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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ever wish you could clone yourself? How much easier to make fitting adjustments if you could just step outside your own body and work on you. Here’s how: pad a standard dressform to your measurements and cover it with a custom drafted muslin to replicate your own shape.
Why construct your own form? Once you have a duplicate of your body, fitting becomes SO much easier. You’ll also have an understanding of pattern drafting so style/ fitting changes to commercial patterns are less of a mystery. If your size changes you can adjust the padding and cover to reflect those changes. Couture houses create custom forms for their clients so why not do it for yourself?
The process begins with accurate measurements. Those numbers are used to draft a custom pattern which duplicates the body.
The pattern is cut in muslin and any adjustments made. It’s a skin tight fit.
The pattern is cut apart and transferred to heavy weight muslin. Additional seaming is added to the bust area for better shaping.
Use a dressform that’s SMALLER than you. If you start with a form by bust measurement, it’s invariably too large across the back and shoulders. I usually chose a form that’s at least 3-4 inches smaller than the bust.
The cover is sewn together at the shoulders leaving the side seams open. That makes it easier to get the cover into place without dislodging any of the padding. Start at the shoulders and work down the body. Bra cups fill out a larger bust; shoulder pads can be used to fill out the hip area. Polyester quilt batting works well to smooth out the shape. Tear rather than cut the batting to eliminate ridges. A small steamer helps compress the batting and makes it stick to itself. This is like sculpture. It can be helpful to have a photo of your body: front, back and side views. Work from the top down. Fold the cover down to check if you have padded too little, too much or in the wrong place. Pin the sides closed to check. When the cover is filled out you’ll hand sew the sides closed.
Fold seam allowances under and whip stitch the sides together using strong upholstery thread. Draw some registration marks every couple of inches to keep the sides aligned while you’re sewing.
Steam the cover well. It will shrink slightly and tighten up. Draw balance lines (bust, waist and hip) with a permanent marker. Vertical balance lines at center front and back can also be added.
For a custom arm, here’s the pattern I use. There are NO SEAM ALLOWANCES. I use either heavy muslin or cotton drill cloth for the two main arm pieces and shoulder. Lighter weight muslin covers the cardboard ovals.
I’ve traced the stitch lines in blue dashed lines and am adding 3/8 inch seam allowances. Transfer the vertical and horizontal balance lines also. I use washable marker. Notice the vertical line down the upper arm pivots at the elbow.
There is ease on the upper arm at the elbow point. If you try and match up the stitching lines there is excess fabric which needs to be eased in to create the elbow shape. Stitch the back seam first.
If your balance lines are slightly askew at the elbow, blend into a smooth line across the seam. The marks will dissolve with water after you topstitch the line. Press the seam open. I use a topstitching (has a larger eye) needle and two strands of black thread to trace the balance lines using a 3.5mm stitch length. There are three horizontal balance lines, one at the elbow, one at the underarm and another about 2 inches up from the underarm. Extend the upper balance line to cross both sleeve sections.
Close the remaining seam matching the stitched balance lines. Press open. Close the dart at the top of the sleeve. Cut the shoulder piece (looks like a shoulder pad) from drill cloth. It needs a seam on one side only. I serge the outer edge to prevent fraying. Using a 4.5m stitch, sew along the top of the sleeve. It will gather up slightly which is all you need. Don’t try and ease it like a set-in sleeve.
Clip within the seam allowance on the shoulder section. Mark the mid point and attach it to the arm, matching the mid point to the dart on the sleeve. Make sure you have right sides facing each other. It should look like this.
To stuff the sleeve I use soft polyester fleece. I cut a piece the length of the sleeve plus about 2 inches. Roll up the fleece, not too tightly, and gauge about how much is required to fill out you sleeve. I want the sleeve to be full but not tightly packed and stiff. The wrist and lower arm needs less fill than the upper arm so I shape the fleece like this. I’ve used about 30 inches an have cut off one corner so that the lower arm has less stuffing than the upper.
Begin rolling at the shorter end forming a soft cylinder which is fatter at one end. I safety pin a length of ribbon onto the slimmer (wrist) end, insert the ribbon through the top and pull it through. If you want more or less fill pull out the roll and adjust the amount of stuffing.
Trim the fill at the armseye end leaving enough to fill out the top.
