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Strapless bodice has staying power

If you have ever wondered how a strapless bodice is able to support a 20-pound ball gown or opera costume, the secret lies in underlining the bodice with stiff interfacing, almost a canvas weight, and proper placement of polyester boning.

So says Terry Fox, London ball gown specialist.

Underline the entire bodice with 100 percent cotton underlining. The use of cotton is important because it attracts other fabrics, enabling all components of the bodice to work as one unit.

Stiff interfacing is cut to the shape of the garment, minus seam allowances. Then trim off 1/16th inch all around interfacing.

Center the interfacing on the cotton underlining. Sew very close to the edge of the interfacing with a straight stitch. Curl the bodice upwards as you sew the interfacing to the underlining to begin shaping the bodice to the body. Sew down the center front of the bodice underlining.

Quilt interfacing to the underlining in vertical parallel stitches approximately 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch apart, starting at one side and ending at the other. Curl bodice upward in front of the needle as you sew.

Cut polyester boning 1/2 inch short of the top center front and shape to a point exactly at the center front bodice seam's lower pointed edge. Sear boning ends with a match.

Sew boning to interfaced underlining, shaping boning by rubbing between fingers so that it curls toward you. Sew boning to bodice on all sides of the boning. If your bodice is not strapless and has a sweetheart neckline, end boning just under the bust.

Hand baste underlining to fashion fabric.

Now assemble the bodice. Because all bodice pieces are underlined and interfaced with stiff canvas, it is difficult to sew princess and side seams. The goal is to sew seams right next to the interfacing edge, using the interfacing as a template.

Clip seams. Press open. Hand tack seams open.

Cover decorative piping twice to give a more luxurious appearance. First cover filler cord with bias cut lining, sewing close to the cord with the help of a zipper foot. Trim off seam allowances close to the stitching.

Cover piping again, now with the fashion fabric. If using white fashion fabric, consider using a colored lining that will produce a beautiful shadow effect, giving a subtle color change to the piping.

Attach piping to garment by hand. Sew lining to garment.

Sandra Betzina is the hostess of Sew Perfect on cable television's Home & Garden Television Network.