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Question: Is it possible to create a reasonably accurate Renaissance bodice using a pattern from the big 3 commercial pattern companies?

Follow along and see for yourself.

Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image.

The pattern I will be using in Simplicty 5582 - view C. (That's the one on the right hand side of the picture.)

First, I need to choose a size to cut out.

  I take the corset pattern I made using the Custom Corset Pattern Generator on the The Elizabethan Costuming Page and compare it to the front and back pattern pieces of Simplicity 5582. Since I know I will be removing the darts on the front of the bodice pattern, I look at only the bustline area. I chose to make a size 14.

Deciding to use the Custom Corset Pattern Generator on the The Elizabethan Costuming Page to size patterns was a real DOH! moment for me. But the light bulb only came on after I read this article in Threads.

I trace the chosen size onto some Tru-Grid.

  The pattern instructions call for the bodice neckline, armcye, and bottom edges to be bound. I wish to do a turned bodice, so I add .625 inch seam allowance to the neckline and armcye.
  It is easier to see the pattern tracing on the darker matt background shown here, I think.

Then, I remove the darts on the front of the bodice using the method found here from Dawn's Reddawn.net website.

Another method of removing darts can be found here from Sarah's Mode Historique website.

Instructions on how to remove princess seams can be found here which is also from Dawn's Reddawn.net website.


This picture shows the pattern with the darts removed and some other modifications necessary to make the pattern match up to the corset pattern.

Please note that the side length of the brown paper pattern is about 1 and 1/4 inches too long. I really don't need to add any torso length to a pattern from the big 3 pattern companies. I know this but you, as a reader of this page, do not. I sorta started this page in the middle of things and I was too lazy to redraw the pattern with the Corset Pattern Generator correctly at the time. Sorry for any confusion.

Since I now have a usable pattern, I am ready to cut my fabric. I am using black linen in a medium weight and linen canvas for fabrics. I cut three backs and six front pieces of the black linen. One set of one back and two fronts of the black linen will be used as the fashion fabric, another set will be used as the lining and the final set will be used as the flatlining. I cut two sets of the linen canvas without the seam allowances. To eliminate some of the bulk, I cut the strap portions off the one set of linen canvas pieces. The two sets of linen canvas pieces and the set of flatlining pieces are sewn together. The boning channels are sewn. I will be using cable/duct ties as boning for this bodice. Here is a picture of the flatlining pieces before attaching them to the fashion fabric and lining pieces.


The layer of linen canvas without the straps is the topmost layer in the picture. A line of serging marks the edge of this layer.

The front bodice flatlining illustrates a good boning pattern to use. I am not well endowed, so it is not necessary for me to use all these boning channels. I will be using only the ones marked with an "X." However sewing all those boning channels makes all the layers function as one and stiffens the bodice. I sewed those vertical lines on the back flatlining for the same reason.

The set of flatlining pieces is now laid on top of the fashion fabric layer and then on top of the lining layer. The sandwich is then sewn together along the neckline edge and the armcye edge and these edges are graded, serged and clipped.


It has been brought to my attention that what I was doing in the above description, starting with the phrase "I am ready to cut my fabric," was not exactly clear. So, I will try and explain a little better. Because I am lazy, the following is nearly verbatim from a couple of posts I made to the R/F Forum.

My understanding of the information presented in The Tudor Tailor is as follows: (This is from the picture on page 65.)

1. Calico interlining.
2. Linen canvas.
3. Linen buckram.

The above three layers are cut successively smaller to avoid bulk when the whole thing is eventually sewn to the fashion fabric and lining and turned. All three layers are sewn together with multiple rows of stitching which has the effect of stiffening the entire sandwich. Then the sandwich is laid on the fashion fabric and both the fashion fabric and the sandwhich is treated as one unit from that point on.

The linen buckram is the primary stiffening in the above example. Besides the fact that I don't know of any source of linen buckram in the States, the buckram you CAN find in the United States is a glue stiffened fabric and when it is washed, the glue gets washed away. So, the above example from The Tudor Tailor can never be washed.

But this quilted sandwitch was my primary inspiration for the layers I used in that black linen bodice thing I made last year. This is what I did differently:

1. Calico interlining - I used a layer of mid-weight linen.
2. Linen canvas - I really used linen canvas.
3. Linen buckram - I used another layer of linen canvas.


The stitches to quilt the sandwich together in the front were the stitches to create the boning channels, which I filled with duct ties. The smallest of the three layers is the one on top and the edge of the layer is marked with a line of serging.


