It’s All About the Skirt: a guest post from Studio Faro

Option 21 drapeFor the skirt part of the challenge, I’ve been experimenting with folding, pleating and pinning squares and rectangles of fabric to the bodice on the dummy stand.

But the result hasn’t really captured the essence of the Six Napoleon dress.  

So it is time I hand over to the expert!  Welcome to Anita of Studio Faro as she suggests some ideas on how to recreate the skirt….

#FirstSample Skirt, the Six Napoleon Challenge

Firstly I’d like to say huge thanks to Sew2Pro for inviting me to contribute to this fabulous challenge.  And it’s so fortunate that dogstar is one of my favourite local brands producing what is most likely the most interesting designs in Australia.  So many local designers are enslaved to overseas trends and fail to develop a distinct design aesthetic.  Not so dogstar!

I’m late to the party so I won’t be covering the bodice development but offering some ideas for the development of the skirt pattern.  Initially I came up with at least three different ways to get at this pattern and I’ve decided to share the most interesting with you here on the Sew2Pro blog.

1 NAP6_draft_1

The first thing that caught my eye in the fabulous dress was the dipped hem in the front and the beautiful and generous hem allowance all so obvious in the transparent silk organza. My challenge was to find a way to cut this skirt so that the front dip was in fact a right angle. Very similar to drafting a circle skirt and leaving the corners on! 

The draft above is how I decided to use 2 metres of polyester organza to replicate the skirt of the Six Napoleon Dress. The cut is based on the width of the fabric (140cm), halved to determine the length of the skirt (70cm), of which 11cm will be the hem turning (to finish at 10cm) and the remaining 59cm are the skirt length. This also presents an opportunity to produce a zero-waste pattern.

Where the skirt has a dip in the hem I’ll be using the corner sections of the cut with a mitre in the very deep hem. There will be one dip in the front and one in the back.

1 NAP6_cut_1

 

The preparation of the skirt for draping goes like this:

  1. Cut the cloth into two pieces along the cut lines and trim the excess from the mitre seams.
  2. Press under the 1cm turning on the deep hem edges and sew the mitre seams.
  3. Join the two side seams using a French seam or equivalent to avoid the use of overlocking.
  4. Press the 10cm deep hem and pin in place and sew.

1 nap6 skirt

Mark the bottom edge of your bodice on your workroom dummy as a guideline for the draping of the skirt.  Please note where I have indicated for you to pin the longest part of the skirt in the front and back.1 nap6 bodice seam

Begin by pinning the corner of the waist seam to the front right and back left as indicated.  Then space the pleating out for each section of the skirt.

1 6nap top skirt

You can manage the direction and fall of each pleat by shifting it above the bodice seam to get the best drape.  The excess above the seamline will be trimmed back to the seam line plus seam allowance (1cm).

As you can see below, the #FirstSample is a reasonable success.  The high/low in the hemline is there and the effect of the deep hem is maintained.  However I do think this would work a lot better with 3 metres of organza for this layer.  That way there’d be a lot more in the pleating around the waist.

1 final sampleFor the lining of this skirt I’d recommend you use a lining cloth of 150cm width and follow the exact same process giving you an underskirt or lining that’ll be 5cm longer than the organza layer.

And of course we must not forget the opening for the dress!  I intend to slash through on the left side of the skirt for a side seam and mark a notch at 15-18cm where the zip is most likely to end.

There are other methods of working on this skirt pattern and I’m looking forward to seeing them in your own workings.  I’ll be sharing my other methods on my blog well-suited in the coming weeks.  I’m so looking forward to seeing all your wonderful dresses when they’re finished.

Thank you so much Anita!  I’m much indebted.  And I look forward to reading more on well-suited (readers, please do subscribe so as to receive Anita’s updates).  

Here’s a round-up of everyone’s progress.  If I’ve left you out, please leave a comment and a link so I can add you.

Mary, a professional couturier, has explained her bodice-making process in this post.

You can ake the bodice only as my friend Jo is doing.

