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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1930s Dress Completed! Meet Miss Norma N. Carol

Hello to all my WordPress friends and blog subscribers.  I am very happy to introduce you to Miss Norma Naomi Carol, the name I selected for the dress I’ve finally completed for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  I love selecting a name for an outfit I have completed.  I chose this name as a way to say thank you to the three WordPress bloggers who have seen me through this year long learning experience.  Norma started it with the challenge to sew a 1930s style using techniques appropriate to the period.   Carol generously provided material from her research which she posted at her blog and some which she emailed me during the early stages of the sew-along.  Naomi gave me ongoing support and encouragement as I worked my way through the stumbling blocks and challenges that come with going outside one’s usual repertoire of sewing techniques.  I hope you will accept this homage as my way of saying “Thank You Very Much!”

I will let the photos do the rest.  .  .

Accessories

I decided that since this is an interpretation of a Depression Era style, accessorization should be very simple and kept at a minimum.  For that reason I chose a simple pair of pearl earrings with a bow made of rhinestones that works with the orange-yellow buds in the print of the fabric.  The other accessory is a reinforced belt with fabric covered buckle and snap closure.  Thread loops were created in the color of the belt to downplay their presence on the dress.

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Here she is, Miss Norma Naomi Carol

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1930s Sew-along with Norma: Covered and Underlined Buttons

Introduction

I’m now at the part I love about dressmaking–considering and making the finishing touches.  For my dress created during the 1930s Sew-along with Norma those finishing touches will be a belt and fabric covered buttons.  The green fabric I chose works well with the floral print of the dress and provides just the right contrast.  I started with the buttons first and will share what I learned in the form of a tutorial.

Planning for the buttons

Fabric covered buttons are made using a brass top and bottom designed to grip, hold and cover the fabric that is shaped around the top of the button.  On the inside of the top portion of the button are little teeth against which you mold and press the fabric so that the teeth grip and hold it securely.  When that is finished the bottom portion is snapped into place.

The fabric I am using is very lightweight and has a slight sheen.  As a result, the metallic gleam of the button shows through the fabric making it even more shiny.  I needed to underline the button fabric, so to speak, to prevent the shine from happening.  It is very important that the buttons have a matte look about them so that they stay in keeping with the dress fabric.

At first I thought a poly-china silk would work but it proved of no use in hiding the shine from the brass of the button top.  So I next tried a very lightweight cotton interfacing.  This solved the problem very well.  I was now ready to cover the buttons.

Fabric Covered Buttons with Underlining

1.  The underlining and button cover fabric is trued and steam pressed.  To keep things simple I pinned the fabric together at regular intervals so that it would not move when marked and cut.

2.   Here is a close-up of the button tops and bottoms.

3.   On the back of the package is a round button pattern.  This is to be cut out for use in marking the fabric that will cover your buttons.

4.   Another close-up of the buttons.  On the top at the left is the inside of the button top and to the upper right is the inside view of the cover.  In the front to the left is the right side of the top of the button and to the right is the outer part of the bottom of the button.

5.   I was interrupted when tracing the pattern onto the fabric so I will explain how I obtained what you see in the photo above.

a.   The fabric was pinned as shown in Step 1.

b.   I used a very sharp piece of new Tailor’s Chalk that I broke in half so that it would be very easy to handle.

c.   The cardboard circle (Button Pattern) was carefully held in place while I used the piece of chalk to trace the shape.

d.   A very sharp straight pin was used to hold the underlining and cover fabric together.  I continued in this manner until I had 10 pinned circles ready to cut.

e.   I used a small Fiskars Craft Scissors to cut out the circles.

6.   Since I could not cover the buttons at this point I put all the cut circles into a little box along with the button tops and bottoms.  I removed the pins so as not to have marks left in the fabric.

 

7.  When I was ready to start covering the buttons I stitched the fabric and underlining together at the outer edges using a conditioned, double strand of cotton thread passed through a #6 hand sewing sharp needle.  Cotton is much stronger and less likely to knot the way a polyester thread would.  The thread should have a 1/2″ tail after a double knot.  Use tiny running stitches all around.  At the end cut another tail about 1″ long but do not knot.

 

8.   Gather up the circle by pulling on both tails of the thread.  Put the top of the button inside and then gently draw the thread around the button top until it is covered.

