Draped Princess Bodice and Flared Skirt Jumper 1950s Style


I always wanted a princess seamed dress or overblouse. Now that I have fulfilled the realization of my idea I have to say that it did not fulfill all my expectations. It did turn into a good learning experience about fit, style lines and individual body shapes.

Photos of the Jumper

Background of the pattern

The pattern was based on the Misses Size 8 sloper developed using the Precision Draping technique created by Nellie Weymouth Link. The technique is detailed in a reprint of the 1947 book through Amazon and other booksellers online.

I altered the pattern after fitting the toile on myself and making adjustments.

Expectations vs. Reality

Originally I envisioned the princess seam over my bustline to be very flattering. Once it was finished I did not care for the look on myself.

I have sloping shoulders. This causes the apex of my bustline to be lower than a standard size. The result is that the princess seam curves a bit lower, emphasizing both my bustline and narrow, sloping shoulders. I straightened the curve on the pattern, but that did not make much difference.

I offer this experience as a way for others to learn what makes the most flattering fit for their own body type.

I love the flared skirt of the jumper, the neckline and the armholes. If I were to make this again I would use a vertical dart below the bust or perhaps two French darts in the side seam of the bodice front.

Sewing Techniques

The jumper is made from 100% cotton chambray I ordered from Mood Fabrics. The underlining is cotton batiste.

I underlined the bodice. The skirt was underlined from waist to a few inches below the waistline. I wanted the fabric to have less transparency. The underlining also served as an anchor to the zipper.

Hidden Zipper: A 1960s Couture Technique

I used the instructions for the hidden zipper sewing technique detailed in Couture Sewing by Claire Shaeffer.

The zipper must be sewn to garment pieces that are underlined. This is because the finished seam is anchored to the underlining with catch stitches or fell stitches.

The resulting zipper is a little like an invisible zipper but less rigid.

Seam Finishes

I cut the seams wider than usual because the fabric frayed. Edges were pinked and zig-zagged for durability.

Other Finishes

The all-in-one facing and hemline were finished with Wright’s Flexi-Lace. I used the Flexi-Lace for the waistline stay, too.

Dressmaker’s Library:  Drawing the Fashion Figure for Body Positivity


The standard croquis favored in fashion illustration is an elongated, slender figure that can be 8, 10 or 12 heads high.  However, this style of croquis is not a modern model of beauty.  It has come and gone with variations throughout the 20th century and into the current time.

Fashion designer Erte favored an elongated figure upon which to draw his extravagant designs worn by high society women and actresses on stage during the late 1910s.  The boyish, angular fashion figure of the 1920s gave way to the willowy, softly curving fashion croquis of the 1930s.  Come the 1940s and 1950s the feminine form filled out and there were some artists writing and illustrating their own books showing students, aspiring illustrators and hobbyists how to draw male and female figures more reflective of the everyday body shapes .

In this posting I share screen shots of three fashion illustration books that I hope put the subject of body positivity and fashion illustration into a historical perspective.

My purpose is to set forth a balanced perspective not only in books that provide croquis to trace over.  I also want to make more widely known books that show you how to draw a body positive croquis in a step-by-step approach.  All croquis are based upon preliminary drawings consisting of ovals, rectangles, cylinders, circles and wedge shapes.  With practice you can gain even a rudimentary ability and in time you will be able to do quick sketches.  The key is to practice and let your hand movements flow without fear or worry. Enjoy the process and discover what is waiting to be expressed.

It is good to know how to draw croquis of different sizes and styles.  This diversifies your skillset and helps connect you as a dressmaker to a broader sense of proportion based on different sizes.

The style of croquis you use should be the one that pleases you and best expresses the idea you are working on.

Fashion Illustration 1920-1950
Techniques and Examples
by Walter T. Foster

Foster’s book offers detailed diagrams for figures and clothing of the period from 1920s to 1950s.  This is one of my favorite books for fashion illustration because the figure changes with each decade.  Male and female figures are given and detailed.

Drawing the Head and Figure
by Jack Hamm

This book was published in 1963.  The croquis and technique used will help you draw figures in tune with the current call to create more realistic renderings of female body shapes.  The technique used in the book will provide looks that work well with retro styles of the 1940s and 1950s.  Examples are also give for drawing the male figure.

