I already had this fabric and lining cut out, but from picking up the loose pieces to the finish of the entire bodice to the point of putting the piping on it, it took me just over an hour to do both sides with hook and eye tape, make the back, and to sew the three pieces together, not to mention taking pictures of the process! It used to take me that long to sew individual hooks and eyes on my dresses, and the hook and eye tape seems to stay closed more securely.
This is the left side bodice with the eyes already sewn in on both fabrics and the darts already sewn through the fashion fabric and lining If you put bones in your darts, you can do that now as well, or right before you put the piping on, either way. The whip stitching of the front to the back which has the eye tape on it took me less than 10 minutes.
I went to iron my fabric and found that Princess Grace had taken up residence on my ironing board. She's lying on my black wool dress pieces right now but graciously allowed me enough room to iron the bodice pieces so I could take pictures.
Did I mention how much I hate crappy Wal-Mart fabric? This fabric is unraveling as I look at it. I'd bought a bunch when I first started sewing, it's 100% cotton but the feel (the hand) of the fabric is horrible compared to decent quilting fabric. I'd long ago sold all the dresses I'd made with their fabric but I saw this piece in my stash and thought it would make an ok work dress but I'm not sure it's worth the aggrevation of having to work with it, it's distorting, doesn't tear well, unraveling, and just generally crappy. Ok, rant over. I know now to buy the best fabric I can afford and then I'm a happier seamstress.
Sammy is asleep as usual in his bed on my cutting table, I guess I was ranting quietly enough that he didn't wake up. He is presently snoring, which is my constant sound effect in my sewing room. Sometimes my calico, Rose O'Neil Greenhow Kitty sleeps up in one of the boxes of fabric on the shelves in back of the ironing board.
Sammy is grey so he fits right in with all the Civil War fabrics I have lying around.
I usually like to get the back ready between finishing the left and right sides of the bodice. I do a faux 3 piece back which is easier with my Bernina that has a movable needle position and a great edge stitching foot. The needle position can be changed so all I do put the edge stitching guide on the edge of the fabric fold and ride the edge of the folded over portion on my T-back and just move the needle over enough to sew it down nicely. Doing a false 3 piece back takes very little time and looks like I really pieced (and dealt with matching the plaid) the back when I didn't. I won't tell if you won't. I do know that certain body types don't do well without the give that the real 3 piece back provides, so having a fitting shell will show you what you need to do according to fit.
Ok, back to the right side of the bodice. Remember that you had three lines drawn on your lining fabric? Put the fashion fabric and the lining fabric together and sew down the stitching line. This is the line closest to the opening. Use tiny stitches because you'll be making holes in this line, the stitching will keep the holes from fraying as badly. I stitched my line and it didn't line up perfectly with the plaid on the front fashion fabric so I had to restitch it to help situate the pattern in the right place.
When you've stitched your line, fold the bodice on the fold line (the next line in, the middle line) and pin very close to the edge to keep your fold there. If the pins bother you, you can always baste it, but make sure you're really close to the fold, as you see here. Don't take the pins or the basting out until you've sewn on the piping or you'll lose the positioning of the fold and the center front. The center front will be approximately over the stitching line at this point, and it is where your hooks and eyes are going to be.
If you're doing trim on your bodice, remember that the center front is this line and not the fold of the bodice and take that into account or the trim will look like it's off by 1/2 inch. This also applies to applying your collar...best to find the center point of the dress (bodice plus back) and the center of your collar and then work towards the outsides when basting it on. Sorry, I know that's ahead of where we are now, but I wanted to make sure you were prepared.
Now you're going to match up the pattern (if any) on the two sides of the bodice on the fashion fabric. If you cut the bodice pieces correctly this will line up pretty close to perfectly and you can adjust a little bit to make it fit if things are off just a little. See, my pins are still attached at the fold line on the right (on your left here) side bodice.
Lie the right side over the left side, approximately getting the stitched line over where the eyes on your left side are. Match up the pattern on the fabric and put some horizontal pins into both halves. Remember because you're looking at the dress and not wearing it, your right is going to show on your left and your left on your right...you'll get used to it. Use a marker and mark the sides inside if it helps.
This is the part that will make you nuts the first few times you do it, but I promise it gets easier as you make more dresses. The trick is to make the hole big enough but not too big, and to push the hook through both thicknesses of fabric. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries.
You're done with the front, no hooks and eyes to sew by hand! If you want buttons on your dress for decorative purposes just sew them to the right bodice outside on top of the hooks or wherever else you'll want them. Most originals had non-functional buttons if they even had buttons at all... The top edge of your bodice will be fastened by your broach between the two edges of your collar.