I am releasing my pattern for the Alice Elizabeth dress into the public domain. You are free to download and size it up or down in a graphics program. You can alter the design. I also give permission to use it privately or commercially.
This is a basic pattern that you can use as the basis of your own rendition of the style.
Please refer to the following posting for further details and as a guide to whether or not you want to make the dress with closures like I used or that are on the original 1950s dress.
This pattern was created using a combination of draping and flat pattern making based on the 1947 technique, Precision Draping. A Wolf Form in Misses 8 was used. The resulting dress can be labelled a Misses 6/8.
The pattern is showed on a cutting mat using inches. All pattern pieces do not have seam allowances.
The dress pattern and design is based on a 1950s house dress by Pat Perkins that I bought during Lockdown 2020. I wanted to create a basic pattern to dervice this and future retro inspired clothes I make. I bought the dress from a vintage seller on Etsy and posted a detailed style analysis . I had plenty of time during lockdown to learn about different vintage draping and patternmaking systems. I chose to teach myself Precision Draping from the book of the same title by Nellie Weymouth Link.
The dress consists of a fitted bodice with two vertical dart tucks on each side of the bodice in front. The skirt is six gores with a very moderate flare at the bottom. The Pat Perkins dress has buttons and loop closure down center front. A metal zipper was sewn into the left seam from 2″ under the arm until the hip line using a lapped application.
I do not like side seam zippers for two reasons. First they can be uncomfortable. Second they interfere with the flow of the underarm seam and skirt side seam. Since fitted clothing often falls on the bias at the side seams the potential for distortion exists. I hand sewed six button holes in the front of the bodice.
My reasons for avoiding buttonholes on the entire dress is that it would spoil the look of simplicity and efficiency the house dress is supposed to convey. I had not thought about using a hidden zipper when the dress was in progress. Now that it is finished I have a hidden zipper in mind for the future. It is a simple application I will detail when it is in progress. I used snaps because the front portion of the skirt looks better. The eye is drawn upwards to focus on the striped buttons and self-fabric belt. I do not care for metal eyelets and prongs in a belt so I used snaps to fasten the belt.
The edge of the front facing, the waistline stay and hem were finished with navy blue Flexi-Lace by Wrights. Seams were pinked. I chose these finishes because they are similar to home based seamstresses used in the 1950s. The Flexi-Lace tape was completely stitched by hand to the waistline seam using a running stitch at the waist and edge for flexibility. I used a cross-hatch stitch to join the stay to side seams and dart tucks.
The dress is made from 100% cotton chambray. It is very soft with a good drape. To support the dart tucks more a small edge stitching was used.
A back yoke was used to eliminate the neckline dart on the basic back bodice pattern. That too was edge stitch. On the inside, the yoke is interfaced and lined. The dart tucks in the back are also top stitched.
The collar is a basic collar pattern with a high stand. The undercollar and interfacing are cut on the bias. The sleeves have all-in-one cuffs.
I chose understated accessories in sterling silver to keep to the everyday quality I want this outfit to have. The earrings have a pretty filigree. A small silver necklace, about 16″ long, with tiny beads would also look good with this dress.
Ballerina flats in navy blue complete the outfit. They pick up on the color of the stripes on the buttons. The overall impression of this outfit is meant to make the wearer attractive in a modest, understated fashion just as house dresses were intended in the 1950s.
I am releasing my Misses size 8 slopers into the commons. I grant permission to anyone who wants to use them commercially or personally. You can copy, download and size in your graphics program. My reason for making these available is to help others get a head start on their patternmaking and dressmaking business or hobby. The slopers were developed through draping on a Misses size 8 Wolf form. The grid used for the photos is in inches.
In this posting I share progress photos of a new dress developed through a combo of flat patternmaking and draping. The photos featured are of the half-toile to test the fit.
Combination Technique: Draping and flat patternmaking
95% of this toile was made using a flat pattern. I used the Misses Size 8 sloper to create the fitted bodice, semi-fitted skirt and basic unfitted sleeve.
