Although dressmaking for loose, casual dresses can often be fairly simple, formal wedding dresses typically require much more precision and attention to detail. Bridal bodices themselves are closely fitted to the body and made from nonstretch materials that will call attention to any wrinkles and puckers that a cotton weave garment might hide. To make a form-fitting bridal dress bodice in any style without using a pre-made pattern, you must drape your own pattern over a dressform.
Cut 2 single yards of muslin fabric to the length of the dressform's bodice plus 10 inches. Turn the selvedge edge under 1 inch on each piece and iron flat.
Pin the muslin edges to the centre front and center back of the dressform, so that you are covering 1 full side of the dressform with fabric. Cut the width of the front and back bodice pieces so that they end 5 inches beyond the side of the dressform.
Take the bodice pieces off the dressform. Using the L-square and a marker, mark the centre of the front bodice piece along the length, and make a horizontal line there.
Measure the dressform itself from the centre front to the apex of the bust, and the apex of the bust to the side of the dressform. Transfer these measurements to the muslin, marking the apex and side seam locations.
Divide the distance between the apex and side seam in half, and mark this measurement on the muslin. Draw a perpendicular line from this point all the way down to the bottom of the muslin to mark the grainline.
Mark the back bodice piece 3 inches from the top, then 4 1/2 inches from the first mark. Draw a horizontal line at the second mark.
Measure the dressform between the center back and the armhole. Transfer this measurement to the back bodice piece.
Pin the front and back bodice pieces to the dressform again, lining up the markings with their respective body locations. Line up the apex line with the apex, and the grainline with the waist.
Begin smoothing out the fabric on the bodice front with your hands, so that there is no excess, bunched fabric. Push the extra fabric at the waistline into the side seam. Push any remaining extra fabric at the bust into a dart at the princess seam.
Identify the fabric puckers between the side seam and the princess seam. If there are no puckers, leave this area alone. If there are puckers, make a vertical slit from the bottom of the bodice to the waist. Unpin the side seam, then push the puckers into the slit and pin the seam again to accommodate them.
Mark the princess seam, waistline and side seam. Mark the place where the centre front and waistline meet.
Smooth out the wrinkles between the armhole and the shoulder. Take 1/2 inch of fabric at the armhole ridge and pin it together to account for ease. Mark this 1/2 inch as well as the place where the armhole meets the shoulder.
Smooth out the wrinkles at the neckline, and pin the extra fabric where the shoulder seam and neck meet. If necessary, cut the neckline like you did the waist in Step 2. Mark the place where the shoulder seam and neck meet, as well as where the neck and centre front meet.
Smooth out the wrinkles between the princess seam and the armhole ridge and pin the extra fabric at the meeting point between the princess seam and shoulder seam. Make a dart from the extra fabric, then mark the dart.
Move to the back side of the dress bodice. Smooth out the wrinkles at the armhole ridge mark and pin the extra fabric along the horizontal line mark.
Smooth the wrinkles at the princess seam toward the waistline, making a dart. Mark the dart placement.
Smooth the wrinkles between the princess seam and side seam, and pin the extra fabric into the side seam. If the fabric puckers here, cut a vertical slit from the bottom of the bodice to the waistline like you did on the front part of the bodice.
Smooth out the wrinkles at the neckline and pin the extra fabric where the shoulder seam and neck meet. Cut the neckline to accommodate any extra puckers, like you did on the front of the bodice. Smooth the wrinkles between the neckline and princess seam at the shoulder, then make a dart there. Mark the dart placement.
Adjust the neckline, hem length and sleeve area to the style of bridal dress you would like to make. Remove the front and back bodice from the dressform and cut along all dart lines and marked seamlines.
Lay the pieces flat on top of a sheet of paper. Trace the front and back pieces, marking the darts for later reference.
Square off the bottoms, accommodating the extra room given by the vertical slits. Make this same adjustment to any slits you made at the neckline, so that you do not accidentally cut them as darts.
Add seam allowances of at least 1/2 inch to all seam edges, except for the centre front. Cut the pattern from the paper and pin it to some practice muslin, lining up the centre front with a folded edge. Cut one of the front and two of the back pieces.
Sew the practice bodice pieces together like you would any pattern, then put it on to identify any fit problems. Make the necessary adjustments, then sew the bodice in your real dress fabric.
Things you need
- Muslin fabric
- Tape measure
- Iron and ironing board
- Sewing machine
- Bodice fabric