Six Napoleon dress – making up the dress

This Six Napoleon dress was supposed to be completed and photographed yesterday. But it wasn’t. I am only a few hours away from finishing so I will give you an update on my progress.six-napoleon-challenge-1


This was a difficult pattern cutting challenge. I have explained how I created the pattern for the bodice, and the skirt. However although the dress was difficult to interpret, and there are several versions of this dress out there now due to Marianna’s Six Nap challenge, I am really pleased with my pattern cutting skills which have developed over the last few months. I feel confident enough to tackle much more complex projects. I have certainly got better at really looking at a design and working out how to do it. However I am still pretty impatient/rather lazy. While my bodice pattern is reliable, tested and produced as required by by tutor, with the skirt I rather winged it.

In terms of the paper used for the many iterations this is quite a large amount – a carrier bag (skirt) and a large brown envelope (bodice) contain the final pattern pieces.

Fabrickated pattern cutting
Pattern cutting outputs


I choose, eventually, to make up the dress in white fabric in order that I could paint some colours on it.

I already had some nice white cotton left over from SWAP 2015. It is a fairly robust fabric and I used it to make up the bodice, and lined it with a faded beige lining (because this was what I had). For the layered skirt I wanted a translucent fabric. I had two choices –  soft lightweight cotton muslin, or cheap silk organza. Given we had been warned that 8 metres would be needed I was scared to use anything expensive. In the end I combined a range of fabrics.  When I worked on the colour scheme I found the muslin unsatisfactory.  I also tried to paint the organza – which was even less effective. Finally I decided to paint a layer of silk crepe and use that for underskirt and let it show through the organza.

Outer layer short, full, pleated skirt – white silk organza

Middle layer flared and pleated skirt – white silk organza

Under (simple flared) skirt – white silk crepe

Underlining (attached to underskirt) – white muslin

Lining – white synthetic fabric

There are only three skirt patterns (only!) but five layers, each requiring its own construction and finish.

Customising the fabric

You may remember I decided to paint the fabric to get away from too much white-wedding stuff.  I was inspired by a 1946 Schiaparelli silk dress. My efforts are rather poor but I think I have something of the feel of the dress. I used a brown felt tip pen that is designed for fabric and my fabric paints. I had wanted to collaborate on this with my son Gus but first he was in Sweden and then he was still asleep, so I did my own version. To a large extent the colour on the skirt is covered up by the many layered organza overskirts.  I would like to do this technique again, perhaps on a silk dress or blouse.


Making the bodice was very straightforward – stitch up the panels, line, understitch etc, put in a zip at CB. Unfortunately it was just a little bit too big overall (my dress stand is a little wider than I am), so I had to take in some of the princess seams.

The skirt however was another matter. I got a tiny inkling into what sewing a wedding dress might be like. Lots of slippery fabric, long lengths of everything, huge amount of pins, keeping the design and details in mind even though it was hard to know front from back etc. I used French seams on the overskirts, and lined the underskirt which was also underlined.

Fabrickated making dress
Making up the Napoleon Six dress

The worst thing, by far, were the hems.

I faced the organza layers as they were semi-circular and required deep hems. I did this by cutting 5″ wide bias strips, attaching them at the hem, trimming, turning in and stitching at about 4.5″. I wasn’t very accurate, life is just too short.

Eventually I made up the outer short skirt, then the longer skirt, tacking both to the bodice. Surprisingly I found the pleats worked well and landed at the right place. That was very reassuring. However when I tried it on I wasn’t happy. Somehow with the low waist (at the hipline) the skirt didn’t look balanced at ankle length. it was way too long overall and especially at the godet area. I spent a week thinking and thinking about how to alter it. I considered raising the skirt at the hip line which wasn’t ideal as it had been cut to the exact depth and width of the asymmetric hip line. I knew what I had to do, which was rehem the long middle layer. Arrrgh. At this point Marianna kindly agreed to put back the finishing time until the end of the month. I measured the skirt up from the floor in order to create the right length, re-hemmed it with the bias strips and finally included the painted silk underskirt.

Here it is on the stand before the alterations.