Cut ovals from cardboard for the wrist and armseye covers. I use lighter weight muslin (the drill cloth is too stiff to gather) and add about 3/4 inch seam allowances. Stitch around the edges, insert the cardboard and pull the threads up to create the covers.
I place the armseye cover against my form and mark the shoulder seam point. Notice that I’ve angled it towards the front to better replicate my arm position. Human arms tend to fall slightly in front of center. Line up the wrist oval to simulate the wrist shape. Again wrists aren’t circular; they are wider when viewed from the top of the hand than the side.
Hand sew the covers in place with a whip stitch. Your new arm can be attached with a few pins (I use flat head pins and push them at an angle to avoid snagging the garment). This pattern is for the right arm. If you would like two arms just flip the pieces and make a matching form for the left side. See how easily her arm bends and I’ve found this version much more workable than the premade ones.
This will make a fairly slim arm. If your arms are larger and you want to adjust the pattern I would suggest this method. Trace the pattern onto your preferred paper and slash the upper and lower arm sections. I don’t cut up my master pattern until I’m happy with the changes. If the first alteration doesn’t work I haven’t destroyed the original and it’s much easier to start over.
Divide the amount you want to adjust by 4 and spread the pattern sections by that amount. It doesn’t need to be the same for the entire length of the pattern. You might want an extra inch at the wrist and an extra 2 inches at the bicep. Overlap the sections if you need a smaller arm. Likewise the length, both above and below the elbow can be adjusted. The ovals for the armseye and wrist covers will need to be adjusted and I would just use trial and error. There is a mathematical formula for figuring out the circumference, long and short axis of an ellipse but you don’t want to see it. Anyone with a math background will understand..
I’ve received requests to teach this and have done several workshops. With the current stay-at-home situation, on line classes are a necessity. I’ve taught this remotely using Zoom and it worked well. Those who participated had a buddy to help with measurements but it is possible to fit yourself. I’ve done it and it’s not impossible. There are a few tricks like putting a separating zipper at center front to make the cover easy to get on and off. When the fit is perfected, the zipper is removed and side seams opened. It’s also more accurate than pinning. A few measurements (like the cross back width) will need to be calculated rather than direct measure.
The dressform cover pattern can also be adjusted with ease added to create a custom size master pattern block. You can use this to either create your own designs or help with adjustments to a commercial pattern.
If you’re interested and want more details, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch. Everyone stay safe.
For the backyard wedding, I wanted something easy, yet elegant. When you’re the resident dress designer/maker, showing up in something not of your own creation doesn’t work! I had my hands full with the bride, mother of bride, bridesmaids, etc. but managed to crank out a tunic style dress with Coco (and Karl) in mind.
My starting point was fabric from the Haute Couture section of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. I chose a wonderful French boucle highlighted with tiny sequins woven into the fabric. With careful planning, the dress required only one yard of fabric; here is what was left over.
I used my basic pattern block and made the following adjustments. If you start with another tunic style pattern, and want to get this look, make sure your pattern has a high, jewel neckline. If your pattern has a lower neckline, the collar might be too large and will stand away from the neck.
Close the armhole and shoulder darts, combining them into the underarm dart. Angle the new underarm dart towards the lower edge.
I chose to eliminate the front fisheye darts and transfer some of the dart shaping to the side seam. The bib placket drops from just outside the neck edge to the bust line. I played with shaping the bib wider at the top and tapering slightly but that design created a problem with trim placement. Having the bib placket the same width from top to bottom allowed the trim rows to be evenly spaced. The back was used as is with fisheye darts. The shoulder dart will be eased. The skirt was pegged about 3/4 inch from low hip line to hem.
Next I drafted a collar and stand. Some drafting books suggest curving the collar stand about 1/2 inch but I find the stand will hug the back neck better if more shaping is used. I’ll increase the curvature of the stand by shaping with a steam iron.
All collar pieced are cut from cardboard which will help when pressing. I’ve also cut a collar lining pattern 1/8 inch smaller to keep the undercollar out of sight. The Curve Runner makes measuring curved edges easy; very helpful when drafting collars to fit the neck.
The cardboard helps when pressing seam allowances under and ensures the collar is perfectly symmetrical. Fell stitch the under collar to upper collar.
Pressing over cardboard also helps shape the collar stand. I used satin faced organza to line the collar, stand and as a base fabric for the bib. This organza is more opaque and stiffer than regular silk organza and is harder to shape into a smooth curve.
