Making Angelica Schuyler’s dress: the bodice

As soon as London MCM April was over, I started looking towards October. Unfortunately I postponed making decisions for a while and wasted a lot of time fabric browsing and shopping. However, after listening to the Hamilton musical so often, I decided I wanted to make a dress from the show. Not only do I love the musical, the songs and the characters, but the 18th century inspired costumes also made me really excited.

I ran into some problems pretty quickly. I have never actually seen the show (though it’s set to open in London in November and I’ve got tickets for next year YEEEES), and I could only find two HQ photos of Angelica’s costume to go off of.

Both found in this wonderful blog post!

This was a struggle. First with fabric picking. I read somewhere that silk taffeta was used for their costumes, so that helped with fabric choice, but from these two photos, I wasn’t sure about the colour to pick as I think the stage lights have quite the influence on the colour in these photos.

I was a bit averse to pink, so I wanted to keep it closer to a peach/coral tone. However, I could find no nice taffetas in these colours. I ranted a bit about fabric shopping in my fabric haul. Essential I checked every shop that I could and online too.

Eventually I settled for a cheap satin I found in one of the shops at Walthamstow Market. I regret this fabric decision. Though the colour is nice (though much brighter out of the dark shop), the satin is of very poor quality and anything snags it and it kept rumpling and not ironing properly. But oh well! It was £2 p/m, what did I expect.

So here are the fabrics that I am using for this project: 5 meters of coral/peach satin that was £2 p/m, a meter of textured cream chiffon was that £4 p/m and one meter of matching lining that was £3 p/m.

Once that was settled, I started thinking about silhouette. From the photos that I research, I could see that there was still a distinct 18th century silhouette in her costume. I knew what this meant! I’d been meaning to make new late 18th century stays for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity. I have a blog post about them here.

I also picked up the bum pad I had already made from the American Duchess Simplicity pattern. I had made this just because, way back, and though I think it’s meant to be earlier 18th century, I really liked how it matched Angelica’s silhouette in the musical.

I decided to only go for one petticoat for comfort and picked up a simple rectangle one I already had.

Now onto the bodice! I decided to use the block I had made for the stays. I drew the outline of the stays on the block and then changed some of the lines to what would hopefully match Angelica’s design lines. I thought this would be easier than draping and would ensure I kept the conical-like shape and that it would fit nicely over the stays.

Once the pattern was done, I made my first mock up. It needed some adjustments around the armhole and the back taken in, but thankfully there wasn’t too much to change.

So I moved on to cutting the pattern pieces out of cotton drill (for interlining), the lining fabric and the outer fabric. I added a half an inch seam allowance to all pattern pieces, and then trimmed back the cotton drill seam allowance to a quarter inch, to try and keep the seams and edges less bulky.

Cutting out the interlining out of cotton drill.
And the lining.
Trimming the seam allowance on the interlining layer.

Since the satin is so cheap and flimsy, I decided to interface the satin in an attempt to make it stiffer.

I cut out the interfacing using the trimmed interlining layer (so that the interfacing wouldn’t bulk up seams either).

This went pretty bad the first time. I struggled to get the right temperature on my iron and I was rushing through it, so the stain wrinkled in some places.

Pre-wrinkling.

I took a deep breathe and carefully tore the interfacing away. The satin was okay except for some drops of glue that remained attached to the wrong side of the satin. But since I was going to try to interface it again, it didn’t matter to me.

So I tried a second time, kept my patience, and it worked out nicely. (One day I will actually find affordable woven fusible interfacing instead of the crappy paper-like one I have).

I flatlined the cotton drill to the outer fabric by basting with large machine stitches around all the edges.

Then I assemble the bodice by sewing up the side seams, front seam and shoulder seam.

I ironed all the seams flat, and basted them down to create boning chanels.

The boning is only meant to support the bodice so that it stays in shape and straight, so I used lightweight synthetic whalebone.

The edges can be filled down so they’re smooth and round!

Then I went around and turned all the edges inwards. I only turned them inwards once to finish the edge, as the lining would be covering the raw edges of the fabric. I sewed all of these down by hand.

