Making a basic dress block (part three)

Firstly – thank you everyone for your supportive and interesting feedback yesterday. It made me feel very connected and valued. And Nick made pulled pork with apple sauce on home made sourdough bread, hummus and Vietnamese salad. Which we enjoyed with a glass of Prosecco.

three generation meal
Family Party

Back to work!

I made a bodice block to my own measurements, and then how after fitting the toile, I made a one piece dress block. This week I made a dress in order to test the fit further. To those readers who have not done this before I have to warn you about a few things.

  • The style lines are not the most flattering. The bust dart comes from the neck to the bust point – this is rarely used and not very pretty. But, combined with a waist dart (bust point to waist) it gives the most accurate fit through the bodice.
  • The same is true of the relatively big darts at the front and back waists. If you have a relatively small waist and want a close fit these are definitely clunky.
  • The high round neck and simple shoulder line of the block will not flatter everyone.
  • A fitted one-piece dress is one of the hardest garments to fit well – a waist seam is much easier as the skirt and bodice are joined. Here all the shaping is carried out in the vertical seams/darts
  • This style of dress (the sheath) is best suited for a relatively straight figure without too many curves. It has to go in (upper chest) out (bust) in again (waist) and out again (hips). The less curve on the body beneath the better. A man, by contrast just needs to come in from shoulder to narrower hip.
  • Also getting a good fit is a tedious, back and forth type of project. You need patience, and ideally a helper.
  • If you are more or less fitting yourself (as I was here) taking photographs can be really helpful in allowing you to see the garment on your body fairly clearly.

OK. Now you can see me in my grey fitted dress – first iteration. I am not saying it is perfect. Far from it. But before we talk about what is not working yet, let’s look at what is good about this first version.

  • The neck is good (there is a seam allowance of 1.5cms).
  • The shoulder is now at the correct angle and the right length.
  • The fit across the upper chest is generally good although the diagonal pull imply that it is a little bit tight. I could slightly let out the bust dart (by say.25cm) to deal with this.
  • The armhole is not too tight or too loose (includes a 1.5cm seam allowance)
  • The bust point and wasit is in the right place.
  • The fit across the torso is is more or less OK, although the front darts are pulling down and out.
  • The back view shows the neck, shoulders and armholes are good.
  • The back darts are not perfect but not too bad.

In terms of what to do to improve the fit, what would you do?

For me I thought that the key to improving the fit was to take in more at the back (rather than the front or side). Here is the dress pinned out at the back, effectively creating a second back dart. If you compare the first and second versions of the front view you can see how pulling the fabric in at the back waist lifts up the skirt and begins to make it look much better. At the back (I pinned myself) it is not very accurate, but this can be sorted out with the pattern and a ruler.

I added a second back dart towards the CB seam, making it 3cms at its widest point (at the waist), compared to 4cms of the existing dart, and the same length as the block dart. I hemmed the skirt and finished the neckline with a bias strip.  The horizontal pulling that was evident in the first version has now disappeared.

Fitting a dress block
Third version with additional back dart

Now we come to look at the fine tuning.

I would like to lengthen the front darts as the poke-y look is due to them being too short and wide for my figure. Of course long front darts are not very attractive.

What am I trying to do with this one piece block? Actually I am desperate to make it into a princess line so that I can get the close fit through the waist, plus the shaping for my curved lower half. But this is a one piece dress and the only way I can get the fit right is by extending the darts. The lower part of the dress needs to include walking ease – otherwise I can see that extending them to the hem – even pegging the skirt slightly might make the design more attractive (not really the point with the a block dress). Before I complete the dress, does anyone have any further fitting advice for me please?

11 Responses

  1. I think the dress prototype (?) looks great on your figure and I agree about the darts needing to be longer and I can see why you might bring them all the way to the hem. That would take care of the darts looking too long. I can also see the darts disappearing in a patterned fabric (with a plain jacket or cardi on top).

