How is learning to make a bodice different from learning how to make a corset? There are several differences; the most important being in the construction process and involving the boning of the panels. Other differences include the sizing of the bodice pattern and the difference to corset design. Historically the bodice pattern also predates corset patterns as these came later and a bodice or ‘pair of stays’ as they were called, is not suitable for corset training due to its shape, fit and panels.
So what is the big difference between learning how to make a corset and learning how to make a bodice? Well a bodice is sized differently and is not designed to constrict the waist as is practiced in corset training. A bodice is made to the exact waist measurement of the wearer, yet when you make a corset it is designed to be in the region of 2 – 4inches smaller than the wearers waist. Thus a corset compresses the waist line and can be used over time to make the torso smaller as in corset training or ‘tight-lacing’ as its often called. A bodice, especially an Elizabethan one is not designed to do this and does not follow the contours of the body in a way that would make this comfortable. In short, a bodice pattern is not a good choice for waist training.
The shape of the bodice is designed to give the visual effect of a tiny waist by creating a curve-less cone shape (like an ice cream cone) tapering down from the bust to the waist where there are often tabs cut into the bodice pattern – this makes the area below the tabs unconstricted placing a lot of strain on the tabbed edge. Thus making it practically impossible to tight-lace without tearing occurring between tabs. Even if you reinforce the areas between the tabs you would not find it comfortable to waist train with a bodice of this type as it would provide no support below the waist and therefore also cut in at the waist line.
Learning how to make a Bodice is more involved than corset making. If you are making a fully boned bodice pattern you will be using three layers of material instead of two and boning the panels before construction. A partially boned bodice pattern is more like a corset design but there are still bones that cross over each other which would be unusual to find in corset patterns.
To fully bone bodice panels you need to place a layer of muslin or cotton under the panel and sew the lines of the bone channels through both layers, thus creating pockets or bone cases so hat you can slide the bones in between the panel and muslin.
Bodices are also busk-less so you may have a closed front or a second set of laces to the front. A third option is to have a floating front panel often called a ‘bodice stomacher’. This is a completely separate panel that sits behind the front laces. These were historically often a different color to the main bodice panels with beautiful embroidery.
Bodice patterns will also often have straps and you’ll want to check the length of these when you make your mock up. Straps were normally adjustable to a degree by having ribbons attached that tied to the front of the stays.