Fitting toile in progress via a fusion of draping techniques

Update on development of my basic fitting toile through draping

Since publishing the last posting, I have practiced everyday using tissue paper on the dress form.  An attempt at creating a fitting toile from a tissue paper drape was not satisfactory.  The technique presented in Precision Draping by Nellie Weymouth Link has some good points and some areas that are weak.  I have learned this through repeated draping in tissue, pattern creation and one fitting toile in muslin.

Precision Draping does not require any marking for grain or guidelines since tissue paper is used for the medium.  This can be a drawback since there is no easy reference for knowing whether a dart or seam is correctly on grain.  Furthermore, the tissue paper is fragile and easily tears if handled too firmly.

The benefits to this system, though, offer an opportunity to get practice in eye and hand coordination, as well as real knowledge of how moving the tissue paper over the form creates darts, tucks, and seams.  I have also learned some of the original 1947 techniques that helped me realize that a 1940s Pencil Skirt was very different from a 1950s Pencil Skirt.  I will blog more about that in the future.

What I have done is combined the good parts of Precision Draping with the technique developed by Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Relis in their book Draping for Fashion Design.

The breakthrough came this week when in just 1 1/2 hours I draped what is the best fitting toile so far.  This required thinking outside the box and accepting my body’s own needs.  These are:

*No need for a shoulder dart on the back bodice.
*No need for a second dart at the side or above the bust.  One dart below the bust is adequate.
*The skirt front only needs one small dart.
*Because of the shape of my backside and a hipline lower than the standard 7″ below the waist, the dart intake is over 2 1/2″.  I need two darts that are longer than average.  For a fitting toile and pencil skirt the back darts are usually 5 1/2″ and 4 3/4″.  Mine are almost 7″ each.

Because there is a surgical mesh in my abdomen to correct an incisional hernia, I have a little puff in that area that will never go away and must be de-emphasized.  In Precision Draping, author Nellie Weymouth Link encourages the student to learn to use the dress form lines in ways to enhance a positive feature and detract from an unflattering one.  For me it is important to  find ways to make a pencil skirt without those darts.

One solution will be creating a six panel skirt with the basic pencil skirt pattern.  In the photos below you see the fitting toile with the darts.  In the third and fourth photos lace seam tape was pinned along what will be the panel lines.  The darts will be absorbed into the cutting line for the panels.  This leaves only one dart at the back that I will have to deal with.  I’ve read that the dart intake can be divided in half and removed from each seam on the back panel.  When the time comes to try this I will share it here.

I have tried using the sleeve pattern from Nurie and Relis’ book but the cap ease was over 1 1/4″.  It proved very tricky to ease into the entire armhole as the book recommends.  I plan to draft a fitted sleeve using the French Fashion Academy method followed by the alteration I have used in the past since it provides good results.

Once the fitting toile is finished I will have a record of what my basic dart lengths are, the dart intake, the level of the bust apex and more.  The next series of lessons will concern how I add ease.  For this I will revisit the ease tuck from the 1930s draping technique I blogged about last year.  For that I plan to use tissue paper draping until I have it down right.

More to come…

Fitting toile in progress

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Front.  Notice the very short skirt dart in front.

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Back of the fitting toile.  When viewed from the side the back darts draw much attention to their length and the short dart on the skirt front.

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One way to create a slimmer look and remove the focus created by the dart lies in absorbing the dart into a style line.  In this case the pencil skirt will have 6 panels.

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The first dart will be absorbed into the panel line shown by the lace seam tape.  The remaining dart will have the intake divided in half.  Then 1/2 the intake will be take off each seam of the side panel.

 

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Draping breakthrough…Photos and progress report to come soon

Hi everyone!  I have had an amazing development.  I wasn’t completely satisfied with the fit from the pattern shown in the previous posting.  I needed more muslin and had to wait for my order to arrive.

This got me to thinking of a vintage draping book written in 1947 that has occupied my bookshelf for several years.  I considered it more of a curiosity and reference book.  But two weeks ago, while waiting for the muslin to arrive, I began to seriously experiment with the technique presented in that book.  In “Precision Draping” by Nellie Weymouth Link, tissue paper instead of muslin is used for draping the first pattern.  During the WWII years cotton muslin was very hard to come by so many professional drapers and schools used tissue paper with good results.

