First skirt toile: Fitting issues


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


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.


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.


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.


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?


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


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.







Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt: Skirt Toile Version 1

I am in the midst of preparing for a move to a new apartment on September 13, 2014. Since I will not be able to finish the altered skirt toile by then I thought it best to show how the first version is progressing. I have an opportunity with the current version to show the alteration I continually have to make everytime I draft a skirt using the Size 4 measurements. I never had to make this adjustment for myself or others. At times I am tempted to simply deduct the 3/8″ I must remove from the front measurement BEFORE drafting the pattern. However, experience has taught me that once the basics of the drafting technique are altered the rest of the process is effected and often the resulting pattern has fitting issues in more than one area. So, I follow the instructions as I’ve previously shared and then make the needed alteration.

The alteration for the Misses Size 4 Sheath Skirt Front is detailed in this posting.

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Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow: My take on the 1950s Pattern

I completed drafting the pattern and making the toile for my take on the vintage pattern envelope illustration I found at Pinterest.

RetroGlam version of a secretary blouse based on a vintage pattern envelope illustration.

I started with a Basic Unfitted Bodice Front and Back to which 3″ of style ease was added for Chest, Bust and Hip Circumference. The Basic Unfitted Sleeve had 3″ style ease added to the Upper Arm Circumference. Then this sleeve was transformed into a shirt sleeve with gathers and a button cuff. A slit with placket was created at the back of the sleeve.

There are vertical tucks in the Front Bodice running from the hem up to 1″ above the waistline. There are four of these tucks, 2 on each side, of the Back Bodice. These tucks give some control at the waistline and will create a nice shape for the blouse when it is tucked into the skirt. I’ve noticed that the vintage blouses that do not have waistline yokes often have several vertical tucks or darts running from under the bust the hem in the front and back. I think this shaping was very important given how closely skirts were fitted, especially in the 1950s.

The vintage pattern has a lower neckline and larger bow. I would love to see a photo of how that pattern worked out because illustrations are the ideal while a photo can show the real. Since I take inspiration from a Misses Size 4 and consider what a woman who weighs about 120 lbs. and is 5′ 5″ to 5′ 6″ would look good in, I decided to raise the neckline slightly and make the Pussycat Bow smaller.

I plan to work on the shaping at the ends of the bow some more.

The bow is cut on the true bias. It works out very well since the roll at the neckline is very soft and the bow should have a nice drape in the fashion fabric.

I will post the pattern transformation instructions next week. To keep the posts manageable, there will be several so that each part of the pattern can be presented in detail. The pattern pieces consist of:

1. Basic Unfitted Bodice Front, with slight shaping at side seam and vertical tuck from hem to 1″ above Waistline. V-neckline is created which ends 1″ above the apex point.

1a. Front and Back Neckline Facing.

2. Basic Unfitted Bodice Fack, with slight shaping at side seams. Two vertical tucks on each side of Center Back provide additional shaping.

3. Basic Shirt Sleeve with cuff. The basis is the Basic Unfitted Sleeve.

4. Pussycat bow.

Donna: 1950s inspired half circle skirt and fitted blouse with waistline yoke

For a long time, I’ve wanted to create an outfit that adds a touch of femininity to even the busiest days filled with errands or shopping. Such an outfit would remain crisp and smart throughout the day, no matter how busy it was. The fabrics used have to be easy to care for. It has to allow freedom of movement and the abitlity to walk briskly. Clearly a pencil skirt and high heels would not be suitable for this.

1950s sitcoms like “The Donna Reed Show” and “I Married Joan” always showed the housewives beautifully attired even when they were supposed to be busy baking cookies, doing the laundry or mending socks after dinner. In their roles as gracious housewives Donna Reed and Joan Davis wore full, flared skirts with simple and crisply tailored blouses. Very little jewelry was worn by these characters with the exception of earrings and a wristwatch on occasion. There was a chic quality to the clothing that made the actresses look very attractive. I attribute part of that to the perfect balance between the fit of the blouse and the flare of the skirt.

Front of the half circle skirt.

Back of the half circle skirt.

With idea in mind I chose a half circle skirt and fitted blouse with waistline yoke for my next project. Here are photos of the half-toiles.

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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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The Fitting Shell

You might wonder why I am so thrilled with the results of the Misses Size 4 fitting shell I completed this weekend. The reason is very simple: I thought that I’d lost my touch after not having sewn in full scale for over 15 years.

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