1 drawing

Masayo Yasuki

Masayo Yasuki of dogstar (click for source interview)

I left a message on the dogstar Clothing Facebook page to promote our challenging task of recreating the Six Napoleon dress, and Masayo Yasuki, dogstar designer, very nicely got in touch saying:

The biggest hurdle I would have to say is the 8 meters of silk organza that makes up the skirt… not to mention the 6 meters of lining!

Fourteen metres in the skirt!  😯

Option 2-horzThis gave food for thought.  Firstly, if it took so much fabric to make the skirt, then that dress was a bargain.  Second: that amount in anything other than the lightest fabrics is going to be heavy (when in my ill-advised moment I bought  8 metres of polyester recently, I soon got tired dragging the bag about town with me.)  So either reduce the volume of folds in the skirt or pick something that won’t cause your back to collapse if you intend to wear the dress for dancing or standing about.

I wonder if gauze – available in widths of about 90cm/36″ –  could work?  My grandma used gauze for everything from straining mozzarella to making a camomile tea compress to put on my itchy eyes during hayfever but I have no experience of sewing it and I wonder if there’s a drawback to doing so.  It’s cheap to buy online – so long as you don’t opt for the sterilised strips used for bandages!  – and being cotton it should dye well though there’d be some shrinkage.

Despite a very busy schedule, Kate is also taking part in the challenge (yay! 🙂 ).  In a discussion on her Corseted Dress Challenge post,  the option of making the skirt as a separate was discussed.  1 pleated trimThe skirt could fit under the bodice like a petticoat or it could go on top: I’d prefer the latter.  I would attach it to the edge of the bodice with a trim on the top of the skirt hiding the basting stitches.  I like the idea of a narrow pleated ribbon, like a finer version of the trim made by one of the contestants in the current series of the Great British Sewing Bee (an interesting technique of tucking fabric into folds of card and pressing: see 46 minutes into Episode 1)?  In the picture below, you can see a similar trim separating the lowered bodice from the skirt on the dress worn by Peggy of Made Men, though this has a ruffled/ruched appearance whereas what I imagine is more like the surround on a rosette.

Mad Men Challenge

Below are other ideas that have harangued me and which I’ve tried to sort in an attempt at organization before I begin to draft, as well as links to other posts which may help you in this or other projects.  It’s still not too late to join us brave muskateers who are going to give this a try: let me know if the timing of the deadline is putting you off.

1 measuring angles

Part One: Bodice

1 ribbon on bodiceI’ve been trying to pin ribbons to my dummy to replicate the dipped edge of the bodice.  I was underwhelmed with the results so to get more accurate angles, I made a tracing of the original photo of the dress by putting paper on my computer with the brightness up.  I measured the angles with a protractor using an imaginary horizontal hem as a baseline (see big picture above).  My measurements (approximate) are: left angle is 25°; the larger angle on the right is 55°.

1 measuring angle

Bodice back

Pella, an experienced pattern drafter who has already made a great start on this challenge, pointed out that we don’t know what is going on at the back.  It could be straight but I think not.  I’ll keep the bodice dips but make them slightly higher than at the front to avoid the skirt bulging out in the same place as does my pear-shaped bottom (ha!).

This weekend I am going to try a little experiment to hopefully help me with the close-fitting bodice design.  Below is a hint: can you guess what I’ll do!?  (um, I don’t know Marianna.  Dance around like weirdo?)

Princess seams

Before sewing princess seams, I like to staystitch all the curved areas to 1-2mm of the stitching line and then clip right up to the staystitch.  As for the rest, here’s one of my much visited posts on sewing princess seams.


I have found an endless number of posts relating to boning on Gertie’s website.  Interestingly, those folksy German dresses have boning on either side of the front-laced opening so that the bodice doesn’t crumple during dressing/undressing.  For the Six Nap dress, boning isn’t necessary but if like me you’re desperate to give it a try, this tip from Iconic Patterns should ensure the strips don’t dig into your leg: sit down in front of a mirror with a tape around your waist and measure the distance from the waist to the top of thigh: do not exceed this measurement.

