Troubleshooting: Vertical Skirt Crease

So, I made this dress for Aislinn last year:
(Aislinn, Meave saw this dress on the dummy and asked if I could please make her a special dress just like it…and then she had to get a picture “in it”…so that is what this is!)

When I sent it off, it looked like this:

Can you see the difference? Yes, it is on a hanger in the above pic, but the issue I have to deal with has nothing to do with whether or not it is on a hanger or a dress dummy. Here’s the problem:


Looks like a belling issue caused by faulty connection between the bodice and the skirt…but is it?


No, it is belling caused by a vertical crease…


The creases that have been danced into this center front panel are faintly visible above.  Below I have drawn colors over the fault lines.  Pink are auxiliary lines to the main weak lines in red.


When I fold the CFP, you can see the fold lines a different way.


I can even feel them…which is what the gratuitous pic is below…I just love this lining fabric!


So…what happened, why, and how do I fix it?

What happened?  Why?  Well, let me “free form think” this out:

One of the problems that Susan and I were seeing and trying to avoid, at the time, were the horizontal creases (hip to hip) that appear on single panel, flat front dresses…there was talk of it on the boards and evidence in pics everywhere.  I likened them to sandwich boards.  (Notice that trend seems to have died out…thank the dance costuming gods!)  That horizontal crease was happening because unless there were HUGE pleats behind the front side panels AND the dancer was flat as a board, the crease was going to happen in response to the stress caused by kicking and even sitting.  The weight of these dresses means that the creation of the crease was a faster and easier answer for the skirt to the power of the fast kicks…the crease could happen easier than lifting the whole front panel.  The swoop dresses had the same problem to deal with.

Our journey here: Swoop dress center front panel

According to the dancers, and according to the evidence, with this swoop dress construction, we eliminated the horizontal crease…there are none in these pics.  But, because the CFP is a separately moving entity UNDER the FSPs, there is stress being placed vertically, directly center on the CFP.  The FSPs are like walls that the CFP is trying to squeeze through…hence the vertical creases.  Does that make sense?

For me, now, this is big Duh.

How do I fix it?  I fix it with good old steel boning.


I need two strips to stabilize the CFP horizontally: one near the top so the CFP can no longer be pushed through the FSPs, and one near the bottom to prevent any vertical folding when Aislinn kicks.  I am not going to put the bottom boning on the back side of the the CFP, however.


I am going to put it on the front, underneath the pleated fabric.

First I have to prep these pieces of boning so that they are as unobtrusive as possible when they are on the skirt.


First, I sew the pieces to strips of Firmflex.


I apply wonder-under to pieces of the skirt lining, and the pleat underlining.


Cut the fabric around the wonder-under and place the strips.


Fuse the fabric to the front sides of the strips.




Finish fusing.


After I have carefully steamed the creases out of the CFP…


…this is where I place the boning strips.

These will be hand sewn.  Every few stitches, I will go all the way through the Firmflex to make sure these strips do their duty well!

I have a few quick alterations to complete on this dress, and then I will post pics of the dress with its corrected skirt hang.  You can see that here: Troubleshooting: Vertical Skirt Crease, Part II

(Suzanne pointed out that the ends of the boning should be finished off so there is no poking through at all.  I had forgotten in the pics, remembered at 3 am, so went back and added my usual which is either cloth bandaid tape or a bit of gauze and tape.  No pics though.  You just want to cover the sharp steel ends.)

Griping & trying to Grin

So… I borrowed the following quotes from another blog because I have never read them:

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. –Helen Keller

To stand in your now, looking forward with deliberate intent and anticipation of what is to come, is infinitely more satisfying than to stand in your now, looking back, retracing your steps as to how you got where you are.–Abraham-Hicks

They were part of a nice blog post…that did not speak to me…but these little quotes spoke to me.  They rather rattled my cage and the thoughts stuck in it.  Let’s see if I can articulate…

I will be honest here and say that sticking to my resolution that I will no longer post on Celtic Flame at all and only rarely on the others is difficult for me.  My practical Buddhist brain asks me why I bother then if I am not going to add anything helpful to the discussions.  My cranky lizard brain demands that I stop reading at all since it can have no satisfaction by setting some of the stupidity to rights…or at least by calling it out for the stupidity it is!!!  But, I am starting to find I am becoming more removed from it since I am not using valuable energy to formulate hopefully helpful answers anymore.

When this blog went private, so many of you told me of your reasons for no longer posting on or even reading the boards anymore…I understand even better now.

