Dawn's Costume Guide

How to Fit a Bodice

This is probably the best cheat for fitting one of the hardest pieces of costume clothing I've yet seen. It's difficult to provide a bodice pattern that fits any two people, because, as we know, we're all shaped differently. When you get around to all the different possibilities with curves, length, width, and comfort levels it becomes impossible to provide a pattern you won't have to make alterations on. And if you knew what changes to make to a commercial pattern, you wouldn't need this page....

By the way, folks, this method works just as well on the guys as it does on the ladies. No reason you gentlemen can't use this technique to get a great fitting doublet.

Thanks to Jim Simpson for these tips.

What you need

Duct tape
2 old t-shirts (or bought specially for this)
your pattern
help from a friend

Whoever is getting the pattern made puts the two t-shirts on. One is for modesty and one will become the new pattern template. It's going to get cut up, so make sure it's expendable! It's okay to wear a bra under the t-shirts, especially if that's the shape you want to reproduce with your bodice.

Have your helper wrap you in duct tape. Ideally, do this in two layers, once around, and once up-and-down. The tape should be snug, but not tight, and shouldn't squash anything uncomfortably. You want the template to reflect the real you so you get a good fit with your final product. Most of us are not as symmetrically built as we think we are, so don't be alarmed if you start to notice the tape isn't wrapping the same way on both sides.

Once you get the tape wrapped you need to make a few marks on the outside before you cut it. Use a tape measure or string to mark the waistline where it's comfortable. This might not be so obvious later, so you need to do it now. Use a plumb line (hang a weight on a string) to mark a perfectly straight line down the center front and center back of your wrapped victim.

Now you can carefully cut the taped shirt off your model. If you have a pair of safety scissors or embroidery scissors with the blunt edge you have a better chance of not gouging your model's flesh as you do this. Cut up either the front or back center line. For most peasant style bodices cutting up the front will get you halfway toward laying out your pattern. If you're planning a back-laced bodice, cut up the back.

Now for the fun part. Take your pattern and draw it out on your "body mold". If you're working from a picture, you can get a good feel for where to draw the lines on the body shape, rather than trying to transfer them to a flat pattern first. When you have the pattern drawn out, you can cut away the excess taped-up shirt to leave just your pattern pieces. It might be a good idea to try it on again to make sure it fits like you expected it to.

When you're sure it fits right, take the template cut it apart along the "seam" lines of your pattern. You can now lay these out flat and trace around them onto pattern paper, and add seam allowances. You can pin the paper pattern to your fabric, and if you accidentally cut it, you have the original mold to go back to.

Here are some pictures of costumes Jim made for his customers. He made the bodice of the gown on the left using this method, and the costume for the gentleman, as well. On the right is a bodice made for a rennaissance festival. Jim made the costumes for both the lady and her sons. Click on either image to enlarge the view.

All text and artwork copyright 1990 - 2001 D. Duperault. NOTHING on this site may be reproduced or distributed by any means without my written permission. This information offered in good faith, and worth only what you paid for it.
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