Monday 14 November 2016

A Beautiful Bodice..Or Bust! Part 2: Meeting Marfy 2630

After desperately searching Google all day looking for suitable patterns, I came across a pattern made by the Italian pattern house 'Marfy' in the 2630 bustier. It looks like this:
After some picture stalking, I found out that this image belonged to a blog called PoppyKettle and the blogger, Melanie, was an avid seamstress who also (coincidentally) made her own beautiful wedding gown. Was finding what I had imaged in my mind's eye a sign of encouragement? I thought so. It was a big sigh of relief to finally have some kind of visual map in mind. Before I go on any further, I encourage you to check out Melanie's blog here:
another failed bodice in the making..
Anyhow, Melanie talked about this bodice on her blog and I was convinced it was just what I needed. The only problem was, I'd never heard of Marfy and there was no way of getting the pattern in time. It happened that Melanie had the pattern in storage and could possibly dig it out which was incredibly generous of her - but I was already out of time. I had to simply draft it by scratch. So, based on this image, I made a start.
I already had the spiral metal boning and coutil I had ordered in round one of my bodice attempts, so material wise, I was confident. I'd never drafted a bodice with built in bra and corsetry elements before, but was also confident I could. Since the wedding, people who know about the drama I had have asked me how I could be so confident to take on making, what I now know is such a difficult item? Well, my answer is simple - I didn't know it would be such an epic garment when I started out.
and yet another which didn't make the grade
Luckily for me, I was trained the old fashioned and severe way when I trained in fashion over 40 years ago. It was very difficult to learn, but that system left me with abilities and an attitude which I haven't forgotten. That said, I did not know at this drafting stage that creating a bodice with a built in bra and boning is the hardest garment to sew in all of garment making. I'm actually glad I wasn't aware of that fact. Or that people specialize in this area exclusively, based on it's difficulty. I would find this out later, on a professional costuming forum. It would bring me a lot of relief to find this out. Because, honestly, I couldn't work out why I was struggling so much. It was really difficult. And as someone who can create a pattern from scratch with ease, the feeling of failure and endless repetition (I made 11 failed bodices in total) really got me down. I simply couldn't understand how the failures kept on happening! These images you see of me sewing bodices in the images are all failures. The worst thing of all is how much precious time they took me. Days!

But finally, I had found found the light at the end of the seamstresses tunnel. With the Marfy visual, I set about drafting the pattern. First, I thought I would simply sew in an existing well fitted bra into a bodice base. This sounds lazy, but you need to remember that I now had just days to finish a wedding dress and I hadn't even started on the final skirts yet. It didn't work. So I decided to make the bra cups myself from the coutil.
And that didn't work either
and again
and again
and yet again
until finally
I turned the corner

Luckily, during these frantic sewing marathons, my DD was at work. Being a teacher, she was far too committed to her job to take time off before the wedding for dress fittings. She had taken my word for it when I assured her that a few evening fittings were all it would take. And they would have been, if it wasn't for the bodice challenge taking place. I sewed furiously during the day to have something for her to try on in the evenings when she stopped by. I didn't want to panic her. The truth was, I was panicked enough for the both of us! How this bodice continued to elude me was...a mystery. Not only was I confused and distressed, I was plain old fashioned mad about it too!

During more extensive Google searching late at night, I found a costuming forum where seamstresses back in 2008 had been discussing the trauma of altering period costume bodices for actresses. One user had commented that she had been told by an elderly European alterations pro to 'draft a bra into diamonds' to reconstruct it. She couldn't understand what this could have possibly meant, but for me, it was a lightening bolt of clarity. Suddenly I knew exactly how to get this built in bra bodice with corsetry elements made!

And in the next post I'll show you how I did it.

In September 2016 I made my DD's wedding dress using the Butterick Pattern B5731 as a starting point. I then created my own variation of a semi corset with a built in bra as a replacement to the pattern bodice. I took the Craftsy online class 'Sewing Corsets' with Alison Smith which I can recommend as essential viewing for anyone interested in sewing corsets or formal wear bodices with corset elements. In fact I even received personal advice from Alison and am happy to recommend this class to anyone who's interested.
 Sewing Corsets with Alison Smith


  1. Oh my goodness what a worry you had. But you couldn't give up, could you, as the Big Day was getting ever closer. Thanks for showing us the trials and tribulations you went through.

  2. What a challange! And you were amazingly courageous doing it. WOW - what an adventure.

  3. What a challenge you took on. I made my 3year old granddaughter's bridesmaids dress which looked pretty but I am quite sure a professional would say Oh dear!My job on the wedding day was to fasten my beautiful bride into her dress and I could not do it. Luckily two of the older bridesmaids were on hand. My fingers just refused to work. Well done for your perseverence.

  4. My congratulations to you on making such a difficult and beautiful dress. I admire your perseverance!


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