Also the center front has some ugly crinkling that happened when I first ironed this seam and it won’t go away (cries).
The finished bottom edge! The lining will cover all the ugly basting stitches.

I also added some boning to the curve neckline as I thought this would help keep it crisp.

Before attaching the lining, I went ahead and made the ruffle details, so that the lining would also cover the ruffles’ raw edges. I measured around the neckline and the gap at the front and multiplied it by 2.3. Then I cut two long rectangles and one square (due to fabric width limitations, otherwise I would’ve just cut it an odd and large T-shape). I seamed the two rectangles to the square and then folded the edges down.

The folded edge at the top would be the top of the ruffle. I ironed everything into place and basted the raw edges together. Then I sewed gathering stitches (longest stitch on my machine and high tension helped to gather it as I went). I also sewed a row of gathering stitches on the bottom of the square. Then I gathered everything down to the required measurements.

I noticed that where there was only one layer of chiffon, so the square, it was too see-through so I cut out a square out of plain cotton which I hand basted to the gathered square. This made it more opaque so that the stays wouldn’t be visible through the chiffon. I pinned this weird T-shaped ruffle to the neckline and then handsewed it down with a large backstitch, making sure the stitches didn’t come through to the right side of the bodice.

Meanwhile I made and inserted the sleeves, but I will talk about the sleeves on the next post. They were set in before sewing the line, so that the lining would also cover the armhole seam.

I assembled all the seams on the lining, turned the edges inwards and pinned it to the bodice. This way, I would sew the lining down and finish the lining edges at the same time. I know there’s a wonderful 18th century stitch where you finish all edges at the same time, but I only remembered it after I’d already turned the outer fabric edges inwards. I sewed down the lining with small running stitches.

The lining!
Pinned in place!

The only thing left to do was add some eyelets! Since this is a cosplay piece, technically, and not historical, I decided to add metal eyelets. This is much quicker and I didn’t mind the look of them. I marked the placement with pencil, leaving a one inch and half gap in between each eyelet. Then I used my small scissors to make a small hole and used my pliers to set in the eyelets.

And done! I’m quite happy with it, even if the bodice wrinkled in some ugly ways. I hope the end result will look okay and the fabric will stop battling me.

Making a Jane Porter cosplay: the bodice

You can find the previous post about this cosplay here. I explain a lot of the concept behind this project there, but I’ll give a brief summary here. I wanted to make a more detailed version than the film. For my Esmeralda cosplay, I made it with plain, block colour fabrics, and while I love the result, I would also like to push this next Disney cosplay and try to give it more of a different spin. A huge inspiration was a redesign by Designer Daddy (photo in the other post!). And so, while I was calling this ‘Victorian Jane’ in my head, there is nothing historical accurate about it and it’s not meant to be!

Also quick reminder that this is a description of how I did things – they are by no means the best or correct methods!

With that in mind, I went about tackling the bodice. I really liked the idea of a square neckline and then something that looked like a chemise or blouse underneath, with a high collar. I had a look in some pattern books, but I couldn’t find anything that sort of matched what I wanted, so instead I draped it on my dressform. I’m still fairly new at this, but I was happy with what I came up with. I started by using large-ish pieces of fabric and laying them on the dressform, pinning them so that they laid flat. I marked the seams and cut out the extra fabric, and drew on the shape of the bodice. It left me with this:

Side view
Back view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front view

I marked where all the seams were, where they joined and what each bit was. Then I took it off the dressform, pieced it together, and cut a mock-up. After some adjustments to it, I made a pattern and a second mock-up.

The draped pattern taken off the dressform.
My first mock-up. Some of the adjustments included making the waist longer and taking it in at the bust.

After I settled on all alterations, I went ahead and cut it out of the lining, the outer fabric and a layer of cotton twill as interlining (placed inside, between the fabric and the lining, to stiffen it).

The cotton drill layer being cut out.

I wanted to add some boning for structure support. I decided to add boning to all seams, but I also wanted some at the centre front to support the neckline. So I marked out two boning channels in the centre front and sewed half an inch bias tape to the cotton drill. I then flatlined the outer fabric to the cotton drill, matching each piece individually, and basted with a large machine stitch very close to the edge. Then I assembled the bodice by sewing the seams together with a half an inch seam allowance. I then went ahead and assembled the bodice with the same seam allowance.

