Uncategorized

Color Matched Trim

Finding trim is easier if you’re looking for black, white or common color. This fuschia jacket made from a wonderful soft Mendel Goldberg boucle wasn’t going to be easy, particularly if I wanted to avoid introducing another color. I did add silver or gold, depending on buttons.

When creating a trim, I make several variations to experiment with different yarns. If you’ve attended one of my trim classes, the techniques will be familiar.

All examples of trim use the same basic method. I make samples about 4 inches long. Once you decide which version to use, calculate the finished amount of trim you need. Measure the sample created with 20 stitches. If 20 stitches gives you 4 inches of trim and you need 40 inches, then start with a chain of 200 stitches.

First create a crochet base. Chain 20 plus 3. Turn and make a double crochet in every stitch. Weave a brass tube through the finished base to block it and even out the stitches.

Let cool and remove the tube. Weave a smaller tube through the stitches as shown. Pull the desired yarn or fabric through. Push the woven strand to one side and weave the tube through, alternating in and out with the first strand.

Chain stitch around the edge. Here I’m using a strand of flag yarn pulled from the boucle fabric. Using strands of yarns from the fabric guarantees a perfect match.

Finish with a chain stitch in the center. I did a version in gold and one in silver to audition with different buttons.

Trim 1: Using a size F hook, crochet the base with Sesia Elegant yarn with color: Rose. Chain 23, turn and make double crochet in every stitch.

Cut bias strips of fuschia silk double georgette 1.5 inches wide, fold in half lengthwise and stitch scant 1/4” from folded edge. Turn and stuff the silk tube with bulky yarn.

Weave the silk tubes though alternate double crochet stitches. Make a chain stitch through the middle with gold yarn. Finish the edges with a chain stitch using flag yarn pulled from leftover boucle.

Trim 2: Same as trim 1 except use size D hook for the base. Weave 3/8” wide bias strips of silk georgette through. Chain stitch through the middle with size C hook. Edge with the flag yarn from fabric.

Trim 3: Crochet base making double crochet every stitch. Weave one row of gold tape yarn, one row 3/8” wide silk georgette, one row gold tape yarn. Edge with flag yarn from the fabric.

Trim 4: Crochet base using gold metallic yarn and size E hook. Chain stitch along each edge with flag yarn from boucle fabric.

Trim 5: Use 3/8” wide bias strips of silk georgette as yarn. Crochet the base. Weave 4 strands pink tinsel yarn plus two strands metallic yarn through. Chain stitch inside the edge with gold metallic yarn.

Hard to make a decision. Possibilities are endless and by making your own trim you can guarantee a perfect match. Two opportunities to further explore French jacket construction and trims: New England Retreat, September 19-24 and Couture Sewing Class, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, January 16-21. 2023. These classes are not limited to making a French jacket but if you choose to work on a jacket, you will receive the identical information presented in the November French jacket class. The classes are small and allow for individualized instruction. You will receive my 100 plus page manual describing construction techniques unique to the French jacket plus an extended session on trims.

Enjoy creating your own unique trims.

couture sewing, Uncategorized

New England Sewing Retreat

Monday, September 19 through Saturday, September 25, 2022

What could be better than 6 glorious days of uninterrupted sewing in the picturesque town of Bristol, Rhode Island. Join me for expert help creating your custom design. This is a great opportunity to work on a French jacket, tackle lace, refine fitting issues or work on an unfamiliar style. Class runs from 9 AM to about 5:30 PM but you will have 24 hour access to the studio in case you want to work overtime.

Those choosing to work on a French jacket will receive my 100 plus page manual of valuable construction tips plus we’ll do a session on creating your own custom trim. I also bring a number of jackets I’ve constructed for you to examine.

If you would rather work on fitting issues, bring a few toiles you would like help with. I’ll fit you and mark any changes needed. Then you’ll learn how to transfer those changes to your pattern. You can also work on creating a master sloper to be used in making necessary changes to commercial patterns.

