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boning a “formal” dress bodice

dancingdamsel | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi everyone. Can someone offer me advice on boning the bodice of a formal dress. I’m not working from a pattern, I’m working from a picture of what the young lady wants. It has a strapless, boned bodice. How far up does the boning run over the bust? Should it go to the top of the dress (top of the bra) or does it stop at or below the nipple? What is most comfortable? I am intending to use rigelene boning, encased in cotton tape to stop it poking a hole in the fabric. What do you think? Any advice would be appreciated.




  1. decoratrice | | #1

    Thrreads had a great article (probably several) some years back on constructing that type of dress--I think it was in reference to Bob Mackie's designs.  I have used it in some formal wear and my daughter's wedding gown.  I don't think there was boning going over the bust; the key to keeping it up is a band of elastic like a bra band, tacked to the side and back bones and the overbust seams, if any.  Hooked, it turns the top of the bodice into a very secure "bra", and absolutely won't slip down.  Boning over the bust brings back unhappy memories of my first prom dress--I was quite flat-chested and the thing stuck out like a prow, quite independent of my body.  It was misery.

  2. beo | | #2

    I just completed altering a bridesmaid dress with boning.  In this dress the boning extended over the bust to the top of the dress, at the side seams to the top of the dress and also in the back.

  3. jjgg | | #3

    some of this depends on the style lines of the bodice - princess seams or other, The size of the bust - how much support does she need, the fashion fabric - will it show through, are you just boning the seams.

  4. stillsuesew | | #4

    I rarely saw boning go over the bust when I was doing lots of bridal alterations. Instead it often went from the waist to the top of the dress alongside the bust - maybe two inches from the bust point. The best fit came with a waist stay - an inch wide ribbon that was well fitted at the waist and the boning was attached to that.

  5. sewcea | | #5

       Having altered a lot of formals, I agree with stillsuesew. Rarely have I seen boning run up over the bust. Usually it stops just below the bust. Most tape-encased side seam boning is sewn directly to the side seams, making it easire to alter the seams.

      Another tip for strapless bodices is to take them in very, very snugly to the wearer's body, almost to the point where the dress seems too tight. If there is to be dancing, the wearer will thank you later. The bodice will stay up beautifully without the insecure tugging and pulling that mars so many otherwise beautiful gowned occasions.


    1. dancingdamsel | | #6

      Thank you all. I am boning the bodice now. Once it's done, I will get her to put it on and wear it for a while to see if it pinches anywhere, before finishing it off and attaching the skirt. I still have some time, The formal is in September. So far, she loves the shaping. Oh to be young and "perky" again!!!

      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #7

        One thing I learned, even with the boning, is to put a grosgrain stay in the waist of the dress. It fits snugly around the waist of the person, is tacked all around the dress at the seams, and has velcro or hooks and eyes to do up at the zipper. It is done up before the zipper is zipped, and keeps the dress supported from the waist, so it does not shift as she moves. The Red Carpet Issue of Sew Stylish has the full instructions. This is invaluable, and makes the dress feel more secure, and keeps the weight of the dress from pulling the dress down off the bosom. Cathy

    2. woodruff | | #8

      An older Threads article written by one of the seamstresses for a great Parisian house talks about making the tulle corselette for a draped, strapless gown (very pretty in the photos), and notes that the boning was never run over the bust. There might be quite a few boning channels running up to the bustline and at the base (kind of like underwires), but the breast itself was kept "soft."

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