 

Pinning the lining layers together.
The assembled bodice. I’m actually in love with this lining. It was super cheap but it doesn’t look it – it’s this beautiful shimmering gold and I want to make everything out of it.

I turned all the edges inwards by half an inch on the main bodice. I didn’t bother turning them twice to hide raw edges as I would be putting the lining over top and so they wouldn’t be visible anyway (and this made the edges less bulky). I did turn the back edge twice under to create a boning channel at the back to support the eyelets.

This bodice had a lot of sharp edges that were a PAIN TO TURN. I was always afraid of clipping too much, but then if I didn’t, it wouldn’t lay properly.

I handsewed all these edges down because I didn’t want top-stitching. I went into this cosplay thinking it would be a lot less time consuming than my other historical projects, but turns out I don’t like visible stitching on these either! Silly me.

After all the edges were turned inwards (including the armholes), I moved on to drafting the chemise/blouse looking bit. Originally my plan was to have it simply as an extension of the bodice, stitched onto the bodice itself. This meant that I had to attach before I could sew on the lining, to hide the stitching.

Draping the blouse looking bit. I used off cuts and small bits of the proper fabric.

This was made up of the flat section of the shirt and the collar. I then cut these out of plain cotton as a mock up.

My biggest issue was that, while it was pinned, there was not enough tension for it to lay flat and I couldn’t tell if it would work properly out of the lace. So instead I started looking at alternatives. I decided upon making it into a chemisette. They were worn mainly in the 19th century to fill in the neckline and they gave the impression of a blouse. Sounds perfect, right? I just wish I’d thought of it immediately.

So I added two extending panels to the mock-up so that it was longer, ending just about the natural waist. I turned the bottom edge inward twice so it made a channel and then passed some ribbon through to tie in place. And it looked much better!

Now that I was happy with this, I came to the next conundrum. This project has really highlighted a terrible flaw in me. I am awfully indecisive. I don’t want to commit to a decision and I’m always afraid that something else would’ve looked better. It’s something I’ll have to get better at, if only for efficiency’s sake (since I end up putting off deciding and delay projects). I think if I ever get more confident in my sewing, this will get better naturally. Anyway, I had to decided whether I wanted to line the chemisette. The lace was somewhat see-through and originally I thought that would look good – but then I didn’t quite like the contrast that seeing my skin through the lace would give the costume. Instead, I thought lining it would be a nice throwback to Jane’s solid looking bodice.

So I decided to line it.

Cutting the bits out of cotton to line the lace.

I cut all the bits from the plain cotton and then the lace. Then I pinned the respective sections of cotton and their lace equivalent, right sides together, and sewed them with a half an inch seam allowance. I pressed the seams open and then trimmed them, as the lace is see-through and you could spot some of the wider ones. I then turned it the right side out and pressed everything again.

Then I sewed the shoulder seams and attached the collar (very fiddly).

(sneak peek at the skirt, which I actually completed first!)

I turned the bottom edge inwards twice, creating a channel for ribbon, and added snaps and hooks to the closure at the back. I was very happy with the result!

With the chemisette finished, it was time for the sleeves! I couldn’t sew in the lining without sewing the sleeves in first (the lining was meant to hide all my shame). I got on to drafting. In my quest to never have to draft sleeve patterns from scratch, I decided to just use patterns I had already made. The sleeves are made of three components: the puff sleeve, the straight bottom portion and the cuff.

For the puff sleeve, I dug out the pattern from my Red Velvet dress and slashed it further.

The original Red Velvet dress sleeve pattern

I ended up slashing it a total of five times, adding about 5 extra cms every time. I wanted the pouf! But the first time I only slashed it an extra three times.

After the first round of slashing.

Then bottom portion is just a rectangle, of how wide I wanted the sleeve to be and my arm measurement. I then made a cute little mock-up:

The mock-up, minus the cuff.

I was happy with it, except for a few minor alterations. I wanted more pouf and the bottom portion was a little tight and short. I slashed the pattern again and then cut out my actual fashion fabric and lining portions. Then I flatlined the lining to the outer fabric.

