Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Drafting Patterns, Fabric Shopping, Uncategorized

The Chanel Style Tunic

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.

Boucle scraps

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.

Basic Sloper combine darts

Close the armhole and shoulder darts, combining them into the underarm dart. Angle the new underarm dart towards the lower edge.

Final Pattern

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.

Collar patterns Stand pattern Collar offset curve-runner.jpg

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.

collar-cardboard.jpg under-collar-cardboard.jpg


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.

Collar band

Collar 1 Collar 2

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.

Designing front placket Front trim

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!!!

Linton tweed Front buttonholes

Hem trim Hem 1

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 tunic

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.

Inside view Side zip

Chanel Tunic full length

Next post will detail the design and construction of the bride’s outfit.




couture sewing, Evening Wear

Chanel Runway Dress; Easier Than You Think

Chanel gownI noticed this dress from a recent Chanel runway show and set out to copy it. Two photos showing the original dress.Chanel gown detail
I started with a simple sheath dress such as this McCalls pattern but you could use anything similar.012
If you aren’t sure how it will fit make a test dress in muslin. It needs to be slim fitting but not skin tight. Make sure to peg the skirt. That means taper the side seams below the hip line. You want the hem narrower than the hips; that makes for a more slimming line.
Cut the dress from a sheer, flexible fabric. I used cotton tulle in a nude color. You could also use silk organza but I find the tulle works best. Nylon tulle is NOT the same thing. Cotton tulle can be difficult to find locally but most better shops in cities carry it. I use Mood, B & J and others and they do mail order.
Sew the darts and the right side seam with the wrong side out. That means your darts and seam will be facing out like a lining. Leave the shoulders and left seam open for now. It will make placing the trim strips much easier.
Now for the fringed strips. I bought 2 yards each of light, medium and dark gray silk organza. I also got 2.5 yards of both medium and dark sparkle POLYESTER organza. You will be cutting some of the trim with a soldering iron and silk can’t be cut with a heat tool; it will just burn. Very important to get 100% polyester.
Working with one color of silk at a time, cut 4 to 5 inch wide BIAS strips from the yardage. You will wind up with yards and yards of bias strips. I recommend cutting some test strips from a corner before you cut the entire yardage to test the width. Make the strips wider or narrower if you need.
Press your bias strips in half the long way so now you have narrow double layer strips. Take a stiff brush and fray the cut edges. I placed a piece of canvas on my pressing surface and brushed away. The brush will damage your ironing board cover, so please use something to protect it. I found canvas better than a smooth, slippery surface as the silk didn’t slip around. I used a brass scrub brush.006

Next work on the polyester trim. Cut several bias strips from each color of the poly organza. I made mine about 3 inches wide. Don’t cut the entire yardage as you will need some for the large strip at the hem and also for the top of the dress.
You will need a heat tool to cut the wavy edge so it doesn’t fray. Cutting with scissors will leave a raw edge and that won’t last long. The heat tool will sear the edges and prevent fraying. I used an inexpensive soldering iron from Radio Shack. Make sure yours has a pointed tip.
You will also need a piece of plate glass. I used a scrap from an old window and wrapped the edges with duct tape to prevent injury. Draw some wavy lines on a piece of paper. When you are happy with the design place the paper under the glass so you can see your design. You can also cut freehand, but having the pattern to follow was easier for me.
Heat up your tool and place a strip of organza with one edge along your drawn line. The fabric is on top of the glass and can now be cut with the soldering iron. Make sure you work with one layer at a time as multiple layers will be melted together. Practice this a few times on scraps before starting. You need to cut slow enough to allow the heat to cut through the fabric but fast enough to prevent melting and holes.009010
Last is the fringed strips. I used lightweight charcoal Ultrasuede and cut 1.5 to 2.5 inch wide strips on the crossgrain. Ultrasuede is most flexible that direction and you also will need only about 1/2 yard; nice since it’s not inexpensive.
Chalk a line about 1/2 inch in from one long edge, turn on a movie and get comfortable. Arm yourself with the sharpest scissors you can find and cut fringe. The chalk line is a guide of how deep to cut and I just eyeballed about 1/8 inch for the width.
Next post will be how to start putting everything together. Let me know if anything is unclear. This is not a quick and easy project but do-able if you take it slow and focus on one step at a time. No wonder the price tag is astronomical at Chanel!