Gertie’s New Fashion Sketchbook
by Gretchen Hirsch

The premise of Gertie’s book is a good one.  Gertie’s body positive croquis are intended to represent the a more realistic body upon which clothes can be sketched. The croquis are smaller than most standard sized croquis.  The upper and lower torsos are each two heads high with the length of each head being about 3/8 to 1/2 inch high. Each page has two to three croquis in different poses (front, back and side views).

The drawback is how faint the croquis are on each page. This is not a book of figures to trace over. Rather these are figures to draw on.  Each page is perforated and meant to be torn out and drawn over.  Because the figures are so very lightly printed I’d recommend using the pages over a light box.  Otherwise a very bright desk lamp is needed to ensure you draw the lines as best as possible.

Gertie’s croquis remind me of the ones Jack Hamm drew, only his are bolder and easier to render if photocopies are made and then traced over.

New Precision Draping Project: Pencil skirt and blouse with ruffled collar

More practice in Precision Draping.  Half-toile of pattern made from tissue paper drape.  First fitting.  Sleeve made through flat patternmaking.  Ruffled collar made off of the drape through flat patternmaking. Facing and buttonhole extension to be added.  To be paired with a pencil skirt drafted from a pattern created with instructions from the 60s.  

Style influences are from the clothes my Mom and the neighborhood women wore when I was growing up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

Spring Vacation 2022: Shopping and Styling Fun


I’m on vacation from work this week. I decided to stay home and immerse myself in all my beloved hobbies and activities. I have not gone clothes shopping at a bricks-and-mortar location since before Lockdown of Spring 2020. I decided it is about time that changed.

There is a lovely boutique on Wood Avenue in Linden, New jersey called New Image. All during Lockdown 2020 I would go for walks and look at the window arrangements of clothes and accessories. Everything is so pleasing and in good taste. Things worked out this week and the shop was open when I went out. I usually get off work after New Image closes for the day, so it took some time for me to get there.

Shopping Experience

The store is well laid out with accessories and shoes featured near the outfits they would complement. There is lots of room to move around and many mirrors. The overall feeling is boutique like yet personal. There is no crowding in the store.

Merchandise cannot be returned so you have to make sure you try your selections on before buying. I found two tops on sale that came to a total of $25. They are perfect for dressing up the denim skirt I draped and sewed during Lockdown of 2020.

New Image Boutique is located at 116 N. Wood Avenue, Linden, New Jersey 07036. Telephone 973-803-6242.

My New Pullover Tops from New Image

This stiped top is from Orange Kiss. It is stretchy and comfortable. It is a size M and fits me just right with a little extra room to move in. I usually wear a Medium in stretch tops.

The polka dot top is from dianabelleNY and is labelled a size S. It fits me very well without being tight around the body or binding at the neck.

These are perfect for dressing up my denim skirt.

Accessories, Shoes and Stockings/Pantyhose

There are times I do not find my bare legs attractive with an outfit. The matter of choosing to wear stockings or pantyhose depends on personal preferences and the climate. During the summer I do not wear them but at other times of the year I think they look very sexy. They also hide bruises and imperfections. Dark stockings also add a youthful look.

The shoes I paired with these two looks are: 1. a pair of fabric square toed ballet flats from Bob’s Skeecher’s and 2. a pair of black pumps by Jaklyn Smith.

My late Mom left me her costume jewelry and collectibles which I treasure. The three gold tone charm bracelets were sold by Avon during the 1980s or early 1990s. I paired the hearts charm bracelet with the we’re in the money charm bracelet since I liked the idea of mixing up love (hearts) with symbols of wealth like diamond rings, yachts and gold bars.

My Finished Looks

I am very happy with the resulting looks and hope this gives you some ideas for styling your own denim skirts.

Denim skirt with grey toned pantyhose, black ballet flats, seashell gold tone charm bracelet and striped pullover by Orange Kiss.
Denim skirt with black toned pantyhose, polkadot pullover by dianabelleNY, gold toned charm bracelets, and pumps by Jaklyn Smith.

Draping in tissue paper, part 1

New work in progress…I am taking up the challenge to drape in tissue paper.  During WWII there was rationing of consumer goods including fabrics like cotton and silk.  To conserve resources for the war effort, fashion schools and books about patternmaking taught students how to drape in tissue paper instead of muslin.  The technique was used by author Nellie Weymouth Links in her 1947 book “Precision Draping”.  I taught myself the method during Lockdown 2020 except at the time I used muslin.  I think it is time I learned how to do it in tissue paper.  If I am successful, I will save a lot of money!  The new project is a blouse with a blouse yoke.  The kind of blouse yoke I will make is for the lower part of the blouse.  It is described in Claire Schaeffer’s “Couture Sewing Techniques”.  The pattern is derived from a skirt pattern.  The yoke holds the upper part of the blouse neatly in place and fits smoothly under the skirt.  I will post a screen shot of the sketch and half toile when completed..