Our home for the week will be a lovely 4 bedroom house with detached finished garage which will be setup as a spacious sewing studio. One block away is an additional house with 3 bedrooms. There will be a large cutting table, individual work spaces as well as professional pressing equipment. Bring your own sewing machine or borrow one if you prefer. Let me know you need a machine when registering.

While investigating the area, I discovered that Apple Annie Fabrics, owned by Anne Kendall is a 15 minute drive from our studio. Anne and I spent the morning chatting sewing and I received a tour of her well stocked store.

In addition to fabrics she has a large selection of thread, notions, patterns, etc. so not to worry if you forget to bring a necessary item. I also loved her inspiration wall of fashion.

I also spotted a wonderful bolt of boucle which I’ll be using for an upcoming custom trim class. This particular fabric combines black with deep rose threads; I’m envisioning multiple variations using coordinating yarns along with the fabric fibers.

Cost of the 6 day class plus 7 nights accommodations is $2250. Class without room is $1500. There will be welcome drinks/snacks on Sunday 9/18 plus 2 dinners: an authentic New England lobster boil and Portuguese style grilled feast. All are welcome to join us for dinner.

For a link to registration and additional information click here.

Also complete the contact form. Please note that all participants are required to have received a COVID vaccination.

Any questions, please email me at MF953@aol.com or mary@cloningcouture.com

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

New Classes Open

Registration is open for classes in Palm Beach Gardens. Join the 7 day French jacket class from Monday, November 7 through Sunday November 13, 2022. These jackets involve considerable hand sewing and do take time, so expanding the class to 7 days made sense.

What is unique about this class? We will start with fine tuning the fit of your jacket toile. Detailed instructions will be sent several weeks prior to class.

Vogue 7975 is often used as the basis for a French jacket. It is easy to change the jacket’s length, neckline, sleeve and front closure. The pattern has princess seams ending in the shoulder which simplifies many fitting issues. Curvy figures need more shaping which can result in any horizontal stripe in the fabric to be mismatched along the upper part of the front princess seam. This photo shows the difference.

The right side (right side of photo) of this sample has been cut and sewn according to the pattern. For the left side, I’ve made some simple changes to the pattern and shaped the front side section with a steam iron. Note how the horizontal lines in the weave carry across the upper chest uninterrupted.

We will examine techniques to eliminate darts. For this sample, I wanted a very curvy figure, easily accomplished by a bra filled out with extra padding. It’s easy to achieve the look on a small busted model but harder when dealing with more curves.

The pronounced curves of this figure required additional shaping which could have been accomplished by adding a dart either from armhole to bust or side seam to bust.

Either dart placement isn’t ideal and will create unnecessary bulk. Fortunately most boucle fabric is pliable and can be molded with steam. Any distortion in the weave is hidden under the arm and a better solution than darts.

A few patterns have the classic three piece sleeve. Vogue 7975 has a standard two piece sleeve. It’s not difficult to convert the pattern. This method can be used on any sleeve.

Learn how to customize the look of a basic pattern. The neckline is easily converted to a stand collar, round or V-neck.

Coco Chanel said, ”never a button without a buttonhole.” Machine buttonholes are an option but handworked buttonholes are a true couture finish. Loosely woven boucle fabric isn’t the easiest to work with and mastering buttonholes does take practice. There are a few tips and tricks that make the finished result more professional.

Trims are the final embellishment. Shopping for pre-made trim can be difficult. You rarely find something that’s the perfect color, width and texture. Often trims are rigid and difficult to navigate curves and corners. Creating your own trim using fibers from the fabric and coordinating yarn isn’t difficult.

November dates not convenient? Another Couture Sewing Class is scheduled from Monday, January 16 through Saturday, January 21, 2023. This class isn’t strictly for French jacket construction but you can certainly work on one. It’s a perfect opportunity finish (or make significant progress) on a previously started jacket. Work on anything you like. Maybe you’re hesitant to work on tricky fabric or an unfamiliar style? Take advantage of expert help with planning and executing your project.

