Bubble skirts

I happened upon a couple of posts on other blogs about the bubble or “bouffant” skirts.  One difference for us is that the skirts we make have to allow for the dancing and kicking while the skirts the posts reference are pencil skirts underneath on models strutting down the runway.  However, the info about the construction is interesting.

http://thesewingdivas.wordpress.com/2008/01/27/armani-prive-a-better-bubble-skirt/

http://wkdesigner.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/the-bouffant-skirt/

http://betsyrosspatterns.blogspot.com/2006/04/saturday-bubble-skirt-project.html

Epiphany

I just had an epiphany (because of something Caroline wrote in the comments of the last post), and as usually happens at those moments, lots of stuff blooms in my head all at once.  Before I get to the epiphany itself, I felt the need to look up the word.

Epiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience

Works for me.

I was also reminded of some thoughts generated about epiphanies from a book I am currently reading.  (Not the best book…I really am in a drought with good books these days because I want to be reading one that knocks my socks off but instead they have all been pretty ho-hum, except for Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason.  Quite an amazing book, but I am going between it and fiction books in a quest for a story that truly rocks my boat!)  There is a doctor in the book who fills his brain with as much info as he can and then he sits and waits for his brain to filter & percolate & assemble the epiphany.  I zeroed in on the story then as I realized that is what I do.  Always have, even when I was a young choreographer in college.  I will never forget one of my professors watching one of my rehearsals..she was astounded that I solved a choreographic problem by just sitting quietly watching the dancers.  She couldn’t believe that the answer presented itself in my head, fully formed, and that I did not have to get up and fool around with it.  I did not understand her amazement as that was simply how my brain worked.

Most of the things I figure out for the dresses I make literally wake me up in the middle of the night.  Suddenly, I am just awake and a construction solution is sitting on my chest looking at me like the cat does when he wants a rub!  I count on my brain figuring things out this way.  At the moment, I have a few things I need to decide on, and I am waiting for my brain to sift through all of the info…the decision will quietly appear.  It has been the same process these past few months deciding how I feel about ID, this blog, etc.

This morning, I had a loud epiphany…having them when I am awake is rather jarring as it is like 10 people talking loudly at once.  When I have them in front of the hubby, he always looks at me sideways and asks if I am having a seizure as I sit there blankly!  He walked in this morning as I was staring at the wall with my hands poised above the keyboard, and he says so gently, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!?!”  He is such a careful man…

So this is what occurred to me.  There is a way to alter the Feisdress pattern for a tunic dress.  Look at the two lines I have drawn on the pic below.

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If I did not have the mighty Susan, I would alter the Feisdress bodice to drop the waist a LOT.  The red line above is my new waist line.  Obviously I have taken into consideration my waist curves.  I am not going to keep this waist line, but this is how I make the bodice to begin with.  Then, after the appropriate number of panels are fully embroidered, attach them to the bodice. (I would have a soft skirt already constructed so that the placement and attachment angles can be easily figured over the appropriate poof.)  The panels should be longer than you will really see.  Once they are firmly attached, decide on a shape to be cut and satin stitched up into the bodice…those are the yellow lines above.  I would baste the panels in place above and around the yellow lines, and then sew that shape with a good zizag to make sure it is all secure before I cut out the bodice fabric below the lines.  Then satin stitch those lines, remove the basting, and decide if the panels above the lines on the back need to be trimmed down.  My instinct is yes so that there is no extra bulk.

Why cut out a shape instead of leaving the straight bodice hem?  Well, besides the fact that it will look like a hem line which for me defeats the tunic look and looks like a flapper dress, I am feeling (like my fortune-teller spiel?) that the whole unit will move better if there is a bit more freedom gained by getting rid of that restrictive hem line…but I could be wrong.  The other reason is that even if the bodice and panels use the same base fabrics, the satin stitched line will look like an embellishment not an attachment line.  Or, if you use a different colored base fabric for the panels, then the shaped line is part of the slimming design.

And I would not put stiffener in the panels beyond the decor bond already fused to the fabric for the embroidery (I only use one layer of decor bond in the tunic panels).  This also obviously means I can embroider directly on the panels instead of making patches as I feel I must for a true tunic.

As for the bodice lining, the easiest way to do this would be to line the bodice and the panels separately.  You could put the bodice lining over the panel attachments either before or tacked on after the panel attachments: before would mean the satin stitching would be seen on the inside while tacked on after would hide the stitching.  The easiest would be to not put the bodice lining over the panels at all, but under along with the base bodice fabric.  The hardest would be to make a bag lining that encompassed the bodice and the panels after they were attached…pay me a bunch and I might do that!!

Does this make sense?  I feel like I am leaving something out, but I will add it if I think of it.

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.

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!

Katelyn’s Tunic Dress

Sarah found a picture for me…THANK YOU, SARAH!!!!

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Now, I am thinking that she put this dress on very fast for the awards because the panels are not this short…the back of the skirt seems to be bunching…but here is the beautiful girl! Cannot wait to get more pics…my brain and artist ego/psyche are having a really hard time with the fact that I did not get pics myself.

Here are the fabrics we used.
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I just love these colors.

 

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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