I decided to give it a try.  I can get 10 sheets of tissue paper for 99 cents so I figured it would be fun to see if it worked.  Surprise, surprise!  I had to slow down and be very careful but I was able to create a genuine 1947 fitting toile from the entire process.

I am still having some issues with the skirt darts due to the changes the surgery made to my abdominal area but I am confident I now have a way to get around this.  I am working on a half-muslin toile right now.  When it’s finished I will put up the photographs.  If I can master this technique I will be saving money on muslin and working more authentically with a vintage system.

It will take a few more months of practice before I can make slopers based on my drapes but if all goes well I will be embarking on a completely new adventure.  The Precision Draping Technique uses a combination of draping, flat patternmaking and slopers.  I think this will be a good way to economize my time.

The only modern technique I have used is to draft the sleeve pattern from a modern draping book by Nurie Relis and Hilda Jaffee entitled “Draping for Fashion Design.”

Once the fitting toile is finished I will be able to confirm that I have correctly marked the apex, bust, chest, waist and hip levels on the form.  After this I need to revisit the ease tuck as a way to add needed style ease.  For this I will rely on the 1930s system I experimented with during the 1930s Sew-along with Norma last year.

I am very excited and optimistic about this development.  Photos and progress updates will soon be forthcoming on a regular basis now that summer is over.

Flat Pattern from Draped Fitting Toile

Update on draped fitting toile

As things would go I no longer have muslin with which to sew up the fitting toile.  I thought it would be good to share photos of the flat paper pattern created from the draped toile.  I have two orders for muslin coming in so I should be able to start after Labor Day.

I am amazed how much the resulting pattern reflects my imperfections.  Which is a good thing, because it means the results will be accurate.  I think you can see the little upward curve my abdomen takes on the front skirt.  This is where the surgical packing was placed to repair an incisional hernia.

I always find it so interesting to see how an individual’s resulting pattern or drape varies from the examples given in a book.  For example, I have sloping shoulders which results in a need to lower the armhole so I can move my arms freely.  A standard set in sleeve is usually a bit too high up under the arm to be comfortable when you have sloping shoulders.

Here are the photos for your review.  Please feel free to ask me about the process of transferring the muslin to the paper pattern.  Since I’m such a geek who loves every part of this process I’m happy to provide additional information.

Photos of the paper pattern

 

This figure comes from the book by Nurie Relis and Hilda Jaffe that I am using for creating a draped basic toile.

The front of my basic skirt only has one dart instead of two.  I noticed with this system there isn’t such a curvy fit over the hip.  This might work out better for me since there is a 1940s skirt I’d like to make that doesn’t have any darts in the front.  It is not quite a pencil skirt but is definitely not flared or A-line.  It is a style I’d definitely like to try.  I think a skirt like that would be good for weekends and busy days.

The back of my toile has two darts as in the example given.  I am looking forward to seeing how this fits and looks.

Notice how the shoulder dart is very small and the amount by which I had to lower the armhole.  There was an additional 1/2″ needed.  When I followed the standard instructions it was too tight.  Still I think a full toile is needed because a 1/2 toile is only good for spot checking a few details.

That small dart from the shoulder surprised me.  I thought it would have at least 1/2 to 3/4″ intake.  As it is I find it annoying to work with but since this is the basic I will go with the instructions.  When I actually start sewing, that little dart will be transferred into the vertical bust dart below or worked into other darts, tucks, or details.

I haven’t made the fitted sleeve with elbow dart yet since this is new territory for me.  I think the unfitted sleeve is a better start.  I need to see how this cap turns out when sewn into the armhole.  1 1/4″ of ease is quite a bit.  Even the shape of the cap is different from the one that resulted when I used the French Fashion Academy system to draft flat patterns.

 

 

Update on my fitting toile: Going with draping all the way

Update

I am working my way through many fitting issues now that I have a custom made dress form.  The French Fashion Academy drafting system is not working out for me as it did in the past.  I have decided to try draping instead.  I think I am making progress with creating a basic toile.  I am using the updated edition of  “Draping for Fashion Design” by Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Relis as my guide.    I provided a brief review of this book in 2013 but will post about the updated version once the toile is fitted and finalized.

