Camouflage

(Ya know when you suddenly feel as if you have never spelled a word before, so you look it up, are surprised by the spelling, and are sure you have been spelling it wrong all your life?!  Having issues with “camouflage” this morning…now singing “kamooflayge” as a mantra…I know, now I am saying it wrong, but I will know how to spell it for the rest of my life.)

A mom wrote to me as she begins working on her young dancing daughter’s first solo dress.  The little one is thicker around the middle.  Since I have some experience with that because of my oldest diva, I told her I would write about how I dealt with it…and since I have been digitizing ’til I am dreaming about creating food out of embroidery stitches in my sleep, I figured a little writing break was in order.  I am by no means an expert in dealing with this figure (I just slap a shapeless shirt on my own [say that 10 times fast: slap a shapeless shirt, shlap a slapesesh shirt, shap a shapish sh…]), but I have a couple of dresses under my belt and perhaps some readers will offer their own experiences and suggestions as well.

We all know that there are certain silhouettes that look good on different body types.  There are certain silhouettes that certain body shapes shy away from.  Some people wear whatever they want, whenever they want, whether they should or not, and I say more power to ’em!  But Irish dance, not unlike other dance forms, does dictate a certain dress “look.”  I was glad when the teeny-tiny bodice on top of the gigantoid skirt became a thing of the past as it was a rare child of any shape who looked good in that.  Don’t really know why, but the wide skirts always reminded me of the Flying Nun… and I always felt I was looking at a costume that would fit right in with this group below –

Am I right? Ever hear of “The Triadic Ballet,” Bauhaus, or Oscar Schlemmer?  More info here if you are curious: Bauhaus

That overwhelmingly wide, stiff triangle look was particularly unforgiving when it was under a thicker torso.  It was a good thing when the waists started to drop, and even better when the skirts began to narrow.  Now we are seeing some extreme dropped waistlines…nothing better for making all but the skinniest minnies look like sausage tubes (brings back horrid anorexia-inducing memories of college and gray unitards and clanging gongs and a hippie choreographer who never came to rehearsal with her feet on the ground, if you get my drift…)……..deep sigh.

There is a freaking point here somewhere…

…yes, kamooflayging thicker torsos to create an attractive balanced look for the incredibly logical creation that is an Irish dance dress. Tongue Out

There is always the usual use of dark colors over all, as well as using darker colors strategically so that brighter colors can pull focus.  There was a time when it was de riguer for ID dresses to have a bright color down the center of the dress while the bodice and skirt sides were darker.  Those were passing when I started with my girls in ID.  You do see some of that still but it is not as stark a use of contrasting colors as it used to be.

So, off to the fabric store you go.  You want a color that complements your dancer’s coloring, obviously, but make life a bit simpler for yourself by letting the dancer loose to be drawn to the colors she likes.  It is rare that a dancer (or anybody, for that matter) will claim as their favorite a color that looks bad on them.  You may not like it, but hold it up under your dancer’s face to see what happens.  It will probably work beautifully. 

A few years ago, I brought a whole box of fabric to begin working with a 10 year-old.  Susan had given me all sorts of things that I loved as well as some that made me cringe.  This red-cheeked, slightly sallow little dancer went straight for this bright coral metallic silk that set my teeth on edge.  I knew she had to be wrong, but when we held it up, her complexion brightened, her red cheeks turned pink, and her eyes sparkled!  This is the dress:

I have since always trusted the dancer.

In my diva’s case she chose plum.  She was young yet, but we both wanted something a bit more understated than the bright flourescent colors that were still the rage at the time, so no dramatic color shifts for us.  This is her first dress (I just realized that we were a bit ahead of out time!  Applique was still what everyone was doing, but we did just embroidery!):

Now, it is rather subtle, but you can see that the center of the bodice and the center front skirt are lighter than the sides and the sleeves.  There is a black sparkly overlay over the darker parts.  In the sunlight in that pic it is not as pronounced a difference as it really was.  The design also worked to draw the eye in…you can’t see the top of the cfp but the design comes to a point like the bodice design.

The diva’s next dress was a bit more dramatic.

This time we made more of an effort to draw the eye in by using black on the bodice & skirt sides and by making the bodice point down the center along with the long tapering design.  In fact the black was so successful that it looks as if the bodice is standing away from the offset skirt waist.  It is a 2 piece, but the bodice fit snugly so there was no space at the waist between the bodice hem and the skirt.  The long straight lines of crystals also help draw the eye in.

