Friday, July 11, 2008

A quick, down/n/dirty job of draping a dress

Laurens dress - test for the silk chiffon to be worn in her uncle's wedding Labor Day Weekend.

I'm entering this into the contest on PR for MyPattern. This is still the WIP, and if I can get the silk in time, I'll get the real dress made and entered.

The right way to drape a dress is outlined and illustrated on the blog of DomesticHaven, here.
She's done a beautiful job of documenting the process and of creating a beautiful dress.

Alas, I don't have a dress form to fit my dsd, and since I found out when I got home Tuesday that she needed this dress to wear to a wedding in Chicago for which she was leaving this (Friday) AM, I didn't have the time to perform all the steps and do it as well as Domestic Haven has done. And, I had the added issue of having to drape right on the body of a kid who's schedule includes working daily and seeing the boyfriend evenings.
Real bodies fidget, dress forms do not.
Real bodies often voice opinions during the process, Dress forms give you the patience of Job and silence in which to contemplate that design line that you may or may not like.
Nevertheless, it was a fun process, and we're both pleased with the dress.

The inspiration: The bodice from the white dress, the skirt from the blue - no midriff.
Note that in translating this to a cotton/lycra blend, much of the ruching and gathering was done away with.
When translating this to the silk chiffon all that gathering and ruching will be restored.

The Process:
I began by tearing squares of the cotton/lycra. The fabric was 52" wide. I first tore 2 27" lengths for the skirt.
Then I tore 2 18" lengths for the bodice. I then tore one of the 18" lengths in half so that I'd have a right and left front piece to work with.
I began by wrapping a length of grosgrain ribbon around L at the empire waistline - I needed something to pin to.
There is a discussion I won't go into in depth, but Miss L prefers not to wear a bra. In order to bypass the histrionics, I agreed to drape the bodice while she was wearing one of her stretch cami's if she would agree to try it on, at first fitting, both with and without a bra. .... In the eventuality, she's wearing a bra with the dress, but it necessitated re-fitting the bodice completely. In any event, the pics that I have of the draping process are while she's wearing the stretch cami.
Wednesday evening: Beginning with a square of fabric for a front, I placed the grainline on true bias over the full part of the bust, folded under a facing for the neck edge, and began pinning in pleats.
Once I had the bones of the bodice in place, I carefully removed it from her, still attached to the grosgrain ribbon, and then took it to my cutting table.
Thursday AM:
I marked all the lines and pinned pleats with my erasable pen, then disassembled the whole thing, and traced out a pattern onto tissue.
I compared the two sides, left and right front, adjusted some lines using an average of the two sides, trued up some lines, then used the tissue to cut both fronts from the fabric used to drape the bodice, making both sides identical.

note that I cut off the selvage edge from the front facing - this picture was taken before that happened.
I then constructed a gathered skirt by seaming together two rectangles, 36" wide by 27" long, couching on a gathering thread, and then attaching it to the sewn together bodice.
At this point I attached the length of grosgrain ribbon to the right side empirewaist seam allowance, having a feeling it might come in handy.
Thursday Evening: (sorry, no pics)
First fitting - after it was decided that the dress greatly benefited from the addition of a bra as undergarment, the entire pleated front of the dress needed to come apart.
Because she is used to wearing a cami with a shelf bra that hugs the ribcage, and/or knit dresses that also hug the ribcage, she wanted this dress to fit that closely under the bust.
The dress was also too full in the front, so I removed 4" of width from the front of the skirt. I left the back as is. So yes, it's unbalanced.
I decided to use the grosgrain ribbon as waistline belt stay, and actually stitched the gathered skirt to it in the front only. I left the back ribbon free. I used a notions dept bra hook closure stitched to the ribbon to act as closure.
While I inserted a zipper in the left side seam, then ripped apart the bodice, L went shopping for a bra. (Yes, believe it, she only had one and it was black).
When she returned, wearing the appropriate undergarments, we put the dress, currently in tatters, back on her, (no pics even possible to preserve the sense of modesty), and I pleated the bodice anew, and changed the neckline. L decided she wanted a more off-the-shoulder look than it was currently sporting. I, unfortunately, didn't leave enough seam allowance at the shoulderline to allow for the change in angle. However, for this dress, it's working ok (bless the addition of lycra to the woven cotton.
After the pinning, it was time to sleep.
Friday AM (today): I got up and stitched the new pleats and then re-attached the bodice to the skirt along the front.
Then I bound the armscye and the back neck edge with self fabric bias strips, and hemmed the dress.
I then pressed it, and coerced the recipient into some Very Quick photos before she headed out to drive to Chicago.