Designing trims for the placket was the most fun part. I used the same satin faced organza as a base fabric and applied multiple layers of ribbons and braids. Most were sewn on by hand to maintain a soft, couture feel.
I had some leftover tweed from Linton. I save my scraps of tweeds and boucles as there is often wonderful trim hiding in the fabric. Linton fabrics are woven with continuous strands so un-weaving produces a long continuous length of trim. I also used the fringed selvedges from the French boucle. Also found great buttons!!!
I had just enough scraps to cut bias strips for a hem fringe. Two layers of cotton batting padded the center. A blunt tapestry needle helps to un-weave the edges.
Finished! Here’s a glimpse of the inside. Silk crepe de chine fell stitched to armseyes and placket. Side zip makes it easy to get into.
Next post will detail the design and construction of the bride’s outfit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Completed and on to the more wedding sewing.
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:
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.
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.
This is an experiment in the art of trompe l’oeil as the French call it, or to deceive the eye. I’ll explore how to alter the grain of fabric to create the illusion of a less bumpy and curvy shape. I’ll also use my custom shoulder pads as explained in my last post and in my article for Threads Magazine to transform asymmetrical shoulders into an evenly shaped figure.
I’ve chosen a loosely woven patterned fabric and will create a Chanel style jacket for this figure. The dress form has been marked with the standard balance lines. Notice the back view which clearly shows the right shoulder much more sloped than the left. A note to those readers who have seen my posts about various types of dress forms. This is an adjustable foam style with dials. Not my favorite but after padding to match the figure it works fine. A professional model is nice but you can make anything work!
The style lines are added in purple tape. I’ve chosen to bring the princess line closer to the neck edge which creates a more vertical line makes it easier to shape the fabric in the next step.
In order to even out the shoulders I constructed shoulder pads using my pattern from the Threads Magazine article. I added additional layers to the right shoulder pad to make the shoulder height the same on both sides. Rather than try and alter a pattern, it was easier to drape the jacket directly on the form. Note that I carefully marked right and left sides. Although the garment sections look symmetrical on the form they are vastly different when laid flat.
The red stitches show final alterations to the shoulders. Height is added to accommodate the shoulder pads and I widened the shoulder line to balance the torso for a more flattering shape.
Rather than cut the side front and side back garment garment sections according to the pattern, I wanted to shape the fabric to follow the seam lines and minimize an off-grain cut at the shoulder line. For the side front I started with a rectangle of fabric. I pinned the toile to the fabric and rotated the fabric so that the straight grain lined up with the princess seam. As you can see, this caused excess fabric to bunch up along the front armhole.
Working slowly with a steam iron, start easing the fabric towards the armhole. The fibers will compress and you will be able to ease out much of the excess fabric.
Work carefully as you don’t want to press permanent creases into the fabric. Depending on how pliable your fabric is, you may be able to ease all of the extra out. If not just readjust the seam line to be slightly off grain but you should be able to work the seamline almost on the straight grain. Fabric choice is crucial here. Most loosly woven boucles will ease nicely. My fabric was a little tighter weave than most wool boucles and I was able to ease almost all of the excess fabric out. Trim the excess fabric at the armhole.
The fabric is now nicely shaped but very unstable and will want to return to its original shape. I cut a stay from lightweight cotton and basted it to the fabric. I’ve added two rows of machine stay stitching and eased the armhole to correspond to the toile. Stay tape keeps the shoulder seam from stretching out of shape. This fabric wanted to ravel badly. Although many couture sources frown on using a serger I use it to overlock the seams and prevent fraying. I use a very lightweight Guttermann thread (not regular sewing thread) so as not to add bulk to the seam. The lining is cut according to the pattern (not shaped as the boucle), basted and quilted as usual following the weave of the fabric. Your quilting lines will curve and a walking foot as well as diagonal basting will keep everything lined up without puckering.
This clearly shows the distorted weave but it will be hidden under the arm and the jacket front will show a flattering vertically placed weave. The side back is handled the same way. It will be easier to shape as you won’t be dealing with the bust. It does nicely conceal rounded shoulders and back.
I used purchased navy fringe and sewed a narrow white cord in the middle. Two pockets looked better than four as I wanted to minimize the bust. The princess seams are barely visible and the jacket gives a taller and slimmer appearance.
I’m working on more custom trim and have a beautiful piece of Linton tweed for the next venture.
