Upton Dress muslin

Considering that most of my major pattern changes are already incorporated into the draft, I shouldn’t be so surprised that only one muslin for the Cashmerette Upton dress bodice was necessary. I made a few small tweaks to muslin #1, but nothing that required a fresh mock-up.

Before sewing up the bodice muslin, I made a few size modifications to the pattern at the side seams, grading out from a 14 at the shoulders and bust to a 16 at the upper waist. Initially, based on the pattern measurements compared to my own, I used the size 16 for the back waistband, but for the front waistband I graded out from a 16 where it joins the bodice to a 20 where it joins the skirt, because I’ve got some tummy that I wasn’t sure the size 18 would fully accommodate. But I saw immediately that all this excess needed to come right back out when I put the bodice on and zipped it up. I pinned the excess at the waistband and it turned out to shrink it back down to a straight 16. Even with a more snug fit through the waistband, it felt comfortable when I sat; if you have any fleshy bits in your torso you know sitting causes that flesh to expand. So I ended up using a straight 16 waistband. There’s just enough ease for comfort.

The short, torpedo-shaped waist dart with its curved legs was problematic for me because my bust is set very high and its fullness is evenly distributed from top to bottom. This waist dart shape nicely scoops in the bodice at the torso under the bust, but it ends too abruptly for my shape. This would probably work best for someone whose bust is low-set and is fuller on the lower half. For my shape, I needed to extend the dart and create a more gradual taper toward the point, while retaining the arced dart leg shapes. Below you can see the original waist dart shape (the shortest one) and the two extended versions I tried before deciding on the tallest one. Yes, that puts the dart point very close to my actual bust point, but for a garment with minimal ease, that works ok.


When I made the Appleton knit wrap dress, I didn’t do any length adjustments, and the dress’s waist hit me just above my natural waist, which was perfect. It was pretty much the same for this pattern. Jenny, the pattern designer, described Upton’s lengthwise fit as “the top edge of the waistband sits at the high waist.” The dress may be designed to be a tad short-waisted on a person with an average torso length, to rest above tummy fluff. My torso is short and my waist is pretty clearly defined, even with my fluff. I wanted the waistband to rest closer to my natural waist, which it did without lengthening the pattern anywhere. However, I did need to add about 1/4 inch length to the front bodice waist to make the waistline level, because mine dips a bit in front, while it tilts up in back. The pattern’s included swayback alteration was still a teensy bit too long for me, so I took it up an additional 1/4 inch at center-back, tapering it to nothing at the side seams.

One other area of fit concern was across my shoulder blades. I have a very erect posture (thank you scoliosis, childhood horse riding lessons, and yoga), and many bodices bag out at my upper back. Even though I’m using the V-neck back bodice sections for this dress, I needed to take a bit of volume out of the upper shoulder and center-back areas. I took a few tiny darts out of the back neckline to remove some of that bagginess. I’ll have to do this to the scoop-neck version, too.

All in all, this was an extremely easy dress bodice to fit! The built-in customized cup sizes, swayback alteration, and shortened torso made getting the fit right faster than any other bodice I’ve fitted.

I’ve cut all the dress sections from fabric, and now I’m working on printing them. More on that later!


New Project: Leather Renaissance Bodice

The front and back pieces of my new leather bodice.

This is a new bodice I’m working on for next faire season. It started life as a black leather skirt I snagged off ebay for about $25. The pattern is one I purchased many many years ago and made precisely once. It’s a completely different style than I typically make–more a corset-style bodice with straps cut separately. Although with this one, I’m eliminating the straps because the structure of the bodice, which will include steel boning and closely spaced eyelets, will be sufficient to support itself without needing straps to hold it up.

Fantasy Fashions' Renaissance Maiden pattern.

The pattern actually is all one piece, as you can see from the photo of the lining piece, but because the leather skirt was pieced in smaller sections, I cut the pattern at the side dart for the outer leather and added about 3/8 inch for a seam allowance. I cut along the line of the dart, so the shaping will be retained at the side when sewn. It will have a corset coutil interlining and lining.

The lining piece. The bodice/corset pattern is all one piece with a side dart.

I’ve found this style very comfortable in the past, and I’m really looking forward to wearing this one when complete.

An idea sketch of the trim and applique, which will be executed in lavender suede.

It won’t just be plain black leather either. No, I’m sacrificing an old lavender suede shirt-jacket that has a lovely hand to cut up into trim and applique. Appliques will be cut as stylized floral or leaf motifs. The trim will be cut in a lace edging pattern similar to this:

Past Projects—Renaissance Edition, part 1

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I started sewing because I love to play dress up and go to the local Renaissance Faire (in Crownsville, Md., if you must know) every fall. I have purchased a few pieces of costume for my faire going, but the vast majority of my outfits I’ve made all on my own with varying degrees of skill and success. I’ve gotten better the more I’ve completed, of course. None of my costumes to date are very fancy—it’s still really hot and humid in the early/mid-fall in the DC area, and fancy costumes would not only be sweltering to wear, but they’d get ruined fairly quickly.

But I take great pride in making my own, have received many compliments on various bodices I’ve made, and I really like the fact that I can create my own style, choose my own colors and materials, etc., rather than just selecting from the commercially available Ren-wench wear.

I do have plans to make—someday—a few fancier gowns, suitable for court wear. More on that later!

Anyway, back in college I started making my own wenchy costumes to wear to the faire. I have no photos of these costumes, for the most part. I’ll try and scrounge up the few I have and post them here.

My first one was an ivory bridal satin bodice that buttoned down the front. The Emma Thompson/Kenneth Brannagh movie version of Much Ado About Nothing really had a hold on me back then, and I so wanted to reproduce the Mediterranean pastoral feeling of the film with an all-white renaissance outfit, such as the main female characters wore. The satin bodice was kind of a disaster, though. I used a pattern purchased from who-knows-where at this point, and didn’t have a very good grasp of how it would fit, or even how it should fit. But as such, it was a very valuable learning experience and I put the lessons learned then to good use on my next attempt—and the lessons learned from that one went into the following costume, and so on and so on!

Eventually I got the process down and managed to make wearable costumes that I felt comfortable in and that expressed my personality. It’s so much fun playing dress up, pretending to live in another era for just a day. And pretty pretty dresses!

If I can find some of those photos of my older costumes, I’ll add them to this post. **Update: Found some pictures of my old costumes!


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