The sections. A bit blurry, sorry!

The cuffs were made from a rectangle, interfaced and folded in half.

Exactly like a waistband, but for the arms. Armbands.

 

I have a few things I would’ve done differently. I wouldn’t have interfaced it, as it makes them a bit stiff and uncomfortable. I would’ve sewn them on before sewing up the side seam on the bottom portion of the sleeves (this was just stupid of me). I also sewed them on by hand, which made them not completely flat (would fix by sewing with my machine).

Then I sewed the gathering stitches on the pouf sleeves. Since I suspected the sleeves still weren’t good enough, I decided to add a layer of gathered tulle. I could’ve made sleeve supports (they were a thing) but I didn’t want to further hinder the costume (comfort and practicality were my point with this cosplay!). So instead I sewed two rows of gathering stitches on the lining layer and on the outer fabric layer, on the top portion of the sleeve (the two pieces weren’t basted together in the upper section). Then I gathered them down to the required size and I gathered down a layer of tulle about 7” wide to the same length. Then I sandwiched it between the lining and the outer fabric and sewed the three layers together. I did up the side seam and I had a pouf sleeve!

The side seams were done with french seams for finished insides.

I also added a layer of gathered tulle in between the outer fabric and the lining of the sleeve. This was just a gathered rectangle of tulle that would help support the puffy sleeves.

Then I attached the cuffs to the bottom portion of the sleeves. The cuffs were cut purposefully of the wrong side of the fabric, because in the original film they look like they’re a lighter colour than the rest of the dress. I assumed this was because it was made to look like the the bodice had full length sleeves that were rolled up (some people have made the cuffs a totally different colour, like white, which also looks good, but I was satisfied with the wrong side of the fabric). I sewed them on by hand, sandwiching the bottom edge between the cuff. Then I pinned the upper section of the bottom sleeve (sorry, I can’t thin of a better way to explain it!) to the pouf sleeve, and sewed them together by machined with a a half an inch seam allowance. Then I did a flat fell seam by hand.

The flat fell seam.

Then I sewed the sleeves with a half an inch seam allowance to the armhole bodice, with a backstitch, by hand.

And since this was all done, I could attach the lining! I turned all the edges under by about half an inch, so that it was blush but not over the edge of the bodice, covering all seams.

That was sewn on with a whip stitch by hand.

Then I put in the eyelets at the back. For now, I’ve gone with brass eyelets. I’m not sure I’ll stitch over them with embroidery thread, I kind of like the antique brass look.

And it was finished! It only needs some snaps here and there, but otherwise it is done. There are a couple of details that are in the bodice area (the extra collar and the cravat) that I will include in another post (probably about accessories).

I did a quick fitting and I was happy with it! The next post will be about the skirt and the overskirt. Thanks for reading!

Making an 1871 Evening Dress: Foundations and the Bodice

Before the summer, I came across this photo of an 1871’s evening gown held at the Fashion Museum at Bath:

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I’m not sure what about it made me go ‘oh my god’ but I did. And in the summer, I found some very cheap though enchanting light blue fabric that I bought with the intention of using it for this dress. I am sort of disappointed now, because it’s a very light and soft sort of fabric and I wish I’d bought something more lavender and taffeta/silk-ish for this project. Nevertheless, everything seemed to be prepared.

With every historical project, the trick is to start from the inside out. This dress is dated 1871 which means it falls into the Early Bustle period, where the Victorian skirt widths were pushed backwards into a rather generous backside. However, those skirt support cages seemed so complicated so I made a weak attempt with manipulating my existing bum rolls and sorts.

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Didn’t work.

As you can see, it keeps the 18th century shape so I went ahead and bought a pattern by Truly Victorian TV108 – Grand Bustle. It worked really well and I’m very happy with the shape! I paired it with a petticoat made from another pattern by Truly Victorian and my existing Victorian corset, pattern by Redthreaded.

Before and after the petticoat! So after the foundations were sorted, it was time to move onto the dress. I wanted to keep it quite close to the original garment, so I tried to mimic the seams locations.I draped the pattern on my dressform and then transferred it to paper. It need quite a few alterations as the seams were at a few awkward places and I still have a lot to learn about fit. Nevertheless, I made two mock-ups and I was happy enough to go forward.