The flat pattern for the bodice front had the horizontal side dart closed and vertical dart opened. The construction of the bodice shoulder, back yoke, back tuck and side seams were completed. After steam pressing the bodice was pinned to the form. The excess dart intake below the bust was draped into two vertical tucks each 3 1/8″ high and about 1 1/2″ wide. I like the softer look of the tucks over the dressmaker dart under the bust.
I am very pleased so far with the 6 gore skirt. It was created by closing the darts of the basic semi-fitted skirt. The skirt front and back were cut along the lines of the dart and below the dart. Each piece then had extra width added at the hemline along front and back princess lines and side seams. I find the fit of this kind of gored skirt even more flattering than that of the 6 or 8 gore skirt created through flat patternmaking.
The collar was simple, easy flat patternmaking as was the sleeve. The next posting will be published once the fitting toile is complete.
Giving a Name to the Dress
As I work on a new project and gather the notions and fabric, I develop an image of who the dress will be for. I choose a name to create a sense of space between my self and what is coming to expression. This permits me to think whether or not improvements are needed. When I am too close personally and emotionally to a project become too attached. That is not good because it prevents perception of where the fit or creative result is lacking. This dress is called Alice. I will add a middle name once I feel more of the character of the dress emerging.
The Marfy pattern books are published by Marfy Studio Stilistico in Ferrara, Italy. Each edition comes with a free, multi-sized pattern. The illustrations are detailed enough so that dressmakers and patternmakers can get ideas for their own projects.
Along with the exquisite illustrations, there are fabric recommendations. The color combinations are sometimes striking, other times subdued. There is something for every style preference. The illustrations include jewelry, shoes, hats, handbags that complete all the must know details to create your own version of the look.
I recently bought the “Evergreen” collection catalogue. It includes Marfy pattern illustrations from the past and the present. There is a wide variety of looks from evening wear to casual wear. Many outfits consist of skirts, slacks, blouses and a various styles of coats and jackets. The lines are simple which make for a look that will last beyond current trends.
Further consideration of my plans for my next project is needed. The sketch of the chambray shirtwaist dress expresses my idea. However, the details I had envisioned must be changed.
I had planned on having in-seam buttonholes. I have been wanting to try this kind of buttonhole for a long time. I want to see how it will work on light to medium weight fabrics. As I thought about my shirtwaist dress I can see that having a seam along center front will cut into the middle gore of the skirt front. This will add extra weight and interfere with the flare. I plan a six gore skirt for the dress.
Possible solutions for new design details
I decided to analyze the construction details of a Pat Perkins everyday dress I bought on Etsy. Pat Perkins was the name of a dress manufacturer in the 1950s. They provided some of the dresses worn by actress Audrey Meadows in a popular sitcom, “The Honeymooners”.
I found the solution to keeping the flares of the skirt undisturbed. I will have to install a lapped zipper into the side seam. I will use the same treatment as used in the Pat Perkins dress. This means I can use in-seam buttonholes for the dress. However, the buttons will only be used on the bodice. Having a size zipper will provide the means for ease in putting the dress on or off.
Pat Perkins Everyday Dress circa 1950s
The dress has a fitted bodice with two vertical tucks on each side at the front. The short, unfitted sleeves have a self cuff that turns up from the inside. The collar is similar to a blouse collar and has very little stand. The back bodice has two very small tucks on each side.
The skirt i seven gores: 4 in front and 3 in back. There is a slight flare in each panel. The panel at center front has a seam. At the back there is no seam in the center skirt panel.
To make the dress easy to put on and off, there is about 3″ of style ease at the waist. The fit near the chest and bust has a little less style ease. This will help me adjust my pattern after using the sloper to trace the basic pattern.
The zipper is machine stitched into the left side seam. There is an underlap of fabric that provides body for the zipper and protects the wearer from feeling the zipper teeth. I plan to do the zipper application by hand and use a lightweight nylon zipper. The one in the original dress is metal.
The dress closes with self fabric button loops at center front. An underlap on the left side of the front bodice provides support.