My style tends towards sleek, tailored clothing but this blouse with its many circular flounces was one I had to try. The inspiration is from Alexander McQueen’s RTW line and retailed for over $1000. Wonderful look for summer that I could definitely do for less.
I draped a slim fitting princess line top using my body double dress form. It extends to the high hip line here so I can play with the placement of the hem flounce.
An interesting technical point is that these are known as flounces, not circular ruffles. In the garment industry, a ruffle by definition has the excess fullness gathered into a seam while the fullness of a flounce comes from the curved flare of the fabric.
The flounce pattern is created by drawing concentric circles. The inner circle is attached to the garment.
Drafting the flounce does require some basic math and decisions about how full you want the flounce. The left diagram shows a flounce with an inner circle of 1 inch diameter and one inch wide flounce. The circumference of the inner circle is 3.14 inches which will be the length of the seam joining to the garment. The outer edge of the flounce will be 9.42 inches. Fullness is calculated as 9.42 divided by 3.14 equals 3 or 3:1 ratio. However, imagine that you need a 6 inch long flounce. Drawing a 2 inch diameter circle surrounded by a 4 inch diameter circle creates a flounce 6.28 inches long with an outer edge 12.56 inches long. Note that the fullness has changed from 3:1 to 2:1 (12.56 divided by 6.28). If the desired fullness is 3:1, then the flounce will need to be cut using two of the smaller circles and seaming them together.
I’ve drafted a 3 inch deep flounce for the lower edge of the blouse, cut a test from muslin and attached to the toile. To achieve 3:1 fullness, I’ll use four sections (two back and two front).
Drafting the flounces for the neckline and center front required more complicated methods. Flounces behave differently depending upon the seam they are attached to. Vertical hanging flounces cascade down in folds. The fullness of a flounce is increased when attached to a inside curve and decreased when attached to an outside curve. TheArt of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff is a wonderful resource which more fully explains these concepts.
The neckline is an outside curve. Therefore to maintain the same appearance of fullness, the flounce at the neck was drafted with 4:1 inner to outer ratio. The math can get complicated, especially when you need to consider the length of flounce needed, width AND fullness ratio desired plus adding seam allowances. Then compound all this with varying width flounces for the center front and armholes. I’ve devised a relatively simple way to draft all this.
Either buy a tablet of graph paper or print some out. There are free internet sources for printing all sizes of graph paper. I like Math-Drills.com . Search for graph paper and print out a few sheets of 1/4 inch size. Metric users try 0.5 cm; I found the 1 cm. size just a bit too large to produce smooth curves using my method.
Measure the length of the seam the flounce will be attached to. Measure the SEAM LINE, not the cut edge. All drafting is done referencing the seam line; seam allowances are added afterwards. I’ll show the back neck: seam line from CB to shoulder seam is 3.5 inches. 4:1 fullness is desired and 1.75 wide flounce so I’ll cut and tape together a strip of graph paper 1.75 inches by 14 inches (3.5 times 4).
Cut along every fourth line leaving a tiny bit attached at one long edge. If you cut through, it’s no problem to just tape it together. Overlap the sections so there are four blocks at one edge and one block at the other edge.
The inside edge won’t line up perfectly but I just eyeball it. You can also draw in a line to help. Tape the sections in place as you go. This is what the pattern will look like. It’s very clear that there is a 4:1 ratio of inner to outer length. Also it isn’t a complete circle which is good as there is space to add seam allowances.
The pattern can be cleaned up by using it as a gauge to draw circles with a compass. Use the end points on the outer circle and connect to the center for symmetrical seam lines. I find this much, much easier than trying to mathematically calculate the dimensions of the inner circle, outer circle, width of flounce, maintain fullness ratio. With all these variables, I wound up with a partial circle and calculating the percentage needed of such circles produces some dizzying math.
The graph paper method greatly simplifies creating the long cascading flounce along the center front. If you draft a flounce and trim off the outer edge to create a flounce narrower at one end, the proportion of fullness changes.
Here is a flounce which gets narrower at one end. I trimmed off the outer edge of a 3:1 circle. If you count the squares, it goes from a 3:1 fullness to a 2:1 fullness. This may be what you want, but what if you want to maintain the same fullness the entire length?
