“Est-il heureux?” 

Cardinal Mazarin believed that to evaluate a general, you shouldn’t ask “Est-il habile?” (“Is he skillful?”), but rather “Est-il heureux?” (“Is he lucky?”). Well, was I lucky?


I mean, even a rousing victory would have netted me a very small shirt. This little fitted bodice is made from the scraps of my last week’s skirt, and it exists because I figured I had to take a run at a princess seamed bodice sometime. I also thought I might wear some vaguely princessy co-ords, which surprise, I won’t! But in this case, that “might” meant I started with a muslin.

This is a pre-Covid sew. I worked on it while Professor Boyfriend was at a conference in Deepest Pennsylvania, which was not a good strategy, since having someone to binder clip/photograph my back for reference would have helped a lot. That SAID…

I think I *was* lucky! I drew out what I guessed the pattern should look like, walked my seamlines, then cut and basted some scrap fabric. I had my measurements handy from this project, so I wasn’t totally uninformed, but I thought shruggingly this would open Round 1 of a zillion rounds of changes.

But actually it was already pretty good?!! As Mazarin might have said: “Sacrebleu!”

I made two changes to the muslin. I gave myself an extra 1/8” ease at the armpit ends of the side seam allowances, blending to nothing at the waist.

And I pinched out 1” of unneeded length under the bust, blending to nothing at the size seams – basically, adding a horizontal fisheye dart across the front.

After that, my adjusted muslin seemed even okay-er. So I made these changes to my paper pattern pieces and cut my fashion fabric, feeling MIGHTY SUSPICIOUS BY THE WAY, but…

That’s, um…that’s not bad, right? I’m assessing this accurately?

I’m definitely packed in there – I think we can safely say overfit – but it’s tacking to my upper chest, and that feels like a minor miracle. The armscyce curve is a little high under my arm, but again, there’s no gaping. And I’m usually never not gaping! This was totally unearned. I’m as surprised as anyone.

The back is full of issues, though. Well, you can’t roll nat 20s every time! This must be why mad scientists clone themselves: if I could have adjusted this on my own body from outside my body, I think I would have gotten a lot closer to a technically-correct result. As it is, I couldn’t actually fasten the back by myself, so I was just guessing until Professor Boyfriend got home and buttoned me in. And then I was pretty unimpressed.

The upper back (relatively upper) is surprisingly satisfactory, but WHAT is the story with those WRINKLES. I MEAN. I went through this clear, detailed Shapes of Fabric post on common bodice fitting issues, but didn’t see mine on there. Not to preen too much, but I guess I’m ~uncommonly~ bad at fitting.

Some possible causes: 1. It’s too long. It’s already only 6” long at center back, but since it’s definitely piling up on the back waistband of my skirt, I guess even six wee inches could be too many. 2. And it’s too tight – maybe? Would that be the sort of thing you adjust with the back darts, since the front fit is okay? 3. It’s because of some third thing I don’t even know about yet! Please feel free to tell me if you do!

It’s possible that a zipper would help distribute fabric stress more evenly, but I didn’t have a separating zipper of any length kicking around. I actually considered lacing for a hot second, using loops instead of eyelets and adding dressing ease (or whatever you call what you need to get in and out of a garment) in the form of a central back panel, like a backwards stomacher. But in the end, it was me and my pal buttons.

I decided on a column of rouleau loops because I think they’re fun to sew, and also because they were easy to apply with my plan to fully line the bodice. That was a priority for me (I don’t like it when darts originate in a double-fold hem). I sewed the loops to the outer fabric within the seam allowance of the center back, then pressed all the center back seam allowances to the wrong side on the lining and outer.

I sewed the top and bottom edges of the bodice shell and lining right sides together to create a tube. Then I turned the tube right sides out and hand-finished the center backs, using a ladder stitch to join the already-folded edges. My last step was to hand-sew the buttons – which I can unbutton by myself, but not button up! It’s a one-way shirt!

I took a 5/8” seam allowance when sewing the bottom hem, except near the side seams, where I blended to more like ¼”. Despite that I’m still getting little side divots.

I promise you my stitching line was smooth and continuous, though you’d never know it by looking.

Oh, and my lining: lots of lovely double gauze scraps, which seemed like the kind of thing I’d want directly against my skin in a tight top.

I was right about that, though wrong about whether I wanted to wear a tight bodice at all. I don’t! C’est la vie. Still, if I ever change my mind, the process of fitting one now seems a bit more achievable.

And in Other Business: I used some of my Covid isolation to review every death on Stranger Things, partly so I’d stop complaining out loud so much. This is purely personal and mostly without context (though packed as tightly with spoilers as me in this top), but it kept me busy. Feel free to weigh in with your own opinions or complaints! 🙂

Pattern: Self-drafted (a.k.a. wild, strangely effective guessing)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 37.5” bust, 32” waist

Supplies: scraps of Telio Silky Noil Washed Viscose Linen Slub Thyme, Nani Iro double gauze; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

6 thoughts on “ “Est-il heureux?” 

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