In my recent moulage/dressform class, students used everything from a custom made full body form from Wolf to a display form found at Hobby Lobby. Evidence that you can get almost anything that resembles a body to work.
We ripped the existing base off the display form and replaced it with a wooden dowel. The dowel fit into a sturdy cast iron base and was a huge improvement over the rickety wooden one. Class begins with taking about 25 body measurements. We then draft a moulage, or mold, of the body. The drafted moulage pattern is cut from sturdy muslin and tested on the body. Fit adjustments are made and transferred back to the paper pattern. When all looks good, we cut the final dressform cover from heavier muslin and do one last fit check.
The muslin cover is draped onto the form. Placement and amount of padding is assessed and we start padding the form to fill out the cover. Depending on where padding is needed, I’ll suggest using various bust cups, cotton quilt batting or polyester batting. The poly batting is steamed to compress and firm up the shape. The display form fit her neck and shoulders surprisingly well. Bust, waist and hips can all be customized with layers of compressed batting.
At the opposite end of the dressform spectrum is a custom made full body form from Wolf. This student had wrestled with fitting problems for years and tried everything from body scan versions to this custom model but nothing seemed to address a key fit issue.
She had already drafted a custom cover to fine tune the fit. It needed firmer padding and a key adjustment for a high hip. After drafting the moulage it was test fit and elastic tied around the waist to pinpoint the fit issue. The right hip significantly higher causing skirts and pants to ride up on the right side. Notice the position of the waist when her back draft is laid out on a grid. Lowering the hem on that side really doesn’t fix the problem.
We carefully marked the dressform cover and added padding to duplicate the hip contours. The finished form is a much better fitting aid with balance lines correctly placed.
We tested the fit using several of her dresses. The new mannequin pinpointed the need for a slight full bust alteration to remove the drag lines around the bust dart. The moulage patter is used to create a custom sloper or basic pattern which can be used as the basis for drafting additional styles and correcting commercial patterns.
The next custom moulage/custom dressform class will be held January 10, 11 and 12 in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. For more information: Dressform Class
I recently had the pleasure of working with a delightful bride and her mother. She had chosen a simple, yet dramatic, gown of heavy white silk crepe. With the fall wedding planned to take place outside in a vineyard, she envisioned a coat to compliment the gown.
I felt attempting to match fabrics was risky. Fortunately, as with most made-to-order gowns, the bride’s mom was able to order matching fabric from the bridal manufacturer. Fashion illustration isn’t my strength but this sketch shows the gown and accompanying coat.
Ordinarily I would start with body measurements to create a custom drafted pattern. Anyone who has done bridal work, knows how much measurements and the bustline can change depending on undergarments. Therefore, the coat needed to be drafted according to measurements taken over the fitted gown. After gown alterations were completed, I put the gown on a mannequin and started drafting the coat.
Here’s the finished pattern with princess seams moved into the armseye and neckline extending from shoulder to waistline. Long slim sleeves will be added. The skirt is quite flared to match the fullness of the gown.
I absolutely LOVE my cutting table. Covered in canvas, 60 inches wide with vertical grain lines in black, horizontal lines in red and diagonals in green. It makes doing layouts for long gowns so easy. It also worked well for aligning the veil.
The bride planned to wear this lovely heirloom veil of intricate lace which was a perfect compliment to the solid crepe gown. We noticed a few small tears in the veil and I felt that attempting to repair them would have resulted in noticeable stitches. The decision was made to back the entire veil with soft tulle. The underlying layer of new tulle would stabilize the fragile netting.
Working on ivory tulle on an ivory canvas background makes seeing your work next to impossible. I often do these projects over a layer of black canvas which makes the work much, much easier on the eyes. The detail of this lace was just amazing. Machine stitching would have been a disaster, so the supporting tulle was hand stitched in place, then trimmed away from the edge.
This fall was a crazy bridal season and I forgot to take process photos during the construction. I did receive these. Perfect for a late fall outdoor wedding. Congratulations! I loved working with you.
