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waistline stay for bridal dress

happy2sew | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I am making a bridal dress with an empire seam, not a waistline seam; however, the dress has a very long cathedral train (bridal stores call it a “grand cathedral” train).  The dress has princess lines, front and back, and center back and side seams.  Because of the limited number of seams, and the long train, the bustling technique is the style in which the dress is bustled underneath – using straps underneath the dress and tying them together to create the bustle. 

Due to the shape of the dress, the bustle is only achieved by tying it along the center back seam.  It hikes up too much of the hem if I go to the princess back seams.  Therefore, my question is: Should I create a waistline stay and hang the bustle straps from the stay at the center back seam?  Should I attach the stay at the natural waist on the right side of the lining seams, or should I attach the stay at the empire seam at the seams?

Does anyone have any suggestions?


  1. user-60627 | | #1

    Actually, because you have this enormous train attached to the back of this dress, you are going to have to put in a stay at the empire-waist seam to keep that dress on the bride's shoulders.  If you don't, the weight and pull of the train will cause the the back to pull away and cause massive gapping, no matter how carefully you fit.  A good stay will keep everything in place.  But, I don't understand your comment about the "limited number of seams" you have in the back to bustle this dress.  If your description is right, you should have access to 5 seams across the back from side to side.   And where is the zipper in this dress (in the center back seam?)  Might it be possible to overbustle the dress, instead of under? A picture of the dress would enable a better answer.

    Sew Beautiful magazine recently (in the last year) had an article about a stunning Regency-style wedding dress.  The dress had an enormous train that was attached at the shoulders (I think it came off entirely for later).   It might be a helpful article.

    1. happy2sew | | #2

      Thank you for your comments.  The zipper is in center back.  Because the dress doesn't have a lot of fullness at the waist, there are no other areas at which to draw up an overbustled dress and  it looks strange to place the bustling at the empire seam line, so the choice was underbustling. The first bustle fold as attached at bride's waistline on a waistline stay, and the other folds all gather or fold at the center back seam.  If I spread the load of the folds to the princess back seams, the dress becomes too short on the sides (because it is not a real full dress - see vogue 2788). 

      I made a waistline stay to attach at bride's waist level and tacked it to the dress seams, but that created a lot of pull at the back of the dress.  then I placed the wiastline stay at the empire seamline all around and attached the stay to the seams.  When I created the bustle (again all along the center back) it also created pulling at the back and appeared to want to pull the dress down from the shoulders. 

      I am now thinking of just creating a loose waistline stay (like an interior belt) not attaching it to the seams.  Thus far it seems to give the least dragging to the dress back.  All of these adjustments are being made on the muslin on the dressform.  I guess I will only know if my last thought works, the belt idea, at the fitting.

      1. user-60627 | | #3

        Thanks for the pattern number, the schematic helped me get a better idea.   Looking at this dress, you are still going to have to put a stay at the empire waist, to help support the whole dress while she is walking with this train.

        Now, here is the fun part (how good are your engineering skills?)

        I had 2 ideas while looking at dress for your underbustle (you're right, you are going to have to underbustle this monster).  You cannot attach anything to the skirt underneath at the natural waist, because as you have already found out, this is going to cause unsightly pull and drag.  But you have your empire waist stay (and that whole skirt and train are hanging from this seam) so we are going to use that stay as a foundation.

        My first idea is to hang 5 "straps" off the back of the stay at the side seams, princess seams and CB seam (think suspenders off a garter belt).  You will have to use 1" grosgrain for you stay, but you can use thinner grosgrain (3/8") for these straps.  I picture them fanning across the back in a U shape.  The free ends will have a snap on the end, corresponding to a snap on the underside of the train to "bustle".  You could even sew a snap to the matching lining seams to snap the loose straps to as "storage" until they are needed (they shouldn't create any drag, as they are free hanging off the underbust seam).

        My second idea starts with the same hanging of the 5 straps,  but with an extra, natural waist stay that these straps are attached to before becoming suspenders again.  The second, natural waist stay would not be attached to anything but the straps, (i.e. it would be a sort of harness free floating under the dress, hanging off the underbust stay) but would help provide support against the pull of all that material bustled in the back.  I would use another 1" grosgrain for this waist stay.

        Does this make any sense?  I can send you a sketch via .pdf attachment if needed. 



        1. happy2sew | | #4

          thank you. A sketch would be very helpful.  As I wne to bed last night, I was thinking of a way to make a harness affair, with slanted straps to the other seams, but I didn't get to the detail that you did.  I only had a brief thought, but didn't know how to execute it.  Your idea sounds like it may work.

      2. katkween | | #5

        If you are working with a muslin and on a dress form, I wouldn't worry about the bustle until the gown is made out of the actual fabric and has been fitted. The gown will hang completely different when made out of the bridal fabric and when worn by a person and fits properly. I looked at the pattern you are using. I agree an under-tie bustle would work best but have a different take on the bustle placement. I would bustle it low with the first tie (bustle point) at the bottom of the zipper to pull the center seam of the train up to floor length. I would then tuck under along the other seams on the back train to pull up those areas to floor length. These bustle points will be horizontally in line with or slightly above the tie at the bottom of the zipper on their respective seams. Try this on the muslin and see if you notice a difference. By bustling low you don't have as much stress on the upper bodice, her derriere helps support the train and the bustle is placed where the fullness of the gown begins. A waist stay at the empire seam line would still be a good idea for extra support but would not be used to attach the bustle. Hope this helps!

        Edited 5/11/2006 2:31 am ET by katkween

        1. happy2sew | | #6

          thank you. I'll try that on the muslin and see how it affects the dress.  From  playing around with the bustling I observed that bringing the folds lower on the dress created less dragging and pulling on the waist area at the back and neckline.

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