Part Two: Draping

I’m sensing the limitations of Anne, my cheap display dummy.  How much easier it would be to wield yardage of fabric on a half-scale model such as Pella has.  Even just a heavy metal base would improve Anne: she wouldn’t threaten to topple as I turn her while winding lots of fabric around.


1 improvised draping

This image is from the Improvisational Draping chapter of Draping: the Complete Course Book, where the author picks a V Westwood dress as the inspiration and suggests you begin by drawing grainlines where they can be ascertained.  This sounds like good advice though I’m not sure I understand the bottom right arrow.  It will make sense when I give it a go.

Mille feuille  💡

You know those cream cakes made of many layers of thin pastry?  Certain other design on the dogstar FB page with similar multi-layered skirt effect reminds me of cakes so I’m wondering if instead of pleating large swathes of fabric to mimic 6 Nap, I could get squares of say 80cm x 80cm,  some folded along the straightgrain and pinned to the bodice and some on the bias creating a handkerchief hem.  I think that will be my first experiment.  Luckily, our laundry cupboard is full of worn duvets covers that I can sacrifice.

Lastly, if you’re new to drafting and don’t know how to add seam allowances to your design, here’s a post from before.

Enough!  I sleep now.  You sleep already!?

But…. Except…  During my last excursion to Goldhawk Road I spotted some black, tightly woven, shiny fabric I think might be ideal for the bodice.  I’m going back either on 17th or 18th June (Friday – Saturday) to buy it and check the prices of organza too.  If anyone would like to join me (and curb my spending enthusiasm ) email me with your preferred day.

Thanks for reading!  Hope it helps.

21 thoughts on “Prepping

  1. My brain hurts!
    Off to the U.K. for a week to celebrate a landmark (read horribly scary) birthday so Bon Courage to all of you taking part in the challenge and I’ll be very interested to see how you all proceed.

    • Happy birthday Lynn!! How will you celebrate? I hope the weather’s to your liking (we thought you’d like it a bit cooler than in France but not like last week 😯 )

  2. Nice summary, M. I have purchased my fabric although I may opt for a stiffer fabric for the bodice than what I have got. I was thinking about the zip yesterday. I think my version is going to be quite loosely improvisatonal as I think I want a separate skirt that is much less full and I am not sure I will retain the asymmetry of the bodice point. It will likely be a substantially different outfit. Excited to see what others do though and you have prvoided good fuel so I hope others join.

    • Intrigued about your fabric and of course, you’re free to make whatever version will work for your needs. Most of those VW dresses that 6 N reminds me off don’t have an asymmetric bodice point though those with a centre point will tend to look historical. The bodice point alone merits a post (but I won’t!).

      Yes, it’s exciting to imagine how all our versions will differ and I’m still trying to spread the word to attract one or two more!

      Good luck!

      • Thanks, M. It keeps on changing in my mind and once I get started on it it may change again. I just ordered the fabric online so I haven’t seen it yet, which may change things. As I haven’t done any real drafting apart from a skirt or two and haven’t done any draping other than fairly ad hoc stuff when I was younger, I am interested in at least embracing a small part of the challenge. My idea for the fabric is just two contrast fabrics – with a chambray or nice denim-like fabric in the bodice if I can get the weight right (bought a chambray in Italy that I was going to double up but I think I might want something heavier like a tencel denim, or for something more elegant, if I can find it, a linen or hemp and silk mixture) and then a print with a border print for the bottom (hopefully Thai or Balinese batik, which I’ve ordered I wanted a ceremonial print but what I got on Etsy is a little bit different and maybe too bold!). I love the deep hem on the original dress but I thought a border print on a less-full skirt could be interesting. I also like the idea of making two skirts – something dressier and something not.

        • A border print is a fantastic idea: here’s where I sit up and applaud! A ceremonial print, if you choose to use it, is going to look very luxurious. I’m going to give this a go with my Indonesian sarong to see where the borders fall.
          I’ll try and help you (but not overwhelm you) with posts that might help. I think we’re all brave to try this but you especially 🙂 As for me, although I have drafting experience, I’m not a natural at envisaging things and usually fail to follow when people try and explain what they’re doing. I can never understand the terminology either, even the simplest terms we’re assumed to understand.