Register by clicking on ”Classes” from the main menu. Any questions email me: mf953@aol.com

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Drafting Patterns, French jacket trim, Uncategorized

Recreate the Runway Look

In a previous post, I outlined the steps to recreate this runway look. Here’s a link: https://cloningcouture.com/2020/05/11/how-to-use-your-moulage/ to a more detailed description of the modifications to a basic pattern that I made.

The mockup was done on a half-scale mannequin but a full size pattern worked better for the collar draft. Here’s my final collar pattern which I tested with hymo canvas and a piece of scrap boucle.

When looking closely at couture designs, I’ve noticed that a horizontal weave in the fabric travels straight across the the upper body and continues through the sleeve, creating an unbroken line in the fabric. This half scale jacket illustrates the difference.

Runway design. Notice how the horizontal stripe is matched.

The right side of the jacket has been cut with the princess seam ending at mid shoulder. For the left side, the princess seam was shifted from the bust apex to a point closer to the neck (about 1 inch). This pattern adjustment makes the princess line on the side panel more vertical and requires less manipulation of the fabric. Refer to the previous post linked above for a more complete explanation of the pattern changes.

Here’s the full scale side panel being steamed and shaped.

Fabric before shaping
Working the fabric into shape. The excess fabric in the armhole will be shrunk into place.
After shaping the boucle will be unstable. Silk organza cut on the original grain holds the shape. A row of running stitches helps hold the armseye to shape.
The collar is partially pad stitched. I’ll finalize the placement and determine the finished collar size before finishing. This is the under collar which is collar felt and bias cut lightweight linen canvas.

Here’s a preview of the custom trim. I rarely use pre-made trims as most are too stiff and rigid. This one has been created with tubes of matching silk georgette fabric and yarn. This one turns corners easily and compliments the boucle.

Waiting for silk buttonhole twist to arrive.

Uncategorized

The Shop is Open

Looking back through my years of posts, I’ve had many, many inquires as to where to purchase some of the specialty supplies I use. Some items are difficult to find, such as Gutermann gimp which is used in hand worked buttonholes. The gimp is available in multiple colors, but don’t worry about an exact color match.  It isn’t seen but gives a smooth base for the silk thread. My favorite silk thread for these buttonholes is Gutermann silk twist, R753. Red Rock Threads has a good color selection. I’ve written a detailed description of how to use gimp when making handworked buttonholes

Gimp

Petersham ribbon makes wonderful waist stays, waistband facings and zipper guards. It’s usually a blend of cotton and rayon, but I’ve managed to locate a 100% pure cotton version. It’s a little heavier than the rayon/cotton version and is available in white, ivory and black. The narrow 1/4 inch version is wonderful for hanger straps to give extra support to strapless or heavy garments.

Grosgrain ribbon

While researching products, I was surprised to find much of what’s sold as beeswax for sewing is a mix of beeswax and paraffin. These cakes of pure beeswax are made from filtered wax.

Beeswax

Heavyweight muslin makes a wonderful and durable cover for a custom dress form. This is the muslin I use for the final cover. It tightens up when steamed, making small wrinkles in the finished form disappear. It’s also great for ironing board covers and makes a nice press cloth when working with wool.

heavy muslin

Helen Haughey and I teamed up to teach a class on French jacket construction in Palm Beach Gardens. We were looking forward to more classes but unfortunately the Corona virus had other plans. Thank you Sarah Gunn of Goodbye Valentino for the photo. Sarah chose a beautiful Linton tweed with a silk print lining. She describes the jacket she created during class here.

Jacket_Class_540x

While the in-person classes have been suspended due to Covid, I am teaching via Zoom. Choose the project you would like to work on. Your class will be recorded and available for you to download and watch as often as you like. Send me a note to discuss details.