Photos of work in progress

First pattern of bodice and blouse yoke draped in tissue paper.
“Preccision Draping” by Nellie Weymouth Link
Photo of blouse with blouse yoke. From “Couture Sewing Techniques” by Claire Schaeffer.
Misses Size 4 Wolf dress form in my work area.

The Fashion Croquis: Preliminary Sketches of Ensembles


The full figure does not always have to be drawn in and developed. When you need to focus on the ensemble itself, you can sketch just the outfit and accessories using the croquis under a sheet of tracing paper.

Developing the sense of proportion and harmonizing accessories

When you are exploring proportions, acceossories and the total look of an ensemble the full figure can be omitted from the sketch. Sometimes the only detail I add is a hairstyle.  This initial sketch helps finalize the personality of an ensemble.  From there a second sketch can be made, this time drawing in the figure and expression on the face.  Remember, the croquis is a muse and flight of fancy.  You are free to depict both as your imagination concieves of them.

The Fashion Croquis: Muse and Model, source of inspiration!


The fashion croquis is meant to represent a stylized version of the dressmaker’s or designer’s muse. The form does not have to be realistic. The purpose is to use a representation that enables the imagination to become inspired. The croquis is a means upon which to bring an idea to life in it’s very first stages.

Sources of Inspiration

The appearance given to the croquis is meant to be dramatic. It should tell the story of the creator’s vision and the aesthetic upon which the designs are based. In the initial stages proportions, colors and poses can all be exaggerated. The key word is inspiration.

Realism of the figure and the proportions of the garment details are worked out later, once the draping or patternmaking begins.

My personal choice is the 10 or 12 heads croquis that represents a tall, willowy and slender woman. My inspiration is rooted in the artwork of Erte. As well, I take inspiration from the illustrations in the stylebooks of Marfy Studio. My reasons for choosing this style of croquis is that I find great enjoyment in the sketching as well as the sources from which I derive that inspiration.

IMy sketches always have a cartoon-like quality to them. Again, it is to give the finished sketch a sense of light-heartedness. When it comes to sketching a design it is up to the individual to choose the kind of croquis they use. Nobody can dictate which one is right or wrong. Go with what best expresses your creative vision and move forward from there.

My 3/4 Croquis which you may copy, distribute and use

My sketches using the 3/4 croquis

The above sketch was made using the 3/4 10-heads croquis. Notice how it is filled out. The croquis because it represents the bone structure of the figure will always be slimmer than the final sketch. I like my sketches to look old, as if they came from a vintage sketch book, comic book or series of drafts from long ago. To get that look I use colored pencils and color from the wrong side of the sketch. I also use crayon on the wrong side and then smudge with a Q-tip.

Sheath Skirt Half-toile created from pattern drafting instruction sheet circa 1960s


Close-up of the vintage pattern drafting instructions circa 1960s.

On 6th January 2022, I posted screen shots of an original 1960s pattern drafting instruction sheet. Since the original is faded, I typed up the instructions along with my comments. The instructions are the simplest flat pattern drafting instructions I’ve used so far. In this posting I evaluation the half-toile created using the measurements for a Misses Size 4. Please click this link for the pattern drafting instructions

Evaluating the Results

The instructions about dart placement referred to a basic bodice with a vertical dart under the bust. The position of the first dart for skirt front and back had to align with that dart on the bodice. I used the measurement from Center Front to Princess Line and the waist. For the back skirt I measured from Center Back to the Princess Line at the back waist. The second dart was located in the center between the princess line and side seam .

I am very pleased with the fit of the skirt. The drafting instructions state that 2 inches is added to the hip measurement for ease. However, no ease is factored in for the waistline. Considering that I will use a waistband and perhaps a lining I knew ease at the waist was essential. I also know the blouse I envision for the outfit will be tucked in. I added 1″ to the waistline and then drafted the skirt.

The only correction I have to make is mid-way along the hip curve. Once the curve has a more even line the pattern will be ready for cutting the fashion fabric.