Fabrickated is under strict supervision of her pattern-cutting tutor Vanda who will not let her settle for second-best.  But isn’t the end of term nigh?  Won’t Kate be saved by the bell?!

Of all the bloggers here, Stephanie in Ottawa has the least drafting experience.  Yet her bodice is perfect.  Will she complete the conundrum that is the skirt with the same high standards and attention to detail?

Stephanie on the other side (Ernie K Designs in Seattle) has written a great analysis of pleats evident in the skirt which helped me visualise where I was going wrong with my rectangles.

Demented Fairy is still marking papers but is steaming with enthusiasm to get stuck in.  She also has the expertise, experience and great fabric.

Ruth who is also a teacher gave most of us a massive head start but is back in the sewing room and has now outlined her splendid plan here.  She’s also found a literary connection to the name for this dress.  It turns out it’s just as much about Sherlock Holmes as it is about the French general.

Pella of Pattern Pandemonium has been intrigued enough to experiment with both the bodice and the skirt but hasn’t got the incentive to make the final article.  Will somebody please invite her daughter to a summer ball!  Maybe Anita’s instructions will inspire her to get back to the stand and make is for herself.

As for me, I’m going away.  I’ll be following your progress eagerly and I’ll hopefully be able to leave comments on your posts but no sewing machine anywhere for me.  Which will be hard.

Anyone else tempted to join us?  The deadline for your images and/or posts is the weekend of 6-7 August.

Prepping

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.

Boning

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.

Improvisation

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.

The Deadline

I don’t know if I’m going to pull this off but I need a special occasion dress to wear in just under 4 weeks’ time.

It should showcase what I’m capable of – in case anyone’ll be looking – without being fussy or formal.

Recently I’ve been giving the matter some thought and have decided to copy one of three designs:

Option 1: Six Napoleon Dress

Option 2By Masayo Yasuki, of the fashion house ‘dogstar’, this has an asymmetric boned bodice with sheer drapery redolent, in both the style lines and the volume of drapery, of Vivienne Westwood.  This caught my eye a while back on Pinterest and the trail leads to this website where the description reads, with spellings corrected: “featuring carefully placed tucks and a well fitted corset, who can resist the luxury and fullness in its 8 metres of silk organza?”

Well, that should narrow down the fabric search.

I’ve made a muslin of the bodice which was easy enough but I now wish I’d paid more attention when those of you who teach me stuff talked about Draping.

Difficulty level = 8/10

I really think it’s time I tackled draping.  I have an aversion to travelling to courses but I’m good at self-taught so if you know of a book that will demystify the process, I’d be grateful for a recommendation.

Option 2: Pleated Neckline Dress

option 1

I’d already been experimenting with my own pleated neckline designs when I discovered this picture on Pinterest.  The trail takes me to the website of Eileen Fisher but nothing in the designer’s current collection is like this.  Everything about it appeals.  I love the straps and I can just imagine how sensual it would be to bury fingers in those midriff folds.  The wine stain colour is gorgeous too, but not essential.

Difficulty: 5/10

How do you envisage this dress ending?  I mean, what should happen in the lower half?

Option 3: Sleeve Drama

pinterest sourceNot much dress visible here: the sleeves steal the show.  I’ve experimented with this design a lot, firstly by making a simplified version and putting it onto a refashioned men’s shirt (you can download the pattern PDF).  I’ve now fine-tuned the pattern to be more like that in the original above.  The rest of the dress would be long with princess seams, and also a thigh split like in the BHL Anna dress.Anna Stride

Difficulty = 4/10

And talking of the Anna dress, that’s my back up if I run out of time.  It would be a shame though.  Flattering as it may be, neither the workmanship nor materials are special (Anna’s more of a t-shirt than a special occasion dress).

1 so many sleeves, so few armsOr I could go to Liberty’s, where while gallivanting around with Ruth last autumn I spotted dresses that would be perfect, made by proper designers.  Yeah, and spend the rest of my days in self-loathing.

So many sleeves, so few arms…

Like I said, no pressure.

I have already made my decision and begun work on one of the above but I’d love to hear what you’d do.