The Bustiers Before The Gown

Since blogging about my Easy Travel Wedding Dress, there are a few ladies who are interested in knowing how I construct the boned bodice. Before I started my wedding DIY journey, I read both Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture book and Kenneth D King’s Birth of the Bustier book. Both are very informative but the boning methods are different. Susan uses metal spiral boning while Kenneth uses plastic Rigilene boning.  To find out more about each method, I made two practice garments in last summer, one using metal boning and one using plastic boning.


For this test garment I used Simplicity’s 4070 pattern and used a cotton fabric which good body (i.e. quite stiff). I underlined the fashion fabric with heavy weight calico (muslin in the US) to give it more structure. The lining is just a cheap polyester lining fabric without any underlining. I sew the boning’s fabric casing  to the lining’s vertical seams, then the metal spiral boning were cut to the right lengths (about 1/2″ less than the seams) and inserted into the casing.

Test Garment 1 with Metal Spiral Boning

The boned lining

I also sew a grosgrain ribbon at the waist to work as a waist stay. This is probably the most important element of any boned bodice construction as the waist stay holds all the boning, hence the bodice together and ensures that the bodice stays upright. The waist stay should be very snug around the natural waist line (the narrowest part of you upper body).

The Waist Stay


For the second garment, I used Burda’s 5/2011 Bustier 122A which is also used in Gertie’s Bombshell Dress Craftsy class. The main difference is on the installation of boning to the lining.

Test Garment No. 2 with Rigilene Plastic Boning

Kenneth’s method includes underlining the fashion fabric with cotton flannel to give it more depth and underlining the lining with twill (I used coutil which is also non-stretch).

Fashion fabric is underlined with cotton flannel. I used silk crepe de chine as the fashion fabric, you can see that there’s not enough ‘body’ there.

The wrong side of the fashion fabric bodice. The white fabric is the cotton flannel. Each seam allowance is catchstitched to the cotton flannel underlining to make sure they stay flat.

As Rigilene can only bend one way unlike the metal spiral boning, this method is suitable for bodice with straight seams only.  The boning is catchstitched to the lining’s seams then machine sew.

The lining bodice which is underlined with coutil.

Each boning is catchstitched to the lining fabric’s seam allowance. Then a straight stitch is sew from the lining fabric’s right side using ‘stitch in the ditch’ method.

Similar to Susan’s method, a waist stay is sew to the lining but this time the waist stay is sew to the wrong side of the lining instead of the right side.

Waist Stay is sew to the wrong side of the lining, not the right side.

Two buttonholes were made to the lining so you can pull the waist stay to the right side of the lining near the zipper.

Buttonhole is sew so the waist stay can be pulled to the right side of the lining.

Here’s the right side of the lining. Hook and Bar are sew to either ends of the waist stay. Again the waist stay should be very snug to your natural waist measurement. Obviously you should be able to breath and sit in it…

Waist Stay with the hook

I sew two bars so I can adjust it to suit my ever changing waist.

Kenneth instruction calls for machine sewing the lining bodice to the fashion fabric bodice but I used slip stitches instead.

Lining sew to the fashion fabric with slip stitches

I think I made a few mistakes in making this bustier:
  1. Crepe de chine is NOT suitable for use as fashion fabric of a bustier. Although it’s underlined with cotton flannel, it’s too thin and does not have enough body to hide the seam allowance behind. No matter how I trimmed and clipped the seam allowances, the bra cups just don’t look perfect.
  2. I should have adjusted the pattern so the waist is smaller. You can see the wrinkles along the bottom of the bustier. This is caused by the waist stay which is pulling the fashion fabric too much.
  3. I should have padded the bra cups with batting to give it more shaping which is what I did to the wedding dress bodice later.

You can see the problems here. Bra cups not perfectly shaped, seam allowance showing through and wrinkles at the bottom of the bustier

So I learned a lot through these two garments and for the wedding dress bodice I decided to use the plastic boning because it’s lighter, easier to cut and it’s less bulky along the seams. However, I didn’t use cotton flannel as underlining but used silk organza instead. I kept using coutil as underlining to the lining though as it’s stability is really useful to hold the bonings together. I also added additional boning near the top side seams to maintain the shaping of the bodice.

Additional boning added to the wedding dress bodice

I hope the information is useful for girls who want to make boned bodice or even wedding dress! Let me know if you have any questions. Good Luck!

17 thoughts on “The Bustiers Before The Gown

  1. This is great! thank you so much for posting this. I’m very impressed that you tried both versions before sewing your final garment. Did this fall into the 8 weekend time structure? I’ve never sewed with boning as the patterns I use don’t call for but you’ve inspired me to try just for the sake of it… maybe I’ll make some lingerie!
    This was perfect, you’ve completely inspired me to make my own wedding dress. Now I just need to find a man.

    • Hi, I did these two test versions before I made the wedding dress so they weren’t down within the 8 weeks. My red dress (the one without boning) actually took longer than any of the boned garments because the drapery quality of the fabric takes much longer to baste and sew properly. Go ahead and make yourself a corktail dress for a trial!

  2. Pingback: My Easy Travel Wedding Dress | sosewlovely

    • No problem. I learnt a lot from other sewing blogs and I don’t have any friends who sew. This is a nice platform to share the knowledge and mistakes. Nice to have you on board!

  3. Your first bustier came out very well, especially since it was your first try. I’m very impressed with your appreciation of handsewing and attention to detail. When I was in school, we made a princess line strapless bodice and I used a canvas backing along with metal boning. There wasn’t a waist stay but it wasn’t needed. The interesting thing was that the bustier had two zippers and two parts. The underpart had the canvas and went from bust to below abdomen. It closed with a separating zipper. So you had to get into that first. The outer part of the strapless bodice ended at the waist and was part of the dress. The 22″ zipper of the dress went from hips up to the top of the strapless bodice.

    The canvas facing was cut on the bias so I think that was what made it very comfortable. I think each project has its own requirements that is why the toile is essential. It’s a pleasure to read your blog and meet someone who understands all these things. Quality output does not happen with speed sewing.

  4. can I ask you something? what does the lining for 2nd bustier look like? I’m making a bustier dress but I can’t find a way to make the lining

    • Hello Clara, the lining for the second bustier is the red fabric with tiny white dots. It’s underlined with coutil so it’s giving the bustier support and shaping. The front fabric is a soft silk crepe de chine backed with cotton flannel. Hope this helps.

    • The bustier is usually sewn as part of the lining construction. You should be able to sew the lining to the back zipper as if you’re sewing normal lining. Hope that makes sense!

I'd love to hear what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s