Friday, September 23, 2011

Wrinkles happen. So a few notes on wrinkles and bunching.

Recently, I made a reproduction of a dress from the Kyoto Costume Institute. I was pretty pleased with it, but the wrinkles on the bodice were driving me crazy!

Robe a l'anglaise, England, 1790's. KCI.

But then today I was browsing some paintings, and I started noticing that so many of them show ladies  with wrinkly bodices. Take a peak below:

The more I'm looking into this, the more I'm realizing it's a mixture of factors that contribute to this. First off, the mannequin never does it justice. No matter how close to your size your dress form is, it's never your body, and clothes always tend to look a little sad on them. Second, today we are so used to stretchy blends, that sometimes one forgets that, in costuming, you are using natural, plain weave fabrics, and they are not stretchy or giving, or permanent press. Third, if you don't add boning to your bodice, which is not found in every single extant garment, the dresses do tend to ride up as you walk, stretch, sit, and just move in general. Also, when fitting a bodice's length, take into account that the more petticoats you add under your skirt, the more it will inch up along your waistline, shortening your torso. If you are having a problem with the bodice bunching up because of this, you can layer your petticoats a little more loose, starting the first layer lower than your waist and move up from there. Also, you should stagger the ties so they are not all at the center front and back. This reduces a lot of bulk at your waist, so the garments can lie flatter and fit better.

Another bunching issue I find happens in the sleeves, where the sleeves of my shift bunch and twist beneath the dress.  A couple ways to help this are, first, make sure that when you put the dress on, you use your other hand and tug the shift down through your sleeve, making sure it's smooth and not twisted. Second, make sure there is enough room in the sleeves of your dress to begin with. In the pictures above, you can see that none of the ladies' sleeves are skin tight. Another option is to shorten the sleeves on the shift, or make it sleeveless. Shifts like this don't show up until the early 19th century, when sleeves got shorter, but it is definitely a more comfortable option. I'm going to explore this more for the black Marie Antoinette dress, since the sleeves are sheer.

18th century, MFA.

Early 19th century, MFA.

Reproduction sleeveless chemise from historika on etsy.


  1. Here's a new wrinkle (or maybe a very old one): The word wrinkle is Old English gewrinclod, past participle of gewrinclian, to wind, or crease.

  2. Good morning! I'm doing a (free) (email) newsletter for The Apple River Fort Historic Foundation in Elizabeth, Illinois. I'd like to use one of your pictures, with proper credit of course. Please respond to See the Fort's website at

    Thank you! -- Andrea