When I draped the basic skirt I ended up with two darts for the front and back skirts. I had followed the instructions in in Draping for Fashion Design by Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Rellis. Although the dart intake was evenly distributed the finished results were unsatisfactory. In this posting I will share how I evalatuated the results and made the correction.
The first drape
After the skirt toile was completed it was stitched to the basic bodice. The two darts did not create a smooth fit over the abdomen as it curves to the hipline in front and back. I noticed there were tiny pleats following the end of the larger dart placed over the princess line in front and back of the form.
The tiny folds forming from the end of the dart to the hipline needed fixing. At first it looks like the dart should be lengthened. However, that is not an attractive look. Darts in the front of a skirt should run from waist to abodomen level. The length is usually 4 1/2-5″ but not any longer.
The dart has to release its fullness over the fullest point where it lies. What I decided to do was change the pattern from two darts to one dart. I used the same amount of intake for the single dart. I also added a little ease at the hem line at the side seam. This creates a less tubular effect for the basic skirt. I like the look so will try it for the first project using the completed sloper.
Corrected skirt toile
I made a half-toile of the corrected skirt to check the dart placement, the way it lies against the form and the slight ease at the hemline.
The corrections worked without the need for me to drape another skirt front and back. The solution was to simply redraw one dart, slightly past the princess line going towards the side seam. For the front skirt the dart length is 4 1/2″. For the back 5 1/2″. I used the intake of the two darts to create one dart each for front and back. The dart intake is now 1″ each.
I marked the dart line with red and black dots so you can see the difference. The corrected darts now line smoothly and release the fullness without any tucks forming.
In my next posting I will upload a sketch of the shirtwaist dress I will make using the basic sloper made from this drape.
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.
When taking measurements, hold the tape measure with one hand inside, against the body. This will allow a slight amount of ease. The fitting sloper is very close to the body in order to achieve the best assessment of the fit. It also shows if the measurements are accurate or need adjusting. Style ease is added to key measurements once a pattern for a particular style is created. The basic fitting sloper is the mother of all creations. From the basic all your creations will be derived. Some patterns like a half circle or gored skirt do not require so many measurements. These styles are a good start for a pattern drafting.
CHEST CIRCUMFERENCE: photo 1A Place the tape around the back, under the arm and above the bust.
BUST CIRCUMFERENCE: photo 1B Around the fullest part of the bust.
RIB CAGE CIRCUMFERENCE: photo 1C About 3-4″ below the bust.
WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE: photo 1D Around the waist.
ABDOMEN CIRCUMFERENCE: photo 1E Around the fullest part of the abdomen, approximately 4: below the waist.
WAIST TO ABDOMEN: photo 1F From the waist to the circumference of the abdomen, usually 4″ to 5″.
HIP CIRCUMFERENCE: photo 1G Please note a correction: 1G should be same level as 1H. I made a mistake in labelling the photo. Around the fullest part of the hip. Note: I have found it varies with figure type. It can be 7 to 9″ below the waistline.
WAIST TO HIP: photo 1H Measure the distance from waist to hip.
SHOULDER WIDTH: photo 2A-D From the side of the neck to the tip of the shoulder.
NECK TO BUST LENGTH: photo 2A-B On the side of the neck from a point where the shoulder begins, to the bust point.
FRONT BODICE LENGTH: photo 2A-C From the same point as used in the previous measurement, continue with the tape over the bust, adjusting it to the figure down to the waist.
NECKLINE: photo 3A-B From the first vertebra following the shape of the neck to the place the seam shoulder begins and then to center front.
CROSS CHEST WIDTH: photo 4A-B From the point where the arm begins to the same point on the other arm in the front.
BUST SEPARATION: photo 4C-D Take the distance between the two breast points.
BACK BODICE LENGTH: photo 5A-F From the first vertebra down, along the back, to the waistline.
CROSS BACK WIDTH: photo 5G-H In the back, from the point where the arm begins, to the same point on the other arm.
FRONT BODICE LENGTH: 6A-C is the side view of measurement given in 2A-C.
FRONT SHOULDER TO WAIST: 6D-E From the front edge of the shoulder pull the tape tightly down to the waistline.
BACK SHOULDER TO WAIST: 6D-F From the back edge of the shoulder pull the tape tightly down to the waistline.
Please note that in real life the measurements in this section must be taken with the arm bent so that the hand rests on the hip. This way of measuring the arm provides room for movement.
ARM LENGTH: photo 7C-d-E From the tip of the shoulder to the wrist.
UPPER ARM WIDTH: photo 7A Take measurement at widest point of arm. Also called Biceps Level.
ELBOW WIDTH: photo 7B Around the elbow with arm bent.
WRIST WIDTH: photo 7E Around the wrist.
FRONT SKIRT LENGTH: photo 8A-B Length from waist to floor at Center Front when wearing the kinds of shoes the outfit will be worn with.
SIDE SKIRT LENGTH: photo 9C-D Length from waist to floor at point where side seam of skirt will be when wearing the kinds of shoes the outfit will be worn with.
BACKSKIRT LENGTH: photo 10E-F Length from waist to floor at Center Back when wearing the kinds of shoes the outfit will be worn with.
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.