The belt holes are not reinforced with any stitching. No eyelets were used. The buckle is covered with the fashion fabric. Narrow loops at the side seams are the only support to hold the belt in place. The backing has the stamp “Belt King”. I plan to use a belt kit and eyelets. At the side seams I usually use thread loops.
To lend a touch of support to the back of the dress a long facing is used as part of the collar treatment. I do not plan to use this neckline finishing since my dress will have a yoke.
The seams are not finished. No pinking, no edge stitching. The waistline seam is pressed down rather than up. The hem was turned twice and looks to be hand finished.
The basic fitting shell for the Misses Size 8 was draped. A toile was made twice each time refining the fit. When the basic Size 8 was turned into a sloper I then went on to customize it for myself.
Why not draft a custom made pattern?
I have been drafting patterns to my own measurements and have become very comfortable with the system I use. During the COVID-19 related furlough from my job this past Spring I decided it was time to take on a few challenges.
I am weak in the making of alterations. Since my dress form is a standard Misses 8, I decided to take on the challenges of draping and altering a Misses 8 for myself. I am between a Misses 6 and 8 for the bodice. For a skirt I am between a Misses 8 and 10.
I also have fitting challenges resulting from a small bustline, concave chestline and sloping shoulders. There were a few challenges I wanted to take up on the time I had to stay home from March until June 2020.
Working with Oaktag
The goal of using sloper was on my To Do list since 2018. The large roll of oaktag I bought from Steinlauf & Stoller moved with me from Brooklyn, NY to Linden, NJ waiting to be used. Being tightly rolled up for 2 years made it difficult to get into a workable state for making a sloper.
I had to roll the oaktag out on the floor and keep it in place with heavy books. I then cut the oak tag into length and width suitable to each pattern piece. To stop the curling I pressed each piece of oak tag by covering them with a thick towel. Then I used a steam iron to press flat.
The ends still curled so I laid the pressed oaktag pieces on top of each other onto the floor. The I piled heavy books evenly across them.
After two days the oak tag was flat enough. The pattern pieces were laid on top and the markings transferred. I cut out the darts because I want to try pivoting the pattern pieces to change the dart intake when working on transformations.
The white slopers are for the standard Misses Size 8. The green are mine. You can immediately see where my figure differs from the standard. I have to get a hole puncher. Then the hooks from which to hang the sloper pieces.
Bodice and Skirt Slopers. Misses Size 8 left. Size 8 altered to my figure on right.
Misses Size 8 unfitted sleeve on left. Sleeve adjusted to my figure on right.
I always start a project with a sketch. It acts as a roadmap. Once a fitting toile is made, the style may take on further changes. It depends on the resulting drape and other details I may want to add. Right now, I am considering this shirtwaist dress with additional details. The most practical are pockets set into the side seam. A shirtwaist dress is a working garment so I see the pockets as important. They can hold my keys, some money or receipts when I have to go to the lobby for a delivery or am at the laundry. Yet I want this dress to have a feminine look. I might also go to meet a friend or pay a visit while out. In this case I think a bracelet and small earrings are good. Pretty buttons also add a feminine touch.
A fashion sketch starts with a croquis. Here is how I make one and the reasons why a croquis is important.
The process of creating a preliminary sketch
The function of the croquis is to provide a foundation upon which to project one’s vision of the style. It helps create an awareness of the body contours under the garment. Croquis can be shaped as you please. I use the 10 1/2 heads size because I like working with the elongated silhouette. I have a preference for the early 20th century artist Erte and take some inspiration from his work. You can also have croquis more life-like as to size and proportion. It is a kind of interaction between a person and their vision that will determine the kind of croquis to use.
To save money for fabric and notions I use simple supplies available at the 99 cent stores or Dollar General. Number 2 pencils, white tissue paper used for gifts, tracing paper, erasers, coloring pencils, and white copy paper. The croquis is drawn on white copy paper.
For the first layer, I use white tissue paper. This saves the tracing paper for the final sketch. Here I have drawn in a shoulder pad. Since I have slightly sloping shoulders I plan to make custom sized shoulder pads as a corrective which ensures a better fit. The pads will be no more than 1/8″ high. Having the shoulder pads drawn in results in the next sketch better reflecting how the shoulderline, collar and sleeve will look.