Why do I keep reading?  Part habit, part wanting to stay informed about the happenings, the opinions…the occasional altercation…I know, I am a rubber-necker!  But who can resist the morons when they tap dance on a train wreck?!?!?!

But since I changed the blog, other doors have opened for my energy, even in my own head.  Other thoughts are formulating in different ways because we are a smaller more open group.  (I feel the need here to apologize to anyone who was gearing up for a very active group here…we have slowed down…mainly because I wanted it to.  Don’t get me wrong – the number of members that we have is incredibly gratifying…I feel more like a rock star than a loser now that there are so many “friends!”  But I did feel very overwhelmed there for a bit.  I am figuring this out, and we can be as active as we want.)

My current thoughts are spawned by the continuing questions about how the BNs do things, make and design dresses, etc., as if there are rules that must be followed…fsm forbid anyone should be creative on her own…

You may remember this from my response to the first CCD:  [A] thing I have stopped doing is letting the nebulous “rules” about how these dresses are “supposed” to look influence me.  The only thing that influences me anymore is what the client wants.  I suppose if I made OTRs I would pay more attention to the trends…or maybe not.  The fact that the dress styles actually have very little to do with the dancing offends my artistic sense of what is supposed to be important!  The costume should complement the dancing, not hinder it.  The heavy, stiff dresses that have developed over the past 20 years are actually quite astounding to me.  As a choreographer, dancer, artistic director and professor, I stood my ground many a time with a costume designer who tried to force an undanceable design onto a dance!  The dance and dancer are most important and the role of the costume is to enhance the message and look that the choreographer wants.  It is not the role of the costume designer to force change and accommodation…I fired or failed those designers who could not understand their complementary role! 

Don’t get me wrong…I love making these wild, amazing, “ridiculous” pieces of wearable art.  These fanciful confections have developed in a very specific environment and would not be worn by anyone else!  But I find that I am increasingly interested in the comfort of the dancer.

I would very interested in that particular moment in time when someone decided that the ID dress needed to be more prominent in the dancing picture, because from there ID costuming evolved with no real thought as to the dancer or the dancing.  I think this strange mindset is what informs the creation of these dresses still.  So many questions about dress construction make it clear that the triangular, wide, flat, stiff shape of the dresses is considered to be traditional!  Granted, there also seems to be a renewed interest in the history of ID costuming which may or may not shoot that thought down…

But what is interesting to me are the objections, subtle or not, to dresses moving towards the soft skirt again, and my fascination is partially because it is still in my head that the dresses still need to be wider than any normal person would wear…although some of the fashion links on the boards have shown the fashionistas to be wearing pretty poofy skirts!

There is also, and still, this irritating idea that somehow the BNs are the gods of ID costuming who must be emulated at all costs!  Why?  Not too long ago, someone who claimed to just be making a comeback to ID pointed out that all of the current dresses look the same, no matter who made them!!!  I have to agree!  We are ALL doing panel dresses right now.  There are more folks trying to solve the soft skirt problem in many creative ways…but how many times have you read the same question on the boards:  “How do ED/Gavin/SR, etc, etc, etc…make their skirts look like that?”

Susan said something to me about how the harder people try to be different, the more they conform…  Wouldn’t you say that most dancers want to set themselves apart from the other dancers?  So out come the wild colors, the sequins, the crystals, the feathers, the 3-d flowers, etc, etc, etc…and what happens?  They not only all get lost in the cacophany of dazzling color, they all look the same!!

I have no earth shattering solution…I love making these dresses.  Each one is my baby.  When one client says subtle and elegant, that’s what I do.  When another asks for more sparkle, I do that, too.

I love our new tunic dresses mainly because I think they are constructed with the MOVING dancer in mind.  But being panel dresses, am I a sheep, too?  I think Susan and I, like so many other dressmakers, were interested in a different shape for designs so we were drawn to the panel look at probably the same time as everyone else!  I am quite sure it was a lone dressmaker somewhere who came out with the first one, but the second that a BN produced one, they were given the credit and proclaimed GODS once again…gag.

What is my freaking point?  Well, maybe it is that we all as dressmakers ought to slam the door on what OUGHT to be and open a new one doing what we want to do.  Yeah, when a client comes in asking for a dress like ED, you have to deal (or not), but when I expressed that I wanted to explore these soft tunic dresses, we got 3 clients in a row!  And we just turned down someone who wanted us to make a new jacket to match her ED skirt…I understand what she wants, but I am the wrong dressmaker for her!  I am not interested and told her the reasons why.  I suppose I could simply have said that we are booked up for quite a while (as we are), but I actually felt a bit insulted that I would be asked to essentially recreate someone else’s work, so I explained why I was not interested in taking her on.