I did make this skirt very offset which means the “sides” of the dress were more than 2 inches forward of the diva’s actual side.  This again tricks the eye into interpreting the front waist into a narrower width.

The longer, dropped, pointed bodice look is another tried and true device for altering the look of a thicker torso.  I wrote about making the pointed bodice here: Bodice/Jacket for 2-piece.  At the time that I made the dresses in that post, those were drop-waisted jackets…compared to now, they are high waisted, but I would make the same pattern alterations with a longer waist.  I know many people feel that the 2-piece dress makes dancers look thick.  I do not agree, because, in fact, there is no difference in the bulk of fabric that is in the waist area or at the point of bodice & skirt overlap.  There may be even less because there is no bodice/jacket fabric in the waist seam at all (just a single layer of cotton for the under-bodice).  The problem in the look comes when the bodice is poorly fitted so that it looks too big on the dancer or it cannot sit down far enough over the skirt.  I have never been a fan of the faux bodice point that is appliqued onto the skirt as I find the actual waist seam to be very obvious, which is why I like the 2 piece plus the fact the jacket can be removed in between dances to alleviate the sweat factor.  (That being said, I am working on an OTR with Susan and she wants to incorporate that faux point…I have to learn to never say never because it always comes back to bite me in the…)

Another trick is to direct the eye upward to the face by creating interest above the bust line.  You can do this with a collar design and/or a corset bodice look.  I wrote about my approach to the corset bodice here: corset-style bodice .

And that brings me to the design itself.  As I just wrote above, you can keep the eye away from the torso by keeping your embellishments above the bust line.  Another technique is to make sure that any design that comes down below the bust is thin or tapered…anything wide will just accent the dancer’s width.

Ultimately, I am a big believer in making the dress that the dancer wants, making the dress that makes the dancer feel like a spectacular princess.  When she feels beautiful, she dances beautifully.  Over the course of my life as a performer, I had to wear some pretty awful & humiliating things because someone (choreographer, director, costume designer) forgot that embarrassing the dancers meant they would not dance their best…we tried, but when you feel like a stuffed gray sausage you tend to dance like one!

Edge Binding Instead of Satin Stitching

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Written by Mary Hackenberg, first posted on IDD:

I couldn’t find an embroidery thread that matched right for satin stitching the edges of my five petals.  I chose to try to wrap the edges with velvet instead.  Many dresses in this style use the same velvet as the bodice to flash under the petals in a solid support panel across the front. I was using a sequin fabric underneath, so I had no connection of the velvet from the bodice into the skirt.  I was hoping that binding the edges of my petals in the velvet would help pull the look of it all together, and I think it worked out pretty well.

After some experimentation, this is what I came up with:

I cut a strip of velvet about 1.25 inches wide along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. I wanted to get the most stretch from it so that I could form it around the edges without wrinkling.

My petals were prepared with all the layers basted together near the edge and cut to the exact shape.  Then I applied a strip of Wonder Tape all the way around the top of the petal right at the edge. I stuck my velvet right side down lining up the edge of the cut strip with the outer edge of the petal. Then I straight stitched about 3/8″ in from the edge.

Next I applied Wonder Tape all around the edge on the back, but a little bit in from the edge.  I folded my velvet strip in on itself like a bias tape and stuck it down so that I had about a half inch strip showing in back with the raw edge folded in.  I made the most of the velvet’s stretch to shape it around the edges.  I used pins in the two tricky corners to make sure the velvet was pulled all the way into the corner, and would still be caught in my seam.  I turned the piece over and straight-stitched from the top carefully along the edge of the binding where the stitch wouldn’t show.
I got in a good groove after a couple practice pieces and was able to get through the work pretty quickly. It came out looking smooth and really works with my dress design, I think.

I felt a bit like I was breaking new ground, although I am sure others have come up with this too.  I can say for sure that the small investment in the Wonder Tape made all the difference in getting a professionally finished look. Pins just didn’t cut it by themselves.