9.   Coax the fabric onto the teeth on the inside of the button top.  The instructions on the package recommended using an eraser but I do not think that is wise.  A micro tweezer or crochet hook is a better choice since you cannot mark up your fabric with it.  Once the fabric is securely in place, gather the fabric as much as possible, then trim the tail.  It is not necessary to make a knot.

 

10.  Top of the button after the fabric has been smoothed out an before the tail of the thread was cut.

11.   Now it is time to snap the back of the button into place.

12.  To ensure the back is securely in place I press own with the top of a spool of thread that fits over the back of the button.

13.  The process is now completed.  The top of the button will look like this.

14.  And the bottom will look like this.  (Sorry for the blurry photo.)

15.  I now have to determine how much space is needed between each button and then they will be sewn onto each sleeve.

 

1930s Sew-along with Norma: line sketch of the dress

Naomi of Spare Room Style brought up a good point about the photos of the completed dress.  All the details get lost in the print of the fabric.  At her request I’m uploading a pencil sketch I hope will make the details clear.

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Details of front of the dress

Bust darts from center of front shoulder to 1″ above apex of bust.
V-neckline with interfacing and facing on inside, bound with bias trim slip stitched into place.
Bodice extends about 2-3″ below widest part of the hip line.  On the Misses Size 4 this is a length about 13″ below the waist.

Details of back of the dress

Center back seam.
Slot zipper application (hand sewn with running stitches).

Flounce

Cut with center front and center back on lengthwise grain.
Two flares each side of center front and center back.

Sleeve

Fitted sleeve.
Vertical dart running from wrist up to elbow.
Sleeve finished with hand sewn bias binding at wrist.
Somewhere between 5 to 9 buttons to be placed along vertical dart line.

Belt

In planning stages.

Pattern Notes

A basic chemise pattern is used for the bodice of the dress.
–Slight shaping was applied from underarm down to end of bodice.  This is not a straight, tubular shape.
–The width at the hipline is widest to accommodate movement and the need for enough fabric so that the dress can be comfortable when the belt is worn.
–The wider the hip line is creates a need for the flares to be slightly wider.  The flares for the size 4 will have a little less depth than the flares for a size 6, 8 or 10.  It is a matter of preserving the overall proportions of the dress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Dress finished, belt next!

Introduction

To all my blog friends, readers and subscribers.  A big thank you for following, advising, correcting and encouraging me during this year long journey from conception to creation for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  I am happy to report the construction of the dress is completed.  The project, though, is not.  I still have to make the belt.  And that is the element that will transform this late 1920-early 1930ish chemise into an attractive dress.

I’m thinking of making fabric covered buttons in the same green fabric that the belt will be made of.  There would be five buttons along the vertical dart of each sleeve to create the look of of a buttoned closure.  Right now I’m not sure.  Further experimentation will show if this will work or not.

Here are progress photos of the completed dress along with construction details I learned along the way.  Once the belt is completed the dress will get a professional hand pressing.

Completed dress

The vertical bust darts originating at the center of the front shoulder help keep the chemise shape straight.  I have never worked with this kind of dart before but will consider it again should I make a dress or blouse where a straight side seam is used.  It provides a nice flow to the fabric over the bust line.  This kind of dart can also be transformed into tucks or gathers over the bust.

The vertical dart in the sleeve affects the way it looks from the back.  It creates a forward movement from the elbow down.  The sleeve has a nice fit around the wrist but is not tight.  The vertical dart can be worked into an opening that closes with ball buttons and fabric loops.  I’d like to use this sleeve again.

The flounce is on the lengthwise grain at center front and back.  The side seams go off onto the bias.  Even though the rayon faille is very lightweight, the extra weight of the fabric from the flounce made it slightly heavier than the tubular shaped bodice of the dress.

I found that rayon faille is a great fabric to work with for simple styles that float and drape around the body.  To get the effect I wanted for this dress a little control was needed.  I decided to improvise and created lightweight stays out of lace hem tape.

The lace stays for darts and seams

To keep the bust darts positioned and facing towards center front, I hand stitiched a length of Wrights Flex-Lace hem tape onto each dart inside the stitching line.  This was done before pressing and sewing to the back bodice at the shoulder line.  Two rows of tiny running stitches were used.

After joining the flounce to the bodice I noticed that there was a slight tendency on the bodice to look like the joining line was going to sag.  To remedy that and prevent stretching, I encircled the joining seam above the stitching line with Wrights Flexi-Lace hem tape.  A row of tiny running stitches above the sewing line and near the edge of the joining seam were used.  Then the seam was pressed up towards the bodice.

