After much thrashing about I’ve finally landed on a “Low-neck bodice” pattern that’s close to fitting me. Close.. but not quite there.
Our story so far: (see also Part 1) I need a new kirtle. I’ve lost 50 lbs and my old kirtles are just not supportive any more. I don’t want to wear a modern bra under my kirtle so I just need to knuckle down and make a new one. Rather than going the easy route and doing what I’ve done before I decided to use the bara method described by Mathew Gnagy in “The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublet” and hints dropped by Mr. Gnagy on his facebook page about how to do this with a woman’s low-neck bodice(here). Then I ran into issues.
The bara method involves using graded tapes which are measured to the clients specific size. In this case it looks like I’ll need C (chest), W (waist) and L (length).
In “The Modern Maker” book he gives a graph which tells you how to setup the L based on your height. According to the book my L would be 34″ since I’m 5’5″ tall. Using this tape as my L for my initial patterns I ended up with a bodice pattern that was impossibly short. The “waist” of the bodice was barely coming down to my bra strap. I expected the waist to fall at my natural waist so I decided to use a longer measurement for the L value. After experimentation I ended up using an L of 46″. Either I’m completely off base and my new kirtle will have a much lower waist line than the period patterns.. or (hopefully) he’ll explain in the next book how I’m actually supposed to calculate this for a woman. Regardless I plan to use this longer value for L, at least until I learn better.
Initially when I measured for C I measured my bust over a super-supportive sports bra. This gave me a measurement of 46″. That is, with no compression applied by the tape it would take 46″ of fabric to exactly skim my already supported figure. When I used a 46″ bara tape and turned this into a sample bodice I found that 46″ was impossibly loose and would NOT work as a supportive garment. I went back and re-did my measurements and found that pulling the tape tight across my bust (as tight as I’d like the bodice to be) my new tape was 40″. I made a sample using this measurement and found it to be a bit too tight. This caused my bust to practically burst out of the neck line. I then backed this off to 41″ and find that I like the fit of that better.
Initially I measured my waist (for W) much the same way I measured for C (loose). Initially my W was 41. This, as with the C value above, was much too loose to actually be supportive. Especially when I reduced the C to 40/41. After a few iterations on the pattern I settled on using 38″ for W. This is as small as I can compress my natural waist comfortably.
So.. now that you’re all caught up. I have a bodice that’s conic and almost supportive. Sadly it’s not yet REALLY supportive. I think if I was in my 20s and had firm perky boobs I’d be all set to go. Sadly.. I’m in my 40s.. and perky is a thing of the past. Now, especially with my recent weight loss, my boobs are… what is the word which is the opposite of “dense”? … I’m going to go with malleable. Given a conic bodice.. and no other restriction.. my malleable boobs are filling in the cone in a not entirely flattering manner.
So, ok. I mulled this over for a night. I can see two possible solutions.
Either I need to fit the pattern more specifically to my shape.. and remove a bit from the sides such that my bosom will be unable to head south towards my belly button OR I need to size-down the C and W measurements 1 more inch.. and then use stretching of the pieces to encourage my bosom to stay up.
I went back to Mr. Gnagy’s bodice pattern and laid a ruler over the side seam for the front and finally noticed that’a not actually a straight edge. It’s subtly curved.
Digging deeper I stumbled on this post on Mr. Gnagy’s facebook page from a year ago.
If you look at the side seam you see that this is not a straight line from the top to the bottom. Instead there is an accommodation for boobs at the top of the pattern. So.. now I have a plan I will go and iterate my pattern some more.