copying the seam markings on to the pattern peices of both sides using a tracing wheel, copy papaer and a pattern master.

Copying the seam markings on to the pattern peices of both sides using a tracing wheel, copy paper and a pattern master.

Bodice pieces ready to be sewn up

Bodice pieces ready to be sewn up

Next week:

Class 15: Fitted bodice toile

Today we continued to work on our basic bodice toile in calico.

  1. fit over corset
  2. add alteration markings to the pattern
  3. copy altered pattern
  4. add seam allowances
  5. make up and fit again

We will fit a basic block shape over corset shape. This is so we can practice fitting, and so is not meant to be the same as our final bodice design. Once we have fitted the basic block, we will draft a period bodice using the new measurements, fit again, and then draft a period pattern based on our design. The final bodice may need to be mounted on another fabric and will be boned

Making up the toile

  • Add seam allowances to the block. Add 15mm seam allowances around and 25mm on the opening edge.
  • Put the opening at the back. This usually makes it easier to pin up than at the front, especially if the model is curvy.

Fitting the bodice

  • Put seams on the inside (unlike my pictures below) as you can see the lines/shape better
  • Snip in to seam allowance around neck, waist and arm holes
  • Make sure the centre back lines meet. If they do not, they should be pinned parallel to each other.

If the bodice is too large at the top, you should arrange round the shoulders. Too large at the bottom, take in at the side seams or darts.

Corset on for fitting

Corset on for fitting

Basic block fitting - front

Basic block fitting - front

Basic block fitting - back

Basic block fitting - back

Adjustment to the shoulder

Adjustment to the shoulder

adjustment put on the pattern

Adjustments put on the pattern

Once we had finished fitting the basic block, we moved on todrafting a period bodice.

Class 14: Basic bodice block

Quite a few people were not in class today as there is still snow on the ground and transport system is not running smoothly. I arrived after lunch on the down side of an adrenaline rush as I had a job interview in the morning – more about that when I get some news.

Today we start on Unit 8: Developing Sewing Skills for Fashion, which basically means creating the outer layers – the dress. Initially we will be making the dress in a calico toile, so we can learn pattern cutting, try out different things, and make sure it all fits before we cut in to the expensive fabric.

I haven’t done much pattern cutting before, so this is all quite interesting. We are starting out with the bodice, so we have to:

  • Copy a basic dress block – dress or corset block provided.
  • Add 25mm seam allowance
  • Make a toile out of calico with opening at CB
  • Fit it over the corset
  • Put adjustments on to the original block.
  • Copy block with adjustments.

At some point we will also have to attach a sleeve or two.

I ended up choosing a size 10 as an 8 would be too small compared to my natural measurements.

Size 10 block My natural measurement
Front Back Total
Bust 23.5 cm 23.5 cm 96 cm 91 cm
Waist 19.5 cm 22 cm 78 cm 70 cm

Once the block was copied with seam allowance added, I cut out the pieces in calico. I forgot to bring my carbon paper, so I transferred the outline and the marking for the darts using blue water soluble pen. Unfortunately, due to my lateness, this is as far as got in the class.

Basic bodice front, cut on the double

Basic bodice front, cut on the double

Basic sleeve block

Basic sleeve block

Things to remember when using the blocks:

  • Get the front and match back piece.
  • Dress blocks have ease, corset blocks do not.
  • Blocks do not have seam allowance.
  • Measure the bust and the waist to check which is nearest size  – remember to deduct any darts
  • Block only needs to be copied from the waist up.


  • Bodice and sleeve – 18th Century


  • finish log book
  • sew up side seams on corset
  • add bias binding to bottom
  • sew up bodice toile for fitting

Class 7: Corset – adjusting the pattern size

Unfortunately I missed this week, but I was able to look at a few of my class mates notes to come up with adjusting an 18th century corset pattern.

18th Century Corset Pattern

The base pattern we are using is the ’18th Century Corset Pattern’ from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen‘.

The pattern when scaled up to full size will fit a size 12 model with the following measurements:

Bust 89 cm
Under bust 76 cm
Waist 66   cm
Hip 91.5 cm
High hip 87.5 cm
Nape to Waist Back 40.5 cm
18th Centruy stays pattern from 'Period costume for stage and screen'

18th Century stays pattern from the book 'Period costume for stage and screen'

At the end of last weeks lesson, we started to scale up the pattern and add the seam allowances.

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Panel C (front side panel) pattern peice showing seam allowance, boning and hatch stitching placement

Panel C (front side panel) pattern piece showing seam allowance, boning and hatch stitching placement

Needed for next week:

  • corsetry fabrics
  • corsetry habby and notions
  • candle, jar and lighter/matches.
  • tracing paper and wheel.

Fabric, trimming and haberdashery suppliers

Design considerations for the corset

  • bias binding
  • hand worked eyelets/grommets
  • top stitching/hatching stitches/contrasting by hand
  • contrasting ribbon for straps
  • work on assumption that the corset will be seen and and plan fabrics and trims accordingly.

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Class 4: petticoat – checking formula, draping, cutting and construction

Today Claire checked our formula and layplans, explained the order of work, and after draping the calico over the bupads on the stand, we started to cut out the petticoat pieces. The draping was done so that we could start to get a feel for it.

Layplan for a basic 18th Century petticoat (using my measurements)

The planning an 18th Century petticoat pattern page has more details about the measurements used, the formula and layplan.

Constructing the petticoat

Sewing order for petticoat:

  1. Seams
  2. Hems
  3. Tucks
  4. Frill

Cut out the fabric for main body of petticoat. Press cf and sides so that there would be a visual guide to the quarters.

Sew up cb to roughly where the placket would start.

Measure and mark out the lines for the five horizontal pin tucks and sewed them in to place.


  • prepare frills
  • sew joins
  • hems (do not gather).

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