In each half of the front there are 3 layers of the black linen and 2 layers of linen canvas. Every piece of the black linen is cut the same size and includes seam allowances. The two linen canvas layers are cut without seam allowances and the smaller of the two linen canvas layers does not extend up into the strap.

From outside to inside, the layers are as follows.
1. Black linen fashion fabric layer
2. Black linen flatlining layer
3. Larger of the two linen canvas layers
4. Smaller of the two linen canvas layers
5. Black linen lining.

Layers 2, 3 and 4 are combined to form one layer - THE flatlining sandwich, which is then laid on the fashion fabric layer and then on the lining layer. When everything is sewn together, the seam allowances graded, and the bodice turned, the trimmed seam allowances left on the black flatlining layer hold the flatlining into position between the fashion fabric and the lining. But because there is no linen canvas extending into the seam allowances, the bulk of the turned seam is greatly reduced.

I will now return you to your regularly scheduled program.


About this time is when my sewing machine said: "Listen to me! I have been making these funny noises with every drop of the needle through the fabric! Something is not right here! And until you fix it, I am going to wad up the fabric and thread when you try to lock on a stitch at the beginning of a seam." I vaguely recall hitting a pin with a glancing blow off the needle last week. And I really try to be careful and not sew anywhere near pins. So, I took off the throat plate and vacuumed out all the lint in there and replaced the needle with a new one. My dear machine runs like buttah once again. Important lessons here:

  1. Clean the machine and install a new needle at the start of every sewing project.
  2. Don't sew over pins.
  3. Replace the needle with a new needle if you should ever hit a pin.

At this point I suddenly decided to add boning tape to the lacing edge. Below are the front bodice pieces after the boning tape has been applied.

  The one on the left is ready to turn. The one on the right still needs to have the boning inserted and the bottom edge sewn, graded, serged and clipped.
  I discovered that the lacing edge was rather thick once the facing was turned back, so to reduce the bulk, I removed the one layer of linen canvas on the facing. This can be seen on the left. The bodice front on the right is after turning and after grommets have been inserted. Ya, I know grommets aren't period. I don't care. I can always cover them up later.

From this point on I followed the instructions for the "Gold Medal Lining" found on pages 34 and 35 of Power Sewing - Step by Step by Sandra Betzina. I used this method partly because I had never tried it before and partly because it makes it quite easy to make fitting adjustments to the side and shoulder seams. (I recommend buying the book. There is a lot of useful information in this book.)

Page 34
Page 35

But there are other methods of turning a bodice.

Turning through the shoulder seams from the instructions for Butterick 6196.

Turning through the side seams from the instructions for Butterick 3072.

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Page 2

Turning through both the side and shoulder seams from the instructions for McCalls 2793.

Page 1
Page 2

Below is a method of turning a side back laced bodice. It was written and illustrated by Lisa Sinervo of Thrednedle Strete Clothiers.

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5

Other ways to finish the edges.

Binding with bias tape as suggested by the pattern.

Using bias tape as a facing.

Using piping. This technique was suggested by Simplicity 8881 (aka The Shakespeare-In-Love Pattern.) It is also recommended by Margo Anderson's Historic Costuming Patterns for the Elizabethan Lady's bodices.

And then there is the hand sewn lining as shown Making the Kirtle: The Bodice from The Tudor Costume Page. This is the most period technique of them all.

And now the rest of the story...

Using the "Gold Medal Lining" technique proved to be unworkable for this bodice. There is just too much fabric in too small of area - 6 layers consisting of two fashion fabric layers, two flatlining layers and two lining layers. I had to narrow the shoulder seam allowances to 3/8th of an inch (so much for adjustability), taper seam allowances, and press the livin' daylights out of the shoulders to get them to lay smoothly. I was so frustrated at this failure that I resorted to a technique like that illustrated above for McCalls 2793 for the side seams. Oh well, now you know...

I still like the "Gold Medal Lining" technique and I think it would work very well for a vest with only fashion fabric, interfacing and a thin silky lining. It might even work for doublet if a muslin weight material is used for the flatlining and a thin silk - like Haboutai - is used for the lining.

The way I did the flatlining, though, with the two layers of linen canvas mounted on one layer of midweight linen ROCKS! This technique was inspired by a picture in The Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies. On page 65, to be exact.

The bodice modeled by Lady Margaret. Ignore the corset peeping out from underneath the bodice, it is the only way to keep Lady Margaret's figure under control. I do not intend to wear this bodice with a corset.


Finally, some pictures of me in the bodice can be found here.

Based on the above experiment, I was inspired to do The Bodice Workshop. I have created a page on the website to go along with The Bodice Workshop. You can find it here.

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