If you would like to use the “Practice Pattern” I used for this fit demonstration, you may get it free of charge here. It is only 6 pages and tapes together in just a few minutes.
** All of the smaller photos below should link to a larger version to the picture when you click on it (fingers crossed)
Boning positions for the test fitting are indicated on the pattern.
There is NO boning sewn directly into seam allowances for the fitting state. This allows us to fine tune the fit, which is nearly impossible to do with the boning in the actual seams.
You can also use any other strapless pattern of your choosing- I’m not too crazy over it because I know you will be doing a fitting and altering the pattern before you do anything real.
It is IMPORTANT that you DOWNLOAD the PDF file and then print directly from Adobe Reader, NOT your web browser. I have seen strange things happen when printing from the browser.
This is just a “practice pattern” to use for fitting and learning, so nothing stellar is promised here. Stellar happens when you custom fit it to the intended wearer.
Seam allowances: The practice pattern has indicated 1/2″ seam allowances. If the pattern you are using has bigger seam allowances, I highly suggest you trim them down to 1/2″ before you cut and sew, or at the VERY least I strongly suggest you at least pre-trim the bust seams down to 1/2″. Trying to sew concave and convex shaping with 5/8″ seam allowances is difficult and often has messy results. In other seams that go to and passed the waist, you are going to have to clip into the seam allowance to release it so it can lay smoothly to echo the shape of the body. So really IMO the 1″ seam allowance really didn’t do you a whole lot of good. Again, I will probably start a few wars in bucking the system! lol
Fabric for Test Fit: I like using basic muslin, but any firmly/tightly woven fabric will do. If it’s fabric that is too thick, it’s hard to pin and get a good fit. If it is too thin and loosely woven, it get’s shifty and skews the fit results.
Cutting/Marking: Since we are doing a glove fit, AND there are so many seams, it is important that you cut right smack on the cutting line each and every time. A little variation on all those seams adds up to a substantial discrepancy. Likewise, sewing accurate 1/2″ seams each and every time will be just as important. For the muslin fitting, I just simply punch a hole with an awl at the top and bottom of where each piece of boning will go. If you like, you can mark a straight line on the muslin so you can have a guide to sew the boning from top to bottom.
You will notice that I am a stickler for only pinning within seam allowances, and I rely on weights more than I do pins. Too many pins can make for a ripply cutting experience!
Cutting the Boning: So now we cut the boning down to the desired size. I use the lowest part of the blade down by the handle- I never use that far back when I’m cutting fabric…. so I go for it, even with my “good scissors”. (I know, I know…. some of you would rather pop an eye out than use your good scissors to cut boning…. I will wait right here while you go hunt down your bad scissors! lol)
Iron the boning so it’s not so curled up. It doesn’t have to be super flat, just more workable. Besides, you will iron over it again when you have sewn it into the muslin and can flatten it more at that time.
Securing the ends: You can wrap a little piece of woven fusing around the tips before sewing them in… it only needs to suffice just for the fitting. You can also just plop a little piece of fusing over the tips AFTER you’ve sewn them down, or just put a piece of tape there or a little dot bandaid. Just something to secure it and make a more comfortable fitting experience for the wearer.
Sewing in the boning: Just sew one stitch down the middle of the boning length. That’s it, that’s all you need. You can even start your stitching at the top of the bodice edge and lay the boning down where indicated, if you don’t want to fuss with stopping and starting at the top and bottom of the boning.
Next we will pin the seams together. Here is where I’m going to start another war! lol so here it goes. We do not pin the seams the way you may be used to doing it. Likely you put your pins in horizontal to the seam allowance. NO NO NO! lol The pinning and sewing will flow sooooooo much better if you put them in the sew line, and vertical (parallel) to the cut edge. The other way will make a porcupine mess that is awkward to handle and manipulate. You also will find you only need a few pins, mostly at the top of each seam and where the notches are. Too many pins actually cause a drag and make it very difficult for you to shift a little here and there on the fly. Normally I don’t use pins at all, but I find with these foundation pieces it is very helpful so you can just go to the machine and mindlessly sew without fumbling for what piece goes where and risk sewing the backs to the sides by mistake! Examine the pictures and you will see what I mean.
