I have completed alterations to the bodice of the fitting toile I draped for a Misses Size 8. The time was well spent. A comparison to the first toile and this one will show the value of taking time to ensure a good fit.
Assessing the fit
Fitting tucks were made vertically in the front and back fitting bodice. This kind of alteration removed excess fullness from the front and back bodices. In this second version of the fitting toile the previous issues are resolved. Now the fit is smooth.
The neckline darts at the back of the bodice were removed through a combination of shaping at the center back seam and removing a small amount from the neckline near the shoulder.
Right now I’m at work on the basic, unfitted sleeve. Once that is set in I will evaluate the balance and hang of the sleeve. I always start with the unfitted rather than the fitted sleeve with elbow dart. The unfitted sleeve is the building block for more elaborate fitted and mounted sleeves.
Next week I will drape the basic skirt. In that posting I will cover a few basic alterations and fitting tips.
Achieving the right fit is of the utmost importance to the success of a finished garment. Even a simple chemise or sheath dress, a basic skirt and blouse…all will look top notch when the fit is just right for you. People will notice how flattering your creation is for you. When the fit is poor, people will notice the flaws. The amount of time and money spent on the project will not even come to their attention. It is a good investment, then, to get the fitting issues resolved first.
A garment that fits one perfectly is the most important aspect of a garment. Ill fitting clothing is not flattering. No amount of design, jewelry or even color can distract the eye of the beholder. Those who see someone in a garment that does not fit correctly will only notice the flaws in the garment. This is why those who sew, draft their own patterns or use commercial patterns have an advantage. Through the construction and fitting of a basic shell, it is possible to learn exactly what parts of the garment need alterations. Once the fitting issues are resolved the fitting shell can then be used as the basis for a pattern sloper, which is my goal through the next few weeks of postings.
Draped Basic Fitted Bodice: Alterations needed
The basic front bodice with side darts and vertical darts gives me a better fitting than the bodice previously draped. Even so, the first fitting toile shows some fitting issues. The front and back bodice are loose in the area of the bust in the front and the shoulder blades in the back. Also, the waistline in the back needs to be marked a little further upwards.
Alteration method: Fitting tucks
After consulting The Reader’s Digest Book of Sewing, I decided to use fitting tucks to resolve the looseness in the initial drape.
The alteration tucks are pinned into place and marked. The bodice is looking better already. The markings will be trued and then transferred to the first paper pattern. To ensure the alterations work, a half toile will be made next.
Alterations: Practice increases proficiency
Not every alteration will follow the online tutorials or sewing books so perfectly. This is where knowing and accepting the fitting needs of one’s body is very important. The more one practices, the better the eye and sensibility for alterations becomes. The end goal is to create patterns and garments that meet the needs of a person’s figure and flatter them.
In my posting Draping: Pin Fitting the First Pattern, I showed photos of the first paper pattern created from the initial drape. I tested the paper pattern on a half-toile and found the dart placement, width and length on bodice and skirt needed correction. This posting presents some important pointers on darts from my dressmaking and flat patternmaking books. Corrections to the muslin were made and the fitting process continues. I will post about the finished toile when completed.
Part of my mistake was due to a lack of confidence in where to place the vertical darts of bodice and skirt. The flat patternmaking system I use has the first dart at the center of the waist of the bodice and skirt pattern pieces. When draping the Princess seams is not always at the center of the waist for that quarter part of the dress form. So, I positioned the darts at first at that point where the dart was at the center between center front and side seam, and then in the back at the center between center back and side seam. This did not work well when draping so I took out the basting stitches on the toile and re-draped the dart intake along the Princess Seams for the bodice and skirt.
Dart placement on Bodice Front
When draping the basic bodice the vertical dart must be placed at the Princess seam line running from waist up to the apex point. To avoid stretching the muslin, pin the dart at the waist and the apex only. Gently crease the center of the dart. Mark with pencil the apex and both sides at the waist. The crease becomes the center of the dart. It should run straight to the apex point. On the paper pattern lower the dart anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4″ below the apex. This prevents the dart from becoming too pointy.
If the dart intake is more than 1″ consider making a second dart from the excess greater than 1″. The center of the second dart is placed about 1 1/2″ from the Princess line and draped the same way. The second dart may be slightly shorter in length.
Dart Placement on Back Bodice
Like the vertical dart of the front basic bodice, the back bodice vertical dart is centered at the Princess seam. Even if it looks a little too close to the Center Back, drape the dart along the Princess seam. The result will fit better.
