Steel Boning • Boning for Wedding Gowns • Boning for Formal Wear
Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje
Steel Boning for Wedding Gowns
Steel boning is an important engineering tool because the female body widens both above and below the waistline. Most wedding gowns have a tightly fitted bodice -- with or without sleeves, on or off the shoulders -- and a full, heavy skirt. We've all seen a sagging bodice, the problem compounded by a heavy skirt pulling the whole gown downward. Steel boning helps to counteract the force of gravity in such situations.
Steel Boning Application in Wedding Gowns
Although used primarily in strapless and off-the-shoulder wedding gowns, boning can be
useful in most fitted bodices. Bones, which used to be made of whalebone, are narrow pieces of metal or
plastic of varying lengths. Spiral steel boning, which is very lightweight despite its name, can
be shaped laterally as well as bent forward and back. It is sold in finished lengths in half inch
increments. Be sure to note sizes when ordering. Plastic boning is easily cut to desired lengths.
Steel boning is inserted into narrow fabric or ribbon channels that is machine basted to the muslin and later removed and re-attached to the underlining inside the wedding gown. Fabric channels are sometimes sold with the bones. When they aren't, you can easily make them with lightweight cotton or ribbon. The bones should rest snugly inside the channels. If the channels are too tight, the bones will have a tendency to stand up on their sides; if the channels are too loose, the bones will shift rather than stay in place. Allow a little extra length so that the channels can be accurately cut to size when they're being applied. When basting the channels to the muslin, be sure to leave the bottom end of each channel open for inserting the bones.
For best results, you'll probably want to use steel boning in several locations beyond those customarily suggested by most sewing pattern directions. The security that boning gives far outweighs its presence (it is, in fact, undetectable when worn, if placed properly). Experimenting with boning placement is part of the fitting process.
Typical boning placements for both off-the-shoulder and strapless bodices are shown in figures 3-5 and 3-6 below. You can see the internal structure and support that both of the bodices have. Both would stay put, show off the wedding gown and wearer to best advantage, and add to the wearer's comfort.
Experiment with boning during the muslin fittings, and don't be afraid to place it where you may not have considered placing it before. Remember, steel boning is your tool to counteract certain natural tendencies of the gown. If the bodice wants to droop, straighten it up (figure 3-7); if it wants to pull, pull it in the opposite direction with boning (figure 3-8). As you work with boning, you will become more familiar with it a tool, realizing what a valuable ally it is.
This off-the-shoulder bodice has 15 pieces of boning, not at all excessive for a well-constructed garment. Think of this gown as "hanging" from the highest points of the bodice (a, b, c, and d), almost like a suspension bridge. Other bones help smooth out the side seams (e and f); support and smooth out the bodice back (g and h); and further support the back and highlight its curve (i and j). Bones (k), (l), and (m) ensure that a pointed Basque or V waist will stay pointed, while bones (n) and (o) counteract any pulling across the top bodice edge. Notice that no boning has been placed directly over the bust, where it can give an unnatural stiffness and leave a visible ridge. Some full bustlines, though, may require boning in this area.
This strapless bodice uses 11 bones. Depending on the design, fullness of the bust, and fabrication, boning may be placed at the center front of the bodice, ending either at the top or part-way up (a); under the bust, up to the point at which the fullness starts (b and c); alongside the fullness of the bust (d and e); along the side seams for a smooth line (f and g); and along the back for support, smoothness, and to accentuate the curve of the back (h, i, j, and k).
If the bodice wants to sag, counteract the sagging with boning.
If the front wants to pull along the edges of the V, counteract the pulling with boning.