This is the first time I have designed a dress through the modelling on the stand approach.
In fact it is probably the first dress I ever “designed”. I have made patterns to my own design before but generally these would be a modification of my standard dress or torso block. These were classic designs such as a princess seamed flared dress, or a fitted jacket, where instructions were available from a book or a tutor. My design elements were limited to the length of the jacket or the width of the lapel, for example.
This dress was something I conceived in my imagination, made a sketch, modelled it on the stand, created a paper pattern, and then made it up.
Everything about my circle dress required a conscious decision. Everything gave me pause for thought. Like an old-fashioned recipe book I didn’t have a single picture to give me a clue. When I started out I didn’t know how I was going to construct this dress. I had no idea how I would deal with the yoke, the grain lines, the colour scheme or the chevron pattern. Of course I didn’t know how much fabric I would need, or where to put the pockets, or even if I should have pockets. With the top stitching I needed to decide which seams to top stitch, and with what, and in what colour. So I thank you for your help along the way with your suggestions, and most of all your encouragement.
I have described how I made the pattern for the dress by creating a yoke with a deep V (so the dress goes on over the head) and then draped a right-angled triangle of cloth from the straight grain side seam to the CF, which is on the cross grain. The pattern itself was immense and tricky to handle until I sliced it into pieces.
I adapted the yoke by reducing the width at the shoulder. It now follows the arm line rather than jutting out slightly, and I think this just brought the whole yoke into proportion. In addition I slightly deepened the armhole. I wasn’t sure about this. The original close fit around the arm was rather elegant – now the whole top area feel a bit more blousey. I was worried about showing the bra, which is a slight risk. But it is much more comfortable.
As this was a toile I used cheap cotton lawn in four shades – navy, two brownish shades, and white.
I made the yoke first. The straight grain is along the lower edge of the piece, and I used fusible interfacing to back it. The yoke had to be strong enough to support the whole nine yards (more actually – it feels a bit like a bundle of laundry). I joined the yoke and its facing at the neckline. I put one line of top stitching on the CF seam so that the yoke was not so “white”. I used a brown thread.
The yoke sat on Camilla for a few days while I thought about the skirt.
I made the skirt by cutting out the chevron pieces so that they joined each other with at least one straight grain edge. This made joining the pieces very straight forward and easy to sew. Sitting there doing lots of straight seams, reminded me just how pleasurable it is to stitch on the straight grain. I enjoyed getting my seams nice and straight, and pressing them open. Then I did top stitching – with navy thread on the brown, and brown thread on the navy – along the seams that joined the sections.
The CF, CB and side seams were a little bit more tricky. I had to match the chevrons, and the CF and CB seams were in danger of stretching. But it went together surprisingly quickly and created a nice item in itself. I did think twice about discarding the yoke and asked for your feedback. I nearly left it out, and may well develop this pattern as a non-yoked item. I was really worried how closely it resembles the kind of garment you either graduate or sing in.
The two most tricky bits of putting it together apart from the grain and top stitching were how to finish the armholes and how to attach the dress to the yoke.
I tried bias binding on the underarm but this felt stiff due to the dress fabric being so lightweight compared to the purchased bias binding. So I deepened the underarm style line and made neat facings for them. With the yoke I stitched the dress sections to the interfaced yoke. I then folded the front of the yoke over the interfaced facing, and hand stitched the yoke to the dress. I considered more top stitching, but left it out. It wasn’t the most elegant solution. I think if I made it again I would have to think this through, and see how such a yoke is finished traditionally.
The hem was just turned up and machined. It was a long curved seam, but with a little tension it stitched up OK.
I have worn this dress out to the park on a nice sunny day with brown trainers. I enjoyed wearing it. I even liked the white yoke.
I enjoyed thrusting my hand in the pockets and giving it a twirl. It’s swishy and fun; dramatic and comfortable.
It definitely looks better with the belt but could be worn without one on a different figure, or in different cloth. Thank you Esme for taking the pictures!