I cut the fabric out of something similar to cotton twill and then from the fabric. I had to interface both of these layers because they were too soft to make a stiff bodice (this goes back to the poor fabric decision). I used the lining twill to cut out the outer fabric so that it made sure they were about the same size (plus it already had seam allowances).

Then I flatlined all the pieces together and assembled them with 1/2” seam allowance. I did a quick fitting and though I noticed that the shoulders, armhole and back were a bit off, I thought it would sort itself out once I’d turned all the edges inwards by the seam allowance.img_1214

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I regret not trying to fix it properly at this stage. Maybe if I had, the bodice would fit a lot better by the end. Nevertheless, I went ahead and pressed all seams and sewed them down to create some boning channels.

I used zip/cable ties for boning, since the bodice is meant to be worn over a corset already. I boned all the channels and then turned the upper, side and lowers edges inwards by 1/2” inch. I also turned the back edges inwards by half an inch twice and sewed it down to form a boning channel. However, because I hadn’t added seam allowances to the back, this was too small. I had expected that this would make it fit well for a lace-up back but it was far too small. I ended up altering these later to give the bodice a bit more room in the back (unfortunately not enough, it still has an ugly gap). At this point, I also sewed on the eyelets. It was far too early for them so this was a mistake! As I had to resew the back boning channels, it meant that the eyelets are now too far away from the edge and they look so awkward.

The original back edge

 

Then I decided to move onto the collar. The original dress has what looks like gathered tulle in the collar. I’m sad I didn’t have the reference photo next to me while I figured out the collar because I’m unhappy with some decisions. I draped it by pinning some left over fabric to the existing bodice and then drawing the shape. I accidentally made it deeper in the front and wider in the shoulders than it should be.

Draping the collar!

 

Then I cut it out of the actual fabric as a base for the gathered material.I made some notches and started turning edges inwards when I realised this would leave the gathered material’s edges raw, so I decided to bind it with bias tape instead.

Instead of tulle, I decided to gather some lace. Because I love lace. As I made the collar/bertha very deep in the front, the lace wasn’t wide enough to cover it. I thought it would look fine when I bound the edges, but the gap really bothers me now. A lot. So I think I may embellish over it later to try and make it more pleasing.

So then it was time to make some bias tape! I wanted it to match the fabric, so I decided to make it. This was the first time I made bias tape, so I looked at a few different tutorials online and went ahead. My first step was to cut 2” wide strips of my fabric at a specific angle, which involved some folding. This was very easy with my clear quilting ruler.

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Then I had to pin all the strips together and sew them, also at an angle.

This meant I now had one long strip. I took it to my ironing board and ironed the edges so that they met in the middle, which left me with 1” wide bias tape. I pinned it to the bertha so that it wrapped around and then hand-sewed it to hide stitches.

Then I sewed on a piece of ribbon which you can see in the inspiration dress. This ribbon hid the gathering stitches on the lace! It was the closest I could find in colour to my fabric. This fabric is a very pale blue, that looks mostly white in photos (though it isn’t!). It also looks sparkly in some lights, so it’s obviously some sort of mythical creation that has come to bless my days. Later, I found some other ribbon with a smoother colour that I liked better, so I replaced it. The original dress has fringe trim around the edges of the collar, but I couldn’t find any to buy that didn’t remind me of curtains. So instead I decided to go with gathered lace (because I LOVE LACE). This is a very pretty wide lace I bought in Portugal last time I was home and I’m very happy with how it looks.

 

Draping the lace to see if it was the right decision

 

It’s lace, so of course it was. I was having some trouble calculating how much I would need to add to the overskirt, as that had fringe trim as well that I would be replacing with this lace. Since I hadn’t made the overskirt yet, I couldn’t calculate properly. I was afraid of running out of lace, so I decided to gather it by hand so that I could control how much gathering went on. I was trying to gather it very lightly, so it came to about x 1.5.

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Pinned on!

Just had to pin it on and hand sew it. I’m not a fan of visible top-stitching, so I try to keep the most noticeable bits hidden. Which means a lot of hand sewing, but I enjoy it! (Plus I sort of binge watched all of Dowton Abbey while making this dress).

