The Six Napoleon Dress Challenge part 2

I decided to have a go at Marianna’s “6Nap” dress challenge. I hope a few more join in as it is a fun project with lots of learning. Also opportunities for customisation.


I am on holiday at the moment, thinking about it.

Before I went away I made a sketch of front and back – as I imagine it – as no-one has shared a photograph of the back yet. The style lines on the bodice are just evident if you inspect the photograph closely on your monitor. I am reassured that my drawing looks a bit like Marianna’s own. The key design feature on the front is that the two “classic” princess lines go over the fullest part of the bust – one starting high up the armhole on the model’s left and the other starts lower down.

Napoleon Six dress challenge
Six Napoleon dress challenge – the sketch

The pattern

I am planning to do the bodice as a flat pattern and will probably drape the skirt. The bodice is an asymmetric princess line pattern. There are five panels in the front with a point at the left hip dart position. I have suggested a back with three panels, with either a back zip to one side or dividing the centre panel or a side zip. The “instructions” below are what I did to create the bodice. It is not the only way to do this, but it is what I did.

  1. Trace off my basic close fitting dress block to the hip line, back and front.
  2. Use the Contour Guide Pattern to determine where and how to reduce the ease above and below the bust. I used the above the bust alteration and the empire line alteration and this has resulted in wider darts.
  3. Trace off dropped shoulder block so that I have a bit more “overhang” at the shoulder. I could have just used a simple cap sleeve pattern but I like the dropped shoulder look.
  4. Redraw armhole 1cm lower than on the block
  5. Take shoulder line 1.7cm into the dropped shoulder
  6. Measure back from new armhole line 6cms back and front to create the right width of shoulder seam
  7. Create an attractive neckline. Drop the neckline 2cms at CF and 3.7cm at CB and create an attractive curve to the inside of the shoulder
  8. Cut out the paper pattern, place on folded pattern paper and trace off to create a full (double) pattern in order to create an asymmetric pattern

I am now ready with the full pattern draw in the princess lines and the asymmetric hem.

The fabric

The skirt is made with 8m of good quality silk organza and is lined with a further 6m of lining. All the fullness is coming from large quantities of fabric with a certain amount of bulk, while also being translucent and ethereal. However I am not sure I want to wear so much cloth (have you ever worn a sari?), and then there is the cost. Most of my dresses use around 1.2m. Satin organza from MAcCulloch and Wallis is £25m plus VAT. I am thinking of using cotton instead – say a cotton sateen for the bodice and maybe cotton muslin for the skirt. I have ordered some low cost muslin from eBay to have a go with. At the moment I am planning to make the dress in white fabric, but if it looks too weddingy I may have to dye or paint it.

The challenge

If you want to read more about this challenge Sew2Pro,  Demented Fairy and Jay are already writing up their findings. Very helpful. And quite exciting.

3 Responses

  1. Sew2pro

    I tend to miss the obvious so I’m glad you pointed out the princess seams pass through the widest points, i.e. the bust. My method of drafting the bodice (in process) is very different and I have no idea if it’ll work. But how reassuring to at least feel I know what to do with that part. The draping will be a real baptism of fire.

    By the way, I bought lovely silk organza for a third of the M&W price at Goldhawk Road. I underlined the sleeves for my wedding dress with it and have hemmed the remainder to use a press cloth (after meaning to make one for years).

  2. SJ Kurtz

    Draping skirt tonight. I think I’m going the formal wear sewing route: hem the pieces and then drape and stitch. I think the wide, visible hem is my favorite feature of this dress.

    Silk organza press cloth: better tool than you’d imagined.

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