The In the Navy Bodysuit
Posted on Sunday the 17th March 2019 by Anna-Jo Sews
This month I decided to stretch my skills by making something I’ve never tackled before: a bodysuit. Yep, those nineties fashion staples seem to have had a revival in recent years, and despite my slightly traumatic memories of a too-tight chocolate brown bodysuit, I’ve often found myself wishing for a way to keep knit tops tucked in neatly. And what do you know, a bodysuit really is the perfect solution!
I’ve had my eye on the Rowan Bodysuit Pattern for a while now, as the pattern comes with three neckline options (crew, V and turtle neck), three sleeve lengths and can be made as either a fitted tee or bodysuit. That’s pretty much a whole wardrobe of tops covered! It’s from Megan Nielsen Patterns, and as I’ve sewn a couple of her patterns before I knew it was likely to fit well and have good instructions. I wasn’t disappointed, but more on that in a minute.
I’ve not worked with a paper pattern from Megan Nielsen before, and was pleased to find a pretty thick instruction booklet included along with the pattern printed on tissue. I decided to go for the V neck option (probably the toughest neckline in knits) with the full length sleeves, to give me a base layer that will be perfect for the colder months.
This pattern needs a fabric with at least 40% stretch, although it isn’t clear whether you need 4 way stretch. I decided I’d better make sure I did have stretch in all directions as there’s nothing worse than a bodysuit cutting into your undercarriage. Yep, speaking from experience here. There’s a reason I haven’t worn one of these since the nineties!
In the end I decided on a plain Lightweight Viscose Jersey with Lycra, in the dark navy blue colourway. It’s a lovely soft and stretchy jersey, but if you want some, don’t delay as it’s reduced and only a few colours are still in stock. This navy is a really rich, dark navy, and I can see it working well for all kinds of summer weight tops or super-slinky skirts and dresses.
I made up a size Medium as my measurements were around there. Okay, so my waist was an inch larger at the time of measuring, but I figured that shouldn’t matter with such a stretchy fabric. In the end I managed to cut the top out of just over a metre (the booklet said I would need 1.5 with full length sleeves). That’s the beauty of tracing out your patterns so you don’t have to cut on the fold, and then playing pattern tetris!
Lightweight viscose jersey is never the easiest to cut, but I tamed it with a rotary cutter and making sure none of the yardage was hanging off the side of the table and stretching things out.
The pattern booklet for this is excellent, and really holds your hand through every stage of construction, often including various different options for doing things, depending on the sort of finish you want. The only point I deviated from the instructions was to add Stretch Interfacing to the neckband, sleeve hem allowance and the crotch facings. I think you wouldn’t need this if you were using a more stable cotton lycra or similar, but for a fabric this lightweight and shifty it was definitely the right choice. It only used a few small scraps I had left from another project, but those tiny scraps made all the difference! I also used this Stay Tape for the shoulders, as the pattern suggests you might want to.
The construction was pretty straightforward and I was particularly impressed with the neckline section instructions. I’ve only once attempted a V neck in a knit, and it didn’t go well. Admittedly it was my very first go at sewing a knit top and I picked a tricky fabric. However, I think if I’d had Megan’s instructions back then I might have done better. As it was I had to unpick this twice to get it perfect, but it was well worth the effort. And I only had to unpick the bit right at the V as you sew this first with a straight stitch, before sewing in the rest of the band.
My only difficulties sewing this were when I got a bit tired, my attention wandered and I sewed the sleeves on and the side seams with a 0.6 cm seam allowance rather than the 1.5 cm called for. Oops! I tried it on in an attempt to convince myself it would be okay, but it definitely looked odd around the underarm region. Luckily I only had to unpick a small amount of overlocking either side of the underarm seam to resew the armscye seam, followed by the side seams. Phew! Much better fit achieved, and again, well worth the effort.
You finish this bodysuit by sewing in Prym Elastic and the crotch facings, and then adding snaps (or hook and loop fasteners) at the crotch. I originally ordered these Sew In Fasteners, but in the end opted to use some Prym Ring Snap Fasteners from my stash. I just thought I’d get a more secure attachment with these, and there was no fiddly hand stitching required.
This was a fun sew for me as it was a little more involved than your average knit top, and I appreciated the extra challenge. And perhaps more importantly, I’m thrilled with the finished garment. The fit is pretty much perfect—figure hugging and flattering. If I’m going to be nit-picky, the V neck is possibly a little narrow at the top for me, and I’ll definitely have a go at widening it if I make this variation again. But it still looks great as it is. Just a preference thing, really.
The bit I’m particularly impressed with the Rowan bodysuit is the fit at the bottom. And by “the bottom”, I mean my bottom! It’s got a proper low cut on the leg and under the cheeks, which is great both for getting a slim silhouette under clothing and to avoid wedgies. There, I’ve said it. Bodysuits are, after all, notorious for giving wedgies. That and making it difficult to go to the toilet, but that’s something I’ll just have to resign myself to.
But back to the fit: I have a long body. I generally have to add a couple of inches to pattern pieces between the waist and the crotch, which is why I don’t often make trousers. So bodysuits from the shops have never fit me particularly well. Thanks to the four way stretch of this fabric I don’t have that problem with my Rowan bodysuit, but I’ll definitely consider lengthening the pattern should I make it in something with less vertical stretch. Seriously, though, this is really comfy to wear. I can walk around for hours and sit down, all without even realising I’m wearing a bodysuit. And I never have that urge to tuck my top in, as it’s already perfectly tucked. Hurrah!
I will definitely be sewing up some of the other variations of this pattern, and might well use the bodysuit bottom to frankenpattern some of my other favourite knit tops into bodysuits. I can see bodysuits playing a bigger part in my wardrobe, once my youngest is weaned and I no longer need breastfeeding access in my clothes.
But until then, this top is going to be reserved for evenings out when we’ve got a babysitter looking after the littl’uns. I can see it looking really cute with a pair of skinny jeans or a long skirt, and perhaps a more fancy cardigan. Hmm, I think I need a more fancy cardigan to wear with it. Better hit up Minerva for some supplies!
Happy sewing, everyone!
All materials for this make were kindly supplied by Minerva in return for an honest blog post. Thank you, Minerva!