I hope this helps someone else 🙂

Happy Sewing,
Mary Hackenberg

Feisdress FSP: Stiffener, boning & wrapping the seam

Cindy in ON wrote:

My first question is about the boning in the FSP. The instructions
say “the boning runs across the bottom of the skirt like it does on
the FSP and into the back side of the knife pleat.” I get about
running it into the knife pleat, but I’m thinking that boning going
two far into the FSP is going to cause a problem with my skirt
sticking way out or not bending unless I stop it somewhere. I also
wasn’t sure if I was going to use stiffener in the side panels. So
my questions are:

– if I put boning horizontally in the FSP, what guideline should I
use for where to stop it?

– Has anybody used a vertical piece of boning in the back edge of the
knife pleat and avoided having the horizontal boning in the side
panels and if so, how did that work?

– with the traditional skirt pattern, is stiffener recommended for
the front side panel, and if so, at what weight? The stiffener I
have seems quite stiff (almost as thick as felt and creases where
folded). Should I look for a softer stiffener for the side panels or
is this what I should be using?

The second part of my questions revolves around cutting the lining
for the FSP. The pattern shows an extra inch and a half or so to be
cut for the lining that folds around something. I just can’t picture
this or what it folds around and how it’s going to work.

– Can somebody explain this so I have an idea what I’m doing with
that extra bit when I prepare my lining?

Thanks all! I appreciate the help because the only dress I have
available to look at for construction questions is my DD school
dress, and it doesn’t feel that there is stiffener in the side
panels, or any boning, and clearly there are somethings that are done
differently than I will be doing for a solo dress.

I am assuming here that we are talking about a 3 panel dress, so my answers are in that vein.

Yes, you are correct that most solo 3 panel dresses are different than a lot of school dresses when it comes to stiffener in the FSP.  Solos dresses are usually much stiffer so that the side panels extend further out to the sides.  And, it is usually preferable that the FSP does not bend but instead is as flat in relation to the CFP as possible which is why the same stiffener is used in all 3 panels in the front skirt and why the boning extends from the knife pleat out to the edge of the FSP. 

Now, this is not a hard and fast rule.  Depending on the dancer’s ideas of stiffness and width, I did not always use the boning.  I found also that the thinner a dancer was (flatter torso) made it easier to achieve the flat front look so boning was not necessary.  The rounder girls did require boning to keep the panels flat because the waist line curved around their bodies more.  (You can read read Susan’s explanation of this here: Skirt Question.)

Be aware that if you do not use the same stiffener in the FSP, the side panels will collapse down and in.

A vertical piece of boning behind the knife pleat will not really accomplish anything except add weight.

Now for the seam wrap:  here are a couple of pics of the wrap.

seam wrap by you.

seam wrap by you.

basting & seam wrap by you.

(You can slso see my basting in the above pic.)

Let’s see if I can explain what I do.

First, I cut the seam wrap longer than the skirt hem.  The cut piece looks like this:

wrap info by you.

This allows me to wrap the bottom of the seam also.  Once the seam is sewn, I iron the vertical edge of the wrap to create a straight fold, fold the bottom of the fabric up over the bottom of the seam, fold the vertical edge, and then sew.  All seams are now hidden.

Good tunic pics and a soft skirt

Katelyn went to the 4P’s feis this weekend (3rd place…whoo-hoo, Katelyn!), so I got a hold of her dress finally so I could check my work. I did not get good pics of it back in January because it was a rush job…there are just some people I can’t say no to, and this family just turned me to jello. It did get delivered on time, but there were a couple of things that did not get done, and I had no time to check my work, so I was glad to get it back. Have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that, except for some thread trimming, I really only needed to finish off the very ends of the panels and add crystals (Molly did the crystals for me…thanks, babes!)

So, here it is:
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This lace neckline was constructed as I explained here (Corset-style Bodice), and then the leaves, which were sewn as patches, were attached after.  The neckline itself is a tad wider and lower because this dancer can’t stand stuff on her neck.
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Because of this dancer’s shape, I ended the separating zipper about 1 inch higher than I had planned.  This makes me re-think the zippers on all my 2 pieces whether tunics or jackets…instead of attaching the zipper to this flaring area, this little bit of extra room allows the tunic/jacket to lay better because it allows this area to open and close as needed.  No riding up when the dancer is moving.
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Below we have the underside of one of the “pins.”  Photobucket

And here we have a wonderful thing…
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This was a surprise for Katelyn from her mother. The 3 orange ladybugs represent Katelyn and her 2 sisters…more of a story there, but it is not mine to tell.