Another layer of tissue paper is placed on top. The garment details are sketched in. I like the look of a paper doll so I use a ruler to draw most seams and lines. The hairstyle, jewelry, accessories and shoes are added in this sketch. Design details like tucks, gathers, and so on are also added.
The tracing paper is placed on top of the previous layer. All the lines, angles and measurements of the sheet underneath are not traced. Only the finished lines and features meant to convey the garment and style sense. I take the tracing paper off and color in on the opposite side using coloring pencils.
Notes about inspirations for notions and other details are penciled in. Swatches of the chambray fabric and underlining cotton are also pinned to the sketch. The chambray is light enough to give a graceful drape to the gored skirt. Since it is slightly transparent, I want an underlining. It will also add just a little extra body to support the in-seam buttonholes and in-seam pockets.
Once the sketch is completed ideas start to come. I pencil these on the sketch and then search them out. Right now I am thinking that porcelain or clay buttons will go well on this dress. If I go with this choice I’d like the buttons to have a white background and delicate blue designs or a border. Another possibility are vintage glass buttons. So that the buttons remain the key visual element I would make the belt and buckle of the same fabric as the dress. The jewlery can be silver or white.
Size Misses 4 measurements are used as an example.
Front Skirt Length=24″ (40″-16″=24″)
Calculate One Fourth of the Waist Measurement: 1/4 of 23″=5 3/4″
Add to the measurement obtained:
1 3/4″ in case of waist measurement from 22 to 26″
2: in the case of waist measurement from 26 to 30″
2 1/4″ in the case of waist measurement from 30 to 34″
2 1/2″ in the case of waist measurement from 34 to 38″
For Misses Size 4 the waist measurement to use is 5 3/4″ + 1 3/4″=7 1/2″
Drafting the Half Circle Skirt Pattern
Make a Right Angle and apply on both sides the result obtained from adding the ease to one fourth of the waist measurement. For Misses size 4 that is 7 1/2″. Refer to pattern illustration. The 7 1/2″ down from the corner are points A-B and A-C.
From B following the A-B line, apply the measurement of the Front Skirt Length. (example, Misses Size 4=24″). Mark the Skirt Length as Point D. Points B-D become Center Front and Center Back of Skirt.
From C following the A-C line, apply in the same manner the measurement of the Front Skirt Length Mark the Skirt Length as Point E. Points C-E are Side Seams of Skirt.
Fold the skirt pattern in half by bring A-B-D over to A-C-E. Crease.
Fold the skirt pattern in another half. Crease.
Open the pattern. The three fold lines represent the rays of the pattern.
From A measure down the A-B distance along the other creases. Mark with a dot. See pattern illustration. Mark each dot F, G, H.
Join points B-F-G-H-C by means of a curve to get the curve of the waistline.
From Points F, G, and H measure down the skirt length along each crease. Mark with a dot. You will mark them I, J, K. Refer to pattern illustration.
Connect D-I-J-K-E for hemline curve.
Cut out the pattern. The grainline can be along B-D when placed on the fold for Center Front and Center Back.
I advise creating a fitting toile since you may need to adjust the waist at the side seams. Half Circle and Full Circle Skirts cut into the bias. The waistline may stretch a little.
To stabilize the waistline, stay stitch after cutting. Do not hang the skirt up until the waistline is finished with a facing or waistband. Then hang the skirt for 2 days or more so that the drape sets in.
A lapped side zipper is one of my favorite closures. It does not interfere with the drape and the flares.
The measurements used in this pattern are for a Misses Size 4. They are used to provide an example. You will substitute your own measurements to draft your custom pattern.
The Flattering Qualities of a Gored Skirt
Gored skirts are flattering to all figure types, especially when the pattern is drafted to your own measurements. This is because the pattern is drafted with a slight curve from waist to abdomen or waist to hipline. After the slight curve, the line becomes straight and ends however many inches from the center of the skirt that you want. The greater the width of the hemline the more flare and movement the gores will have.