Remember, when you are sewing the bust seams, the SIDE PANEL should always be facing UP so you can ease that curve in. This means the pictured seam on the left will be sewn from top to bottom. The pictured seam on the right will be sewn from bottom to top.
See how nice and fluid it is by doing the pins in the natural direction of how the sewing would go?
Now let’s sew the seams!
Pull the pins out as you go.
You will also want to staystitch the top and bottom edges to they don’t stretch out during handling!!
Back to the ironing board!
Press the seam allowances to one side… don’t bother pressing them open. Pressing to the side is just fine and it adds a little structure to the seams (which currently have NO boning in theme). Press the front princess seams toward the center front. All other seams can press towards the center back.
I also like to snip a few more release clips in the waist area, and under the bust so there will not be any strained kinks in the fit.
We still have one more sewing step!
We need to securely stabilize the upper edge of the bodice and also turn the edges under. Silk organza is my weapon of choice! Cut a bias strip about 3/4″ wide… it’s okay if you are sloppy about it. (If you do not have silk organza, you can use a tiny 1/4″ strip of muslin cut on the STRAIGHT grain. Muslin on the cross grain has give to it and will not work. You might be thinking, well heck… the organza bias is going to stretch all to heck so what’s the difference? The silk organza bias strips are going to be pulled and stretched and pressed BEFORE we sew them down to the upper edge of the bodice. If you have never done this before, it will amaze you how taught and thin and strong this method is AND since it’s bias it can “bend” around curvy necklines nicely. Trust me. 🙂
Once you pull it while ironing, it stops stretching at a certain point and becomes amazingly strong and taught!
Pull it taught as you sew it on top of the muslin edge. You are just pulling the organza, not the muslin underneath.
Next let’s turn the upper edge under and topstitch about 1/8″ from the folded edge to secure it down. This is important so you can see how the finished neckline will look and fit. Don’t worry about the bottom edge.
Now we do the fitting on your model (in my case a dressform)
IMPORTANT! Do the fitting with your client wearing a BRA!! NOT a strapless bra, a bra with straps… a good bra that puts her perky and happy. This way we will be “molding” the fit to what we are looking to achieve without a bra. You can even pin the upper edge of the bodice to the bra straps to hold the apex in place while you do the rest of the pin fitting- that’s convenient!
I sized up the practice pattern to be more like an 8 so I could demonstrate the fitting and balancing. I normally DO cut test fits a little bigger than needed so I have room to balance the fit. So it should be loose at first, but don’t worry.
Next we balance the fit at each seam. Yanking just from the sides seams only often doesn’t give you the true sculpted fit that makes for a great foundation. Remember, we are fitting the corset like foundation, the outer shell will be looser. The foundation you can get as aggressive with it as your wearer feels comfortable with.
Sometimes you need to pinch out a little “dart” at the top edge of the side panel going towards the apex… depends on the cup size and bust shape.
You may or may not want/need the little center bust dart pinched out (again, we are doing this for the foundation fit). Even if my OUTSIDE shell of the fashion bodice is smooth, I still do this little dart shape on the inside foundation. (usually I do). Think of how a bra fits very flat against your body, even between the bosoms… we are trying to mimic that secure fit.
Notice how I really “nip” the fit right under the bust? Again, the fit of this foundation piece is going to be more aggressive than the fashion outer shell. You can also see the slight dart I did at the side bust which will be drafted out of the pattern.
We’re not done fitting quite yet!
Next you and your client will wait a few minutes. Talk, let her sit, get back up, walk around. Her body is going to shape shift and then she and you will likely decide that you want the fit to be TIGHTER! lol
IMPORTANT!!! Never fit the upper neckline super tight. The upper edge of the neckline should allow you to slip a finger in there. You can also have the wearer raise her arms and lower them back down. The armpit meat should be able to easily slip back into the bodice. The bodice will not fall or slip down by the time we are done because it is being held up by the waist, not the bust!