Friday, February 10, 2012

How-To: Make the Bodice for the suit-refashion Overall

Welcome to my second How-To post for how I turned my Husbands old suit into the overall below!

And what perfect timing for the "Sew Grateful" series, happening over at My Happy Sewing Place, which truly is right up my alley :-)
Not only am I sew grateful that my husband gave me the suit (he has learned to give me just about everything that remotely resembles fabric before throwing it away), I have also used thread, needles and a rotary cutter that my mom has given me, and I am also ever sew grateful for the on-line sewing community, which really has kicked off my sewing hobby to a new level. I have learned so much from the many sewing-bloggers out there, thank you ever so much. I can only hope that the one or other project/tutorial on my blog will inspire others, too!

In the first How-To post HERE I showed you how to fit the pants, today we will fit the jacket to make the bodice. Of course, depending on the suit you are starting out with, and also depending on your shape, things might be a bit different. However, I think these steps should get you there in most cases, if the initial fit of the suit matches the description in my first post (basically, it just really has to be too big)...

First I cut off the jacket a few inches below the line I had marked for where the jacket and pants will meet (the safety-pins in the picture below mark the waist-line). Then I put pins in the sides, to mark how much fabric I want to take off approximately:

Keep the cut-off piece from the bottom of the jacket!

Below is the side-view of the bodice, the pins are marking how much fabric I wanted to take off. Make sure to ALWAYS work on both sides simultaneously. 

To give the bodice a more interesting cut and to add a bit of a female shape to it, I decided to not merely re-sew the sides together, but to actually put in a princess-like piece which I cut out of the extra fabric from the saved bottom of the jacket. If you don't have enough fabric, or if this seems too complicated for you, you can go for a less fitted look and simply sew a new side seam.

Below you see the extra fabric that I took off (it's marked with chalk) within the inner pin-lines. But I had to take off even more, so I could then add the extra piece - The outer pin-lines mark the cutting lines:

By the way, I left the lining whole and only worked with the shell material for now!

The reason for that? Well, I wanted to keep all the pockets functional, and there were two inside pockets in the jacket lining...

 With princess seams the important thing are the curves on the two bodice parts. The side bodice piece has a stronger curve than the front bodice piece, which creates the shape we want for the bust. Here is an example for a princess seam bodice pattern:

I "mimicked" those shapes, even though my seam is actually a bit lower than a real princess seam would be, because again I tried to save a pocket, this time the one on the outside...
I copied the front bodice piece shape from my jacket, and created a side bodice piece by looking at the piece I had cut away, basically just subtracting the excess fabric from that piece you see on the very right in the picture below...

Then I went back to the dress form and pinned that paper piece in to see if I was getting to the shape I wanted. I also drew in the armhole. I did this on both sides:

Then I compared the two pieces and evened out the differences:

This was the pattern piece that came out:

After sewing it in for the first time I had to undo it and take in some more material on the front bodice, as indicated by the pins below (the strange bulges are due to the fact that my dress-form's waist is quite a bit higher than mine...):

After sewing it in for the second time it was perfect. I have learned that it is always worth undoing a seam if it isn't perfect. It doesn't really take that much time and the finished garment will be so much more pleasing that those extra 30 minutes are totally forgotten in the end...

Then I moved on to the lining, which I simply took in at the side seams. Just make it approximately the same size as the outer fabric, it's ok if it's a bit loose! This way, I was able to save both inside pockets, hooray!

Next I pinned the sleeve with safety pins to the width I wanted it and first just held it up to the bodice to see whether the pieces would still fit together roughly. Of course you might also have to adjust the length of the sleeve, so put the jacket on, mark the shoulder point on bodice and sleeve, and pin the sleeve to the bodice at that point:

By doing that and by taking in the sleeve, the armhole got quite a bit smaller than the original was. So check whether it matches your new jacket sleeve opening, which probably also got quite a bit smaller. Ideally, the sleeve-cap will be a little bigger than the sleeve opening, so you can ease it in. If that isn't the case, you have to play around with the two shapes to make them fit. Maybe you have to take in the sleeves a little less, or make the sleeve cap rounder, or find a different shape for the sleeve opening on the bodice. Don't cut off anything, just fold the extra material away until you found the solution. Once it looks reasonable, take in the sleeves (until now they were only pinned).
Open them all the way, you might have to undo a couple stitches that hold the lining and shell fabric together at the cuff:

And then just sew down the entire length, shell and lining in one long seam. Cut back the seam allowances, iron the seam open, and slide the lining back into the sleeve. Done!

Then I basted in the sleeve by hand as explained in this tutorial. I didn't cut off anything at the sleeve opening until I was sure how much. So first basting! Then look at it, fix whatever isn't right, try it on, move around in it. Only when you get the fit right, sew it and cut back the excess material.

In the tutorial mentioned above I also show how to finish the inside of the sleeve opening with bias tape. I used that same method here. Usually you wouldn't do that with a lined bodice, but since lining and shell fabrics were already attached to each other in this case, I thought this would be the best solution. When setting in the sleeve I only attached the sleeve shell to the bodice AND bodice lining in the first step:

Then in the second step, I sewed the sleeve lining and the bias tape to the seam allowances, just inside the previously made seam:

Cut back the seam allowances, fold the bias tape over it and hand stitch it into place.

Next I attached a third button, since the two were too far apart and I had a third one left from the cut-off piece of the bodice:

You might have noticed that I played around with adding a sleeve cap enhancement, but it was getting too much. The bodice of my jacket already had interlining and since this isn't supposed to be a real jacket in the end I decided it wasn't necessary. I like how my sleeves are now nice and soft. I created that very crisp bodice-sleeve edge by stitching the bias tape "roll" to the bodice with a few stitches (only in the top half of the sleeve opening). Here's what the inside looks like:

Almost done! All that is left to do is to connect the bodice to the pants.

You could undo the top seam of the pants, depending on what it looks like. In my case, that would have been a huge hassle though and I decided to hand-stitch the two parts together. It's not as time-consuming as you might think! Put the pants and bodice on again and decide where exactly they should meet. Lift up your arms a bit to make sure you'll have enough room to move around in your overall! Also decide where the side seams should be, if - like in my case - your bodice doesn't have an actual side seam. As you see in the picture above, I added two little pleats in the back, and none in the front.

First stitch the shell fabrics, together, then in a second step attach the lining on the inside, leaving it nice and loose though:

I love how I was able to keep all the inside pockets and even the labels :-)

The overall probably doesn't have a whole lot of hanger-appeal:

...but on a body, it really is a cool piece of clothing!

If you try this too, I'd love to hear and see how it turns out, so please share it with me and I will "link you up"!

Hopefully by tomorrow I can show you my next "slashing-that-stash" project. Sneak peak:

Can you guess what it is?
And then, finally, I will continue - finish! - the 1938 dress...

All the best to you - stay warm if you are in the northern hemisphere...



  1. I salute you madam (after months of lingering around on your blog shocked and awed by all your accomplishments). That is an awesome suit. Just had to tell you. Also is that thing a rag-rug (or placemat)? Would be cool to see you made it =) See you around.

  2. Ich finde sowohl die Idee als auch die Umsetzung richtig richtig toll! H├Ątte ich nicht gedacht, was man alles mit einem alten Anzug so anstellen kann :D

  3. Amazing job!! I too am sew grateful that my husband passes all fabric my way. I have a huge stash now. I'll have to pick around his side of the closet for a suit to transform into a jumpsuit. (^_^)

  4. This is SUCH a cool jumpsuit! Thanks for posting about this. :)