Here’s how I created the center front flounce. Measure from center front to the desired length. After some experimentation, I decided 3:1 was a good fullness. Create a strip of graph paper 3 times the finished length by the wider width. Draw a sloping line from wide point to narrow point.
Trim off the paper above the sloped line. Cut along every third square and overlap to create a curved pattern.
The pattern will spiral over itself. Keep going and let it overlap. It will be divided into sections later.
My front flounce needed to be divided into two sections to avoid the pieces overlapping. Deciding where to place the cuts is a trial and error process. You want a few seams as possible and the seams need to be placed where they are inconspicuous.
It may take several muslin trials to get seams where you want them. Trace off your master pattern so it is intact in case your first seams aren’t where you want them. Since the diameter of the circle is constantly changing along the length of the flounce the circles will turn into ellipses. Here is the lower section of my front flounce. I’ve left room for tiny seam allowances to join to the upper flounce section.
My pattern traced off to pattern paper. Label everything as the pieces will get VERY confusing. I also keep my graph paper models intact just in case I need them.
The armseye flounce is drafted in the same way. I did experiment with a 5:1 fullness but felt it too much and ultimately went back to the 3:1 proportion. Some experimentation is necessary as every flounce will behave differently depending on its width and placement. The fullness is removed under the arm at the side seam.
Since this design is symmetrical, the toile is only of the right side. I’ve also hemmed the center front flounce as the drape of flounces does change with the edge finish used. Drape flounces in a fabric similar to the fashion fabric as a silk chiffon will behave much differently than a crisp cotton. I will use a woven textured white cotton that looks almost the same on both sides as the wrong side of the fabric will show on this. Blouse is in production for the next post.
My youngest son was recently married and I had the joy of creating my new daughter-in-law’s gown. But before elaborating on the details of her gown I thought I would share photos of gowns I created for my other two daughter-in-law’s.
My oldest and his bride opted for a beach wedding on a far flung island in the Bahamas; not easy in terms of travel and logistics, but spectacular. She chose heavy silk crepe fabric and I embroidered abstract roses on the skirt. Random petals were cut out and backed with silk organza. The embroidery doesn’t show well in the photo. Silk organza flowers covered the narrow shoulder strap and cascaded down the bodice.
My middle son’s bride chose an antique looking crochet lace woven from silk, wool and cashmere. The ivory lace was backed with white silk charmeuse and underlined with ivory silk tulle. The lace required precise layouts as it had a large pattern and I wanted to position the scalloped edge to skim the ground in the front. Hemming this lace wasn’t an option so the toile needed to be carefully fitted. I also played with various edge and seam finishes using the lace borders. Here is a pic of her getting unrumpled and set for her entrance.
My youngest and his bride chose a beach setting for their wedding so her choice of a simple gown sewn in heavy silk crepe worked well. We designed a dress with a fitted and flared skirt, bodice with low necklines front and back, and jeweled belt.
The problem with low neckline in both front back is keeping the shoulder strap up. The bride doesn’t want to spend the night struggling with falling straps. Spiral steel boning solved the problem. After attaching the strap to the back bodice, interfacing with a channel for the boning was stitched to the underlining. The boning extends to the waistline seam in order for the strap to be supported from the waist up. Seams were turned under and catch stitched, ready for lining.
My first draft of the bodice had all the shaping transferred to one dart but no matter how I shaped and pressed the dart it ended in an unattractive point. The day before our final fitting I removed the front bodice and remade it using princess seaming which had a much better silhouette. I added a layer of cotton flannel to the front to camouflage a stick-on bra. The flannel was catch stitched just inside the stitching lines to avoid unnecessary bulk.
Firm cotton sateen reinforced the center front. I normally use silk organza for this but the deep plunge neckline needed something firmer.
The lining was inserted by hand. There was no way to do this by machine and sometimes sewing by hand is simply easier and produces better results. Hand sewing enabled me to ease the lining in much smoother than could have been done by machine.
A final touch for good luck is a horseshoe covered in silk ribbon. I start with a small cardboard horseshoe shape. Wrap narrow silk ribbon from both ends meeting at the top. Secure with narrow double sided tape and add a bow.
A French bustle held the skirt up for the reception. Color coded silk ribbons made it easy to tie everything up after the ceremony.
