This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun, most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, and a representative of the San Diego History Center. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Friday, January 17, 2014

The 1830s Project: Part 3- Fitting the bodices

I always like to share things I've either figured out, learned, or fudged in a way that works. 
In Part 1 I showed a photo of the front of my pleated bodice where I was pinning it in on me to fit it better. I thought I would go into more detail of how I fitted it on me since fitting has been a struggle for me for years. And over those years I’ve learned a bit more and I can share this one. Sometimes a friend would pin my bodice in for me and then tell me to transfer the markings to my pattern which I never seemed to get right anyhow. Maybe this time I will.

As a reminder, this is the pattern I used, TV 455.
Because I had changed the front effect of gathering to pleating it caused my upper portion to be much too big and fluffy on me. After it was all pleated I sewed the shoulder seams and side seams with a machine basting stitch. The back is closed with hook & eye tape. I put it on inside out and then pinned the front edges together matching the edges evenly. Then I started pinching it in next to my body to where I thought the seam should be and pinned it. I did this all the way down the front. The top section on me was taken in quite a bit. I readjusted the bodice on me by pulling the back down again and a bit forward. I can tell if it’s a good fit or if I need to take it in a bit more. Sometimes I take in some on the side seams. If you haven’t done your darts already, this is another way to fit it on you too.
Once I was happy with how it was pinned, I marked my sewing line with chalk. I only did one side because I have front edges perfectly lined up together. When I unpin it this will be very important because I want to have the same seam line I had when it was on me.
Next I machine basted the front seam. I’ll need to check the fit on me again, and without having someone to get me in and out of this, I undo one side seam. I put it on me right side out and just hold the side seam closed. If it looks good then I do a regular stitch length seam on everything, closing up the side seam. From this point I can’t get into it myself unless my maid is there to help me.

I didn’t trim all the excess fabric off the front seam, leaving instead a two inch seam allowance just in case.
So that’s how my one-woman bodice fitting was done on this pattern. Obviously if any fitting is needed in the back, then I’m up the creek again.


  1. Dear Val,

    Yes indeed, you post was of help. Never thought to leave a seam open to get in and out of the bodice. What a good idea! My fitting skills are so iffy: sometimes things work, and sometimes they just make me cry :}

    Very best,


    1. Hang in there, Natalie, and keep trying. It will eventually get better. I know from personal experience. It doesn't happen overnight. I still muddle through things but I am better than I was 5 years ago.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!