The difficulty I was having with the French Fashion Academy method is that the intricate series of steps and measurements needed so many tweakings to accommodate the changes surgery made to my body.  As in altering a commercial pattern, all it takes is one adjustment in an area to set off a series of adjustments needed to other pattern pieces.

Even the draped toile has been a challenge.  At least the results look flattering and for this reason I shall persevere.  The fit of this toile will be more relaxed since this is a system created in America where our concepts of fit are different.

The major challenges lie in positioning the darts.  For the basic I follow the instructions in Jaffe and Relis’ updated book.  The bodice front and back vertical darts are positioned at the princess lines.  The first darts near center back of front and back skirts are also positioned near the princess lines.  This may be technically correct but visually I think they look too close and unflattering.  After resolving all fitting matters I will try moving the first skirt darts and the vertical bust dart slightly to the left of the princess seam.  I think 3/8 to 1/2″ will be sufficient.  Or else right in the middle of the waistline of each piece.

The sleeve you see here is a combination of drafting and a little bit of draping that involves smoothing and easing the cap into place.  This is the unfitted sleeve.  I want to focus on the ease first.  Once that is worked out I will try a fitted sleeve with elbow dart.  Following this system I have 1 1/4″ of ease in the cap.  That is a lot.  But the instructions are to ease stitch the entire cap and work out shrinking the ease after the cap is fitted to the armhole.  This means removing the sleeve after all that pinning and easing to steam out the excess ease.  I have to see how this will work.

Stay tuned.  Slow but steady progress is underway…

Photos of the toile so far along with how the paper pattern will look after the drape is copied to pattern paper

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First skirt toile: Fitting issues

Introduction

I decided to do the fitting toile in separate parts before assembling the bodice to the skirt.  This makes it easier for me to focus on the specific areas in each that present fitting problems.  As I am learning today, the surgical mesh that was put in place in the late 1990s to repair an incisional hernia has affected the fit of the skirt around the waist and abdomen.

Here are a few photos on the problems as well as what I think the toile is telling me the solutions should be.

First Skirt Toile-Fitting problems and possible solutions

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My abdomen is a bit puffy where the mesh was placed.  This affected the waistline and abdomen lines.  The front skirt length is 1″ more while the side and back skirt length are the same.  I eliminated 1/4″ from the center front length and it now rests in a better position.

There was only 3/4″ for dart intake.  The drafting instructions called for dividing that intake evenly between two darts.  I do not like the way the darts look.  Also, during the fitting the waistline gaped between the darts.  I will use this extra amount to increase the intake.  The extra amount was pinned into place.

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This custom made dress form includes a derriere which I think makes a big difference when aiming for an accurate fit and enough ease around a pencil skirt or any skirt for that matter.  At the back, I also found more gaping between the darts, so that excess will be used for the next skirt’s back darts.  Here, too, I am thinking one dart may be better than two.

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To create a more pleasing shape, I’m going to try tapering the skirt from the hip to hemline.  I’ll measure in about 1/8 to 3/16″ at the side seam and taper to zero at the hip.  This will give the skirt a bit more of a curvy shape.

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To create some sense of shape at the front and make something of a visual distraction from the puffy abdomen I think darts that slant to the side seams might work.  What do you think?

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It’s still too soon to tell how the next toile will come out but I think there will be some improvement.  If you look at the right side of the skirt (left in the photo) there already is a better shape resulting from some tapering at the side seam and taking in the excess fabric that had been gaping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Josie, my new dressform

Introduction

This is Josie, my custom made dress form.  She is very modest about her figure and wanted to be dressed up when I introduced her to the RetroGlam readers and subscribers.

Earlier in the Spring of 2017 Naomi and Norma encouraged me to begin sewing clothes for myself again.  I’ve spent the last three years or so getting my skills back by making clothes for a Misses Size 4 using my Wolf dress form.  With the completion of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma project, I was confident enough to do just that.

I had saved enough money to get a custom made professional dress form by Andy’s Forms in New York City.  Rohan of Andy’s Dress Forms made the form for me based on a series of measurements taken at the store.  When the form arrived last week I was so pleased and so amazed that it duplicated every aspect of my figure.  Rohan makes each form using the traditional hand made methods involving paper mache and fabric.

