Jenny La Fleur
Baby got Bustle! - Jenny La Fleur
adventures in costuming
Baby got Bustle!

It was a long hard slog but I in the end I fitted the polonaise to my satisfaction. Thanks so much for your encouragement and advice. You guys are the best!

Dude I am getting to old for projects like this! After 2 days of multiple mock-ups and fittings I was getting nowhere. I dubbed the project the Hydra bodice - every time I would get one area looking good I'd be back to square one with another. It's not as bad as three problems for every one fixed but somehow it's worse that it's the same heads coming back again and again. It was a vicious cycle and I was left feeling stupid and pathetic. By Saturday night I was really in the depths of despair over this dress, questioning everything about my life and generally wanting to crawl into a hole and give up costuming forever. Luckily I have some awesome friends and I’m rather stubborn.

I got lot of great advice from my amazing friends/family including the encouragement to relax, have a martini, put my dress in a corner to let it think about how naughty it was, and to stop panicking and think about what I really wanted. Was my goal a dress I was willing to go through anything to make spot-on or was it a dress I was willing to compromise along the way on as long as the final result was pretty?

In the end I took all the above advice starting with making a Lemon Drop martini, putting my feet up and really thinking about what I wanted to accomplish here instead of how to fix the mess that was my dress. Somehow that thought process helped to clear my mind and I was able to let go of the vision I had in my head but was without the skills to execute. As Mom graciously reminded me - while I’m been a costumer for 10+ years this is only the second bustle era dress I’ve ever made, and only my 3rd Victorian era dress. Apparently I picked one of the hardest combinations of styles to fit on MY body. Just my luck. So after my ponderings I set aside my original design/vision to be picked up later on when I have more experience, reference materials and knowledge of fitting from this era. I decided will master this dress (see the stubbornness!) but it doesn’t have to be this week.

So with another Lemon Drop martini in hand (sewing is much better with alcohol I decided), I set to work Sunday night (after all the family Easter obligations were over) packing away all the mock-ups I’d done up to that point and started over. I decided to make life easier by first changing the neckline (to a square rather that the high “V” that was giving me so many gray hairs) and adding the polonaise skirt separately so I could focus my energies on just fitting the bodice. (thanks to koshka_the_cat & bauhausfrau for that suggestion!)

So I did something I probably should have done in the beginning and pulled out the master patterns from my fitted B&W bodice and compared them to TV410. The patterns must use the same base because they were identical, only my personal tweaks and the front being different of course (the B&W has an inset). This gave me a starting point for the back and sides and in the end made fitting the sleeve way easier (since I could use my corrected B&W sleeve as a starting point).

So I was left with only the front section to worry about. I was helped by some great notes on fitting Victorian bodices from pinkdiamond - The CF seam on this period is all curvy and wonky looking for a reason and modern patterns never feature it (basically because you can't pattern it as it is a consequence of fitting). Leave the sides as they are and unpin the shoulders- if you look at Patterns of Fashion and extant (stripy) garments you'll see just how differently they are shaped through there. If you follow a stripe from side bust it winds up mid shoulder or even higher. Another feature modern patterns don't have. You fit from sides up through the shoulder and sides through to centre pinching out the excess fabric-- quite the opposite of modern fitting where we smooth from CF to sides.

This got me experimenting during the fitting, moving the front section around to see what got rid of the most wrinkles. I found that by angling the front down and towards the side the gaping at the neckline disappeared and the excess fabric could be caught up in a large dart. I have not idea if this is historically viable or if I'm breaking some cardinal rule of grain lines but honestly I don't care – Jenny Got Her Groove Back!

Despite the late hour the blind panic had gone and with a bodice had stopped being a "Hydra" I could work calmly and efficiently, further tweaking and perfecting the darts and fitting. I got as far as the first sleeve mock-up before I collapsed into bed.

I spent this morning on sleeve mock-ups. In the general range of sleevil-ness it wasn’t too bad. The hardest thing was getting the front (where the sleeve attaches to the front bodice) right. I had to drastically re shape that area to get it comfortable and not pull-y (that is a technical term) but it is a slight drop shoulder so I guess a strange shape to the sleeve head makes sense. I’m just not used to drop shoulders!

The finial mock-ups were then taken apart and a master pattern traced. I’m now in the process of cutting out the bodice. I'm feeling emotional and mentally exhausted from the weekend (sewing + family stuff) but I'm quietly confident I can get this outfit finished before I leave for CosCon on Thursday. I just need to decide what color the hat should be... :>

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6 comments | comment?
padawansguide From: padawansguide Date: April 26th, 2011 02:47 am (UTC) (link)
It's so frustrating when costumes don't cooperate. Like you, I don't have much experience with bustle (actually, I have none), so I don't know much about fitting this sort of bustle! I'll have to refer to some of the fitting advice you were given if I make a bustle gown! Good luck with the rest, I think it's looking great!

girliegirl32786 From: girliegirl32786 Date: April 26th, 2011 03:31 am (UTC) (link)
Im so glad you had your martini and that you were able to step away from it so you could reassess things. The fit looks great!
mlsdesigns From: mlsdesigns Date: April 26th, 2011 09:41 am (UTC) (link)
Well done you!! And it's mostly your fault I've been sucked into bustly madness, it's your ruffly silk skirt that did it ;)
quincy134 From: quincy134 Date: April 26th, 2011 11:05 am (UTC) (link)
Congrats on beating this one. I know the final result will be beautiful.
fancyfrocks From: fancyfrocks Date: April 26th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC) (link)
I was reading this last night and even Matt was looking over my shoulder and saying "wow, that's a lot of work".
It looks fabulous. Great job!! You are the master!
lmcbeth From: lmcbeth Date: April 26th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC) (link)
Your mockup looks great! You win!
6 comments | comment?