Creating a custom dress form has been a popular topic. Social distancing and travel restrictions make it necessary to also teach this via Zoom. I’ll lead you through the drafting process as you create a pattern to replicate your shape. We’ll pad the form and finish by installing the custom cover. Bodies come in all sizes and rarely match the model shape of a commercial form. Here are a few of the custom forms and a blog post describing the process. Message me for more details.

There are several more projects in the works. I’m finishing the Chanel inspired dress described in the last post and working on some interesting trims. Thanks to all for reading and stay well.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, Draping, Dress Forms, Uncategorized

A Designer Skirt and Family Wedding

So much had happened since my last post; all of it good.  My son and daughter-in-law welcomed baby Milena. Her arrival coincided with my construction and installation of draperies in their new home. Needless to say, it was a very, very busy time.

Milena

After helping the new family get settled, it was time to head home and prepare for my dear sister-in law’s wedding, held in our backyard. When you’re the resident family dressmaker, weddings mean loads of sewing; all of it fun and leading up to a happy celebration.

The rehearsal dinner was an informal gathering and I chose to replicate a designer skirt I had seen.  This Oscar de la Renta skirt, from his “paint splatter” collection was white denim with applied sequins and priced at a mere $1900.

Inspiration Skirt

I had a length of white denim with a bit of lycra in the stash.  The skirt front was drafted by using a jeans pattern, lapping the right over left front, and tapering to a mid-calf length straight skirt. The back was slightly more complicated. My jeans pattern back wouldn’t cooperate and produce a well fitting rear.  Draping on my custom dress form solved the problem.

Skirt Drape 1 Skirt Drape 2

I placed style lines for the back yoke, waistband and side seam.  The waistband is slightly lowered at center front. I used flat felled seams and the only problem was my machine didn’t like the bulk of multiple fabric layers and the thicker thread I was using for topstitching.  I found that hammering (use a clean regular carpenters hammer) the seams, especially at points where seams intersected, made a huge difference. Hammering the fabric prior to sewing seems to soften and compress the fibers. A heavy duty jeans needle also helped. The long, sharp point pierced the denim much easier preventing skipped stitches and thread nests.

TopstitchingSequin Closeup

Now for the fun part. I gathered sequins, beads and started drawing. An air erasable marker lets you preview the placement and size of the “paint blobs.”
The large yellow sequins had holes in the center but I decided they would be better if the holes were closer to one edge. Joanns Fabric carries this punch in the leatherworking department. It’s pricey at about $40 (great time to use the discount coupon), but makes the tiniest holes and was perfect for the task.

Hole Punch

Completed and on to the more wedding sewing.

Close-up Finished skirt

Next post (and I promise it will be soon) will detail the design and construction of the bride’s dress, little girls’ dresses, mother-in-law’s dress and (as if I didn’t have enough going on) a Chanel style tunic constructed from a wonderful fabric from Mendel Goldberg. Here’s a few preview shots:

Casey Mia

Sage Chanel Dress Preview

I also want to mention that my friend, Kate Davies, has published a book, Making Life More Beautiful, about sewing, crafting, knitting and life. I met Kate while on a trip to London and immensely enjoyed the time with her. She is doing a sew-along emulating the style of Frida Kahlo, so hop over to her site and check it out.

Kate book

Also, I’ve written another article for Threads Magazine detailing the draft and construction of a designer skirt.  The skirt was based an Yves St. Laurent style straight skirt and I’ve explained many of the details that take an ordinary style into the designer realm.  There is also a web extra explaining a few adaptations which are helpful when using a heavier fabric, such as a designer boucle.

Threads Cover

Thanks for reading!!!

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Fabric Shopping, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Embellished Sleeve Jacket

Jacket Front

This jacket was inspired from a Chanel couture collection.  For the jacket body I used a lovely open weave boucle from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. The fabric is a very open weave and needed to be backed with another fabric for construction. I used a lightweight ivory wool crepe and quilted the two fabrics together along horizontal stitching lines. Thank goodness I used quite a bit of steam on the fabrics before quilting as the boucle tightened up with steam.