Mariana of Sew2Pro challenged her fellow bloggers to draft this dress:
I learned about this project from Kate of fabrickated. Several other sewers from all parts of the world are giving it a go. I don’t have a better pic of the dress but check out Marianna’s blog for better views. Some sewers saw asymmetrical lines in the bodice seaming; others didn’t. A few have drafted the skirt and everyone has a slightly different interpretation.
I’m doing just the bodice of the dress as I don’t wear big poufy skirts but Kate suggested in one of her posts that the bodice might do very well as a top. I’ll be showing you how I used my custom drafted sloper/block to arrive at a workable pattern.
Having a custom block saves hours and hours of fitting time and I think makes drafting a custom design so much easier and more accurate. I’m using the method explained by Suzy Furrer in her pattern drafting course available on Craftsy. I have no affiliation with Craftsy but you might want to investigate Suzy’s method as I’ve found it very accurate. It’s not a one day project. It might take several tries to perfect the fit but once you’ve done the work, you be able to use the master pattern for everything. I also used the moulage draft to create a custom dress form and find that invaluable when creating custom styles.
First trace your master block onto pattern paper. Never, ever cut up your master unless you want to duplicate hours and hours of work! This is my master bodice block. It’s drafted after you create the moulage pattern by lowering the neckline, underarm and adding minimum wearing ease. Other drafting systems put all the bust/waist shaping into a single dart but I find many advantages to splitting it into multiple darts. Princess lines are better defined and waist shaping is easier to manipulate. Mine has been copied onto heavy card stock for durability.
Here is the block traced onto plain pattern paper. I’ve redrawn the armhole 1.5 cm in from the edge and redrawn the armseye. I wanted the princess line to pass the bust point 1 cm towards the side seam; shifted the bust point and waist dart 1 cm. Rather than one dart for the waist shaping I drew two darts, each half the width of the original, and positioned them where I wanted the bodice seaming. Changes are shown in red.
The new princess seam line ends in the armhole halfway between the cross front line and the underarm line. Another style line is added close to center front. Split the pattern along the new seam lines and remove the dart bulk in the waistline darts.
Close the waist shaping; close the bust darts; smooth the neckline, armholes and bustline. The excess fabric at the bust point, a result of moving the princess line, will be converted to ease. The final lines are shown in green.
I chose to fit the pattern before deciding on the shaped hem. Muslin fabric cut and seam lines traced. My working patterns are always net, meaning no seam allowances added. I find it easier to visualize the finished shape without seam allowances. I check the fit on my custom dress form and there are usually very few alterations needed because the pattern is drafted to my shape from the start.
A couple of small changes were needed at the princess seam and shoulder. I left the toile unsewn in the hip area as I wanted to tweak that area for ease of movement.
A small amount of ease was added over the back hip and ease removed from the front.
Notice I have lapped the seams from the right side rather than placing right sides together and stitching from the wrong side. I find this gives me more control and is easier to perfect the final result. Couture workrooms also construct toiles in the same way. Here is a photo from the latest exhibit at the Metropolitan Art exhibit: Manus x Machina where several working toiles were on display.
Finally I used style tape to test possible hemlines. Since no back photo of this design was available, you are on your own to decide what looks best. Several other bloggers have experimented with echoing the asymmetrical point in the back. I also tried this but found no way to obtain a smooth transition from front to back and ultimately opted to omit the point from the back. What looks good from the front and/or back might not work when viewed from the side.
Alexander McQueen said: “I design from the side. That way I get the worst angle of the body. You’ve got all the the lumps and bumps, the S-bend of the back, the bum. That way I get a cut and proportion and silhouette that works all the way round the body.”
So true on this design. Look at the hemline from every angle and get a smooth transition the entire way round the body.
Once I’ve decided on a hemline it is marked with a water soluble pen and thread traced for a final try-on. No reason to cut and mess up hours of work before the final decision.
Final draft ready for cutting. Front draft and back draft. This will close with an invisible zip in the center back. The first version will be made in a white cotton pique.
It will be interesting to see what my fellow bloggers create. I’m sure there will be many interpretations.
My Donna Karan jacket, described in blog post March 14, 2015, is featured in the current issue of Threads Magazine. Check it out if you want more details about Vogue 1440 and the jacket construction.
Way to go Portugal! Last weekend we spent in Bristol, RI with our Portuguese family. Bristol hosts the oldest July 4 parade and my grandson is a full fledged fan in his soccer shirt. We celebrated with a wonderful family gathering under the grape vine covered pergola at uncle Tony’s.