And here is the soft skirt. I really like the way this one works.  The yoke is a cotton lycra, and the skirt slips on, no zipper.  Just above the green lace, you can make out a seam…this is a horizontal tuck that can be let out twice as Katelyn grows.  Voila!  Skirt is lengthened!
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Layer 1 is a single lace layer.  Layer 2 is a folded layer (like a bubble skirt but with nothing inside), attached 1 inch below the lace.  The basting lines are for lining it all up.
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I pleated all the layers this time, instead of gathering, which served to remove most of the bulk that poofs these skirts in the wrong places.  There was so much fabric that I had to get fancy with the pleating!
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On the back of the skirt, I ran one row of a multiple zigzag stitch to flatten this layer a bit over Katelyn’s rear-end…she is a tiny thing, but she has a dancer’s booty and the skirt poofed a bit much there!
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And here’s the 3rd layer, again folded and pleated.  I sewed this seam differently so there would be a bit more poof at this level.
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Close up of the pleats.
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Someone had asked before how I put the lining in, and here you have it…half bag lining.  In Liz’s tunic dress, I used a full bag lining, satin-stitching it together with the front around the panels as I have done here.  In this one, I left the side seams exposed (and the zipper seam), so that this can be let out some if needed…I am a big proponent of making alterations easy (for the dressmaker), and cheap (for the parents)!
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You can faintly see above the outline of the stitching that attaches the appliques to the panels.  Although I would prefer not to see this, this is the way I have to do it since I make the appliques as patches to apply after the lining is attached and the panels satin-stitched.  I do the patches because there is no room for error with these tunics…when I embroider non-tunic pieces, I outline my pieces, embroider, then re-check the pattern placement before cutting out the pieces.  Well, if I mess up the embroidery on one of these panels, I have to start all over as the front and backs are cut as single pieces…no fudging after embroidery because the panels won’t hang right.  Just easier for me to eyeball placement when it is all put together.

Corset-style Bodice

— In IDDressmaking@yahoogroups.com, “snipper0104” <musicalpair3@…> wrote:
>
> Can anyone please tell me if there are directions to alter the Feisdress pattern for the corset-
> style bodice? I’m assuming this is a one-piece dress because of fit issues. I have a design I’d
> like to try and I think it would look best with the corset top. Thanks so much.
>
> Debbie

I responded, but wanted to move it here to add pics.

I have done this in one configuration or another onseveral dresses.  Only 2 were specifically sweetheart/corset line, while the others were v-neckline variations, but my construction is the same.  This method can also be used for asymmetrical bodice colors as well

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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Embroidered for MJ Farr
MJ Farr 2009 (1)

MJ bodice front

Embroidered for Colleen Murphy
Good photo of color

Pinned, no zipper

I am such a freak about symmetrical placement that this is what I do:

1 – Cut the full bodice out of the least expensive of the 2 bodice fabrics.  Let’s say I am going to use velvet for the corset body, so I would cut out the bodice using the fabric that will show above the corset neck/bust line.  Call this fabric 1.

2 – draw the sweetheart line onto the paper pattern pieces.  Decide where the shoulder/ side seams will meet (if necessary) so the front and back meet up neatly.  Cut the top and bottom apart on that line.  You have not added any seam allowance to that line.

3 – cut the velvet bodice using the bottom of the separated pattern pieces.  Call this fabric 2.

4 – Lay the cut velvet pieces onto the full bodice pieces you cut before.  Now you have to decide if you are going to keep all of fabric 1.  I have done 1 of 2 things: a) kept all of fabric 1 to act as a stabilizer for fabric 2 ; or b) cut fabric 1 free behind fabric 2 after sewing them both together to keep the bodice from being too bulky.  No matter what I decide, after I have lined up the pieces I pin or baste them together so I can sew a narrow zigzag stitch at the edges where the fabrics overlap, in this case along the corset bust line.

     a) If I am using fabric 1 as a stabilizer, I will fuse them together.  However, with velvet, I would probably not fuse but sew them together in the seam allowances.  If I am going to fuse, I already attached Misty fuse to the corset fabric before I cut it out.  Once the bust line is sewn, I fuse.

    b) If I am going to cut fabric 1 free after sewing them both together to keep the bodice from being too bulky, I do so after I run the zigzag attachment stitch.  Then, on the wrong side, I neatly cut near the stitching to remove the extra fabric.

