Custom "T" Shirt and Duct Tape Bodice Pattern

Here is a simple way to make a personalized pattern for an Elizabethan bodice, moreover one which may also be used for a corset pattern!
This method is suitable for any build and requires very little in the way of money, time and materials.

To make the pattern you will need the following:

Having assembled all these things, proceed as follows:

Have the hapless victim remove her underclothing and don the 'T' shirt.   (Ladies with very full figures may want to leave their bra on).   Starting just above the curve of the hip, wrap the tape snugly around the figure, folding and pinching (the tape, not the victim!) until just above the waistline.
At this point have the victim inhale deeply and wrap the rib cage, stopping to allow her to exhale, then resuming once she's inhaled.   (IMPORTANT! Some ladies attempt to wrap too tightly and become faint! Keep the scissors handy, just in case!) 
Continue wrapping in this manner, lifting the breasts and binding them as flat as is comfortable. (Remember, Elizabeth I was rather flat chested, and the fashionable lady wanted to look as much like the Queen as she could manage.  Also this makes nice cleavage!)

Once you've reached the armpits, tear or cut the tape and run pieces over the shoulders.  When completed, the victim should look something like figure "A." Bodice Pattern Figure A

Now uncap the marker and draw the bodice neckline (square, curved, or arched) that you prefer.  Most of the bodice backs I've seen in period pictures were curved and fairly low, but if your persona is upper class enough to need a higher neckline, add more tape across the back.  Draw a vertical line wherever you wish to open the bodice (generally I use front close for peasants and lower classes, back close for middle and upper classes‹they had serving maids to help them lace 'em up!
Note: The arcing neckline is unsuitable for front closure.)

Decide on the width of the shoulder straps (wider is usually better for fuller figured ladies) and mark them on the taped "T" shirt.   If the bodice is middle to upper class with a back closure, you may want to add a contrasting insert of fabric.   If so, draw a "V" starting from the intersection of shoulder strap and neckline and ending at center front slightly below the waistline, as shown in Figure "B." Bodice Pattern Figure B

How far below the waist the point extends depends on the figure of the victim, with more curvaceous ladies generally being more comfortable with the point four inches or so below the natural waist. Our more slender sisters can push it to six to eight inches as height allows.
(Just remember once the boning is in place the point will not flex much, so try sitting and make sure you won't get stuck in a tender spot!)

Draw a line around the waist an inch or two below the natural waistline in the back, raising it slightly over the curve of the hip and tapering down to the point of the "V" in front.   Carefully cut along the line indicating the opening (take care not to cut the bra, if still on!) and free the victim.   Now cut along the lines for the "V" and side (underarm) seams.  If you wish, cut the shoulder straps at top of shoulder as well.   (If it's a child's bodice doing this and adding extra seam allowance to the ends will give extra growing room.)  

Flatten the resulting pieces and trace onto paper, cloth or Pellon (Pellon is best if the pattern will be used more than once; if using cloth, finish edges with zig-zag or Fray-Check), making sure to add seam allowances.  I usually add the standard 5/8" every where except the closure. There I add up to three inches so I can fold it three layers thick for better grommet hold and wear.  You can also reinforce this area with heavy duty interfacing when constructing the bodice.

Bodice Pattern Figure C To adapt this patternmaking technique for a corset, merely draw a line an inch or two below neckline and underarm marking, continuing around back and omitting shoulder straps. (For fuller figures, leave straps but make them narrower by about a 1/8" to 1/4" on each side.)   You may also wish to add more adjustment points for more adaptability by cutting additional openings as shown in Fig. "C."

Indicate the planned boning placement on your pattern. Figure "D" shows heavy (corset, or full-figure layout) left) and light (for those who plan on also wearing corset or need less support, i.e. children, right) boning placement. Bodice Pattern Figure d

Boning can be minimal in the bodice if you are also wearing a corset. If the bodice is to function as a corset, use the heavier boning layout.  Boning is also called for along side/underarm seam if the figure is very full, otherwise the bodice or corset may crease.
Important Note: Regardless of figure type, all openings should have both edges boned so as to avoid the dreaded pucker at the laces. Now you have a personal pattern you can use again and again!

Notes on using these patterns: For a corset you will need to cut two of every piece.  Stitch "pockets" for the boning, slip it into place and sew the ends. You may wish to merely baste end seams to allow removal of boning for cleaning your corset.  Heavy canvas, duck, even denim have given me excellent results for corsets. I try to use natural fibers in all my garb as the faires I attend are HOT!   If heat is not an issue, poly blends are usually stronger than the same weight fabric in natural fiber.  
For a Bodice, cut three of every piece, two from lining, one from outer fabric.  If anyone wishes to contact me about these instructions, you can me.

P.S. I once found a commercial pattern for a corset in fall '97 Vogue pattern book!  It looks very Elizabethan to me (Vogue 1605, page 3631).

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