We’ve reached a milestone on the 1940’s Wrap Dress sewalong; prep and fit adjustments are done, and it’s time to actually start sewing. Yay! Let’s dive in.
1. Before we start stitching, at this stage it’s important to double check you’ve got all your notches and other pattern markings transferred onto your fabric. Even though we’re concentrating on the bodice in this post, it makes sense to transfer the markings over for all the pieces in one go. Some pieces, such as the waistband, require interfacing so before you stitch in your tailor’s tacks, remove the pattern from the fabric and iron your fusible interfacing onto the wrong side.
Then, once it’s interfaced, pin the pattern back onto the wrong side of the fabric securely, before snipping in the notches.
Remember to also mark the circle on the pointed waistband edge.
Pay close attention at this point to make sure you are marking the correct circle for your size. In this example we are making the size 10, so above we have marked the corresponding size 10 circle with a tailor’s tack.
We recommend that you leave all pattern pieces attached to the fabric until it comes time to sew that part of your dress.
2. Once all markings are made, it’s time to stabilise the necklines. It’s likely you’ll be working with a fairly lightweight fabric for this dress, so as the necklines are cut on a diagonal, it’s important to stabilise these areas to help prevent them from stretching.
To do this, sew a line of stitching along the necklines of the front and back bodice pieces, keeping within the 1cm seam allowance.
If your fabric is particularly lightweight or has a loose weave, you might even like to stabilise the front bodice necklines with stay tape.
Staystitching or stabilising a neckline will go a long way to help prevent stretching, but we still recommend handling these pieces gently and with care as you sew them.
3. Now it’s time to mark the darts on the back bodice. Your dart leg notches should be snipped and the tip marked with a tailor’s tack as shown above.
Using chalk or a fabric marker pen, join up the notches to the tailor’s tacked dart tip on the wrong side of the bodice.
With right sides together, fold the dart closed and pin. Making sure your pins go through both chalk lines will give you a nice accurate dart.
Stitch the darts from the waist to the tip, remembering to backstitch at the beginning but not at the end. We recommend never backstitching at the dart tip as it can create an unsightly bulge – usually right where you don’t need one! Instead, sew off the edge of the fabric, leaving long tails.
Tie the tails together, using a pin to tease the knot as close to the fabric as you can. Once tied and fully secure, snip the tail ends so they are nice and short.
Press both darts inwards, towards the centre back.
4. On the wrong side of the front bodices pieces, connect the notches on the shoulder to the tailor’s tacks marking the pleat ends using chalk or a fabric marker.
Once all marked, you should have four lines.
To create the first pleat, with right sides together, fold the two lines closest to the armhole together so that they sit on top of one another.
Pin the pleat in place through both chalk lines, and mark the pleat tip with a horizontal pin so you know exactly where to stop stitching. Sew along this line, remembering to backstitch at the beginning and end.
Then repeat the same process for the second pleat.
Press the pleats flat towards the neckline, firstly from the wrong side of the bodice, and then from the right side. Be careful not to press the unstitched part as this creates a lovely area of fullness that you don’t want to flatten.
Repeat these steps for the second front bodice piece.
Now it’s time to create the collar.
5. Interface one pair of the collar pieces on the wrong side of the fabric. These pieces will become the undercollar.
Pin one collar and one undercollar piece along the curved edge, with right sides together.
Stitch this seam with a 1cm seam allowance.
To reduce bulk on the collar, carefully trim down the seam allowance by half, to 5mm.
Before turning the collar the right way out, press the seam allowances towards the undercollar. As the seam is curved, it may help to use a tailor’s ham to do this.
Fold the collar flat with wrong sides together and press, slightly rolling the seamline towards the undercollar, so that it won’t be visible when you have the dress on.
Repeat these steps for the second collar.
6. With the right side of the bodice facing up, pin the corresponding collar piece along the front neckline, matching the notches. Make sure that you’re using the correct collar piece here – the interfaced undercollar should be on the bottom, sitting against the bodice.
Thanks to the staystitching you did earlier, the neckline on the bodice shouldn’t have stretched out. But if it has a little bit, you can just ease it onto the collar nice and carefully.
Using a long stitch length, machine tack the collar and front bodice together along this seam, with a 0.5cm seam allowance. (We recommend using a 0.5cm seam allowance here instead of the 1cm stated in the booklet for ease, as it means you won’t have to remove these tacking stitches later.)
Repeat for the second side of the bodice.
Because the 1940’s Wrap Dress bodice doesn’t have any bust darts, shaping is created in different ways. The shoulder pleats add fullness at the top of the bust, and waist gathers add room at the bottom of the bodice. The waist gathers into the waistband later on in the sewalong, but we’re going to prep this area now by sewing in the gathering stitches.
7. Place a pin at each notch on the waist edge of the bodice. We are going to sew the gathering stitches between these two points, so having a pin indicating where to start and stop helps to keep things accurate.
Using a long stitch length, sew two rows of gathering stitches between the pins, keeping within the 1.5cm seam allowance. We like to sew these rows at 1cm and 1.4cm from the edge. 1.4cm is very close to where the final seam will be, but this is important as it ensures the gathers will be even on the finished dress.
Leave long thread tails at the beginning and end of both rows, and make sure not to backstitch. There is no need to gather up this area just yet – we’ll do that when we attach the waistband.
All that’s left now is to stitch the shoulders and side seams and that’s the shell of the bodice constructed!
8. With right sides together, place the front and back bodice pieces together and pin at the shoulder seams.
Stitch both seams with a standard 1.5cm seam allowance. Then, to prevent the fabric from fraying, finish the raw edges of the seam allowance together using an overlocker or zigzag stitch. Press the finished seam allowance towards the back.
9. Pin the front and back bodice pieces at the side seams, with right sides together. Stitch with a 1.5cm seam allowance and finish the raw edges in the same way as the shoulder seams. Press the seam allowances towards the back.
And voila! You have a try-on-able bodice shell! That’s it for today, but we’ll be back in a couple of days when we’ll be hiding all the raw edges of the bodice with a neat bias binding finish. Lovely! Happy stitching until then!