An underbust vest can create a bold, exotic look that will dress up an ordinary pair of jeans or plain skirt. Worn over a simple jersey top, the vest can accent modest styles such as a soft turtleneck or enhance bold scoop or V-necks. Begin with a good fitted vest pattern. Because the vest relies on a tailored look, it can be used to enhance a slender figure or assist foundation garments for a buxom one.
Making the Pattern
Measure yourself using a flexible cloth measuring tape, or measure a garment that fits well. You will need your full bust measurement, length from back of neck to waist, length from waist to underneath your bust and waist measurement.
Select a tailored vest pattern or medieval costume bodice pattern in your correct size. Pin the paper pattern to a piece of cotton or muslin. Cut out the pieces as if you were going to follow the pattern directions.
Baste the side seams and shoulder seams of the cloth pattern together. Baste the shaping darts in the back, and from the waist to just below the underbust line in front. Stand in front of a mirror that will let you see your upper half. Try on the basted cloth pattern.
Pin the front opening of the vest closed to just under the bust. Place a straight pin horizontally in the fabric on each side to mark the underbust line. Remove the pattern and lay it on a flat surface with the front side up.
Measure your hand from longest finger tip to knuckle. Measure from the top of your shoulder to the fullest part of your bust. Measure from the shoulder seam of the pattern to the center bust level. Mark with dressmaker's chalk or a pin. Measure in from the side seam using the finger length measurement at that level. Mark the spot.
Measure the underside of a brassiere cup on a bra that you own and like the way it fits. Measure up from the underbust line that amount, and draw a light line across the front of the pattern. Draw a straight vertical line from the center of the shoulder to the waist. Draw a curved line from the neck side of the shoulder seam. Connect to the spot marked above, then curve back to the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines.
Cut the pattern fabric along the curved line you just made. Try the pattern back on. It may take a couple of tries to get a fit you like. Mark all the darts and other fitting adjustments with dressmaker's chalk and pins. Take out all the basting stitches.
Making the Vest
Pin the cloth pattern to the fabric from which you wish to make the outside part of your vest. Cut out the pieces. Then, unpin the cloth pattern from the vest outside pieces, and pin the cloth pattern to the lining fabric. Cut out. Baste in the darts and other fitting adjustments. Check the fit. When you are satisfied, machine stitch in place.
Pin the lining to the outside fabric with wrong sides together. Machine stitch the lining and the back pieces together at the neckline and around the sleeves, and down the front but leave the sides open. Turn front pieces right side out, but leave the back pieces turned wrong side out.
Insert the front pieces that are turned right side out into the back that is still wrong side out. Match the shoulder seams. Make sure the outside fabric is facing outside fabric, and lining is facing lining. Pin the fabric together, matching seams and edges. Sew the shoulder seams together as if you were sewing up the leg of a pair of pants, turning them into a sort of fabric tube.
Turn the back parts right side out, revealing the front panels. Place the vest on a flat surface. Press the shoulder seams, arm seams and front lapel into place. Pin the side seams with wrong sides together, matching exterior fabric with exterior fabric and lining with lining. Machine stitch the side seams.
Turn the vest right side out, and press the side seams. Tuck in 1/2 inch of lining and exterior fabric along the bottom, forming a hem. Pin and then press in place. If desired, you can hold the hem in place with heat-activated adhesive hem tape or fabric glue placed between the fabric edges before pressing. If you prefer a more traditional approach, you can topstitch the bottom hem or use a hand slipstitch.
Make matching grommet holes on either side of the front opening, starting at the underbust line and going to the hem using the grommet tool and metal grommets. Lace the front together using heavy crochet cord in a complementary color.