Recreating Couture

What do you do when this extraordinary fabric finds its way to the sewing room?

Here’s the designer dress to clone.

The pattern is a slim fit basic bodice with princess seams ending in the armseye, both front and back. The skirt draft is a flared skirt, split along princess lines and pleats added. Precise pattern matching is critical. The easiest way is to cut every garment section from translucent pattern paper; full front bodice/skirt, right and left bodice/skirt pieces. Lay everything out and be sure the motifs line up before cutting anything.

Notice that the grain lines are centered on each skirt section. The fold and lap lines of pleats are also marked, making it easy to position pattern pieces accurately.

This fabric frayed like CRAZY so each edge was serged using super fine thread; my favorite is Gutermann Scala 360, TEX weight 8. The serged edge adds no bulk and can’t be felt. This fabric was also super resistant to pressing. It folded easily along the crossgrain but required loads of steam plus my large tailors clapper (made from lengths of unfinished hardwood) to convince the seams to lie flat.

I chose a crisp silk taffeta line the skirt but felt it was too stiff for the bodice lining. Silk charmeuse was perfect. Lining extends to the edges of armholes/ neckline and fell stitched in place. For the skirt hem, I cut a 4” wide facing from silk taffeta and applied it to the hem. Edge stitching along the inside of the pleats keeps them in place. French thread tacks keep the skirt lining in place.


28 thoughts on “Recreating Couture”

  1. Mary, it’s stunning in every way.

    Very couture and a fresh look. When I first looked at the fabric it looked more like bedspread or drapery fabric, and I thought it was too traditional and large a pattern to work on a princess line dress. I’m dazzled with the effort you put into marking the pattern pieces to precisely place on the printed fabric. Then there is the exquisite machine and hand sewing and choice of linings.

    This dress would sell for thousands of dollars in a high end store.

    In a world where there are now few home sewists and too many of those who want their own take on ‘fast fashion’ assembly (quantity over quality), you are such an inspiration on taking it slow and doing every step in a couture professional manner.

    You and the dress have made my day!!

    1. Thank you for your comments. The original dress did sell for thousands. Not a fast fashion make considering the time it takes to match and cut each piece.

    2. Sandra, this is a wonderful comment. I have discovered the wonderful Mary Funt late in life and she has really opened up my eyes to a whole new world of sewing. I’ve always been the cut-out-the-pattern-sew-the-dress kind of seamstress, but now I actually do the fitting and make a toile or two just to begin. To say nothing of actually thinking about structure! Discovering Mary and high-end sewing has been nothing less than an enlightenment.

      We so (forgive the pun) need to teach young people the joy of creating finely crafted clothing. I started sewing at age three, when my mother started us on doll clothes, teaching us to lay out patterns and sew the clothes by hand. But now I know only four people who sew, and one of them is my sister, so she barely counts. I offered to teach sewing to a local Girl Scout (Girl Guides) troop, but no one was interested! I was astonished. How could one not want to teach children a skill that combines both creativity and independence? I may contact the troop again or perhaps a local school. Do you know of any materials for teaching sewing? I may have found my project for old age.

      1. Thank you so much for the glowing compliments. I’m thrilled you find the blog so valuable and are enjoying “slow sewing.” Sewing used to be a life skill and sadly it’s no longer taught in schools. I’ve been working with my granddaughters, teaching them to sew. Sewing develops hand-eye coordination, requires plenty of math, teaches planning and problem solving skills and encourages creativity. The list can go on and on.

      2. Robin, you made very good points. Sewing was easy for me when I was a more normal size, but now it’s a huge challenge. And now that I took a Pattern Fitting Course for a darted and princess line shirt, I see how other people of all shapes and sizes are also challenged with a good fit.

        Although the inside of my clothes were nicely finished I never did the inside couture finishes.

        I love looking at the inside of a professionally sewn garment as much as the outside. I’m fascinated with pattern design and high end sewing skills. I feel like I’ve fallen into a vat of chocolate! Honest.

        You’re so right about all of the mental and physical skills involved in professional sewing. Math skills are a must, plus being able to visualize the body and how and where the pattern/fabric will hug or not hug the body. Then there’s learning how to cut and mark properly and all the other techniques for a well crafted garment. It takes years to develop these skills as there’s always something new to learn.

        I also now look at a pattern and RTW and I see how if I made it I could make variations that give it a very different look.

        But fast cheap fashion has done a lot of damage to home sewing and the quality of fabric we used to be able to buy at most fabric stores. I’m not brave enough to order fabric from most better quality places online as I worry about getting the right colour/weight, etc. Some do offer you to buy swatches which would help.

        One day I want to order fabric for a soft jacket from Linton Tweeds in England. I used to sew a lot of wool crepe dresses, etc. but even wool crepe is hard to find now.

  2. I forgot to mention, that with a large print and so many princess line pieces, a lot of fabric was needed to make this dress. I can see why it would end up to be such an expensive dress. A creative sewist could hopefully use the left over pieces to incorporate into another garment.

    Also, I forgot to mention in my previous comment that I love love love the way the skirt hangs – crisp but not overly crisp. It shows off your truly professional expertise.

    Are you able to tell us where the fabric came from and what it cost per metre?

    1. I have some bits leftover but the pattern probably couldn’t be matched on them. I try and use minimal fabric, hence the careful layout of everything before cutting. This fabric was an end piece from the designer and cost $350/ yard.

  3. What stunning fabric and as always you have created a masterpiece.

    How wonderful that you ate passing on your incredible skills and experience.

    Pattern matching always terrifies me !!

  4. What a beautiful dress and fabric! May I ask if you faced the arm scythes and neckline with the same fabric before putting in the lining? I am currently making a dress with a similar bodice and not sure if I should face them or not. Thanks!

    1. Thank you. I didn’t face the armseyes and neck. The fabric was thick and I didn’t want any added bulk. With few exceptions, I don’t use facings. Stay stitch just short of the desired finished edge and turn the edges under. Turn the lining under so it just hides the staystitching. Fell stitch the lining in place. Understitch by hand if the lining wants to flip to the outside.

  5. It is perfection! What an amazing dress. People, including many of the independent patterns companies are all about how fast you can make it. I hate the lack of good interior finish. My grandmother, who sewed, taught me that the inside should be as well done as the outside. I used to sew that way, but it mostly no longer fits my lifestyle, but then I never achieved your level of sewing. It’s always such a pleasure to see not only the outside, but the inside of your garments. Where on earth did you find the same fabric as the original. Or at least it looks the same.

    1. Thank you. This style could be made fast and easy or by couture methods. I think it’s the finishing details that separate ordinary from high quality garments. I try and have my interiors look almost as good as the outside. The fabric is the same as the original; an end cut from the designer. It’s a very high quality Italian silk brocade.

  6. Mary, You are awesome and so inspiring. I love reading about your work and methods. I have done some couture methods in my dressmaking but haven’t had the opportunities to do as much as I would like. Thank you

  7. Reading and following your blog is like sneaking a peek into a real designer workshop where the magic happens! Love love love the hem! Using such gorgeous expensive fabric must have taken quite a while to breathe and form a plan before even setting the pattern pieces down. Always a delight to learn more divine techniques from you, Mary! Thank you!

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