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.