“Tree”: Bodice Foundation Muslin

I have not been working on “Tree” as much this month as I’d originally envisioned.  Towards the end of October a friend let me know about a pretty nifty event happening in town at the end of November and I’ve mostly been working on a project for that.  It’s been very fun and I’m looking forward to blogging about it soon!

However, I have been getting somewhere with Tree too.  I decided to start with the bodice foundation as it appears from all the images I’ve so far seen that the whole skirt gets mounted to it, so I figured I’d better get that sorted first.  I’ve now done 2 bodice foundation muslins.  It’s still not perfect but I’m hoping I can get away with just fiddling with muslin #2 and the pattern rather than make a 3rd.

Let me start by showing you the pattern pieces for the bodice foundation as traced from Tim’s “originals”


I re-traced these adding adjustments where my measurements differ (mainly adding at the waist and hip) and made the first muslin.



As usual, it was too long through the upper part of the bodice, especially at the back.  Also – major weird gaping of the bust at the front.  Charles James apparently had a penchant for molding his clients’ bodies to the form he thought they should have within the dress, but that was a little too far for me.  So, I guess my first departure from a really true reproduction will be to only do some gentle molding of my own body.  I want to be able to eat my dinner at the ball!

Thirdly, and my 2nd departure I guess, I wasn’t loving the off-the-shoulder look of the straps as drafted.   However, the dress the pattern is taken from was displayed with the straps placed as though firmly on the shoulders


So I dunno if you’re just supposed to push them up like that for wearing or what.  I decided to make it more straightforward for myself and re-do the strap positioning

So I pinned out the excess length in the bodice and sort of pivot-tucked the straps under to make them go over the shoulders and re-drew the line of the back neckline slightly to give it what I thought was a slightly nicer look.


Then along the contour seam at the front both above and below the bust itself to get the rounder shape that conforms more to my own self.


I transferred these changes to my paper pattern (those are tucks you see in the centre front piece at the top)


and made muslin #2.



Overall, MUCH better.  The front contour seam still needs a little taken in at the top and while it doesn’t show too much on Maddy (New Judy’s new name) I need to let out the side back seams below the waist.  I must not have got the padding quite right there yet, as the bodice rides up on my own backside more than this.  Ah well.

I’ve also decided to cut away some of the side front at the top as it’s going wonky with taking in the contour seam so much and seems too high.  Although this particular line is not yet set in stone.


I’m also going to bring the straps in a little more, they seem likely to easily slip off the shoulders as they are.  But I’ll try to bring them in only just as much as they need in order to stay put so I can stay as close to true to the original design as possible.

I also worked on the first layer of the skirt foundation (did I mention there’s something like 4 layers to the skirt foundation?!).  I don’t have a good picture I can show you of it as it is in the dress, but in the photo below it’s the layer with the short pink ruffle attached to it.  Despite appearances, the ‘buttresses’ are not attached to this layer.

News Photo: Evening dress Tree 1957 Silk taffeta by Charles…

My understanding is that the purpose of this innermost skirt layer is to act as a sort of under-petticoat.

I did not get specific pattern pieces for this layer from Tim, as they are actually basically the same shape as the pieces of the next layer that do have the buttresses attached to them:


I traced these out, adding to the waist and hip to get this:


and then extrapolated to get this:


which muslined up to this:



Another obvious change I had to make was adding darts.  I actually ended up doing double darts both front and back to get a more accurate and smoother fit.  Also, it turned out to still be a little snug through the tush, so I made the 1″ back seam allowance 1/2″ instead.  However, I believe I will add that back into the paper pattern so as to maintain a 1″ cb seam allowance.  I also may end up cutting the waist into v’s at front and back to follow with the overall lines of the dress and the next layer of the skirt foundation, we’ll see.

Here are the bodice and skirt foundation layer #1 together:



Oh, and the front hemline of the skirt is wonky because I was using a not-quite long enough piece of muslin and figured it didn’t matter yet.  I’ll likely do another of these to attach a ruffle to in order to check the proportions properly.

5 thoughts on ““Tree”: Bodice Foundation Muslin

  1. How are you getting on?I can’t wait to see the next part, I dream of having a Charles James inspired wedding gown, luckily I’m friends with Tim here in London, maybe when I finally get asked I will be able to utilize all of his knowledge in this area! Please update soon!


    • The dress is progressing! There was pretty much no sewing at all from early Dec – early Jan because of the holidays, but I’ve been very busy on it since then. I hope to post about it soon, but am pretty cramped time-wise because of so much stuff going on now that I’m sewing instead of blogging at the moment!


  2. Hi I would love to see the images that go with your posts about the Tree dress but I’m not getting any pics up on most of the posts. I would love to try and recreate this dress myself and was really hoping to see your pictures. have they been removed or is it just my computer? many thanks and you looked amazing in the dress!


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