Maybe this is it…newbies or not, we are each valuable artisans in our own right.  Perhaps not every one of us calls ourselves an artist, but we are.  Maybe our first attempts are less than stellar and actually petrify brain cells when we look back, but they are still created by us is “artiste mode,” sublime or not!

When a young choreographer is beginning her journey, yes she looks to the masters for information, inspiration, and guidelines, but she is also taught and guided to find her own voice.  The point is to bring to life her OWN vision.  We as dressmakers need to change our mindsets to #1 realize that the BNs are NOT the masters (far from it), and #2 that our visions are just as valid as any one else’s!  Maybe they are not all ready for prime-time right out of the gate, but we have to start somewhere.

So, open a door…and I’ll get off my soapbox before the swelling music in my head deafens me…

Words to the Wise: Considerations before Starting an ID Dressmaking business

 (Thank you for writing this post, Susan.) 

Cardinal rule: Listen to Susan.  You think you know better and your situation is different, but it isn’t.  You’ll make the same mistakes for the same reasons as everybody else.  You’ll nod your head and say, “she’s right,” turn off your common sense, and do whatever that leftover part of your brain tells you to do.  (And you will regret it!!! ~ Ann)

Starting out is different from being “in.”  What I am going to recommend is not going to get you financially sound from the get-go.  This is purely to protect your mental health and the happiness of your home and family.  If you start out this way, and it clicks, you can always change the way you do things so that you earn a more stable income.  But, by then, you’ll know what you are in for and whether or not you want to be there.  So don’t plan on making any money.  Don’t spend on anything you can’t afford to lose.






What does it mean to be a “hobby business” vs a “Business?” This may be the key question.  Most get into it as a “hobby” business and think they’re going to be able to make as much money as a “real job” and stay home with the kids.  A real business doesn’t stop because the kids are sick or there is a school holiday (unless this is planned and built into the work schedule).  A real business makes sure that the emails/phones/mail are covered every business day during business hours.  A real business has a plan so the work is covered if an employee is absent. As a one-man operation, who will pick up if you drop the ball?  If you’re going to have contracts and down payments and act like a “real business,” you’ve got to be sure you’ve covered your side.  What happens if your machine breaks and it takes 3 weeks for a new part?  “Gee, I’m sorry but it isn’t my fault” doesn’t cut it.  


Start small. Very, very, small.  Do not be flattered or tempted to start a “waiting list.”  Don’t be afraid to offend people by saying “no.”  Since most of us start by making dresses for “friends,” pick the one that will be the easiest with whom to work, not necessarily your best buddy.  You know who’s crazy and who’s not.  Say “no” to crazy people, even if the TCRG begs.  Say “no” to crazy people even if the little girl is the sweetest thing who’s ever been born.  You don’t need crazy people.  You know exactly who I’m talking about.  You can list them. And they tend to cluster.


My first question to potential clients is, “Who’s your dance teacher?”  This is not because I’m snobby but because I won’t make dresses for ANYONE who goes to one particular school.  They’re all crazy.  You’ll learn which schools are more trouble than they’re worth, so you can be “booked up.”  If at all possible, DO NOT make dresses for dancers in your own school because they come with baggage.  Ann did not listen to me, took on her own school, and the stress became so bad that she almost gave it all up.  Thinking she was shutting down her business, she gave the school up…and the business was miraculously saved because the stress departed.  Right, Ann?  (Yes, yes…I thought I could handle it, but I had been so accommodating in the past helping with the school dresses as a mom, that changing the relationship to a business relationship was too difficult.  However, I also make the school dresses for the school we are with now, but I started my relationship with the TC as a dressmaker 3 years ago.  This situation has proved easily handled because of what we already had set up, and nothing changed when we joined the school this past year.) 


When you do venture out into another school, you need someone there you can trust, someone who thinks like you.  When Mrs. A calls to inquire, you call your friend and vet Mrs. A before you say yes.  Weed out the crazies.  When Mrs. A shows up and you figure out she’s crazy, don’t hesitate to say, “I’m afraid our visions/styles are not very compatible.  I think you will be much happier finding another dressmaker.” Don’t feel bad if the DD runs out to the driveway and cries.  Don’t back down.  Don’t weaken when they offer to change whatever.  If you got your guts up to say that, your guts were trying to tell you something important.  Listen to them.  When I started, there were very few sources of new or used dresses.  Threads of Green was “IT” and they had something like a 3 year wait.  So if I backed out of a dress, folks were really out of luck.  Now there are plenty of options for used dresses and OTRs.  So if a particular dress with you doesn’t work out, she won’t have to dance naked.  Don’t worry about it.