I decided to name the form Josie Jr. after my Grandmother Josie who taught me how to sew.  My late Mom used to help with all the fittings and critiques when she was alive and before the onset of Parkinsonism began a slow set-in of her life.  It is important for me to have this form since I cannot do a proper fitting without the help of another person to pin, review and assess how the outfit looks.  Even a three way mirror is no substitute for the ability to stand back and see how the toile looks from different angles.

My Basic Fitting Shell

I have been on vacation this past week so there were many happy, uninterrupted hours spent getting acquainted with Josie and her fitting needs.  By naming the form and looking at it as a bit removed from myself, I am better able to critique the fit and results.

One thing I had to admit was that the various surgeries I had in the 1990s altered the shape of my body.  The clothing I made prior to that time was more symmetrical and there were very definite differences between bust, hip and waist.  I have gained weight so that there is some cleavage at the bust and a nice curve at the hip.  But due to an ovarectomy in 1992, I was left with an incisional hernia that had to be repaired twice.  During the second operation a surgical mesh was put in that solved the problem.  Thank goodness I have no further problems.  The mesh, though, resulted n a little bulge at the abdomen that makes me look like I have a bit of a puff in that area.

This has resulted in the front skirt length being 27″ and the side and back skirt length being 26″.  The skirt pattern looks a little odd at this point and my waist is less indented than it was before the surgery.  Overall, though, the operation was a success and that is what counts.

Here are the photos of the basic fitting shell pattern.  The muslin is already cut and awaiting sewing.  Results will appear in the next posting.

The side dart was bigger than the vertical dart.  It was better to shift the dart intake to the vertical dart so now I have a shell with just one dart.  We’ll have to see how that looks.  I’m used to having a vertical and side dart since working with a standard Misses Size 4.  Since this is custom dressmaking now I’m sure more surprises are ahead as I get familiar with sewing for my new body shape.

I’ve always had sloping shoulders so the shoulder dart is about the same as it was when I drafted patterns for myself over 20 years ago.  What is different this time is the center back seam on the bodice has less shaping since my waistline is a little larger due to the surgical mesh.

Here you can see the way the skirt rises at the center front.  I had no idea when drafting the pattern that this would happen.  This needs testing through the fitting of the first toile.  I’m very curious to see the results and what further adjustments may be needed.  It is my hope that anyone else who has undergone surgery and gone through a period of adjustment will learn along with me how to develop styles that will make the least of any figure flaw and favor those parts that are more flattering.

Right now I think that the skirt darts are too small.  Perhaps only one dart each side with the entire amount for intake will be better than two.  We won’t know until the skirt is finished.

First Project after Perfecting the Fit

At first I was thinking of making another 1930s inspired dress for my first custom made project.  But dealing with my little fitting issues has me thinking I should start simple before attempting anything with flounces and all the pretty, fluttery features of 1930s styles.  So I will go with the 1950s styles which flattered my Mom and Aunties and which I grew to love as a little girl.  They were women with a healthy body weight and well defined figures (helped by wearing girdles).  I do not plan to wear a heavy girdle but I favor  light-weight shape wear.  I think 1950s styles with their well defined waistlines are a good place for me to start.

I plan to start with this basic chemise from the 1952 edition of “Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing.  There will be changes such as a back zipper instead of a front slit because I do not like pull-over dresses made of woven fabrics.  The collar will be turned back for further comfort because Mandarin collars are not one of my favorites since they are too close to the neck.

Knowing how the pattern pieces of the original style looked will also help me draft the style and figure out the kind of kimono sleeve used.  It could be a Short KImono Sleeve without Gusset.  Another possibility is that the pattern was based on a long  Kimono Sleeve cut to the desired length.  I will compare these illustrations with those in my patternmaking book.

The book also shows the pattern layout, which is another help since I don’t have to do much to  figure out the placement of the pieces.