If the dart intake is greater than 1″, a second dart is formed as described for the Front Bodice.
The first dart, which is draped at the Princess Seam, can be 5-6″ in length. It might go slightly higher on some figures. It is best to judge the length when fitting the toile. The dart, however, should never be so high that it is moving up to the area where the armhole is.
Dart Placement Front Skirt
The first dart of the basic skirt front is draped along the Princess seam. The amount of intake for the first dart should be 1″ or less. If there is a greater amount, make a second dart. The dart is draped as described in the Basic Bodice Front. The length for the front dart can range from 4″ to 4 1/4″ slightly more or less will depend on your figure. The important thing to remember is that the dart must end right at the fullest point on the body. You do not want it too long because the shape of the skirt becomes distorted.
The draping system in Jaffe & Relis’ book, “Draping for Fashion Design” results in two skirt darts that are the same length. For my Misses 8 form, the length of both darts is 4 1/4″ each. For other figures, the second dart nearer to the side seam may be slightly shorter.
For Misses Size 8 skirt back and front my darts were:
First Dart: 1″ intake Second Dart: 1/2″ intake
Dart Placement Back Skirt
The back skirt darts are draped the same way as for the front skirt. The first dart is centered at the Princess Seam. The length of my back skirt darts is 5″ each. The length of the darts can be from 4 3/4 to 5″. Sometimes the second dart may be slightly shorter depending on the size and body shape.
I purchased an early 1960s blouse by the Tropicana company during the furlough from my job due to COVID-19 this past Spring. The blouse provided a fun challenge to me during those days at home. I decided to renew my skills in draping and recreate as much as possible the blouse. As happens, the blouse was not enough. I decided to make a denim skirt to go with the Tropicana blouse and my own version of it.
My recreation was draped on a Standard Misses size 8 form. The resulting pattern was then altered to address my own fitting needs.
The original Tropicana blouse has slits that open from below the waistline.. The skirt and blouse are worn over a white full-slip. The slip provides an extra layer under the lightweight fabric of the blouse. Without a slip or cami, one’s bra will be visible.
The original skirt was altered from a Misses 8 to fit my skirt size which is between a Misses 8 and Misses 10. I have pinned it to better fit the form.
I do not pose for photos in my finished garments. The reason is to keep attention on how I created the look. I want any reader to review my content and consider if these same style elements can be applied to creating a similar style expression for themself.
Comparison: Vintage Original and My Reproduction
An unusual detail of the original blouse are the buttonholes at the back. The first buttonhole is horizontal, the rest are vertical. I duplicated this in my reproduction. The reason the first buttonhole is horizontal may be to ensure this stress point remains closed. The neckline of the original is quite close to the neck. I scooped my version a little more to make the blouse more comfortable. Perhaps the vintage blouse was meant to be worn with a short string of pearls or a necklace on a short chain. I opted for comfort.
A narrow merrow-type of stitching finished the edges of the hem, seams and facing. I got fancy with my version of the blouse. I used a pink flexi-lace to finish the hems and facing of the blouse. Seams were straight stitched, then zig-zagged together and pressed towards the back.
The original and my reproduction have a vertical tuck that ends 1″ below the apex of the bust and about 2″ up from the hem. At the 2″ mark the tuck ends and the slit begins. A bias cut strip of fabric is sewn, turned right side out and hand sewn above the opening of the slit. It is them tied into a bow.
A side bust dart, about 2″ down from the armhole, provides slight shaping in the original. My reproduction goes straight down from that point.
The skirt is a medium weight denim by Kauffman. I made a kickpleat for the back and draped for a relaxed fit. The denim shreds so seams were finished by straight stitching 1/4 ” in from the edge and then pinking. The hem and edges of the kickpleat were finished with navy blue flexi-lace hem tape. The kickpleat is held in place by small inverted “v” shaped stitching at the beginning of the pleat.
Jewelry and Shoes
Spring into Summer gets humid here in the Tri-State area (NY-NJ-CT) so keeping things simple with jewelry and accessories is important. I chose to work with gold jewelry since there are golden circles that are part of the pattern on the blouse fabric. The tiny heart charm has a diamond chip at the center of an 8 pointed star. The pattern of the blouse does not necessitate a necklace but I’d wear one anyway. The golden bangle was my Moms and my Grandmother wore hoop earrings similar to the ones I chose to complete the look.