I would like to make it again, perhaps in a translucent fabric like chiffon or perhaps a slightly heavier drapey silk. On the other hand the full floor-length skirt looked a bit like a 1950s evening dress, or even a Vivienne Westwood, so I can imagine it in a slightly firmer cloth. With time I could develop this design for a really nice evening gown or even a wedding dress. Whatever. You can tell this dress makes me feel happy!
I love the colour combination. This remind me of a Vogue pattern I made in the 1970’s. It was Vogue 2976, a much simpler dress and less material I think, but a similar swishy style.
This is genuinely fabulous, K! Good for you. The chevrons hit it out of the park! And I love the last photo.
You look fantastic and the photos are really lovely. I would like to see it in the wind without the belt.
Excellent! Really, although it was an experiment it turned out great and it looks flamboyant and fab. It’ll be interesting to see how you use draping in future projects.
Wow! I’d be very happy too. Thanks for this post your creativity is truly inspiring.
The dress looks rather glamorous you could wear this to the opera! Thanks for sharing the journey and your processes.
A triumph Kate! Its even more stunning that I had imagined. ??????
So beautiful Kate. You’ve designed a truly unique piece .
You are the most glamorous whirling dervish! Despite having armhole issues, the construction is so cool and the chevrons so dramatic with the colors you chose…much more than a muslin!!! Your last photo is a blast!
Very striking. Great job figuring out all the construction issues. Why not wear a matching camisole underneath and ignore the deep armholes; they can be a design feature.
Fabulous! I take it back about the yoke colour…now for more versions. It reminds me of a Zandra Rhodes or Bill Gibb kind of gown, just the thing for your hand painted or dyed silks. That would make for an astounding, jaw dropping evening dress. Or exaggereate the pouffiness of the skirt, and go for dupions in rainbow colours. Delish.
I agree with Demented Fairy, and everyone else. Your dress is outstanding.
Swish,swish,whee!! Such fun! It’s amazing! Lovely photographs too. Fabulous as always.
Fantastic! Lovely design.
It’s wonderful! Well done Kate.
The layout of the colour blocking works really well and in the outside light the colours are perfect. A dress like no other; you’ll be much envied. It’ll be interesting to see how the other version vary.
Oh my goodness, this is fabulous! Great job on draping/drafting this pattern. I love the look of the voluminous skirt paired with a cinched-in waist on you.
Karen of Fifty Dresses
Stunning in every way – the design, the color combination, how it looks on you. Just fabulous!
Fabulous! You look great in your dress, and it’s truly yours! Now that it is finished, I like the yoke. I’m sure you’ll be able to work out how to deal with the construction issues you feel you need to change. Good luck!
It looks amazing Kate! Certainly a statement dress.
Absolutely fab. Congrats and I hope you take the dress out to events and parties, etc, and enjoy it as much as you clearly do in the photos. I couldn’t really see the appeal while you shared the construction with us all online, but my goodness, this is a fantastic achievement/experiment. It’s showstopping.
This is fantastic! The drama of that skirt!!! I eagerly await seeing what you do with this in the future!
It’s fabulous! You just can’t help but twirl in a circle dress!!
It’s beautiful Kate – it looks like a very fun, and glamorous dress! I wasn’t sure about the white yoke as it’s such a contrast to the other colours. It turned out beautifully though, you look deservedly pleased with the result!… I also love that you wore it with trainers!
You look mahvelous! So glad you kept the yoke, I think it really makes the dress sing (or is that swing?). Would love a better shot of the trainers, such a fun combination.
You look wonderful and full of joy in this lovely dress. I used to wear long skirts and dresses for daytime in the seventies and always felt happy in them. It’s a great accomplishment to design and make your very own dress. Well done you!
Wow! That is quite stunning!
Oh my gosh, I love this — it’s so swishy and dramatic! Plus, you look so happy with it! :):)