How to Add a Strapless Bodice to your Bridgetown
Allie is the co-founder of Indiesew and creator of all things pretty on the site. Follow Allie and receive other Indiesew updates by subscribing to the blog.
There are certain hours of the day, and only within the confines of my house, when I go braless. I wasn’t blessed with a bust that allows me to throw on a light tank top and galavant around the farmers market with zero support. For the occasional photoshoot, with the appropriate bust supporting equipment, yes I can go braless. See proof below. But on the regular? Not going to happen. I'm guessing the same goes for you.
So I spent a few days thinking about how I could make the Bridgetown Backless Dress work with a strapless bra. While sitting on a beach in Hawaii, sketching on a yellow lined notepad, I had an epiphany. "Why not add a strapless bodice to the dress?” So I went all fashion designer on you guys, and did that. A today I’m showing you how!
I’m demonstrating this modification using a rayon spandex jersey
available at Imagine Gnats. The fabric is super soft, very lightweight, but harder to sew with than a typical cotton jersey. Hence, I’ll be using a walking foot in this tutorial. Please note: this tutorial will not work for woven fabrics.
I sized down two sizes since my fabric had considerable stretch. I recommend you size down at least one size when sewing this pattern in a knit fabric.
The extra supplies you'll need are:
- An extra 1/2 yard of knit fabric
- 1 1/2 yards of 3/8” elastic
- Coordinating thread
- Ball point needle
Take Your Measurements
For this tutorial, your strapless bodice will be custom fitted to your measurements. First, measure your high bust and write down that number. My high bust measured at 31.5”.
Measure the fullest part of your bust and record that number. My bust measures at 33".
Now locate your natural waist and place a pin through your clothing at that location. Measure from your high bust to your natural waist. Write down that number. My high bust to my natural waist measured 9”.
Finally, measure your natural waist and write down that number. We’ll use this measurement to cut our waist elastic as instructed in the pattern. My natural waist measurement was 27”.
Cut Out The Strapless Bodice Pieces
Now, we’ll use the measurements we recorded above to use in the dimensions for the strapless bodice. Add one inch to your full bust measurement, and then divide that number by two. This will be the width of your bodices. Mine equaled 17".
Now, add 2 1/4” to the high bust to natural waist measurement. This will be the length of your bodice. Mine equaled 11 1/4”.
Here’s those equations written, for the math-minded folks:
Bodice width = (Full Bust Measurement + 1) / 2
Bodice length = High Bust to Natural Waist + 2.25
Cut two rectangles with those dimensions. The stretch of the fabric should run across the width of the pattern piece. My rectangles that were 17” wide by 11 1/4” long.
Note: You’ll notice I didn’t take into account seam allowances for the bodice sides. Since we’re working with knits, the strapless bodice has a bit of negative ease (about 3/8” at each side seam) giving it a close, comfortable fit. Thus, your bodice measurements don’t need to be exact.
Now that our two bodice pattern pieces are cut out, we’re ready to assemble this simple design. Lay the two bodice pieces right sides together and pin both short ends.
Serge, or sew with a stretch stitch, along the length of the short ends with a 3/8” seam allowance. Press both seams towards the same bodice piece.
Serge, or finish with a zig-zag stitch, both the top and bottom raw edges of the bodice to finish the fabric edges.
Insert Top Elastic
If you're working with a directional print, decide which long edge of the bodice should be the top. Press the serged edge down towards the wrong side of the fabric by 5/8”.
Now stitch along the pressed edge with a 1/2” seam allowance, leaving a 1” opening where you start and stop. I’m using a wide zig-zag stitch.
Cut your elastic equal to your high bust measurement and place a safety pin through one end.
Insert the safety pin and elastic through the 1” opening and shimmy the elastic through the tunnel. Don't pull so hard that you lose the other end of the elastic in the tunnel. Once your safety pin and elastic reach the other side of the opening, overlap the elastic by one inch and pin. Check to make sure your elastic is not twisted inside the casing. This is the same process as inserting elastic in an encased waistband
Pull the elastic out of the casing. Sew over the 1” elastic overlap with a zig-zag stitch, backstitching a few times to reinforce the seam.
Now, stretch the elastic back into place inside the casing. Sew the 1” opening shut with a stretch stitch and 1/2” seam allowance.
Your elastic bodice top should look like this:
Assemble the Bridgetown
Now, sew your Bridgetown dress or tunic according to the the pattern until the “Skirt to Bodice” step on page 19 of the instructions. Here is where we’ll insert our strapless bodice into the dress.
Place the outer bodices over the skirt, with right sides together, matching side seams and notches. Place a few pins at the side seams and center front and back markings to keep the outer bodice and skirt aligned.
Now slip the strapless bodice over the outer bodice. The right side of the strapless bodice should be facing the wrong side of the outer bodice. Match side seams with the outer bodice and skirt and pin. Match the center back and front of the strapless bodice with the skirt and outer bodice and pin. Then, stretch the rest of the strapless bodice so that it aligns with the outer bodice and skirt and pin. You’ll be pinning through three layers of fabric here, so pay careful attention that all serged edges are aligned.
Your pinned Bridgetown should look like this:
As the pattern instructs, sew the pinned seam with a 1” seam allowance, using a stretch stitch. Take your time, as you’ll be sewing through three layers of knit fabric.
Next, sew the waist tunnel, as instructed in the pattern, with 3/4” away from the seam you just sewed using a stretch stitch. Leave a 3/4” opening where you start and stop.
Now, insert your elastic and hem your Bridgetown according to the pattern instructions.
Let’s see how this strapless inner bodice works.
Nice work! Throw on your strapless bra and feel secure at that cocktail party or picnicking in the park. If you’ve sewn up a Bridgetown Dress or Tunic, we want to see it! Upload your creation
and share some inspiration with the sewing community. Or, share your creation on social media using the hashtags #indiesew