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Elisalex Dress Sewalong #4: Assembling the bodice (sleeveless)

Ahoy there Sewalongers! This week things start looking real good… and today we’ll be getting the bulk of it done and making up the bodice of the Elisalex Dress, sleeveless. For those of you making up the dress with sleeves, your bodice post can be found here.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

If you are making the Reversalex (and excitingly it seems that a lot of you are!), this is the bodice post you need to be following. The sleeveless Elisalex bodice is reversible by nature, in that it is finished flawlessly and there are no visible seams or raw edges. When we refer to the lining in this post, that's really just the flip-side of your reversible bodice.

So assuming you’re not too traumatised by the FBA post last week, let’s start sewing!

*In case you’ve just joined us, click here to be taken to all the Elisalex Dress Sewalong posts*

Okerly dokerly!!

Today’s post will be broken down as follows:

  • Princess seams at the back
  • Princess seams at the front
  • Shoulder seams
  • Repeat for lining
  • Joining bodice to lining
  • Side seams

Step 1: Princess seams at the back

We’re going to start by joining the Side Back panels to the Centre Back pieces. Princess seams (the rounded seams on the bodice that hug our curves creating that beautifully feminine shape) can be a little fiddly at first, getting the hang of easing the two rounded edges together. The back pieces are much easier, so let’s start with those!

Gather your Bodice Back pieces – 2x Centre Back & 2x Side Back panels, and a bunch of pins.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

With right sides together, place the Side Back panel onto the Centre Back piece and begin pinning the curved edges together from the waistline, matching the notch and underarm.

*TIP: when manipulating fabric together, especially at curved seams or sleeve heads, it is important to remember that you are matching the two pieces along the line at which they will be stitched ie. 5/8″ from the raw edge. Do not try to match the pieces together at the raw edge!*

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Stitch into place, remembering the 5/8″ or 15mm seam allowance. Don’t forget to backstitch at the start and finish of your line of stitching! Press towards the side seam.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Repeat this on the other Centre Back piece, and finish your seams either by overlocking/serging or trimming the excess seam allowance.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Step 2: Princess seams at the front

Now we’re going to do the exact same thing to the front pieces. This will be a little trickier as we have a more dramatic curve to ease in.

Pin the Side Front panel to the Centre Front piece, right sides together, matching waistline, notches and underarm. At this point, the more pins the better! A good way to do this is to first pin at the waistline, then at the notches and underarm, then keep filling in the gaps with more pins!

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Carefully stitch into place. Repeat for the other panel, press seams towards the side seams and finish excess seam allowance.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Step 3: Shoulder seams

Hard part over! Now, with right sides together, pin the Bodice Front to the Bodice Back at the shoulders.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Stitch, press open, finish excess seam allowance.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Repeat Steps 1-3 for the Bodice Lining - DO NOT CLOSE THE SIDE SEAMS!

Step 4: Joining the lining to the bodice

This is where things differ from the construction of the Elisalex Dress bodice with sleeves... First, we're going to join the bodice and the lining, and then we turn it all out to the right side and close up the side seams at the end. Confused? Don't worry. It's totally straight forward and you'll end up with a flawlessly constructed, reversible bodice.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Lay out one of your bodices flat, right side up. Now lay the other bodice directly on top, right sides together. Pin the two bodices together along the neckline and armholes.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

 

Stitch along the neckline and armholes. Snip the curves or trim the excess seam allowance.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

 

Now (and it was impossible to take a clear photo of this process so bear with me...) carefully pull the back pieces through the shoulder straps and out of the front piece to turn your bodice to the right side. Press the neckline and armholes.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

 

See? Beautiful!

Step 5: Side seams

How the f*** is this gonna work??? we hear you cry!

OK, lay down your bodice, side seams together. Start by pinning the side seams (right sides together of course!) of one face of your bodice, from the waistline up to the underarm.

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

 

You will now see that you can continue this pinning straight down the side seam of the other face of your bodice seeing as they are connected at the underarm:

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

 

And when that continuous line of bodice and lining side seam is pinned and you turn it to the right side it should look like this:

assembling the sleeveless - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

 

When you're happy, stitch into place, being extra careful that your underarm seams match as perfectly as possible. Press the seam open, finish the excess seam allowance and repeat on the other side.

And look! A reversible sleeveless bodice!

sleeveless bodice - elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

And that is that for today guys! Before we go into the construction of the tulip skirt, we’ll be back soon with a little tutorial on how to add side seam pockets – not just to the Elisalex Dress, but to pretty much anything with a side seam! Until the next time, ciao for now!

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Comments on this post ( 16 )

  • Jul 14, 2015

    Thank you so much!! I have a wedding in about 5 weeks, and I can’t find a nice dress. I took it upon myself to buy a great pattern, without even really noticing the princess seams. I’ve never done a princess seam before.
    Your blog brought me through it step by step, in a way the pattern couldn’t.
    My seams look perfect, and I really really appreciate your help.

