Six Napoleon dress – preparing the skirt

With a growing group of international pattern drafters and dress makers, orchestrated by Sew2Pro,  I have been trying to recreate a complicated asymmetric dress.  Known as Six Napoleon, it is designed by Japanese-Austrailian designer Dogstar. I made a reasonable fist of the bodice, receiving a little help from my pattern cutting teacher. But the term ended two weeks ago and I am  on my own for the skirt. Well not completely. The others in the group are posting their experiments and findings on their blogs. Below is the inspiration picture we are all using. You can see that the skirt is very full and has lots of body, despite it being translucent and delicate. It is made with 8 metres of silk organza, and six metres of lining fabric. It appears to have a knee length section and one or two under layers. At its longest point it comes almost to the ground. I think the original hat two colours – grey on black. It looks like the hems are faced rather than hemmed.

The image below appears to be a skirt which looks alot like the Napoleon Six dress and this may just be a similar skirt from the same designer, but it may be the underskirt. Certainly the pleating looks familiar.

Six Napoleon skirt
Six Napoleon skirt

Design analysis

There are several layers to this dress. I will be drafting a knee length organza over skirt skirt; a maxi length organza skirt with distinctive handkerchief point godet; a maxi length underskirt and a lining.

In terms of creating the pattern we could use either draping or flat pattern cutting. The Challenge organiser Marianna originally suggested the skirt should be draped, and she may well be right. But I thought I might try it as a flat pattern cutting exercise. I found it quite a difficult exercise as there are lots of things going on – it is asymmetric, many layered and involves two sorts of pleats, a godet, plus and uneven hem. Although I have done a term of Intermediate pattern cutting, I would say this is advanced cutting. Nevertheless determination, logic and a few books have helped me tackle difficult projects before,  so I was keen to give it a go.

Here is what I did.

  1. This skirt is going to be attached to the bodice so trace off the bottom of the bodice pattern (from the waist) so that you have a hip line to work with.
  2. Mark the CF and CB on this guide pattern
  3. Mark where all the bodice seams join the skirt (as this is where the fullness in the skirt will emanate from)
  4. Now trace off a basic skirt block at the hip line (which means there are no darts) to fit into this guide pattern
  5. Slash the skirt into 8 equal parts and spread the pattern to create a flared skirt. This is your flared skirt foundation and will be used for the underskirt and the lining later.
  6. To make the maxi length skirt: Use the flared skirt foundation and add 26 cms to make it maxi length. Mark where you wish to place a pleat or a box pleat. On the front I created two box pleats and two regular pleats. I used a measurement of 4.5cm for the under/overlap of the pleats. At the back I used less pleats.
  7. Slash along the line of where the pleats are going and add sufficient paper for the pleats (ie 9cm for the pleats and 18cm for the box pleats)
  8. Now create additional flare in the feature box pleat by slash and spread
  9. Create additional flare at the points where the seams join the bodice where there is not a pleat or box pleat already. By doing this I found the front and back patterns became more or less quater circles. When joined together it will be basically a half circle skirt – with flares, pleats and godets.
    Nap6 pattern cutting
    Front skirt piece with inserted pleats
  10. Create a pattern for the handkerchief point godet. This will be seamed in within the feature box pleat.
    Handkerchief point godet
    Godet pattern (since lengthed)
  11. To create the knee length overskirt use the same pattern as the maxi but without the added length and without the godet.
  12. Now create the underskirt and lining. For both I used the flared skirt foundation (step 5) and lengthened it to about 30cm at its longest point.
  13. Add grain lines, seam and hem allowances.

In terms of construction my friend Annie suggests we have a look at McCalls 6396. I think this is helpful, as a start. I intend to face the hems so I will cut some bias strips measuring about 4″.


6 Responses

  1. elaine

    Fascinating- and very complicated. I hope my version works now- going on everyone else’s process, I’ve WAY under-thought this one! We’ll see- marking should end today… at last…
    That McCall’s pattern is intriguing, but probably a bit young for me. Hmmm

  2. Stephanie

    Neat post, Kate. I can’t wait to see yours. I have been reading the various posts with interest but haven’t yet decided how I am going to proceed to execute exactly the features I want to retain in mine. I have a few ideas but will have to experiment once home. Should be interesting and somewhat improvisational, but I like to try new processes. Good luck with yours.

  3. Annnieloveslinen

    I love the look of the black skirt and that deep hem. Reverse engineering gives me brain ache but your draping skills are coming into their own with this project and I like your thinking.

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