Back to small.  Your first customers, besides being sane, must also have another extremely important characteristic: no deadline.  I don’t care if the drop dead date is 6 months out, don’t promise anything.  You don’t know for sure what all will be involved when you “sew for strangers.”  You will not be comfortable and confident when you start.  This will affect your home and family.  Everyone will be uneasy. You don’t need deadlines on top of that.   


Do not take a deposit.  Have enough money to front the first few dresses entirely.  I have rarely taken a deposit, at least not until we’re well into finishing the dress, and never used a contract.  I know, I’m crazy.  But I wanted to be able to fire my customer if it wasn’t working.  Once you have that money or contract, you are stuck. I was probably stuck without it, but I felt like I could bolt if I had to.  Anyway, I was more comfortable assuming the costs in case I really screwed things up – at least they hadn’t paid for anything yet.  If this becomes a real business instead of a “hobby business,” then you can adjust your contract/deposit practices.  Don’t even think about doing a dress for someone you didn’t personally measure. And you will need to do fittings.  Do not trust anyone else to measure a dancer.  Not the mom, not the TCRG, not even another dressmaker (unless you really know her and have worked with her).  That will come later.


For steady income (but less creative fun), school dresses are where it’s at.  Schools are begging for dressmakers.  There’s a reason for that.  They aren’t willing to pay solo prices but want solo quality and extravagance.  Yes, fabrics are different and the design is repeated over and over, but when it comes to cutting out the dress and putting it together, there isn’t any difference between a solo dress and a school dress.  But they only want to pay you half a much for those hours.  At some point you’ll find a school that is willing to pay you any amount you want.  When that happens, there are lots of logistics to work out.  But even if you know in your heart of hearts this is the prefect, dream fit, do not take the job. You are in the driver’s seat – after all, if they had someone else, they wouldn’t be talking to you.  Agree to do ONE dress.  ONLY ONE.  INSIST AND STICK TO YOUR GUNS!!!  You will be donating your labor, and they will be donating the materials.  This is the prototype dress.  Make it to fit someone, but it is not “her dress.”   


Then everybody (parents, dancers, TCRG, you, your mom, etc) gets the opportunity to view the dress and comment.  (HINT:  be there when the dress is “unveiled” to the school parents.  Bask in the glow, but pay attention.  This is a good time to learn the ratio of crazies to not crazies in the school and you still have time to bail out!)  You and the TCRG work out which comments are reasonable and you decide what you’re willing to do.  Now you know how much work is involved in making this dress, and you can make sure the price is adequate (and work out the procedure for payment and ordering).  You can negotiate changes that will make the dress easier to make (“save money here”).  They’ll be able to see if the skirt is “too wide” or “too stiff” or “needs more appliqué” or whatever.  These are the things you don’t want to find out after you’ve delivered 6 dresses and all of a sudden they aren’t what the teacher expected.  And you’ll know how long it takes you to make a dress start to finish.  Add a week.  They’ll want to know “how long it takes” from time of order (measuring).  If you’re lucky, you can batch them and that will save some time, but don’t tell them that because then they’ll plan on it.   Remember, you will get the flu.  And, there will be a dress that almost puts itself together it flows so fast.  If you deliver that dress early to Mary, then Jane and Beth will be very, very upset if you take longer when they order their dresses.   What do you promise, and what is reasonable for the customer to expect?


This probably sounds like I think all ID parents are crazy.  Those that are will suck the joy of creating these dresses right out of you in one dress.  You’ve got two choices 1) prepare defensive business procedures to distance yourself from them (like ED and Gavin – no input, no returns) or 2) learn to spot them and cut them off before they start making you miserable.  I think most of us here opt for 2.  But you have to learn to say “no” and to fire customers. 


Ok, so what behavior am I calling crazy?  Simply, it is the act of trying to impose unreasonable expectations upon you. Please note that these expectations may come from the “mom,” the dancer, the TCRG or just a bunch of other moms in the school.   Specifically, watch out for:

  1. People who blame the dancer’s placement results on the current dress.  Your dress will be the next blamed.  These customers start out with statements like “All the other dancers in her competition have wrap/panel/Gavin/Elevation dresses and she NEEDS a new dress to get noticed” (and they mean NEEDS not WANTS).  Or “Her current dress is [not latest style for whatever reason] and it is costing her points.”   These customers NEED a different dressmaker because you don’t NEED them.  You want customers that appreciate the latest styles, sure, but who also know it is about dancing.  Let’s face it, how many World Champions can there be in a year?  Ten?  They are not your customers – your customers are the thousands and thousands of dancers who are NOT world champions.  And you really want customers who have enough grounding in reality to know where they stand.
  2. Run, run, run! if someone asks you to “make it so it is a perfect fit for the Oireachtas in 7 months.”
  3.  Nitpickers are poisonous.  I’m not talking about someone who has a reasonable request.  Usually it is the degree that separates the two.  Reasonable: “The sleeves are ¾” too long”.  Nitpicker: “The skirt is 1/8th too long.”
  4. Your PITA detector should go off when mom comes in and dumps all the decisions on you and the DD, who is 12.  The age is important.  At 12, the child understands expensive, has no way to contribute anything towards the cost of this dress, and is scared to death she’s going to make a very expensive mistake in whatever she picks out.  Therefore, she says nothing.  You will feel the need to keep the “conversation” moving and pull every single item in your stash out waiting for an eyebrow to twitch encouragingly.  If you must carry on with this project, make a dress you like and know you can sell off.  Guaranteed you will misinterpret what they want and go against what you think would be best in order to please them and fail.  Momma is just hanging back so she can complain later.
  5.  Avoid those with an “I’m doing you a big favor (seeing as how you’re not a Big Name) by letting you make this dress for my daughter” attitude.  They are only there because they want a cheap dress.
  6.  If someone comes in with swatches, file folders and index cards and says “We’re really open about designs and colors.  But I asked my daughter to draw up a picture of the dress she wants.  It is just so you have an idea…”  They’re not going to let you change ANYTHING about that design, no matter how awful.
  7.  Decline if someone comes in and says “We want this dress,” hands you a pic, and will not listen when first you point out ways to emulate the style without copying and then second, you state that you will not copy a design or a dress.  Don’t go there.
  8.  Oh, and if mom makes an appointment and shows up with DD and 8 other kids under the age of 9 (which she had to bring because she home schools but didn’t think it was important to mention that the whole crew would be showing up) – well you won’t see your cat or the remote control for at least a week.    

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.


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.


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


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!

Dana’s Tunic Dress

We at Feisdress (Susan and I) have been contemplating a different approach to making Irish dance dresses for a while now. As I have said before, I love making 2 piece dresses for a variety of reasons (ease of skirt attachment onto soft cotton bodice, ease of dealing with dropped waist look, dancer can remove jacket in between dances to avoid stinking it up!!!), so this was part of thinking about a different dress. Susan and I both wanted to try a soft skirt but were not interested in ruffles or tulle (brings back the horror of making a tutu for me!). And we were both interested in maintaining that slimming, wonderful drop waist look and combining it with a narrower silhouette…but of course you need dancers who want to try this with you!

Well, we found not one but two dancers who were game to go on this journey with us!

The first was Dana.  She is in the “& Overs” and wanted a dress made just for her.

Here it is: the 21 panel!
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The 10 top black panels are part of the black tunic.  There is no waist seam.  The 11 pink panels that were a particular challenge to attach so that they moved freely but were also secure in the correct hang angle…I attached one of those buggers 6 times before I got it to behave!!!!

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This is the totally separate, totally soft underskirt.  I am particularly enamored of this pic…I call it “Skirt with Tail.”Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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This is a pic of the dress before the pink panels were attached.  This works, too!

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I love this design.  It was a particular challenge to digitize this one.  There were several test stitch-outs of the pieces and parts until I found just the right way.  I am very happy with the way it turned out.
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More later if there are questions.  One more dress to put up, but must go to the hometown Christmas Parade!

Shaylah’s Dress

Since all are at the Oireachtas is Atlanta now, I can start posting pics of the dresses we have been working on.  Busy, busy, but thankfully not as stressed as last year…even though I put in many, many hours on each project because I am so picky, I do now have a sense for how long it will take me for the most part…sort of…maybe…well, maybe NOT!!!!

Anyway, Gina said I can post some pics of Shaylah’s dress…I will post pics of the dancers in full regalia when I get them.

So, to recap, here are the pieces of Shaylah’s dress with the design that I digitized and embroidered:

This is one side of the back skirt…it will have a reversed pleat. There will be panels on the front of the dress, each one with one of these embroideries on it.
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Here are the 2 crowns.
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And the rest…

The bodice.
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The sleeves.
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And here is Gina’s diva Shaylah putting on the crystals:
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You can see a bit more of the skirt here…I believe :
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And, ta-da!
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Beautiful dress for a beautiful girl!

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