Steamed boucle  Wide seam allowances prevent too skimpy seams and the walking foot kept the layers from shifting during the quilting process.

The fun part of this jacket was designing the sleeves. I used two layers of silk organza as a base for the trim.  Scouring NYC’s garment district turned up nothing for a ruffled trim. I had planned on using butterfly pleated organza ribbon but absolutely no one had any. One store offered placing a custom order but the minimum was 100 yards and 6-8 weeks time frame. No choice but to make it.

I decided polyester organza would actually work better than silk. Silk fabric creases and presses much better than polyester but I wanted the ruffles to hold their shape so the wiry nature of polyester was an advantage. I cut strips of organza along the lengthwise grain and finished the edges with a narrow ziz-zag stitch; stitch width of 1.8mm and length of 0.5mm on my machine worked well.  The strips were gathered down the center and drawn up to a 2:1 fullness.

A narrow beige ribbon layered with gold tubular yarn from Linton was sewn down the center with a serpentine ( width 5.0, length 1.25) stitch.

Make organza trim Place Ribbon Linton Yarn

The garment district did yield several suitable trims, including a gorgeous sequin banding. The double organza sleeve was sewn along the back seam, leaving the less obvious front seam open. Seam and hem lines had been thread traced to ensure the trim fit the finished sleeve. Trim was arranged, keeping the sequined trim and ruffles out of the underarm area. The sequin banding was catch stitched on the wrong side to prevent sagging as the jacket was worn.

Trim Placement Sleeve Underside

Excess sequins removed from the seam allowances and ends of the braids are steamed and flattened before sewing the seam.

Finished sleeve trim

 

Jacket Sleeve

The black jacket is also complete. Fringe from the selvages was paired with a soft, flexible braid. I opted for a custom made zipper from Botani.  They use Lampo (Italian) zippers and you can choose tooth color, tape color, pull and length. The small 3mm size works well for this.

Black Jacket Black jacket closeup

Next project is a Chanel inspired summer tunic and playing with more trims. Thanks for reading.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Tailoring, Uncategorized

Finishing Details; The French Jacket

Thank you all for the many comments and compliments about this jacket.  The finishing details are what sets French jackets apart and make this jacket unique.  In addition to the custom trim, French jackets feature hand worked buttonholes, sleeves are set by hand, countless tiny stitches secure the lining and a metal chain inside the jacket allow it to drape perfectly when worn.

I think the sleeves are actually easier to set by hand and would be almost impossible to do by machine due to the unique construction methods. Although it would be easier to sew the armseye seam through all layers, I find joining only the outer fabrics together before hand basting the lining in place gives a softer, more fluid feel.

Here’s an inside view of the armseye seam.  Probably one if the messiest times in jacket construction. Yes, I used Pro Sheer Elegance Couture interfacing which was fused the jacket sections. It’s extremely lightweight, flexible and doesn’t change the drape of the tweed.  Linton actually recommends doing this with their more loosely woven fabrics.  I’ve serged the edges of the tweed with a wide stitch but finished the seams of the lining with a narrow two thread stitch using fine thread. I like Gutermann Skala 360-U81, Invisafil by Wonderfil Threads, or 80 weight Maderia or Aurifil cotton.  I use two strands of regular sewing thread, waxed and pressed, to set the sleeve.  I sew the top part from the right side using tiny fell stitches and the underarm portion from the inside with a backstitch.

Setting Sleeve by hand Free seam allowances

Notice at the point where the shoulder seam meets the sleeve seam, the seam allowances haven’t been caught but are allowed to float free.  This allows the seam to press more smoothly and feels less rigid.  I’ve not included the sleeve lining; I feel I get a better result by joining only two layers of fabric at one time.

