Wardrobe: Denim Bustier

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Another day of taking photographs in the Texas wind!

So this summer I actually came up with a sewing plan. I’ve never been that great at sticking to one as I prefer rabbit trails and new learning experiences over sticking hard with sewing goals. But the Wardrobe Architect series lit a fire in me! I want to have a more organized wardrobe.

The whole concept of a capsule wardrobe is really new to me, but it makes great sense for me right now. Building outfits I know I’ll wear! Multiplying pieces for the silhouettes I tend to wear the most. Instead of thinking I should stop wearing my handmade skinnies four times a week (okay okay, it’s sometimes more than that), maybe I need to multiply the skinnies.

One of the silhouettes I really want to wear this summer is something like very fitted/bodycon top + wide leg pants or billowy skirt + cloggy sandals. (I love chunky wood-heeled anything.) Like this outfit with the Nettie bodysuit. Or a bustier with some wide legs. I tossed almost all of the trousers in my closet so I’ve yet to figure that part out but really wanted to get started on the bustier!

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Actually, I’ve had bustiers on the brain for about three summers in a row. Two years ago I even crazy-splurged on a Valentino silk from Britex for my dream project. I have three fabrics in my stash that I’m rightfully precious about cutting and that is one of them, so I want to get it right. That bustier will be a full-on fitting and sewing project with lining, boning, fitted cups and underwires. In the meantime I just wanted to kick something out pronto for summer, using my existing stash.

I basically draped this from a frankenpattern that combined the bodice of Sewaholic’s Cambie dress and my skirt sloper for the waist to hip portion. The Cambie has vertical darts in front and back and I just extended them into princess seams that went all the way up and down the bodice. It took me one evening to draft and fit and another to sew–princess seams make everything so easy!

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Once things were fitted, the next stop was figuring out how to add some holding power. Who wants to end up in an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction!? I’m not sure I got it stabilized all the way but I learned some things for future projects. I fitted this to point where it has no ease but as you can see in my back view, fabric relaxes in the wearing!

Straps would’ve been the easiest route and I may still add removable ones. Boning is the ultimate solution, but as for this project I didn’t want to bother with it. Then I remembered reading about waist stays from several bloggers much more versed in couture than I am. If you’re wondering what they are, or why you’d use them, I’ve added some extra credit reading at bottom. Waist stays are super easy to add!

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

Denim Bustier | Cloth Habit

I added a small facing at the neckline going all the way around and used topstitching thread on the hem to give it that denim cool. I could’ve gone the whole lining route but really wanted this to be as simple and light as possible.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m not completely sold on the sweetheart neckline; while it certainly blossoms my upper half I feel too much like Sophia Loren for my personal taste. But it was a great excuse to dive in! One thing I like about bustiers is that they don’t have to be all fancy, uptown or vintage movie star. Nor do they need to go with other fitted styles. For my personal style, I like a contrast with the casual, loose and no-nonsense. What do you think? Would you wear one, and how?

Bustier: my frankenpattern
Fabric: Lightweight denim, Emma One Sock
Petersham ribbon: Britex
Pants: my Clovers

More on Waist Stays & Petersham Ribbon


  1. Heather Lou says:

    LOVE! Who doesn’t want a denim bustier? This reminds me of a crazy awesome denim top I had a few years ago that was from my club kid phase… I ended up tossing it because it gave me mono boob. But it was a hard toss. And I’m quite liking the sweetheart neckline here, even though quite often I think they’re TOO sweet. Maybe it’s the denim, giving it a little edeg?

    Also,waist stays?! What a brilliant invention! No one wants to wear rigid boning in the heat – I think this was a really smart compromise.

  2. Maddie says:

    I wouldn’t expect to see you in this silhouette, but I like it!

    Have you heard of silicone gripper tape? When I made the dress to wear to my dad’s second wedding (pictures are on my “what I’ve made page”), I cut each lining piece less 1/8″ along the neckline. This helped it hug my body. I also added silicone gripper tape after the lining was attached and 1/16″ away from the top edge. The two combined majorly helped it’s staying power. No Janet Jackson moments!

    • Amy says:

      No, I haven’t heard of it but I’m going to investigate it now! The neckline is definitely a whole consideration, which I learned after wearing this out and about. I used very narrow petersham ribbon to stabilize the neckline but am wishing I didn’t–it’s too bulky. Even with that, the neck still started to give and pull away once the fabric relaxed. Lots to learn about this bustier business!

  3. poppykettle says:

    Oh it’s gorgeous! The sweetheart neckline is so flattering on you, and you’ve gotta love a waist stay! I might have to investigate this silicone gripper tape Maddie mentioned…

  4. Carolyn says:

    This is beautiful Amy! and I really like the idea of a capsule wardrobe too. Seems so sensible 🙂 I really like that you’ve added the waist stay, and thanks for the details close-up shots to illustrate. Your work is meticulous and just beautiful.
    Years ago I bought a Vogue couture pattern simply because it had detailed instructions on how to add a waist stay and boning to a strapless dress. I’ve never made that particular pattern but I’ve used the instructions several times!

  5. Katherine says:

    I love your denim bustier top! A denim bustier dress, a la the eighties, has been on my sewing list forever! I have a small collection of bustier patterns but I have not got over a few stumbling blocks to try them out….I’m especially held back by the need for good fit. Also, do you wear a strapless bra with it or no? I like the waist stay idea…I have used waist stays in dresses, but it has never occurred to me to use one in a bustier. I also wonder if I would feel a bit exposed with nothing covering my shoulders. And then, I think I need to experiment with stell boning. I have been suing the plastic boning for a while, and at first I didn’t mind it, but now it always seem to curl the wrong way. I’l love to hear more about your adventures into bustiers.

    • Amy says:

      thanks, Katherine! I must have the 80s on the brain what with bodysuits and bustiers! I also have some OOP bustier patterns–one of my favorites is a McCalls from the early 90s–but figure it will be much easier to do if I start with a seamed bodice and bra cups that fit me. I need to do a few tweaks to this bodice but it will make a good base.

      I do have one rtw bustier with boning and the curling bothers me, too. I don’t know a way around it as I’m not sure I want to live with steel boning for daily wear.But the waist stay helps… I might try Maddie’s gripper tape idea, too. My one strapless bra worked well underneath, but I honestly didn’t need it annd it was too hot, so in these photos no bra! The blessings of being small-chested I guess ;).

  6. lisa g says:

    oh i love this! so flattering. and now you’ve reminded me that i totally wanted to make something like this last summer and never did…

  7. Sallie says:

    Gorgeous! I’m slowly coming around to embracing a more bodycon silhouette – especially on my top. The Nettie was definitely the chink in my billowy-blouse-armor!! You look absolutely lovely in this bustier, and I think the denim gives it a great everyday vibe. And the waist stay seems WAY more practical than boning for TX summers! As far as the sweetheart neckline, I’ve had success easing the fabric to a bit of twill tape cut 1/4″ shorter – definitely helps with gaping and stretching from wearing. Also, as a retroactive fix on this make, you could sew a bit of elastic into the seam (if you can get to it) to help it hug a little closer.

    And on a completely unrelated note – I clicked through to feast my eyes on your lovely denim skinnies again and remembered how much I love that blouse you’re wearing with it there – the peach one with the romantic poet sleeves? Is that handmade? I’m really in love with it and am trying to contemplate a pattern hack to duplicate it!

  8. oonaballoona says:

    i think we were probably hammering away at denim bustiers at the very same time! mine, however, probably won’t see the light of day. yours is puuuuuuurty.

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