          • Similarly, M, I rarely understand what people are saying they are doing when they are doing it. I am naturally a visual and intuitive person so I learn by doing and manipulating items. This is as true in my work with numbers as with fabric as I have an intuitive sense of where things will land but only figure out the intermediate steps when I try to build a bridge between. This used to make me feel kind of stupid but now I accept that this is how my brain works!

      • PS I have to admit that I have also been considering a stright hem bodice and making the skirt into a simple faux wrap to exploit the sarong feature. Will explain in a post this weekend, though I am still open to a draping experiment. I have another idea that interests too.

  3. I have done a drawing, and have been thinking about fabric. Like you muslin occurred to me as it is inexpensive. I want something that is translucent and slightly firm which should give the right amount of “poof”. I have sewn with it before (and printed on it to) and it is lovely to use. Comes in black and white and takes dye well, as you say. For me getting the right fabric is key to success on this one, but I really don’t want to spend huge amounts of money.

    Thanks for all the resources you are gathering. I love the deep hems with three layers of fabric, but I also like you ideas of using ribbon instead. There are so many possibilities.

    • Translucent and firm: I shall bear those in mind when I look around.
      I look forward to your posts on this: the discussion always generates more possibilities!!

  4. I am keeping my eye open for hemmed chiffon-like curtains at the thrift. I always see them UNTIL NOW.
    I have one of those dinky dress forms, almost Vionnet’s scale size (no I am not going to measure it, I’d have to get up) that has been pretty nice for science experiments. Certainly cuts down on quantity of fabric thrown at an idea, and mostly gets the idea thunk out. Or thrown out.
    Married huh? Still wrapping my mind around that.

    • Very good point about the hems! We call them net curtains and they have become very unfashionable (washing the landlord’s whenever they got a bit tarry from cigarette smoke is probably why I stopped smoking!). I’ll look too.
      (Love the getting up comment…. )

  5. Interesting to read the ideas so far. I was thinking of using a deep facing instead of hem, to retain as much length in my [not cheap] silk as possible…possibly using silk organza, or silk/cotton voile. I’ve got a fair bit of both! For my fat belly, I need to reduce bulk at the waist, so I’m hoping to make a yoked skirt, with the layers [min 2] squares or rectangles.
    The top’s going to be a steampunk take on a cuirasse bodice, but altering the neckline and hem edge. Asymmetry is surprisingly historically accurate for the late 1800s, which is cool.
    That pleating board is a doddle to make, take a peak at my pleating exploits here and here and here

    • Fantastic to have you contribute: I’m learning all these new terms like pleating board and cuirasse bodice (though I did see a fab dress with peepholes at the V&A Undressed exhibition which was described as a cuirasse). I think the facing to mimic deep hems is a good idea – we don’t want to be bankrupt!
      Thank you for those links: I think this dress will suit you perfectly, both your figure and your style. I didn’t realise this dress would open my eyes to another world of historical sewing and costume and I’ve barely begun.

      P.S. I’m thinking of making a small pleating board out of my son’s index revision cards (GCSE) where using the ruled lines I can sellotape them together in a kind of falling dominoes arrangement. And the best bit: if he fails, he can still read what’s on the cards for the retakes!
      I’m kidding; he won’t fail!

  6. So much prepping taking place! Makes me feel guilty……
    I really have to finish off a few things first then I’m all in. Trying so hard not to use last year’s VW toile (thanks for that M!) and trying to think of interpretations rather than direct copy.
    Something to look forward to and follow – great and thanks for pushing us, once more, beyond the everyday and ordinary.

    • I’d never want to make anyone feel guilty for not wanting to take part, least of all a teacher at this time of year. It’s possibly mad, rather ambitious far as challenges go with more that the usual chance of failure but isn’t it thrilling the way making the same dress has sparked off different ideas! If I wasn’t in it already, I’d be tempted.

  7. All of this prep talk is making me want to join in. I’m not much of a dress girl but I’ll think about how I could make it work.
    All looking good so far!

    • Oh but don’t all running clubs have a posh evening do at Christmas where everyone dressed up to the nines?!

      Actually, if I’m honest, the women might dress up somewhat and the men…. rarely 🙂

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