Having a dressform that duplicates the figure you’re sewing for makes the process SO much easier! Your model stands perfectly still for hours and doesn’t mind being stuck over and over with pins. She also eliminates the need for multiple in-person fittings, which was a life-saver during the worst days of COVID.
Here’s my process to create this gown which made it’s debut at the recent opening of Carnegie Hall in NYC. The design was inspired by this exquisite pleated tulle from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics.
I start by draping the fabric on the mannequin and experimenting with how it will drape and best positioning of the design. This fabric was meant to have a full skirt with one seam at center back. Additional seaming would have interrupted the flow of fabric. I also secured a full tulle underskirt to the form to get a clear vision of how much fabric was needed for the skirt.
The bodice looked best using the denser side of the lame portion at the neck and semi sheer section along the waist. I tried two versions, one using the sheer tulle for the back, a second option with the gold. I decided on the first option as the sheer back seemed more interesting; the gold back was too much gold. With the skirt basted into a grosgrain ribbon waistband, the design was complete.
Pattern work for front bodice: left photo is 1/2 of front which will be cut with fold at center front. In order to cut it with the neck gathered fuller, I drew 6 evenly spaced lines from neck to waist, left the pattern attached at the waist and spread out along the neck edge until the side seam was parallel to center front. The altered pattern was traced onto a new sheet of paper.
Left photo shows altered pattern on the tulle. Neck is at the top, waist at bottom with center fold at the right edge. Placed on the form, checked for accuracy and waistline thread traced. The back was cut from sheer portion of the tulle with pleating running vertically.
Basted everything together for a final fit check. I opted to finish the neckline with a stand collar of gathered tulle cut from the gold portion. A zipper in both underskirt and tulle allows the outer layer of tulle to hang freely; attaching it to the inner layers resulted in unattractive pulling. An inner waistband of grosgrain ribbon holds everything in place and supports the weight of the skirt.
Final try-on in the studio; fit was perfect on the first go thanks to a custom form and worn for gala night out.
I’ve been working on additional trim ideas to customize and embellish your custom French jacket. Alice, of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC, sent me a generous sampling of her new fall boucles to play with.
When creating custom trim, the possibilities are almost endless. Here’s a few variations I came up with for one fabric. I used varying textures of black yarn combined with fibers pulled from the fabric to create coordinated trims.
This trim also utilizes fibers from the boucle as well as a textured grey and white yarn.
To make this trim, I made a crochet chain, turned and worked a double crochet in each stitch. Inserted a large Trim Tube (available in my shop) and steamed to even out the stitches. Then, using a smaller size tube, wove through the chain and inserted a metallic fiber from the boucle. After nudging the metallic ribbon to one side, wove the tube through again, alternating the up and down weave, and threaded a second metallic ribbon through.
For the trim with fringing, I cut a narrow band of boucle fabric and pulled threads from each side. The crochet band was accented with a row of chain stitches on each side using grey yarn pulled from the fabric. Stitch on top of the fringed strip for the completed trim. A second variation uses chain stitching with black/white yarn around the outer edge. I prefer the softer look of the fringed version.
Here’s another idea to coordinate with this open weave ivory with gold and silver metallic threads. The version on the left is crocheted with narrow strips of silk georgette fabric bias cut 1cm wide and used as yarn. The version on the right uses wool/angora yarn. A chain of gold and silver metallic yarn is threaded through the crochet chain.
I’m also experimenting with adding pearls to the trim.
Finally, while sleuth shopping in Chanel boutiques, I found this jacket and was drawn to the unique use of ribbons and yarns in the weave. It’s listed for $$$ on EBay (untrimmed version) but stumbled across a VERY similar fabric on Etsy.
If you’re interested in a 6 day class focused on creating your own unique jacket and trim, join me in Palm Beach Gardens, FL from November 8-13, 2021. Details can be found in the shop under Classes.
I’ve created a new category on my main menu which will be links to free patterns, sewing/workroom tips, and other topics which readers may wish to refer back to. Not everything is linked yet but will be updated as soon as I organize. Having everything listed under one category will eliminate the need to search through past posts.
