Each year in the run up to Christmas I set myself a new ‘party dress’ challenge. Last year it was sewing and carefully piecing together guipure lace. Here's a picture of last year's dress.
This year is operation strapless dress. A fairly simple dress from the outside, but with a whole load of experimenting and engineering underneath to give the girls some extra support. Why? Because I love the look of strapless dresses, but for me strapless bras just don’t stay put. I thought some of the Sewing Gem followers might like to see how I'm creating this support layer as I'm fairly sure I'm not alone with uncomfortable strapless bra problems!
Here is the ‘support’ layer in progress. It’s made out of a fabric called coutil, which if you don’t know is a woven fabric specifically for making corsets. The tight weave means it’s resists stretching. This particular one has a herringbone texture.
Along the seam lines I am using spiral steel boing with casing. I’ve made quite a few dresses now with spiral steel boning - I like the extra support and structure it provides, plus it doesn't get uncomfortable kinks in it like the plastic sort can. In the past I’ve struggled with getting the caps onto the spiral steel and so opted for plumbers tape. Plumbers tape works well, but I have always wanted a more professional finish. Recently an awesome friend told me about this gadget from Farthingales Corsetry Supplies. They sell the prym pliers with their own add on tipping dies which press the caps on. Although with the exchange rate and shipping costs it was bit pricey, it was a very worthwhile investment for me.
Running along the top of the bodice I placed polyester boning, to keep the dress up and in place. I think it is unlikely that this will bend out of shape here. The inside looks like this with the channels running down the seam lines.
You will see there is a dart in the bodice that I added in once I'd put it together to create a better fit. If this experiment works well I will make these changes to the paper pattern.
At the back of the bodice I have attached a double hook and eye strip. The double hooks are reassuring as I may need a friend to 'let me out' as the evening progresses:)
I also had some bra cups that I am going to add for shape. I'll hand tack these in before the dress is put together.
If it works out I will make a stand alone support layer to put on under any strapless garment. I’ll keep you posted on progress. I must admit I'm fairly excited by the idea of a dress that keeps me comfortably supported - however the real test will be wearing the dress for the evening. If you're interested in following along I'll keep you posted on dress progress and of course whether it actually works!