5 – Now, using a good tear-away, I satin stitch over where the 2 fabrics meet.  I have done this with contrasting threads and with matching.

Why do I do all of this instead of creating an actual pattern with seam allowances?  Because I already know that my pattern fits as is and creating a sweetheart neckline pattern with seam allowances will create (for me, I just know it!) issues with puckering, fabric not laying right in the center, etc.  This way, I do it all as if it is a giant applique and no matter what shape I use, it works and lays beautifully.  Quite frankly, this is fast.

In the above pics, the only one that I did not cut away was the pink and black one.  I felt that the angle of the pink might not resist stretching even though it is all interfaced with a fusible.  I left the black intact underneath.

Edited 9/27/2010: Nowadays, I digitize this entire process so I am doing all of this in my massive hoop. If you would like more info about that, just ask!!

Wearing Ease

(Edited to add a comment/question written by Kara.  Thank you, Kara, great observations.)

I received an interesting phone call last week from the alterationist that I send folks to, Hsiao Fang. When I gave up a school account a year or so ago, she started taking the measurements for the new company as this was a long distance operation. I hear from her periodically when she calls to discuss altering ID dresses that I send her way.

This time, she called to ask me if I, as an ID dressmaker, add ease to my patterns and if so, how much. I said yes, and that I add 2 inches at the waist, 3 at the bust, and a bit in a couple of extra places. (My specific amounts come from Susan.) Hsiao Fang breathed a sigh of relief and went on a rant about how that was how she was trained (as a tailor), and about moving bodies, and about dresses coming in from this company with ABSOLUTELY (her emphatic emphasis) no ease at all, and that parents were coming to her to alter brand new dresses that could not be zipped when they arrived. The parents are complaining about this and about sleeves that do not allow any movement at all and are so tight at the armscye that the dancers get rubbed raw! The parents and the TC want Hsiao Fang to add ease when she takes the measurements, but I was in total agreement with her that that is not her job! She was in quite an understandable snit and last I heard was going to stop taking the measurements.

She asked me several questions about the company making the dresses…I really know nothing about them…but I was just as bewildered as she. She told me about her conversation with the dressmakers about how they did want exact measurements from her with no extra room added into them, and then her surprise when the dresses would come in with those exact measurements and sometimes smaller! She asked me if I thought they were using generic patterns, “…grabbing the one with the 36 inch bust measurement if that was the measurement sent with no thought to the other measurements or wearing ease!” The last straw was a dress just brought to her that had been made to the exact bust measurement with no attention to the large waist measurement, and this brand new dress had a 6 inch gap at the zipper at the waist…Hsiao Fang was beside herself because there was absolutely not that much fabric in the seams to let that out!

Most home sewers do not really think about wearing ease because it is built in (along with design ease) to the patterns that we buy at the store…could this company be employing a dressmaker who does not know about wearing ease?  Susan wrote the following on her website:

 A Note About Ease
Dress and pattern makers talk about two kinds of ease: “Fashion (or Design) Ease” and
“Wearing Ease.” “Fashion (or Design) Ease” is the first kind. This is the extra fabric that
the dress designer puts into a garment to achieve the desired look. Sweat pants have a lot
of fashion ease. A bathing suit does not. Fashion ease is what has traditionally made
determining a pattern size difficult for the consumer. You select a pattern based on your
body measurements and sometimes it fits you well. Other times you find the same sized
pattern is “too big” or “too small”. That’s because you really don’t know for sure how
“baggy” or how “tight” the fit has been designed.

The second kind of ease is “Wearing Ease.” You need your dress to be bigger than your
measurements so you can breathe, turn, sit, raise your arms. In the real world you’d want
to be able to tie your own shoes and comb your own hair. In Irish Dance dresses, you
need at least an inch in the waist and about 2” in the bust extra. You really do want to
keep the waist snug so that the weight of the skirt is carried on the hips rather than on the
shoulders. If the waist is too loose, the skirt collapses inward and won’t hang right. So,
no matter how much you want to leave some “extra for growth,” the waist isn’t the place
to do it.