Then I sewed on the bertha with some slip stitches. I realised I should have sewn it on before I hand sewed the eyelets (BIG sigh), so the back looks a mess. Imma try to attach some snaps so that it can sit properly on the bodice. During this process, I had also decided not to line the bodice. I hadn’t planned on it, hadn’t thought it would be necessary, but with the seam allowance boning channels, they were fraying so much that the insides were really messy. So I took my lace tape and hand-sewed it over every turned edge of the inside of the bodice. I’ve ran out of lace tape and it is impossible to find in the UK, so until I find a solution, there will be no photo of the inside of the bodice!

The awkward gap in the back

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And that is it for the bodice! I only have some inside tidying to do. The next post will be about the skirt and the overskirt (and maybe the sleeves!).

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Making a Cream Dress: The Bodice

I didn’t really know what to call this so for now I’m going with the Cream Dress. To be fair, it does look very cream. This is a dress I’d thought up doing a few months ago, after seeing a photo of a dress from Reign that I quite liked. It seemed fairly simple and I wanted something to keep me busy and with which I could practice more. The dress I originally saw on Instagram looks like this:

The inspiration dress is from season 3 episode 5

While I don’t really watch the series any more, I have always appreciated the prettiness of the wardrobe (even if it isn’t historically accurate). And so I was all for it! I bought the fabrics for this over the summer while I was away in Alicante. I bought a meter for the white and gold brocade bodice, a meter for the sleeves and four meters of the light cream with discreet dots for the skirt.

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In much need of ironing

You can’t really see it in these photos but the bodice fabric and the sleeve fabric have wonderful sheen to them. I am especially in love with the white fabric, I can’t really say what it is – it is light like chiffon, but feels more like cotton and muslin. It has a sort of shiny sheen of it, though it is very discreet. As I said, I am in love and sad that I did not buy more.

For the bodice, I got to try out something new. The last bodice I drafted was for my robe à l’Anglaise and I flat drafted that following the instructions from a book. I didn’t really like that method, it took forever and a lot of maths. But in the meantime, my dressform arrived and I could finally dip into draping! So I did. I read up on what I could, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. You put a piece of fabric on it and you draw on it.

I did one mock-up for this, where I realised the back was too big so I took it in by about an inch. Then I turned it into a pattern and cut out the pieces.

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The bodice is made up of one layer of the fashion fabric and one layer of stiff cotton twill. On the cotton twill, I sewed on a couple of boning channels, as I planned on using the seams as bone channels.

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I wish I hadn’t, because I didn’t leave enough seam allowance to make them nice and neat, so the edges are fraying a bit. Oh well! After attaching bias tape as the extra boning channels, I then proceeded to flatline the bodice. I decided to use this method because when I assembled the lining and the outer bodice separately and then joined them on the edges before, it always ended up being baggy and not… great. I was hoping this would look better. To flatline it, I simply pieced all the equivalent pieces together and machine basted around the edges, at a quarter inch in the seam allowance. Then, I assembled the body pieces in one go.

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I sewed down the seams and used spiral and steel boning to fill the boning channels. Then I turned in the top and bottom edges and sewed that down by hand, so that there were no visual stitches. The only bit that gave me grief were the shoulder seams, as I couldn’t get them quite to line up and they were very chunky. I ended up having to try to hide some imperfections further on. Then I worked on the final bit of the bodice which was the closures. Instead of going with eyelets like usual, I decided to go with loops for closures. For this, I cut a long thin strip of the brocade. I ironed half an inch on each side inwards and then folded it in half. It’s the same process for making bias tape, though I’d never bothered with that before. Then I stitched the folded edges together. I cut twenty eight two inch long bits. Then I pinned them onto ribbon, which I folded over to hide the raw edges.

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The process of stitching over these was so painful. I found some of the loops were too short, so if I sewed too far from the edge of the ribbon, the tips of the loops would stick out. After the first few straight stitch rounds, I found that sewing over with a zig zag stitch worked really well in keeping them attached. I’m not sure how sturdy, or practical, they really are – but they are damn cute!

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And that is for this bodice! Up next are the sleeves, frills and skirts.

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