The hem tape was awful to work with.  It is Wrights Soft and Easy hem tape but I found it anything but that.  Despite being washed and softened and steamed before use, it crinkled no end when applied to the circular hem.  I will not be using it again.  The plus side of using it is that is provided a nice weight at the hemline.  From the right side the flares hold their place beautifully so I consider it a happy outcome.  Still that rippling and crinkling get to me.

More Wright’s Flexi-Lace was used along the vertical sleeve dart before it was pressed towards the center vertical grain of the sleeve.  The bonus which the stay provides is that there will be more support for the buttons if I decide to sew them along the dart line to create the look of a button closure on the sleeve.

I also used Flexi-Lace along the inside of the seam where the zipper was hand sewn.  It provided the right support for all the hand stitching which followed:  running stitches for the zipper, another row of running stitches to the inside tape along the seam and vinally the hand overcasting of the seam.

Since rayon faille is so twisty and lightweight, I found that the flounce had a tendency to move inward when placed on the dress form.  I wanted the side seam to flare outward so I used a 1 1/2″ wide strip of soft lace hem tape which was stitched over the completed side seam of the flounce on each side.  One row of running stitches that attached the lace only to the seams was used.  The lace stay was applied after sewing the flounce and before attaching it to the bodice.

To keep the side and shoulder seams of the bodice and the seams of the sleeves flat I used lace stays on each seam before sewing the seam itself.  Near the stitching line I used a running stitch.  At the edge I hand overcast the rayon faille and lace together.

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Using hem tape

Update:  Hemming the 1930s styled dress

My dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma is coming into the home stretch.  There are many reasons why it has taken me almost a year to actualize this style.  First, my full-time job keeps me very busy and some weekends I’m not up to the level of attention fine dressmaking requires.  Another reason is that when you draft your own patterns it’s a very big adventure.  It takes time to learn how what you see in your imagination will eventually play out with the pattern, muslin and fashion fabric.  Sometimes there are such bad flops along the way it is better to start anew with the hard earned knowledge gained from the mistake.

I have learned so much from this project that I plan to do another 1930s influenced style after the dress is finished.  In that project I hope to create a combination of modern and period techniques based on what I learned from the 1930s challenge created by Norma.  I’m very reluctant to skip along to a 1950s style project since I would lose the awareness and sensitivity gained from this year long journey into 1930s sewing land.

After the flounce was sewn into the bodice gravity not only worked on the hem, but also on the seam that joined the flounce to the bodice.  The pattern goes straight around a point about 10 inches below the hip line.  After the dress hung on the form, I noticed it dipped slightly at the sides.  This might be one reason why the inset flounces on 1930s dresses and skirts  have a curved seam that is higher at Center Front and Center Back and lower on the side seams.  I plan to do my next flounce like this.

My reference books show hems finished with a tape that looks a little like ribbon.  I do not think they had anything like Wrights Flexi-Lace in the 1930s so I went with Wright’s Soft and Easy Hem Tape to finish the hem of the flounce.  It was very stiff when I took it out of the package so I washed it.  I hung it to air dry until slightly damp.  Then I pressed it with a steam iron.  In the close-up of the hem, I’ve already machine sewn the hem tape and basted it in place for the final hand stitching.

The rippling comes from the circular hem.  I’ve pinched in excess fabric where needed.  After hand stitching and light steaming the hem will flatten.  When seen from the right side the hem is smooth so I think this hem treatment will work out.  To stabilize the joining seam of the flounce and bodice I hand stitched into place Wrights Flexi-Lace all the way around.  Tiny running stitches at the top and bottom of the lace were the best choice to sew it in place.

At the French Fashion Academy, we rarely if ever used either Flexi-Lace or Soft & Easy Hem Tape.  Seam edges were zig-zagged and sewn in place with a catch stitch when a flat hem was needed.  Even so, I like the look of lace hem tape because it does look a little retro as do pinked seams.  If I have a choice, though, I prefer Flexi-Lace because it is softer and accommodates curves much better than the Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Progress Photos

The dress is turned inside out so you can see the finishing for the hem and the joining seam of flounce and bodice.

Close-up of hem finished with Wrights Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Close-up of the flounce hem, from the right side of the dress.