Costume Series: Corset Modification

When it comes to costume-making, peasant dresses are a bit of a "secret weapon." Why?

  • THEY'RE EASY. Like, super duper easy. From first cut to last stitch, these dresses sew up fast.
  • THEY'RE FORGIVING. Your growing child will get extended use out of a peasant dress. (I sew mine a size up initially, and pair them with tights when it starts to fit like a tunic!) Perfect for play-wear!
  • But most importantly... the modifications are ENDLESS. Long sleeves, bell sleeves, aprons, ruffles, bodice embellishments, you name it! Which means the same pattern (I like the Aria from Little Lizard King!) can transform your child into anything from a storybook princess, to a swash-buckling pirate, or a... 

Lawn Gnome.  

Yes. A Gnome.  

Around my house, Momma stocks the kid's movies based on how well she can tolerate repeat exposure to their soundtracks. So when we found a movie that combines my love of Elton John Classics with my daughter's love of all things animated, a family obsession with Gnomeo and Juliet was born. And guess who my daughter wanted to dress up as?

No problem! With my handy-dandy all-purpose-costume-pattern and fabric remnants (this is just for dress-up, after all) I set out to recreate this look. Here's what I came up with:

Grumpy, the Gnome. Of no relation to the Dwarf. Though I imagine they get their hats from the same shop. 

Grumpy, the Gnome. Of no relation to the Dwarf. Though I imagine they get their hats from the same shop. 

Now - for the most part - this costume is really true to the pattern. The only real difference is the corset on the bodice. A design task I was up for experimenting with, and I will proceed to show you how I made the modification work for me!

Here's what you'll need:

  • Your bodice fabric, cut per pattern instruction.
  • Apx 5" Fabric Panel, same height as the bodice pieces.  (I used fabric scraps, and made sure to match my panel to my sleeves.)
  • (Qty 2) 1.5" strips of fabric, cut from selvage-to-selvage. 
  • Your preferred cutting utensil. (I use a rotay blade and ruler.)
  • (Optional) Ric-rac or lace for embellishment.  

 

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1. First things first: Take that front bodice piece, and cut it right down the middle. Your accent panel needs to go somewhere, after all! (If you're looking at the above image thinking "the front bodice will be significantly wider than the back bodice when I'm done!" - just hold your horses, smarty pants. We'll get back to that in a bit!)

2. Grab one of your 1.5" strips and head over the the ironing board! There are hundreds of readily available bias tape tutorials, so I won't recreate the wheel. (Don't worry about cutting on a diagonal, it's not relevant to this project.) When you're done folding and ironing, stitch down the open edge so we can make ourselves some corset loops!

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Still with me? Good! Let's press on: 

3. You'll need to figure out how many loops you need to cut from our freshly folded/ironed/stitched strip. To do this, I laid out my bodice pieces down on the ironing board, I skipped ahead in my patern, marked the hem line of my neckline, and measured the distance from the top hem to the (not-yet-stitched-down) sash. Spaced an inch apart, I figured I'd need 4 loops per side (8, total). Mark their placement now on both the left and right sides of the middle bodice panel.

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4. I cut (qty 8) 3-inch loops from the strip made in step #2, and folded and ironed them. The remaining strip I tied knots at each end. This will be the corset tie! Now wasn't that easy?! 

5. Now comes the "tricky" part: stacking your pieces. On a flat surface, lay down...

  • The other 1.5" strip (I'll call this the "facing"), right side UP.
  • Middle Bodice piece, right side UP. 
  • 4 bodice loops, as marked in step #3.
  • (Optional) Ric-rac or lace embellishment.
  • Side bodice panel, right side DOWN. 

Sew all pieces together. Repeat for both left and right sides. 

Far right image shows layers spread apart for identification purposes only! 

Far right image shows layers spread apart for identification purposes only! 

6. Now to hide those ugly (and itchy) seams! Fold your facing over, tuck under the raw edges, iron it, and stitch in place.
(Vintage to New has a great video tutorial for this! 
 Check it out.) 

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Well now! We're really getting somewhere! 

7. Admire your handy-work. Way to go, you!

8. Now all that's left in our one-of-a-kind costume bodice is to cut it to the right length! I ironed each front and back bodice in half, stacked them, and cut them to the same length. 

How super simple is that??

How super simple is that??

From here, I stitched up the peasant dress per the pattern instructions, and slipped it onto my (un)willing model for a few "finished product" photos, which I'll leave you with now:

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The many faces of my Gnome-girl. Love 'er to bits!

The many faces of my Gnome-girl. Love 'er to bits!

Note: I ended up using ribbon in my corset for photo purposes. (I needed you all to see the loops!) Either ribbon or the stitch string you made in previous steps will work fine :)

Note: I ended up using ribbon in my corset for photo purposes. (I needed you all to see the loops!) Either ribbon or the stitch string you made in previous steps will work fine :)

Happy Sewing!


Transient

 

Becca DuVal is a lifestyle photographer based outside of Richmond, Virginia. She juggles life with two kids, two rescue dogs, and her super-fine husband. She's a hard-core DIY-er who loves sewing, crafting, and tackling home decor projects far outside her skill level. 

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