  2. SewingDeb

    I followed Suzy Furrer’s bodice pattern drafting course on Craftsy which was excellent. She has you draft a moulage (a skin tight copy of your body based on yr measurements) and from that you loosen it up to become your bodice block. It has princess seams and a waist seam and already the fit is better on me then any other block I have tried to draft. I tried Winifred Aldrich’s block in the past and it didn’t fit me. Having said that your dress block is looking pretty good.

  3. Dress blocks can have whatever darting or seaming arrangement suits. Some of the older systems did use princess seams, and Natalie Bray used a bust dart from mid shoulder. The trick is to choose a location for darts which will create the right fit and which you will find easy to translate into different styles. Some recent block drafting systems use two waist darts (like the draped one I linked to before). It’s quite difficult to tell from photos but the 2 questions I have about the fit are whether there is enough room at the front bust level (because of the slight pulling from the side seams, and whether the back CB to waist is fractionally too long ( because there may be some pooling of the fabric above the waist, and perhaps in one of the top photos the side seam at hem is going forward?). I don’t think there are major fit problems in this block. As you write above, it is quite difficult to get a perfectly fitting one piece dress block for the classic hour glass shape. It’s simply because you need more room in the front above the waist and more in the back below the waist.

  4. I think the widest point of the waist dart is a little too low for your figure. Try starting the lower curve an inch or so higher- it looks as if that would smooth some of the pulls in the midriff area.

  5. Stephanie

    Looks lovely on you so far, Kate. I’m keen to hear what tweaks you will make. The only thing I can see clearly is as Jay says – that it appears that maybe a bit more room at the bust is needed given the diagonal pulling above and below, but maybe that’s just the photo. I feel almost as if (from the side view) you can see that the front bodice part is not quite long enough over the bust but in contrast that there’s too much room in the back, as you say. Gee, I dread doing this for myself. You’re quite brave! Before I started sewing and learning about fitting I was always shocked that I could never find a sheath that fit me at all. Now I understand…so realize what a difficult thing it is to get the perfect fit. Keep going!

  6. Kate, I think you have the basic fitting done. Before you tweak further, I would suggest pressing the dress to see which wrinkles are fit, and which are fabric creases. If the object is to get as close a fit as you can on two pieces of fwoven fabric, you may already be there. Admittedly, you have the figure that suits this outline, but still, that is some very good pattern drafting! Congratulations.

  7. The drag lines all identify where the specific issues are, and there aren’t that many of them.
    Where it goes from here: Jay nailed it ” The trick is to choose a location for darts which will create the right fit and which you will find easy to translate into different styles.” The darts/seams from the neck to the bust could be played up or down, in a collar or whathaveya’.
    Do you NEED it to be one block from collar to hem? You don’t really need deep darts from the waist to the tum, and you’re stuck with them underbust. A horizontal seam could relieve that issue. Or make them a design choice. Run them into pocket tops at the hip bone for example.
    It all depends now on what you want to make with this.
    I missed your previous post on your blogoversary and family. I look forward to reading what you have to say, and admire your clarity. We are here to be called on as a community, with love and bust darts.

  8. No advice, just enjoying learning vicariously through you and your commenters!

  9. Are the darts clipped – eg at the waistline? One thing I noticed when I was fitting my moulage was unclipped wide seam / dart allowances can also cause some draglines.

    If you can extend the front dart into a full neck to hem princess seam styleline I think it’ll look great & elongate your figure! It doesn’t have to be much taken away at the hem. Maybe 1/4-3/8″ seam allowances x 2 x 2 = 1 to 1-1/2″ taken away at the hem. Looks like you have back vent anyway. So shouldn’t affect your ability to walk much! 🙂

    This set of front princess seams does look a bit odd. I’m more use to the ones that starts mid shoulder-width or from armscye. If it’s not working for you aesthetically how about lowering the middle part neckline & turn it into a Roland Mouret Galaxy Dress neckline? Vavavoooom! 😉

  10. I just came across your blog and I’m finding it super helpful. I’m 19 and trying to teach myself pattern cutting, after not having much success in a class I’m using just craftsy and winifred aldrich’s. It’s nice to find a blog and see what somebody more experienced is doing. Thankyou for these posts x

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