Beige sling back shoes help the leg look longer since the eye is drawn upward. The bonus is that these shoes are also one of my choices for the denim chambray dress I intend to make as my next project after completing the basic fitting toile in progress now.
I use the modern draping system created by Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Relis in their book “Draping for Fashion Design”. It is one of the better books on the subject for me. I am always satisfied with the fit that results from their technique. I also add in some vintage fitting and sewing techniques to my design and sewing repetoire when they enhance efficiency. Pin fitting is one of these techniques.
Pin fitting is not presented in the modern sewing and design books in my Dressmaker’s Library. It is, however, commonly featured in the vintage sewing and pattern drafting books that are also in my library at home.
While it is not a substitute for sewing and fitting a completed muslin toile, it is a quick and efficient way to test the accuracy of darts, seam placements and other pattern details. I find the pin fitting process a great way to spot check the development of a completed drape and subsequent transfer to a first paper pattern.
The Initial Drape
The photos used in this section are those of the basic fitting toile after the dots and Xs of each draped piece have been connected using pencils and rulers.
A half toile of the basic muslin fitting toile is draped on the dress form. Markings are made lightly in pencil. Once all pieces have been pinned and marked the drape is removed and pressed. Draping is not always precise in the way flat patternmaking is. Th vertical dart on the front bodice needed straightening and redrawing.
The dots and X’s used to mark the drape are then connected using French Curve, L-Square and straight rulers. An Armhole/Hip Curve ruler is also used. Pattern pieces are measured to ensure back and front side seams are the same length. Armhole curves and hip curves are also checked for a smooth flowing line in each piece.
Each piece of the muslin drape is now pinned to the pattern paper. A special tracing wheel is used to transfer the markings to pattern paper. The tracing wheel is very sharp and leaves a discernible outline after the muslin is removed. Rulers and pencils are used again to connect and make the markings more easy to see.
Pin Fitting the First Pattern
The photos used here are those of the paper pattern created by transferring the muslin pattern to pattern paper.
This is the point where I use pin fitting to do a quick spot check for darts and side seams. Each pattern piece is pinned along the darts and then pinned to the form. I check to make sure the darts line up and end where they are supposed to.
Sometimes even a quick check through pin fitting will show that there is a need to add a fraction of an inch (or slightly more) to side seams. At other times, an adjustment to the dart apex line might be needed. This happens because sometimes during draping the muslin may have been pinned a little too tightly. At other times it may have had too much ease added. In which case the paper pattern may go beyond the side seam or place it is supposed to be.
I make the needed adjustments to the first paper pattern. Then each piece is measured again at side seams, bust dart, back darts and other check points.
The pin fitting of the paper pattern at this stage has saved me the time that would have been spent making corrections to the first muslin had the needed minor adjustments been overlooked.
The pattern is now ready to be cut as a full muslin and tested for fitting on the form.
The easiest way to hem a full slip is by creating a tuck near the bottom. Even when the result is a deep tuck it will not ruin the look of the slip. The extra weight at the hem makes the slip hang better.
My reason for preferring to make a tuck is because my sewing machine only has very basic stitches. There are few stitches whether multi-zigzag or blind hemming that work well with the delicate, stretchy nylon of the slips I purchase.
I do not recommend cutting away the extra length unless you do have those stretch stitches or a merrow machine to finish the edges. When the slip has hemline lace you could use the stretch stitches by overlaying the lace on the right side of the slip, about 1/8 to 1/4″ above the new hemline. If you do not have such stitches and prefer to hand sew here is one way to do it.
From 1/8 to 1/4″ above the hemline lace on the right side, measure up the depth of the amount needed to raise the hemline. Mark with white, clay chalk.
Pick up along the 1/8 to 1/4″ line above the hemline lace and bring up to the chalk marked line.
Use fine, long silk pins to pin the hem in place.
Thread a long, fine hand sewing needle with a single strand of cotton basting thread conditioned by passing through a dryer strip. I find a #10 sharp works well. Experiment to find the best needle for your own hemming.
Baste the hem in place along the folded line. Remove the pins.
Pass a long strand of poly-cotton sewing thread through beeswax to coat and prevent tangling. Use it as a single strand with a the same sharp, long hand sewing needled you used in Step 4.
Use a very tiny running stitch all around the tuck. This line should be about 1/8″ down from the tuck.
Make a second line of tiny running stitches about 1/4-3/4″ below the first line of stitches.
The running stitch should not be too tight to prevent puckering. If you hand wash and line dry the slip the stitches remain stable and will not break.