Susan does not add any hidden ease into the Feisdress Pattern.  What does that mean?  If I get a pattern at the fabric store, the measurements on the back are actual body measurements, not pattern measurements.  So, if I buy a pattern that has 3 inches of ease in the bust, if I have a 36 inch bust, the measurement on the pattern envelope says 36 inches, not 39.  The measurements that Susan publishes for her pattern are PATTERN measurements which means you have to decide on the ease you want.  If you have a 36 inch bust and buy the pattern that has a 36 inch bust, you will not be able to breathe (if you can manage to get the bodice zipped in the first place) unless you add ease.

So I take exact measurements (see Measuring for the Feisdress pattern & Measuring the Upper Chest & Troubleshooting Sleeve Issues ), plug them into my excel sheet which adds the ease that I want, and then decide which Feisdress pattern to start with (I alter this to make sure all measurements are as they should be).  I fit solo and school dresses differently in that the solo dresses fit closer.  For school dresses, unless a dancer has stopped growing, I actually make them a bit loose to begin with because parents want to see visible growing room when the dress is delivered!  I do admit that seeing the dress loose to begin with offends my dressmaker’s pride, but I totally understand the parents’ perspective.  I add ties inside the dress so that the waist fits snugly…any looseness in the back is hidden by the cape.  And, I make sure they also understand that there are huge seam allowances at the sides of the bodice and zipper, at the top of the skirt and at the bottom of the bodice so that the dress can be let out and down perhaps a couple of times…I actually add the same to solo dresses.

So fellow dressmakers, how do you deal with ease?  What do you add and where?  Do you fit school dresses differently than solos?  Do you build in large seam allowances for future alterations?  Would love to hear from you on this.

Kara wrote:

Since I have been making mostly off the rack dresses, exact fit to a particular body has not been an issue.  However, as I am selling these dresses and getting questions about fit, I’ve had a couple of thoughts and questions of my own.  Say I am selling a dress with a 32 chest measurement and a 27 waist measurement and someone emails me and says “I love the dress but the chest is too big for my 30″ daughter”  Am I correct in advising them that if the 30″ measurement is an exact chest measurement than this dress should fit fine in the chest?  An example that I just experienced was an OTR that was the exact measurements of a dancer.  She tried it on and of course it was way too small because the measurement the mom was going on were her daughters exact measurements not accounting for wearing ease.   So are there a bunch of people out there looking at used solo’s and rejecting them because they might seem too big because they are basing their decision on their daughters exact measurements and not allowing for movement and wearing ease?

I would say that yes, a 32″ measurement at the chest on the dress should fit a 30″ chest just fine.  As we all know, there are always posts on the boards about how to measure dresses, measure dancers, etc…have there been specific conversations about the need to be aware of ease when choosing a dress?  Since I do not do OTRs, I have not had to deal with this.  Dressmakers, how do you advise clients?

Troubleshooting: Vertical Skirt Crease, Part II

Done.

We had this:
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Now we have this:
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We had this:
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Now we have this:Photobucket

And we have a new crown just for you, Aislinn!

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Pics of Katelyn’s Tunic Dress

Here she is!!!! Thank you so much, Grace, for sending them.

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Soft cape.

 Here she is dancing.

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I just love the way this skirt moves!

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Thank you, Katelyn!

More on the Tunic Dresses

{This post was updated at 5:45 pm, December 3.) 

Susan wrote a bit to answer Caroline specifically, but others have asked similar questions: 

Hi Caroline, I used the FeisDress pattern bodice as the block from which this tunic was developed. But changes that I made to it were dictated by the bodies of the dancers whom I was fitting. Some changes were pretty general but others were very specific.

Dana’s tunic with 4 panels across the front was a much easier pattern to develop than Liz’s with 5 panels across the front.

It would be a very challenging pattern for the panels to come all the way to the hem. Additional seams would probably be required and it wouldn’t work on all fabrics. I’m amazed and very please how beautifully Liz’s tunic worked out with the striped fabric. I was afraid the design would require a fabric without an obvious design.

The tunics we chose to make all have a puffy-all-the-way-around skirt. In the process I did come up with a tunic pattern that would create a “flat” front, which we may make up for the right customer.