The point at which the curve stops is best determined by your own hip and abdomen measurements. In general these are the guidelines:
If your hips are larger than your abdomen let the flare start at the hipline. If this is your body type, then you will use the measurement Waist to Hip line for points A-C.
If your abdomen is larger than your hip let the flare start at the abdomen. In this case you will use the measurement Waist to Abdomen for Point A-C.
The Front Skirt Length used is completely up to you. A length of 27-30” will give you a retro looking skirt reminiscent of the 1930s. To achieve such an effect use the diagram for creating a Trumpet Skirt with flare starting at the hip line.
Style Ease to add to measurements
For a gored skirt add 1-2” of ease for the abdomen or hipline. To the waist add about 1/2″ of ease.
Measurements (used for an example) for a Gored Skirt Pattern
The measurements used here are for a Standard Size Misses 4. They are used as an example. Substitute another Standard Size or your personal measurements.
Waist 24”+ 1/2″ ease=24 ½”
Abdomen Circumference 35”+1” ease=36” OR
Hip Circumference 36”+ 1” ease=37”
Waist to Abdomen 4” OR
Waist to Hip 8”
Front Skirt Length 28”
Drafting Instructions for a six gore skirt
You will be dividing the waist, abodomen or hip measurement by six. If you want to create an 8 gore skirt you will then divide by 8. If you’re up to it you can also create 10 or 12 gore skirts. The number of gores you want will determine the number by which the waist and hip or abdomen are divided.
The diagrams show the completed skirt pattern when the pattern is cut and opened. To draft we will need to draw only half the pattern.
Cut a sheet of pattern paper the front length of the skirt plus 5-6”. The width should be about 20 inches.
1. Draw a vertical line equal to the Front Skirt Length. Label A at the top and B at the bottom.
2. Fold the paper along the A-B line. You will draft with the pattern paper fold on your right hand side and the paper towards your left hand side.
3. From A mark down the length of Waist to Abdomen or the Waist to Hipline Measurement. Dot this and mark as point C.
For a Misses Size 4 skirt with flare from Abdomen Point C is 4” down from A.
For a Messes Size 4 skirt with flare from Hipline Point C is 8” down from A.
4. Take the Waist plus ease measurement and divide by the number of gores wanted. In this sample pattern the Size 4 waist plus ease measurement is 24 1/2″. So the calculation for a 6 gore skirt is 24 1/2″ divided by 6 equals 4.08”. Round off to 4”.
5. Apply half of the amount derived from the calculation performed in Step 4 and measure out from Point A. Label Point D.
6. Take the Abdomen plus ease or Hipline plus ease measurement and divide by the number of gores. For a trumpet skirt in Misses Size 4 the Hipline measurement will be used. So the calculation is:
Hipline plus ease is 37 divided by 6 equals 6.16. Round off to 6”.
7. Apply half of the measurement obtained in Step 6 and draw a straight line from Point C. Label Point F.
8. Using the hip curve position the part with the slightest curve against points A and F. Draw a very slight curve. It should not be too pronounced of a curve but not a straight line either.
9. Taking a tape measure, place the start of the tape measure at Point D, continue past Point F and from Point F straight down until the Front Skirt Measurement is reached. Dot this as point H.
10. Connect Point B to H with a slight curve.
12. If you want a dramatic flare or are drafting the Trumpet Skirt pattern, measure out from Point H 1” or more. The greater the amount you measure out the greater the flare will be at the hemline. I find 1 to 1 1/2″ good enough. Mark the new Point H and redraw the line from F to the new point H.
Connect Point B with the new Point H by a slight curve.
13. Cut out the pattern and open it up. The gored piece is now completed. This represents one gore of the six gore skirt. You will have to cut 6 pieces. To make it simpler, fold the pattern piece again and cut two more pattern pieces if you like.
14. 1/2” seam allowances are added when the fabric is cut.
IMPORTANT: I strongly advise making a muslin to test the fit and amount of ease. This will save you so much effort once the fashion fabric is cut.
Grainline for this pattern
The vertical A-B line can be used as the lengthwise grain line.