They hold up to machine washing, too, if the slip is washed in a lingerie bag during a delicate cycle.
Hand worked buttonholes are an acquired talent. They take more practice to become good at. There is a benefit to using them. First it is the mark of a custom made garment. It sets the garment apart from mass produced clothing. There is also more control in the stitching and less risk of stretching or fraying the fashion fabric.
Here is how I make my handmade buttonholes.
Step 1: Assemble your tools. I use a double strand of poly cotton thread. To prevent tangling, the thread is coated with beeswax. A short sewing needle works best. Experiment to find the size best for you. I use #6 Betweens. To cut the buttonhole cutter set (little mat, blade shown. keyhole punch not shown).
Step 2: Practice first! Use however many layers of fabric as will be in the finished garment. For this practice piece I have two layers of fashion fabric (garment and facing) and interfacing (not shown).
I pressed a line to positioning the cutting line for the button hole. On the finished garment I marked the line using white erasable chalk on the inside of the garment. Then I machine stitched a long line of basting stitches.
The beginning and end of the buttonholes are marked in pencil on the practice piece. On the finished garment they are measured and marked with pins along the line with basting stitches (button and buttonhole placement line). Basting thread is used to mark these points and the pins are removed.
To calculate the length of the finished buttonhole. Measure the width of the button and add it to the height. To this result add 1/8″ for the bar tack at each end. A test buttonhole is the best way to make sure the measurement is correct.
Step 3: The little mat is placed beneath the garment where the buttonhole will be. The garment is placed on top. The blade is positioned along the pressed line (or basting stitched line) and pressed firmly down. A neat opening results. If needed use a small scissor to open the buttonhole a little more.
Steps 4 and 5: Using a waxed double strand of thread, first overcast the slit all around. Knot and cut from the wrong side. Wax another double strand of thread. Use a buttonhole stitch to work around the buttonhole. When you come to each end, make the bar tack.
Step 6: Test your buttonhole for length.
Step 7: Test the workability of your buttonhole. It should go through the buttonhole easily. Sew a button to another piece of fabric and they pass through the buttonhole again. Move the fabric around. The button should stay securely closed. It should not pop out of the buttonhole.
Some people like to steam press the thread after waxing it and before hand stitching their buttonholes. I have had mixed results with this technique. Sometimes the thread is too brittle and breaks. It will all depend on what kind of fashion fabric you use and how thick the layers are.
The Little Black Dress is a must when you need a reliable classic to use for many occasions. I made mine using a fitted bodice with short dolman sleeves. Fit was achieved through vertical darts under the bust and on each side of the back. 1/4″ dolman sleeve shoulder pads were trimmed around the edges to accomodate the neckline finish. Shoulder pads were then covered in black lining fabric.
The rayon fabric was lightweight. To provide body and make it opaque, I underlined the complete garment.
The sheath skirt is shaped with just one dart on each side of the front and each side of the back. I kept the fit easy so that it is not too tight. This is important since I wear the dress for family events.
To keep the look understated I often accessorize with black, low heeled pumps and a clutch purse with faux marcasite clasp. A heart shaped red crystal surrounded by marcasite necklace completes the look.
To keep the focus on the accessories I had a fabric covered belt made by Bee Lignes. Please visit their site for your customized belt and covered button needs. The workmanship is top quality. Since the belt is handmade to your specifications you may have to wait a few weeks for delivery.
A perfect outfit for work or a meeting with a client. The pebble crepe blouse has a pussycat bow made from a bias strip of fabric which finishes the neckline.
The pencil skirt achieves a good fit through two darts on each side of the front and back. A kick pleat allows greater walking movement without exposing the legs. The zipper is hidden inside of the back seam.
Since the bow is the focal point at center front the best accessories are either earrings or a headband or pretty comb. I chose these stud earrings with amber colored crystals that complement the cream colored crepe of the blouse.
Pour Moi means for me in French. I chose this name for my new blog because it focuses on the evolution of my personal style…what is flattering, pleasing and best for me. I hope you will join me in this journey and learn some new things to help the development of your own dressmaking skills and personal style.
My personal choice of style is understated and simple. I want to make a positive impression but not overwhelm others. Here is an example of one of my favorite styles made in 2014. It consists of a gathered skirt, sleeveless bodice with double French darts and a fabric covered belt. The bodice was draped and the skirt drafted. A string of pink pearls completes the outfit. It looks as good in 2020 as it did in 2014.