Ann will have to give you her story on construction difficulty. Remember, these were first-time-inventing the wheel dresses with a learning curve. I think when she can mentally take out the embroidery issues, she’ll say the tunic is easier to construct than the waist-seam dress. But a precise pattern is the key to easy construction of anything.

Susan

My two cents: Yes, minus the embroidery (which is no different in terms of time, prep, and creation), these tunics are so much easier than the traditional dress, but as Susan said, the key was a precisely designed pattern made to each dancers’ specific measurements.  As I stated in the last post, when Liz’s pattern had to be altered, the ENTIRE pattern had to be altered, parts and angles and panels re-drawn, etc, etc, etc! (Parts and angles and panels, Oh MY!…sorry…I heard Dorothy and the Tin Man in my head…) 

And that being said, the black and pink dress took just as much time as a waist seam dress because of the attachment issues for the pink panels (the pink panels are attached to the black bodice).  I am glad I did it the way I did…Liz’s mom Paula saw Dana dance and said that it moved beautifully.  But if I do this type of tunic again, I may have to explore some of the other attachment ideas that are rolling around in my head now.

Folks are asking if this is a pattern that will be available.  That is not feasible.  These two patterns were made specifically for each dancer, and as dressmakers know, no 2 dancers are built alike.  Creating a generic pattern really cannot be done as they cannot be altered easily…watching Susan alter the pattern for Liz was an education and brought home to me how specifically she tailored each pattern to each body.

After I posted the above, Mary Clare wrote:

Hi! Lovely work with this design. I was wondering in which are of the tunic that the specific fitting issues evolved. It seems to me that the bodice fit issues would be much the same as a “regular” dress but the fit issues would evolve below the waist. Am I correct? I realize that the seamstress would not have to deal with the challenge of the jacket fitting over a skirt that takes a sharp angled turn but that seems to make the job easier in my mind. The panel hang problems seem to disappear with this style too! I am terribly impressed with your talent!

And Susan again clarified:

(The issues evolved in) Both of them, although Paula was referring specifically to the red dress. Ann didn’t get to watch me mess with Dana’s pattern.

If you change the bust line the darts change and the angles change. If you change the waist all the darts have to be moved and balanced and again the angles and panels change. If you change the length of the panels the darts may have to be adjusted and the angles change. It is a juggling act. Ann’s right, a straightforward fitting adjustment may trickle down and cause the entire bodice to be redrawn.

The dress looks really simple but the pattern isn’t simple to make fit, at least not with the way I wanted the skirt to fall. The “hang issue” only disappears because the pattern was engineered with a specific hang built into it.

Right! Have to say that when we began I imagined that in one respect this would be an easier pattern to use because of the lack of a waist seam which meant I did not have to deal with the physics of the skirt hang.  However, I knew that engineering the pattern so that the panel hang was already incorporated was going to take some figuring…and I was glad it was not me who was figuring it out!  We had one hang issue that was only evident once the a bodice was made…Susan fixed it and a new bodice was then cut and constructed.

So, no, I did “not have to deal with the challenge of the jacket fitting over a skirt that takes a sharp angled turn,” but I did not expect to.  I had a different challenge to make this tunic fit beautifully over a different skirt with an evolving silhouette.

On a couple of boards, a few folks made comments that they “saw the dresses in pics” and that they were not flattering, making the girls look thick.  #1, where are the pics?  I would like to see these…as the SRO pics are not out and these dresses are new, I doubt there are any that I have not seen…and #2, these dresses have much less under them than the traditional stiff skirts which means they fit more closely and look great on their figures.  The tendency to jump to a conclusion with no actual info really irks the hell out of me as does the negation with no clarification.  I actually got a big kick and a laugh out of the comment on one of the boards that the tunics looked like Renaissance armor!  At least that was specific!!!

Others of you have asked some specific questions about the potential uses for this pattern…please excuse me if I take a few days to ponder this. I did not get my usual recovery time this weekend and am now fighting major brain and body malfunctions.  Great comments that I thank you all for and great questions to ponder.

Cheers!