Sleeve headSleeve head shaped

I create a sleeve head from cotton batting. Cut about 2.5 inches wide and 7 inches long. Fold along a long side about 1.5 inches from the edge, pull along the folded edge while steam pressing to curve.  The folded edge is sewn along the armseye seam at the sleeve cap to provide additional shape and support.

Jacket inside out Sleeve head inserted

Baste the sleeve lining just inside the armseye seam and trim away the excess fabric. I’ve struggled with getting the lining over the sleeve cap evenly if the jacket is lying flat. I’ve found it much easier to turn the jacket inside out and place on my dress form with a sleeve form attached. Now the jacket and sleeve are supported and it’s easier to manipulate the lining into position.

Pin around seam Gathering line Pull up gathers

Pin along the seam and sew a line of tiny running stitches. Pull the gathering thread up to fit and tie a tailors knot at each end. Trim off the excess and the fabric will fold under easily along the gathering line. I set the sleeve cap first, baste, then remove the jacket from the form.  The lining at the underarm is brought up and around the seam allowances.

Seam EasedSleeve underarm

I had originally planned for front buttons, but decided I liked the look of trim without buttons, and considered a front zipper.  Botani Trimming in NYC makes custom zippers and does mail order. You select the zipper tooth size, length, color and pull. The zipper arrives in a few days and they even had chain for the hem.  Finding the right zipper in a local shop would have been impossible.  Just as an interesting side note, Botani sells Lampo zippers. They are made in Italy and the same brand that Chanel uses!

Custom Zip Lining at Zip Zipper Inside

How to deal with the lining? I could have folded it back past the zipper teeth and stitched into place but that left the zipper teeth exposed on the inside of the jacket. In true couture fashion, I wanted to cover up that metal.  Placing a length of ribbon inside the fold beefed up the edge of the silk charmeuse so it would be less likely to catch on the zipper pull.  This was one time when that rigid, slightly raised edge on polyester ribbon was useful.  Now zipper teeth are concealed, both inside and out.

The dreaded buttonholes next.  Machine made buttonholes lack the couture finish this jacket needed.  I’ve experimented with countless ways to improve my hand worked version.  I’ve found that sewing around the buttonhole before cutting, especially in a fabric such as this, helps tremendously to keep the layers together.  Marking and sewing this manually on the machine requires much twisting and turning of the fabric so I searched for an easier way.  My machine sews a square buttonhole using a straight stitch so I tried that, stitching around the buttonhole twice, once at a narrow width and again a little wider.

Machine buttonholes

Looks OK but I didn’t like the thread buildup at the beginning and end (impossible to stop the machine from knotting the threads) plus I really wanted a keyhole buttonhole.

Hoop setup Buttonholes in hoop Embroidery buttonholes

My Bernina does embroidery and I have digitizing software so I created a template for the buttonholes. I hooped a square of heavy muslin, stitched out the placement lines for the sleeve; then cut out a window so the stitching wouldn’t get caught on the muslin. The sleeve was pinned onto the muslin. Working wrong side up worked better. The sleeve was easier to place and keep the fabric clear of the stitching area, plus the embroidery foot wouldn’t get snagged on the loose fibers of the tweed.  The embroidery software will insert buttonholes automatically, but I wasn’t able to adjust the shape and stitch length satisfactorily. I also wasn’t able to do the double rows.  Mirror the image for the other sleeve and remember to cut another window so your muslin doesn’t get stitched to the fabric.

Stranding Buttonholes  Best Buttonhole

There are several YouTube videos showing hand worked buttonholes if you need a review. I worked under a magnifying light and tried to keep the buttonhole stitches just inside the second row of machine stitching. It provided a nice guide for straight, narrow stitches. Buttonholes aren’t easy and most people say they need to work a hundreds before somewhat mastering the art.  I’m always trying to make mine better but these aren’t bad.

I’ve been inspired by the photos of sheath dresses with matching jackets ( Helen Haughey’s class looked wonderful) so that’s next in the sewing lineup. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Cloning Designer Garments

Do You Have $7000 to Spare?

