Draping on the Stand 0.6 – The halter neck dress

Halter necked dresses, blouses and swimwear are such summertime staples, so I draped one, avoiding a side seam. I created the bodice from just two pieces relying on a princess seam line across the bust point.

Draped Halter Neck bodice
Draped Halter Neck bodice

The two pieces of fabric continued around the neck and the back of the stand. This seamed to be a simple and easy to achieve pattern, and I wondered if that under arm edge would work. My tutor patted it. We had a think. She shared her wisdom.

“I always make a toile any way, and then alter the pattern. The draping is really to get the design, not the fit”.

Wise words, Mrs. Kinne. But ever the optimist I eschewed calico and reached from some lovely left over linen to cut out a toile, hoping that it might actually fit. With a couple of press studs or buttons and loops I thought I might have a little top for the weekend.

I have made up a few princess line dresses over the years, and many of them leave out the CF seam, and cut on the fold. I did this, meaning there were only three pieces for the halter top – two sides and one centre. I stitched the pieces up. I must say it looked a bit flat chested. And then I wondered how I was going to finish the blouse. With such a small item facings are not great, and while lining is a good solution it is a nuisance if the lining shows. So I decided to line it in the same blue linen fabric and to work out how to fasten it once I had fitted it.

I like self lined/faced garments and this was quick to sew up, trim and turn though so the raw edges were at the waist. Sorry the picture is so dark (I was sewing at night!)

Making a halter top
The halter top pieces sew together

Unfortunately this experiment was a complete failure.

While on the stand there was quite a nice snug fit, on the real person (ie me) there was a big gaping gap at the sides. I was wearing my halter neck bra in eager anticipation, but this top did not work on my shape. Not at all. There was oodles of fabric in the underarm area. Neither the stand at Morley college, or poor Camilla, is exactly the same shape as me. I needed much more bust shaping. When I tried it on I thought I might actually prefer a bit more drape and softness so that it doesn’t have to fit so precisely. A tailored halter neck needs an exacting fit ensuring a good fit across the bust, the right depth to the neck and enough tapering to the waist. It is more like a swim suit or evening dress in terms of the fitting demands. It is even beginning to enter lingerie territory actually. None of which I had thought about in advance. I need to adapt this pattern for a closer fit, especially at the side body

While this alteration is not a very difficult it has only just occurred to me that draping only works if the mannequin is exactly the right measurements, or for less exacting fitting.

I shall pin out the excess in the side pieces and reduce them in the next version. I think I will also make the halter section narrower. I may introduce a CF seam in order to improve the shape.  The thing is I really like wearing this style so I ought to play around with the pattern in order to achieve a really good fit.

Of course these (in the mirror selfies) are pretty hopeless. I would like to show you the back too, but it was not a shot I could contrive. Suffice to say that the back is not in the right place either. It is too low and reveals the bra strap at the back.

Although I was hoping to wear this top soon, I have a feeling this is the sort of experiment best left to the long dark nights of autumn when there are less distractions going on.

Any thoughts or feedback on making a close fitting halter neck top?

8 Responses

  1. I second your comment about draping to get your pattern only working if your stand is made or adjusted to your own shape. The linen might work better on the bias (if its already been prewashed to get rid of any stiffening from manufacture). I usually draft halters from basic blocks, often putting all of the bust dart into the waist. I can’t think of any reason why the princess seam idea wouldn’t work, except that it might be difficult to get the strap part to sit nicely with the bulk of an extra seam going into that area.

    • Yes, thank you Jay. I did think about draping on the bias for this style. I will do an updated post when I have tried a few of the suggestions mentioned here. I really appreciate your feedback.

  2. I love your design. I think the fit issues are from several sources. In order to drape something this fitted and have it fit your body on the first try, the stand needs to be your EXACT shape. If you draped on the standard form at school, I’m sure that shape didn’t match you. Last year I drafted a moulage and used it to cover a form so I now have my exact shape. Makes doing this so much easier and eliminates much of the fitting work.
    Even so, you can still develop the pattern and then do alterations to fit your body. I find I need to size down when working with standard forms as the upper chest and shoulders are too large in relation to the rest of the body.
    I can’t tell from the photos but the linen looks like it might be a bit stiff for this style and two layers more so. I think you are right that facings would have been a mess and a full lining is the right answer. Maybe a lightweight china silk or crepe de chine? Match the color as closely as possible and understitch to keep it turned under along the edges.
    The gaping at the arm and neck edges could also be due to the bias grain at those seam lines. You didn’t mention if those edges were stay stitched prior to construction. I make bias stay tape by cutting bias strips of china silk 2 cm wide. Pin one end of the bias strip to your ironing board. Then steam and pull HARD, stretching the bias strip as much as possible. Pin it tight and let it dry. It will now be about 1 cm wide. Baste the stay tape in place along the armhole and neck edges. You can ease the fabric so it stays snug against your body yet drapes nicely over the bust.
    Please give this one another try. I think it will work with some minor tweaking.

  3. Stephanie

    Very interesting to read advice from your knowledgeable readers. A pretty top that I’m sure with a couple of tweaks will be perfect. The linen is a lovely colour, too.

  4. I’m with Mary on this one…you and your mannequin have to match. If you know the measurement of your center back neck to the underarm seam, that should be the same as the muslin which in the photos it looks way longer and being on the bias it may have stretched and needs the stabilizing as she mentioned. Another thing to check is the bust point of both…most mannequins have not given birth and rarely have bust droop or the softness of real breasts, they stay perky for life…bitches.

    • Well my own mannequin is a pretty nice (second hand) K&L, and fairly close to my measurements (a tiny bit bigger in the waist and an inch or two smaller in the hips, but fairly similar in the shoulders and upper chest. But our busts are different! I might try her in one of my bras… The halter neck was modelled on the stand at college and their mannequins are horrible – shop dummies for display we assume. The proportions are really approximate.

  5. None of my small forays into draping have been successful so far; my feeling is that the main reason for this was fabric choice. I haven’t quite fit my new mannequin to my size but that is the next thing on my to do list. I love the colour of your linen and hope you can get it to work.

  6. Sorry you had a bad time with this one but hope you get your halter neck dress soon. I find them so flattering. My latest, made two years ago, was looking a bit scruffy then got ripped by my friend’s dog 🙂 and I’m now making an exact replacement. From a pattern; not brave enough to drape.

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