Over the next few days I need to

  • Hem the painted underskirt and attach at the hip line
  • Take in the bodice slightly at the back and side waist
  • Make up the lining and insert it
  • Press
  • Photograph

I may have made a carnival dress! I can’t wait to finish it now and get on with something simpler. Like a bit of knitting!


22 Responses

    • Fabrickated

      I spent the day in Brighton yesterday Sam. If the dress had been finished I would have worn it. I would also wear it for a party. Shortening it will make it more informal. In the end I may remove the organza layers and just have a painted dress with a slightly flared skirt. We shall see. (I obviously don’t worry too much about looking faintly ridiculous!)

  1. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    Wow! I think you’ve nailed the skirt, it’s lovely. And the nod to Schiaparelli has worked out beautifully. I’m determined now- I MUST cut mine out and get cracking this week, no more delays or distractions.

  2. eimear

    Well done – its really shaping up, love the bodice, and can only admire your patience on the organza…………I think I would have taken to drink at the first hem!

  3. Joyce Latham

    Fabulous! Wow, you really out did yourself! I love the painted fabric, that is so cool. I must admit my first thought was ” where the heck is she going to wear that?” ….and then I thought….”she’ll have to make an event happen, so she can wear it”….
    Brilliant idea to remove the organza once the party is over!! Brilliant! You have put a lot of effort into it….I hope you wear it at least once in its full party funk. You must tell us what it feels like on!
    I want lots of pictures of this baby! Twirl, swirl and dance , what a great dress!

  4. Stephanie

    I’m impressed with your work and the painted bodice worked out so well. You really are amazing in the way you set your self a task and follow through. I am going to make the bodice and a separate, simple skirt. Not sure when though!

  5. Annnieloveslinen

    Your dress looks tantalising I’m really liking forward to the reveal.

    I do admire your tenacity and your ability to work on several learning tasks simultaneously. Your completed garments are successful because you wear them and not necessarily because they’re perfect. That will be encouraging to anyone reading who may be too intimidated to just have a go.

  6. sew2pro

    I have never seen you look ridiculous and it’s not going to happen this time either. The bodice is lovely, the colours chosen and application a success. I am astounded by how much work you’ve put into this (but worry that the few hours anticipated to the finish may drag on). Thank you for embracing the challenge with gusto on top of everything else going on. I think I owe you a few cocktails while we out these babies some evening somewhere!

    • fabrickated

      As others have suggested I will find an opportunity.

      Ruth from CoreCouture, Demented Fairy and Marianna from Sew2Pro have suggested we all dress up in our Nap Six dresses and enjoy a night on the town with alcoholic beverages. Passers-by may assume that we are the nutty older contingent from a hen night who got drunk and wandered off.

  7. mrsmole

    Oh Kate, what a lovely wedding dress for a funky bride! All you need is layers and layers of netting and horsehair braid to make it all poofy underneath and voila’…instant bridal! Lots of hand sewing and head scratching and thinking…yes, that is my business but it is very interesting to see your progress, all the time and effort and fabrics that you have had to buy and secure and work with to get such a dramatic finished project! Makes you glad to get it done and move back into the world of simpler projects doesn’t it?

  8. Kim Hood

    It’s looking really good so far, and I adore the painting you have done! It might be a ‘different’ sort of garment but I’m sure you will look great and wear the dress rather than it wearing you. Can’t wait to see the result.

    • fabrickated

      As you imply Sue – it rather demands an occasion, maybe one especially organised for it. I think it would be fine for a summer festival – if I went to that sort of thing.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks Sue. I like the original but it wouldn’t be my style. The benefit of making your own clothes is that you can like something and then customise it to suit yourself.

  9. Sue

    It is gorgeous, stunning and unique!
    I do like the way the overskirts soften the design on the underskirt – very Haute Couture! I’d keep it if I were you. You did an outstanding job and if I must say, the most wearable version for a woman of a Certain Age!

  10. SJ Kurtz

    I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed following a project more than this one. We’ve all come at this from different corners, and are ending up with such distinctive results.
    And if any of you are still on the fence about working yours out, surely this gives you an excellent direction to travel in.

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