The Tunic Dresses

I was planning on writing more about our new tunic dresses (Liz’s Tunic Dress, Dana’s Tunic Dress), but Caroline posted a bunch of questions before I got to it!  So I will use her list as my framework:

I love it! And BOY do I have questions! -D
You have again revolutionized the concept of an Irish dance dress…

So here goes,

How did you attach the pink panels? Are the black panels part of the bodice? How can I adapt Susan’s pattern to do this? Will Susan make a special pattern for this and where can I buy it?
How did you stiffen the panels? (Did you stiffen the panels? ) How did you work out the lining for the black panels? Is the underskirt secure? Is there any Velcro or other form of attachment to keep the bodice and skirt in their place?
At what stage of the bodice did you embroider the panels? Do you have to embroider around the edges of the panels when the darts of the bodice were already in place?

I am sure I can think of more questions, but let’s keep it with these for now -D

Love,
Caroline

Let’s start with the bodices.  The black and red panels are cut as part of the bodices…there are NO horizontal waist seams! 
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Susan put her mathematical mind to work to create a custom bodice for each dancer.  The obvious challenge was to incorporate not only the appropriate darts and seam angles but also the angles and lengths of the panels themselves!  When she brought the first test pattern to me so we could look at it on the dress dummy, I was amazed by both its complexity and its brilliant simplicity.  Together we worked through a couple of things, but I served mainly as her sounding board… amazing, Susan!!

This pattern was not an alteration of the Feisdress pattern.  Each bodice was specifically created to fit two very different bodies.  I cannot imagine that this could be generated as a generic pattern…alterations would change it drastically and mess up the panels and their angles of hang.  We did have to alter the pattern for the red dress…I just stood there in awe as I watched what Susan did to it to make it right.  Not an easy task.  Later, I was able to make another SIMPLE alteration, but only because I had worked through it with her once before.

If you want a custom pattern, you will have to contact Susan.

Attaching the pink panels was not as simple an operation as I thought it would be.
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I had many ideas…many moments in the middle of the night when I would pop awake with the “solution.”  But I could do nothing until all of the pink panels were finished…11 of them…the never-ending panels………  Yes, the pink panels are stiffened.  The design was embroidered first, then I attached it to 1 layer of firmflex, attached a back lining, and satin stitched the outside of each panel.  Then I began fooling around with attaching them.  We wanted a narrow silhouette (no panels sticking straight out to the side), and we wanted them to move freely.  I was thinking that minimal attachment would be best, but then they hung at odd angles.  I ended up sewing the pink to the black across the top of each pink panel and the again down about 1 inch on each side of the black where it splits at the top of the pink panels.  Deciding on the width of that opening was a journey of trial and error.

The designs on the panels of the red dress and the black bodice were all done after the bodice was cut but before any construction was done.  I serged the lining to the black bodice as I always do, completed the satin stitching around the panels, then completed the bodice darts.  For the red bodice, I did a partial bag lining so that the darts would not become stiff simply because of the amount of fabric in them.  The lining was serged to the bodice around the edges.  Then, again, I completed the satin stitching, followed by the darts.  Both tunics have separating zippers.

There is only decorbond in the shorter panels of each bodice.  Keeping them soft, especially on the red dress, was a priority.  In fact, there is no firmflex (like timtex) in the entire red dress!  WOO-HOO!!!

Now, the underskirts…felt like I invented a wheel.  Thought this would be a piece of cake…not.  But, each of these skirts was a good challenge.

I decided that Dana’s skirt should be a drop waist so that there would be no extra bulk under the black tunic.  The attachment of the skirt fabric to the skirt yoke evolved.  My original thought (and attachment) was still too bulky, so this ended up working.  Here’s the top black layer (and the mysterious cat tail!)…
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…and the next poofy layer which I thought would be enough.  Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
But when the pink panels were attached to the bodice, it was obvious that we needed another layer of poof to resist the panel weight. So, I added the silver.  You can see here how soft everything is.
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This skirt is on a stretchy yoke with an elastic waist.

The red skirt is totally different. I forgot to take pics of it (walking dead), but here is a pic from the O as it was waiting to be worn…
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This skirt has 2 very gathered layers attached to a wide elastic band.  There is a short zipper in the back.  Finding just the right poofiness (love that technical term) is the reason for all of the “quilting” below the waist band.

At a fitting, young Liz said she loved the way this skirt felt because it is so light!

The tunics are made to simply be worn over the skirts.  There is nothing to attach the tunic to the skirt because they fit well and there is no centering to worry about.  If I needed attachments to keep things in place, well then I would not have done a very good job of fitting!

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