Sewing French Darts

The bodice of the Dirndl Dress has diagonal French darts. I used the technique from “The Readers Digest Complete Guide To Sewing” (1). Although the instructions are for curved French darts I followed them all the way through and got good results. What follows are photos of my step-by-step progress in making these darts. They had to be handled with care because they fall on the bias of the fabric.

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The Dressmaker’s Library: “The Little Dictionary of Fashion” by Christian Dior

Cover of “The Little Dictionary of Fashion” by Christian Dior, Published by V&A Publications, London, 2007.

The subtitle of “The Little Dictionary of Fashion” by Christian Dior is “A guide to dress sense for every woman.” I think this perfectly sums up Dior’s goal was when this book was published in 1954.
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The Dressmaker’s Library: Patternmaking, Sewing and Draping Books

I’ve successfully completed underlining and cutting the fashion fabric for The Dirndl Dress this past week. Yesterday, I completed pinning, basting and stiching all the darts. In my next posting I’ll detail how the French Darts were constructed and the consideration needed to successfully work with them since they are placed on the bias of the fabric.

Dressmaking that incorporates retro styling and sewing works out much better when you have a library of reference books that include older and even vintage editions of sewing guides. I will share in this posting some of my own resources.

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Dirndl Skirt Pattern Diagram for Misses Size 4

The measurements used here are for a Misses Size 4. You can see how this dirndl looks as part of my current sewing and draping project, The Dirndl Dress. This pattern may be freely used, graded, circulated and made up into skirts or as part of dresses whether privately or commercially made.

The finished skirt length is 25 1/2″. On a woman about 5’5″-5’6″ who is a Misses Size 4 it will be slightly below the knee.

You may preview how the completed Dirndl Skirt will look as part of my Dirndl Dress. This pattern was used to complete the skirt portion of that dress. The dress was made of a medium weight quilting cotton and underlined with cotton batiste. It will work even better with light to medium weight fabric specifically made for skirts or dresses.

All pattern pieces are shown without 1/2″ seam allowances. You must add them at the time of cutting the fabric or when drafting the pattern. It’s up to you.

The skirt and waistband are drafted for a skirt that rests at the natural waistline. Although some sewing blogs are calling such skirts “high waisted skirts” it is not the high waist. It simply seems high because of the ongoing popularity of the low waisted skirts that rest at abdominal or hip level. A high waisted skirt, technically speaking, can be 1 to 2″ above the natural waistline.
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The Dirndl Skirt: Flat Patternmaking using the Basic Skirt Pattern

Partial view of the front of the basic skirt pattern for a Misses Size 4.

I prefer to make a dirndl skirt from the flat pattern for a basic skirt because I have more control over how much width will be added for gathers in the front and the back. There is more control afforded because you know exactly where side seams of bodice and skirt should meet. You can also vary the amount of gathering if you wish. Here you see the front skirt pattern after it is drafted with 1″ of style ease added for the waist and 2″ of style ease added for the hips.

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The Dirndl Dress: Draped, fitted Bodice with Double French Darts

For the Dirndl Dress, the bodice was draped using a medium weight muslin. Excess fabric was shaped into double French Darts on the side seam of the front fitted bodice. There is a low, U shaped neckline in front. The back neckline is slightly below the regular neckline.

The bodice is sleeveless. I got good results with the outline of the neckline and armhole by putting one of my favorite tank tops on the dress form before draping. I marked the outline of the neck and armhole with pins and then took the tank top off. Style tape was then placed along the outlines where the pins were.

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The Dirndl Dress: An exploration in draping and flat patternmaking

Front view of the dirndl dress half toile.

I thought that a fun project to help reawaken my sensibilities for full scale dressmaking would be a dirndl dress. Something very basic and adaptable for which accessories can provide a late 1950s-early 1960s feeling.

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