Create Gentle Inner Support with Horsehair
I’m continually challenged and inspired by the projects my students present, and putting together a dress in a recent class was a fun journey. My student, Norma Loehr, decided to make a strapless dress using a charming little Burda design (03-2010-107) in one of my favorite fabrics–an inky navy blue silk/wool jacquard.
Clearly, it needed boning, but it also needed support over the bust that wasn’t quite as structured. The dress seamlines are quite pretty, and we wanted to highlight them in a gentle way. I suggested using horsehair and sent Norma off to the local chain store. I figured she’d come back with a roll of the flimsy stuff that’s usually sold, but to my surprise (and delight), she came back with a yard of 1-in. wide horsehair–just enough for what I had in mind.
I should mention that I figured the treatment would be of particular interest to Norma who is a trained patternmaker. She formerly made custom bras and has now distilled her knowledge into her all-new book, Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction. For those of you who are interested, her company is called Orange Lingerie.
But I digress…back to the work in progress.
Here, you can see the basting thread outlining the different sections of the bodice. It was used to join the underlining–two layers of silk organza in this case–to the fashion fabric.
There’s lots going on inside: traditional spiral steel boning, including some that spans two garment sections; silk organza selvages used as stay tape along the top edge, and the horsehair use to support the bra cups that is visible, too.A closer look at the stay tape. The top edge was machine stay–stitched, and the stay tape is hand basted along that line, following the curve of the bodice’s top edge.
A little more stay tape along the top side of the bodice. The boning channels were formed by simply stitching parallel lines through the two organza layers used as underlining.
To make one boning piece travel through an organza seam allowance we made a tiny slit in the top layer of the organza below the seam allowance, right along the seam line, then we cut tiny slits in the seam allowances, slid the boning through it. Next, we made a slit in the top layer of organza in the adjoining piece, and slid the boning back into the channel above the seam allowance.
We could have run it over the seam allowances, but that would have lifted the boning away from the fabric. And the closer it is to the fashion fabric, the more effective it is.
Here is the boning, including the piece that spans two sections. I cut the horsehair into 6 pieces–3 per side. Each set of 3 layers was zigzagged together, giving the perfect amount of bendable strength to support the dress’es cup section.
The horsehair is placed right along the seamline, and gently basted into place.
It really didn’t need much encouragement to keep it there. The horsehair mimicked the curve of the seamline. Although the shaping that horsehair gives is less rigid than spiral steel boning, it is still perfectly effective in this case.
The top edge of the bodice folds down, to keep the horsehair in place, and pad its sharp cut ends.
The little bits of nylon can work their way through fabric and are awfully sharp. The bottom seam allowance is folded up. Here is the inside of the bodice. The seam allowance of the top edge is catch stitched to the underlining to hold it in place.
Here is the finished bodice. Here, Norma models the bodice.
The final garment.
The dress closes with a hand-picked zipper down the center back, is lined with silk crepe de chine, and has a grosgrain waist stay
Here, you can see the inside of the dress. It is lined with silk crepe de chine with a grosgrain waist stay.
My thanks to Norma for her fine work and willingness to be a part of all this!
Have you applied this technique to your garments? If so, which one(s) and how did they turn out?
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