I often take inspiration from a designer outfit and this one from Alexander McQueen caught my eye. The sweater retailed for $5000 and the skirt another $2000. Why not try to replicate the pieces?

mcqueenblacksweaterandskirt

I fashioned the skirt from a tweed from Linton Mills and added contrast black leather from Mood Fabrics. Concerned that the leather might rip at the top of the slit, I reinforced it with grosgrain ribbon. Notice the ribbon peaking out from the lining. The most difficult task for the skirt was topstitching the leather. My industrial Juki with an edge compensating foot attached made the job easy and produced perfectly even stitching. I sewed over tissue paper just to make sure there were no problems with the fabric feeding evenly.

top-stitch-leatherskirt-reinforcement

Finished skirt:

finished-skirt

For the sweater I used a purchased (on sale of course) one and added the rhinestone embellishment. Rather than apply heat set Swarovski stones directly to the sweater I opted to design each element separately and hand stitch them on.

I designed the motifs on sticky backed transfer film. The rhinestones are placed wrong side up and them heat set with an iron. I used one layer of cotton tulle covered with another layer of silk tulle.

rhinestone-placementembellishment-done

The silk tulle edge gathered, turned over a cardboard circle, and pressed flat.

gathering-tulleready-to-attach

My sweater blocking board was perfect to stretch the sweater slightly and figure out the placement for each motif. Some motifs were composed of sewn on larger stones and pins helped with placement of each stone. The safety pin marks the bust point so I don’t place a motif directly there.

sweater-boardplacement-for-sewing

The large black flower surrounded by tiny stones was the most difficult. I used a scrap of black Ultrasuede, digitized the design, and sewed in the embroidery hoop. Tiny 2mm rhinestones outlined the petals.

hoop-design-2

sweater-and-skirt

completed

My little girl Sydney decided she wanted to get into the photo. I’m on my way to a party for my husband’s parents 70th wedding anniversary! How many couples make 70 years together? Quite an achievement and the entire family gathered to celebrate with them. For all those who asked for more details,  I promise the custom dress form is coming next.

Evening Wear

A Black Tie Wedding: What to Wear

My last post detailed my pool party tunic for the wedding our family attended in Miami earlier this month. The wedding was black tie and of course I created a special dress (when friends and family know you sew, you can’t exactly show up at these affairs in a store bought garment).

Here is the inspiration design and spectacular fabric from B&J’s. I spotted this while shopping in the NYC garment district and knew this would be the fabric to work with.

inspiration

The black silk taffeta from Como, Italy is a border design composed of hand painted flowers and dimensional black flowers in what felt like vinyl paint. A closeup look shows the brush strokes. This design was definitely done by hand; there is somewhat of a repeat but there are irregularities characteristic of hand work.

flower-closeup

Now that I have the fabric, what to do with it? Sometimes the characteristics of fabric dictate the design. I wanted a slim fitting style with fullness at the hem. I did a toile using released box pleats, but it just wasn’t right.

box-pleating

Flaring the skirt using a border print poses problems. The hemline has a distinct curve which causes he border to appear off grain. Layout showing a conventional pattern shaping:

layout-1

The hem curve may not look pronounced in this scaled down illustration but it became quite noticeable when enlarged to full scale. Solution: break up the fullness into multiple smaller sections which allowed the hem to follow the horizontal line of the border. I had three yards of fabric and planned for the hem fullness to be distributed as 1 yard in the front and 2 yards in the back. Lower bodice sections fit nicely in between the skirt sections.

layout-2

My custom dress form also needed a little tweaking as this design would follow the back hip area closely. Most dress forms stop at the hip line but I wanted mine to extend down past the low hip. I constructed a new cover and also added two flexible arms. Details of how to modify a dress form in this way will come in a future post.