The dress, as it is, works in part because there is lycra in the cotton, which provides a bit of forgiveness.
What I'm happy with: It's darling on her, the neck edge is snug and not falling away from the body, and the way I ended up working the empire seam was a bit of inspired fabulousness.
The dress hugs the ribcage beautifully, yet stands away in the back and has that princess quality in the back. The pics are really pretty dismal, but it is a silhouette that is particularly flattering on L.
What needs work: I don't like the shoulder or the back neck.
It doesn't fit particularly well through the upper back, and there are pull lines at the armscye, in part because the shoulder angle is wrong and there isn't enough fabric up there.
Before I make this up in silk chiffon and crepe de chine I'm going to redo the back bodice and shoulder entirely.


Nancy K said...

It's a pretty dress and you are a saint. I hate even pinning one seam on my dd, but she is better than she used to be! She's realized that standing still and not complaining = custom clothing.

Liana said...

Marji, It's just lovely, and I agree, you're a saint. The no bra/bra challenge would be especially trying. Sigh. Maybe she's learned something for the chiffon exercise coming up. That should go very smoothly after this.

Adrienne said...

How lovely!!!

Melodye said...

Three here nominating you for sainthood. She looks lovely.

Cennetta said...

Pretty dress, Marji. Thank you for sharing your technique. This is something that I want to try in the very near future.

Carole said...

Driving directions to your house, please. I'll bring my own fabric!

fabricluver (Susan) said...

May the Lord bless you and keep you my dear child LOL

I'm sure we don't know the half of it :)


renee/cidell said...

This, was awesome. I've always wanted to see how this happens. THANKS! And, the dress is luverly!

Mardel said...

The dress is really lovely on her. Your patience and skill really payed off, especially with the live fitting and the bra/no bra challenge. This is a really great start on the silk dress and it does look darling.

Kristine said...

Amazing! Such a lucky girl to have you in her life. thanks for documenting the process in such great detail.

Cindy said...

My draping never turns out that nice. {sigh} Very pretty dress.

designdreamer said...

Love it! as a matter of fact, I bought a cotton/lycra print very similar to that about a week ago, and I'm not usually a "print" person. And on the bra subject, both of my older dds (20, and 17) would NOT think of leaving the house without one, and actually, the youngest (12 today!) is pretty insistent on wearing one (a training bra - do they still call them that?)too. The two older both SHOULD wear a bra, but am I the only one that remembers our generation NOT wearing them?
Thanks for the info on draping, and yes I think you're a saint too, as I can so relate to the figetyness (sp??) of even putting a few pins in with a garment on one of the dds.
PS one of my dds is Lauren also

Alexandra said...

Wow, that's some patience! The dress is very pretty, I can't wait to see the chiffon version.

Carrie K said...

It looks perfect at the stage it's in now! Can't wait to see the final version.

Braless hussy. I just wish I still had the option myself. ;)

Gwen said...

Wow! That is SO cool! The dress looks gorgeous and the draping you did is really, really neat! I've never tried that, but someday I might... :)

Audrey said...

Happy Birthday Marji! I knew we had the same zodiac sign. Yep, same birth day too, but you are one year wiser and more experienced than me. Ever since I was a kid, July has been my favorite month. It is during the summer (no school) a 4th of July celebration with fireworks is my favorite holiday, and it's the month of my birthday. Hope you are having a wonderful day!


LauraLo said...

You explain this so well you actually make it sound easy! I must try my hand at draping, another reason to purchase or make a dress form. But I especially want to wish you a happy birthday, Marji, I hope that this new year of your life will bring you only joy and fulfillment, love, health and as one of my friends say: may all your wishes come true, even the ones that are unknown to you! Love, Laura. P. S. Cancer is one of my favorite signs :)

Linda said...

Gorgeous dress! And thank goodness you have the patience of a saint. I guess they won't be inventing talking dressforms anytime in the future. I am assuming this is a wearable muslin. The fabric is beautiful. It would probably be a good thing for your DSD to wear this dress for a day to see if any other wearing problems come up. I can't wait to see the silk version.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to Marji - a day late - but I spent yesterday in bed, no where near a computer. Was great seeing you last week - and the weather was perfect! It's raining buckets here.