Here’s my pattern for a shoulder pad I designed several years ago. I love the shape of this shoulder pad as it has a built-in sleeve head and you can vary the thickness according to your needs. I’ve started making these using wool felt (which is available at JoAnns Fabrics) for a very couture shoulder pad. The wool felt is not inexpensive but one yard goes a long way and it’s a perfect use for the discount coupon. Cotton quilt batting also works well.
Several years ago I began experimenting with techniques for a better pattern match along the princess seams of the French jacket. Here’s a photo and link to the post explaining my approach.
Since then, I’ve continued to refine the method. It’s easy to achieve this match across the upper chest on model shapes but what about figures that have more curves? I started by giving one of my mannequins a much curvier (about a G cup) body and started playing with the fabric.
I purchased this lovely boucle fabric from Apple Annie Fabrics and started experimenting with custom braids to compliment the fabric. Possible choices of materials: navy cotton tulle, gray silk georgette, chunky ivory and charcoal yarns to stuff tubing, gray yarns, ivory with flecks of gold yarn and thin silver metallic yarn.
First step was to make narrow bias tubing using the tulle and georgette. Cut bias strips of fabric about 1.5 inches wide. Fold in half lengthwise and stitch 1/4 inch away from folded edge. Trim seam to 1/8 inch.
I’ve been writing this blog since 2014 and am thrilled to learn the tutorials presented are helpful to other sewists. Joyce posted photos of her completed jacket on Instagram and tagged me as a resource for her construction methods. I invited her to write a post, highlighting the information she found especially valuable.
Thank you Joyce, for taking the time to write this and allowing me to share your work.
Hello! My name is Joyce. After my recent completion of a French jacket, Mary asked me to write about my experience in a post for her blog. Before we get started, here’s a bit about me: I live in southern Manitoba, Canada with my husband, who is also my best friend! We have raised two children, who have blessed us with five grandchildren. I am a retired Interior Design Consultant & Kitchen Designer. My talented mother taught me to sew, crochet, knit, and hand embroider. From the time I was five years old, she allowed me to use her sewing machine. I made a lot of clothes for my dolls until the age of ten when I began sewing my own clothes. My favourite things to sew are coats, jackets and dresses. My favourite fabrics are made of natural fibers.
About seven years ago, I began dreaming of making a French jacket. While reading blogs of sewists who documented their experiences on the subject, I became aware of the hours involved, as well as the couture techniques they had learned along the way. It was when I discovered Mary’s blog, cloningcouture.com, that I soon realized what a treasure store of information it is. Her precision and her impeccable attention to detail reveal incredible skill. I was amazed that she was willing to share her extensive knowledge and experience with her readers at no cost to them. I read each post in detail, bookmarking those I wanted to refer to later. By early 2019, I had collected all my supplies for this project, and was ready to begin. My fabric is appropriately called “Giverny Tweed”. The lining is silk charmeuse.
Of course, the first step was to make a well-fitting toile. I cut the body of the jacket according to Vogue 8804, but in reading online reviews, I heard repeatedly that the sleeve in this pattern was wide. Since I have thin arms, I knew I would have to draft a narrower sleeve. This is where Mary’s post https://cloningcouture.com/2014/08/04/chanel-and-the-sleeve/came to the rescue. I know she has since updated it, but her original method worked for me! I also changed my sleeves to full-length instead of the three-quarter length from the pattern.
As many of you already know, after fitting the toile, it is cut apart and used as the pattern to cut the pieces in the tweed and lining fabrics, adding wide seam and hem allowances. In hindsight, I should have fused Pro-Sheer Elegance Couture interfacing to the tweed at this point, since I was working with a fabric that frays very easily. Mary gives this advice in the following post: https://cloningcouture.com/2018/02/15/finishing-details-the-french-jacket/Instead, I used a stepped zigzag to secure the fibers along the edges.
Over the next couple of weeks, I interfaced the fronts with silk organza, quilted the silk charmeuse lining to the front and back pieces, before joining them along the princess and side seams. I really enjoyed slipstitching the lining seams together by hand.