    Thanks a million from Ireland.

    — Kate

  • Apr 27, 2015

    Hi Frances, I see why you’re baffled! With a sleeveless bodice like this, you can only understitch the neckline – and this has to be done before closing the armholes. I hope this makes sense! -Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Apr 23, 2015

    Hello
    I am baffled by the understitching of the neckline and armholes at the same time-how can I achieve this without sewing into the material of the bodice? I understand how I can do it to the neckline, but how is it possible to then do on the armholes. Is that possible at all?
    Please help!

    — Frances

  • Mar 30, 2015

    I appreciate your reply and your advice,thank you Elisalex :)I have now followed you on twitter and hope to learn more from you :) x

    — angela

  • Mar 16, 2015

    Hi Angela, if you smooth out the pinned edges of the shell and lining, it should actually be more of a straight line. Just make sure that you align the raw edge of your fabric with the 5/8" marker on your sewing machine to be sure to stitch with the right seam allowance. If you need any more help or advice, don’t hesitate to contact me on help@byhandlondon.com

    Good luck!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Mar 16, 2015

    Thank you for sharing :) I am a beginner and not sure how to sew side seams of lining and bodice,I understand how to pin to sew the sides but it looks like a V shape,do I sew this as a V shape? or do I sew a curve? if I sew lining side seam and continue stitching onto outer fabric should I curve as I get to armhole seam?

    — angela

  • Feb 15, 2015

    This was a great help to me I had forgotten how to assemble the bodice. Thank you much appreciated.

    — florence

  • Sep 23, 2014

    Hi Nicoletta, yes indeed – we use a standard 5/8" seam allowance on our patterns unless otherwise stated.

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Sep 19, 2014

    I am sewing Elisalex and following this sew-along as instructions. When I sew the main fabric and the bodice, do you use the standard 5/8" seam allowances? Maybe it is a stupid question, but I want to be sure.

    — nicoletta

  • Jul 24, 2014

    Hi Caitlin – go ahead and play around with the neckline as much as you want! We’ve tried lowering it and even turning it into more of a sweetheart shape and they all look wonderful, so I’m sure the V will work out just fine. Let us know how you get on! x

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jul 24, 2014

    Hi Ladies!
    I’m working on a toile for the bodice of the Elisalex dress. I feel like the neckline is a little high on me and I was wondering if it would work out OK if I changed the front neckline to more of a V-neck. Will that mess up the princess seams? Thanks!!

    — Caitlin Ahern

  • Mar 28, 2013

    I’ve had a number of fit issues. First the skirt is so long it comes almost to my ankles, I cut off quite a lot before cutting my fabric but it’s still way too long. At 5’2" I’m a shorty but even so, the length seems quite excessive. The photos shown and the illustrations give the idea the skirt finishes below the knees, that’s a lot of wasted fabric!
    I measured myself and cut out the appropriate size. The bodice is too tight at the waist and the bust, the neckline is too wide and I have this weird gaping happening at the back neckline.

    — Nichola

  • Mar 29, 2013

    Oh no, sorry to hear you’re having such issues!

    Firstly, the skirt is designed as given on the pattern paper to be about mid length, but of course we all vary so much in height so as we mentioned in the first post I think it was, I’ve cut my skirt to be 24" long – which for me at 5’4" is the perfect just below the knee length. The skirt’s length is entirely open to interpretation so it’s really up to the individual and their height/length preference to decide and measure out their ideal length.

    Secondly, I’m not quite sure what’s going on with your bodice… Maybe you could email us – elisalex@byhandlondon.com – some images to give us a better idea, and therefore we’d be able to give you a better diagnosis! If the waist and bust are too tight, it seems you might want to double check your measurements against our sizing chart. If the back is gaping and the neckline is too wide, do you usually find that you have narrow or sloping shoulders? It’s a bit tricky to explain without having seen images yet, but a wonderful book if you find you’re having fitting issues with sewing patterns is Fit For Real People (pages 160-165 in particular for shoulders).

    But by all means, please feel free to email across some images if you find you’re having difficulty fitting the bodice and we’ll do our best to give you some advice! Good luck and hope it works out!!

    — byhandlondon

  • Apr 07, 2013

    I was really struggling to imagine how this would work but it’s amazing – it’s the neatest thing I’ve sewn so far! I should have done a toile first as the bodice could have done with being a bit longer but that was my own impatience to get started with my fancy fabric. The tutorial has been great to follow so far – thanks!

    — Kathryn

  • Apr 08, 2013

    So glad to hear! Yep, it certainly is a satisfying flawless finish! x

    — byhandlondon

  • Mar 20, 2013

    whoa! yeah! how the f*** is this going to work!? I have my fabric, its almost as cute as yours! cant wait for things to slow down so i can really focus on this and get it beautiful!

    — kristonlion

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