refined-dress-formdress-form-arm

The dress was designed using a combination of draping and flat pattern design. I applied style lines to the form to drape the bust and hip areas. The side seam was shifted towards the back; I felt the back seam lines worked better this way. The front had a single princess line; hem flare started 9 inches below the low hip and flared to 36 inches in the front, 12 inches in each of the 6 back sections for a total hem width of 108 inches.

style-lines-1style-lines-2

The silk taffeta was underlined with silk organza. A layer of black cotton muslin provided additional support and extended from the waist to 9 inches below the low hip line. It was catch-stitched just inside the seam lines. The interior corset was cut from two layers of cotton tulle, one layer on the cross grain and one on the lengthwise grain (a technique I picked up from studying the work of Barbara Matera, the renowned Broadway costume designer). Spiral steel boning is enclosed within the casings. I find the tape used to stabilize armholes in tailoring makes a wonderful thin and strong way to prevent the top edge from stretching out of shape. The white zip is basted in for fitting but will be removed when the corset is sewn into the final dress.

interior-corset

I felt a lining in the hip area would be prone to shifting and might cause wrinkles, so I opted to finish the seams in this area with lengths of grosgrain ribbon. The white boning which extends from the top to low hip is one length of horsehair braid stretched, steamed and zig-zig stitched into another length of un-stretched horsehair braid. I find this boning is flexible yet smooths the seams over the body in a slim fitting garment.

interior-boninginterior-hip

I found a wonderful  embroidered tulle with three dimensional flowers to form the upper bodice and sleeves. An underlayer of cotton tulle was fitted and thread traced for use as a pattern when cutting the heavily embroidered tulle. Having each section with seam lines thread traced made it much easier to place the design so it would be mirror-imaged from right to left sides.

final-tulle-fittulle-used-as-pattern

A section of the embroidered edge was shaped to follow the collar. The decorative edge fell stitched in place and excess cotton tulle trimmed away.

collar-detailcollar-completed

I don’t care for the look of just sewing a plain seam when an appliqued seam could make the transition from one fabric to another look better. I sewed the back upper bodice through the layer of cotton tulle only; then hand appliqued the decorative tulle edge.


The front seam got a few appliques to disguise the seam. Working with lace is so forgiving as you can hide almost anything. Here is a shoulder seam before and after a little applique work. I also find it easier to work in sections and complete as much as possible before joining one section to another. Finish the skirt, inner corset, lace section and bodice before attaching them together. It saves much wear and tear on the dress.

shoulder-seam-1shoulder-seam-2

front-view

side-view

back-view-skirt

Another small detail gleaned from Barbara Matera: raising your arms in a close-fitting dress can be difficult. Solution: add an underarm gusset. I cut a football-shaped piece of stretch mesh (about 5.5 inches long by 3 inches wide) and inserted it in the underarm seam centered between the front and back. Sewing by hand was much easier than manipulating the dress into the machine. It doesn’t show and makes moving so much easier.

underarm

Have you ever had a major clothing malfunction? For the back closure  I found a zip with sheer mesh tape while shopping in NYC. It was only available as a two-way zip. I figured no problem, I would just insert as usual and not use it as a two way. Put my dress on; all’s fine. We are leaving for the ceremony and my daughter-in-law notices the zipper is starting to open in the middle of my back. Within minutes the entire back is open. I tried to run the slider to the bottom and realign the coils but no go. My husband asks if I have anything else to wear. This is an out of town affair and I didn’t exactly bring a selection of evening gowns. There is only on solution: get sewn into the dress. Fortunately my husband is an OB/GYN and has a fair amount of experience sewing (humans that is). I did have a supply of needles and thread so, with Holly holding a cell phone light on the sewing (operative) field, I told him to just whipstitch (non-interrupted running stitch), the zipper tapes (incision) closed. I had a backup supply of needle and thread in my evening bag just in case but his stitching held firm throughout the night. I’m replacing the zip with my standard invisible version which has never once failed.

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