Now that the body of the jacket was taking shape, it was time to turn my attention to the trim. I was unable to find a ready-made trim that complemented my fabric, but then I remembered Mary’s post on making your own. My first attempt was a crocheted chain using fibers from the tweed, but it was too narrow and did not contrast enough with the fabric. I was intrigued by Mary’s detailed instructions on Kumihimo braiding, so I decided to try my hand at it. See her post here: https://cloningcouture.com/2017/08/30/create-custom-trim-for-your-french-jacket/After locating a Kumihimo plate at my local fabric store and watching some YouTube videos on 10-strand braiding, I was ready to begin. After a couple of false starts, while deciding which fibers to use, I settled on four blue strands and two ivory from my fabric, in combination with four strands of ivory Phildar yarn left over from a sweater I knitted for my husband many years ago.
This was the set-up I used. It is certainly not the traditional way, but it worked for me. Every few inches I had to stop and release more material from my “bobbins”. It took me about three days to work out my setup and make three and a half yards of trim.
You can see it being “auditioned” here with the buttons I planned to use. Btw, although these were inexpensive buttons, they remind me of Coco Chanel’s favorite camellia rose.
After making the trim, I did some work on the sleeves, then packed the project away before going on vacation in March 2019. As it turned out, this is where the project stalled out until a couple of weeks ago.
I had been putting off making the handworked buttonholes, but one day I gathered up courage and got to work. First, I made a sample buttonhole to work out the method. Then, in a pleasant afternoon’s sewing, I made five buttonholes on the jacket front. You can see Mary’s post on buttonholes here: https://cloningcouture.com/2020/01/07/buttonholes-and-more-trim/
After crossing this hurdle, I knew I was on the home stretch. The next two days were spent finishing the sleeves.
After this, I applied the trim to front and neck edges with a running stitch and the occasional backstitch. It was actually easier to do than I thought it would be. Then I fellstitched the lining to the jacket edges. This was my favourite step!
In summary, I learned so much about couture sewing methods while working on this project. I easily spent a hundred hours on it, but the result is something I will wear with much satisfaction for years to come. It has also given me a great appreciation for the work of couturiers. They are indeed a skilled lot!
Mary, many thanks for all your informative, detailed and inspiring posts on couture sewing! Thanks also for letting me share my experience with your readers. You can find me on Instagram at amakersshowandtell, where I post photos of my projects. They include sewing, watercolor painting, home decorating, gardening, knitting, and occasionally, upholstery. Best regards, Joyce
This is a variation of the trim in the last post. I’ve used the same crocheted base and woven three knitted cords through. For the base, I used a sport weight yarn and size E (3.5mm) hook. This will produce trim which is about 5/8 to 3/4 inch wide.
Crochet a chain the length of trim. Turn and work double crochet in the 4th chain from the hook. Work double crochet in every stitch.
Knit icord three times plus several inches the length of trim. You can use three strands of the same icord or any combination. Insert the knitted icord into the smallest tube it will pull easily through. The knitted cords can be threaded on a large needle and pulled through, but feeding them through a tube is easier and prevents the cord from fraying. A larger tube will be more difficult to weave through the crocheted base, especially when inserting the second and third rows of cord.
Weave the tube with cord inserted in and out of the crochet stitches. Hold the ends of the crocheted base and cord in one hand and pull back to remove the tube, leaving the knitted cord in place.
To prevent the knitted cord from unraveling, tie thread around the cord at the end and beginning of each length. Weave the second cord through, alternating with the first cord. Nudge the first and second cords to one side and repeat with a third cord.
A row of chain stitches can be worked in the front of each stitch along the outer edges if desired.
More examples of trim with three cords woven through the basic crochet base. The top trim used three strands of the same cord and a chain stitch worked along the edges. The bottom trim used fine variegated sock yarn for cords, the darker shade along the edges and lighter shade in the middle. Have fun creating additional combinations. Trims using a three strand braid as a base coming next.