Six Napoleon dress update

Since drafting and testing the pattern I made what I hoped would be a wearable toile. I used some purple cotton with appliqued, embroidered flowers on it. The motifs remind me of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

And here I am wearing the wearable toile. It’s pulling all over the place. This is partly because it is a bit too tight. But it is also off grain. And you will see the issue at the back – I tried to make a little flare but it hasn’t worked. It feels like a sari blouse if you have ever worn one (ie a bit too snug). I am pleased to have a back zip, I like the neckline, I like the position of the armholes, and I think I have the hem points in the right place, more or less.

Despite its flaws I was thinking of trying to fix it and start creating the voluminous skirt with some nice green lightweight cotton.

Six Nap dress challenge
Six Napoleon bodice with potential green skirt

However I took it into my pattern drafting class and Vanda, my teacher, told me to start again. Arrrgh.

I had cut the purple toile using the altered calico. But Vanda thought my crude alterations were unsophisticated and that I could get a better fit. In the class I transferred the original net pattern, plus the alterations to a fresh piece of paper, and then created a clean, accurate pattern. I am not keen, as a rule, on making perfect patterns, as they are only for me, and normally to use once. I have a habit of bodging it – sorting out any small issues during the construction phase. My evening class does not tolerate “winging it” and we are expected to produce patterns with seam allowances, grain lines, etc – clean, final copies. It is a good discipline where the emphasis is on pattern cutting rather than making up a garment. Most students are using industry standard blocks, but this is not what motivates me to study pattern cutting. I want things that fit me and that I can wear next week! But as I have decided to submit my 6 Nap dress as my final project I thought I had better comply.

Many hours later….

6 Napoleon dress challenge
Pattern cutting progress

I resorted to using coloured pens to keep track of my changes. The blue is the first version of the pattern. Then I made a calico toile. Then I altered the calico toile. Then I cut out the purple fabric. Once this had been rejected by Vanda I traced around the calico. I laid the blue pattern over it and traced around it. I then transfered the alterations from the calico toile to the paper pattern – this became the orange version. I then added 1cm seam allowances and trued all the seams to ensure the vertical seams and the shoulder seams would line up. I included two or three notches on every seam. I finally created the green version and took it into college. This is the step I would normally omit!  But I am glad I made up the proper pattern, with each piece numbered, labelled, with grain lines and cutting directions on each piece.

Finally I cut out a new calico toile and tried it on. You will notice I have already pinched out a little dart at the bust point. Because it is too pointy. There is also a little problem with the Left side panel being a little bit short at the top. But these are small faults and easily fixed. The fit is miles better and I have got the shoulders as I want them.

I am now ready to move on to the making the final bodice. No idea what to do about the skirt yet. But I think if I make up the bodice I will be able to drape the skirt. But Vanda is encouraging me to create it using flat pattern cutting.

Lots of progress is being made by other Six Napoleon Challengers and I am pleased to say that Marinna has moved the deadline to 4 August. This is much better for me.

Have a look at

There maybe others.

I have yet to decide on what fabric to use. The bodice needs to be firm and strong to support the skirt, which is ideally lightweight, layered and translucent. I am not sure where I am going with this.

10 Responses

  1. Linde

    The toile is a beautiful fit on you. I was a college with a girl who finished toiles so beautifully that you could use them to wear out.

  2. Jay

    ” I am not keen, as a rule, on making perfect patterns, as they are only for me, and normally to use once. I have a habit of bodging it “. I hear you sister! You’ve seen my pics of crumpled, sellotaped, scribbled on working patterns?
    Your second version is a much better fit though. I went for flat drafting for the skirt too.

  3. Joyce Latham

    You have put in a lot of work! It’s going to be fabulous! Too bad about the purple- however, slowing down might pay off in the end. I was just saying to myself….” Why am I still sewing like a high school student, wanting the garment for This Friday night?”
    Good luck and I’m looking forward to your next post on this dress.

  4. Stephanie

    Looks great, Kate. At this point I am not sure I can make the alterations well enough to make the asymmetrical bodice, but this is inspiration!

  5. sew2pro

    Vanda sounds formidable. But maybe she’s aware of your ability and being a good teacher wants to push you.

    I will take her suggestion and try flat-drafting the skirt.

    My next step will be to trace and draw in more grainlines for clues. I’m keen to use instinct too to fill in some gaps even if this compromises the opulence effect, as I really don’t want to use as much as 8 metres of fabric.

    Having sat next to you as you wore your purple bodice, I certainly think it’s a wearable garment. It looked lovely on you and the combination of fabric, pattern and embroidered motifs is great.

  6. Annnieloveslinen

    What a palaver, teachers are like that, so is Esme on TGBSB, she knit picked a lot, still that’s their job. You have a cracking toile here so it was worth it, you’re a good student and soaking it all up.

    Take a look at McCalls 6396 you might get some inspiration from the way they’ve attached the skirt part

    • fabrickated

      I have been thinking and thinking about how to do the skirt to bodice attachment so that is a great suggestion Annie, for which I am very grateful. A picky teacher is the best. I don’t go to a course to just hear “well done” – most of my learning in life has been uncomfortable.

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