I decided to use Simplicity 6145 for my dress and soon got my project underway.
The pattern I chose to use.
This proved to be the starting point for an outfit that I hoped would show the wide range of my knowledge and skills.
When I received my Simplicity pattern the first thing I decided to do was to make it up to find out how well it fitted. First of all I compared my measurements to the size chart, and then I looked at the finished sizes printed on the pattern. I know that at 5ft 2in I like my clothes figure hugging. The finished garment was really pleasing, just the positioning of the front darts would benefit from slight adjustments.
I had already seen a lovely tweed fabric from www.croftmill.co.uk and knew I wanted to use this as part of my design. My initial sketches used the tweed for a jacket to compliment a dress that would be far more fluid. I have a huge fabric stash and rarely have to find a specific cloth. My problems began when I tried to find a fabric for the dress. I needed the right colour in a fabric that would drape well. I hoped to find a jersey, but despite searching the internet and the shops in the surrounding area I knew I was really struggling to find something I was happy with. I decided to visit an area of Derby traditionally associated with the Asian community. There were fewer shops than previous visits and I had some lovely discussions about the demise of textiles. However I found a shop selling Sari fabric, not exactly what I had in mind, but the colours were perfect and the polyester crepe had so much potential, along with a few problems for my design ideas. I had three pieces of cloth, an embroidered crepe, a matching plain crepe and an embroidered chiffon.
After a long search I was really pleased with how well the fabrics worked
I then found a shot 'China silk' which I used for the lining and piping. The different coloured warp and weft were an incredible match to my fabric and really helped tie the fabrics together.
Once I knew I had fabric I began to develop the pattern for my dress. I transferred the French darts into princess seams, this would allow more fitting possibilities as well as long lines that are more flattering to my figure. At this stage I raised the neckline as well and omitted the sleeves.
I made a toile in Polycotton that finished at low hip level. I traced the seam lines onto the fabric and cut out with 3cm seam allowances. When I tried it on I had to make a few adjustments to get the right bust fitting, allow for my sway back and give a more fitted outline. I also realised that the neckline was not very flattering. I knew I wanted, if possible, to use some of the decorative fabric on the neck band. I recut the neckline (that I had previously altered) to the original pattern and decided to use the neck facings of the pattern as the neck band. The bodice at this stage had a narrow shoulder seam.
Once I was happy with the fit I made a second toile. I used this as my pattern. I’d used a tracing wheel and carbon paper to mark the original stitching lines. Once the fit was correct I decided to cut along the stitching and add the turning allowances as I cut out my fashion fabric.
What I had realised was that the bodice of my dress needed more structure to support the delicate fabric. I cut the bodice sections from poly cotton poplin as well as the main fabric to create an interlining. Each section was then stitched to its matching interlining about 1.4mm from the edge. I also cut a lining from China silk.
The bodice was stitched together and some minor fitting adjustments made. The bodice lining was also made at this time and the invisible zip was inserted on the left side.
I now had to drape the embroidered cloth to create the desired effect for the skirt. I had 2.5 metres to play around with! Using my dummy, Edith, I tried different lines to fit the skirt to the bodice. I had originally intended to use pleats at the front left seam to create drapes. In the end I rotated the fabric 90 degrees creating a flattering drape giving fullness at the front. This edge was stitched to the original weft edge of the decorated section. I had always wanted more fullness at the back using the bias to achieve this. I cut a lining to the sane design without the front drape.
Being quite small I find a straight hemline not very flattering, so I wanted the back longer than the front. The lining mirrored the main fabric, cut shorter at the back so it is not visible when worn.
The hems were made with a rolled hem using the over-locker. For the main fabric I used a contrasting rayon thread to match the embroidery on the original cloth.
How I shaped the front hem to achieve the drape
The overlocked rolled hem
I had found a shot silk fabric to line the jacket that really complimented the colours of the dress. I decided to use this to make piping for both edges of the neck band. Luckily I had been able to cut the embroidered cloth so that I could use coloured alternating pieces for the neck band. I interlined the neck band before attaching to the dress. This was when I had to finalise the exact shoulder line of the dress. I decided that I could eliminate the shoulder seam, using the neck band to support the dress. I had to be able to wear a bra and the lines all seemed to work.
Having recut the armholes to suit the design I used a binding that was hand stitched to the lining. Then I lined the neck band. I added a small strip of Rigilene into both sides of the neck band on the shoulder line to help keep its shape.
Neck band and piping
I now had to make a jacket that complimented the design of the dress. It needed to reflect the asymmetric lines as well as the lowered seam at the back.
I drafted a pattern and then ‘played’ around with the hemline when worn over the dress. The neckline of the jacket needed to give a glimpse of the dress neckline. Having made a collar that mirrored the jacket I realised that it needed to roll more as it was much more elegant. I shortened the outer edge to create the desired line.
I wanted the jacket to be quite structured in comparison to the fluid dress. I decided to use a fusible canvas to interface the bodice and collar.
Jacket front showing the dress neck detail.
Back vent and piping
I had wanted to use a pocket on the jacket, but it did not suit the short design. I decided that I could put a curved welt pocket in the lining. It would reflect the shape of the edge, whilst giving somewhere to put small change, bank card or lipstick! The method I used for the welt pocket is one that I have personally developed. I face the opening first. Stitch the welts together and then place them behind the opening, hand stitching them into place. With curved welts they can be pressed into the desired shape before stitching. To help support the pocket the facing fabric extended to the armhole. The pocket bags were attached to the welts.
I used the same method as the pocket to make the bound buttonhole that is underneath the collar.
Curved welt, piping, hand understitching and bound buttonhole
The collar and outer edge of the jacket is piped in the same fabric I used for the dress piping and the jacket lining. The back of the jacket has a vent and I chose to finish the piping so that it meets at the centre back.
The shoulders of the jacket have an additional layer of canvas interfacing to provide support. When inserting the sleeves I used cotton batting to create a roll at the top of the sleeve.
The jacket is fastened with a button. This needs a longer shank to fasten through the layers of the front jacket. I inserted a cocktail stick behind the button to create the required space. As the button was stitched I also stitched through a transparent button on the inside to provide support.
I decided that I would then make a bra from the remaining dress fabric. So that if the bra straps strayed out from the neck band at least they would match the dress! I couldn’t get elastic and fastenings in the same colour so I decided to dye them. The colour is not the same, but complimentary.
The bra has a long line as I have found this to be really comfortable and supportive. I experimented with the shape of the cups to provide a flattering shape and enough support. I’ve made bras before, but for the first time I decided to use cotton batting in the cups.
I hope you've enjoyed reading about my outfit.