Now, back to working on the toile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dressmaker’s Library: The Biba Years 1963-1975

The Biba Years

The Biba Years 1963-1975 by Barbara Hulanicki and Martin Pel
Published by V&A Publishing, London

As part of my ongoing education, I am seeking out female designers of the last 50-75 years who have embraced what I define as the “retro glam factor” and worked at bringing it to the everyday woman.  Such female designers are replacing the male couturieres  who were once the sole source of my inspiration and vision.  While I admire their techniques and the innovations created by such male designers as Christian Dior,  I no longer feel a need or desire to connect with what they represent.  The same goes for female designers of haute couture.  The world which they worked in and designed for is not the world I live in nor was it the world in which the women I personally took inspiration from lived in.  At the start of 2017 I promised myself that a major realignment of design vision was necessary.  I am happy to tell that it is successfully underway.  Mary Quant* was the first designer who initiated this process.  Now I am experiencing another reorientation by studying the work of Barbara Hulanicki, the design genius behind Biba.

Like Mary Quant, Barbara’s success was not only a result of her sharp design sense and hard work.  Barbara’s  husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon, believed in her talent and became the force behind running the business side of Biba.  The same was true for Mary Quant and her husband, too.  Another similarity with Mary is that Barbara was deeply in love with her husband and also a mother who loved her son very much.  Both women loved being mothers and never felt it took away from their design work or career.  The difference between Barbara and Mary in terms of their business focus lie in the targeted customer.  Mary’s designs were geared towards the more upscale customers in London as her price range was always higher.  Barbara, on the other hand, wanted her clothing to be manufactured at the most reasonable price possible so that she could sell very affordable clothing to the shop girl and the young working woman.

Barbara’s earliest influences were her Mom and her maternal Aunt.  The Hulanicki family was Polish and moved to Jerusalem in the late 1930s because that is where Barbara’s father first worked for the Polish government and then the British Mandate for Palestine.  He was murdered in 1948 an event that was to leave a deep impression on Barbara’s creative vision.  This is because in her retreat into the past Barbara found a sense of comfort and reassurance.  Barbara, her mother, and younger sister Biruta moved to England where Barbara’s maternal Aunt Sophie took the family into her care.

Aunt Sophie was a throwback to an earlier time when women dressed for dinner, wore gloves, sported ladylike dresses and reveled in all the baubles, accessories and expressions of femininity.  She had very definite ideas of what was lady-like and what was not.  In her presence Barbara was able to pick up a connection to the fashions of the past.  As she reached adolescence Barbara also looked back on her time in Jersualem with a sense of nostalgia and a vision of the exotic which life there had.  She also immersed her self in the world of movie stars and the cinema.  All this led to a fusion of the elements that exploded into the creative vision of Biba.

Biba started out as a mail order boutique but quickly grew into a popular location for the young once the first shop was opened on Abingdon Road in London in 1965.  The name Biba was a nickname for Barbara’s younger sister.  She liked the appeal it had and also the fact that the targeted customer was about the age of her younger sister.  At first Barbara’s styles followed the unfitted chemise which was very popular around 1963-1966.  Then something happened.  More success brought more financial means to expand the scope of Barbara’s design vision.  Soon she was creating styles that had a very fresh appeal yet harkened back to the past through such details as 1940s puffed and tucked sleeves, 1930s slinky cuts and 1920s tubular knits and cloche hats.  Barbara worked on creating unique design features like the Biba Dart, shorter shoulder lines and higher armholes.  This created the appearance of an almost doll like body on the wearer but also lent a degree of discomfort since the sleeves were too tight, a feature that Barbara said was essential to her look.

Biba continued to grow and expand into a full-fledged department store complete with roof-top garden in the 1970s.  The Recession of the 1970s caused financial difficulties which resulted in the store closing in 1975.  The legacy that Barbara left is one of bringing an element of elegance to the masses and proving that it can be done at an affordable price.  Some sources online say that there were sometimes problems not only with the fit but some of the textiles used.  Still the long success which Biba enjoyed proves that there is a need for affordable clothing for the everyday woman which does more than just clothe the body but links the woman to a spirit of femininity which combines the best of both the past and the present.  Some photos from the book which show Barbara’s development through the years follow.

*For my previous reflections on Mary Quant please visit:

The Dressmaker’s Library: “Mary Quant * Autobiography”

The Pink Gingham Dress by Biba, 1964

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Biba designs made into sewing patterns, mid-1960s

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Biba Designs, early to mid-1970s

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