Back skirts, etc…

Today I got 2 similar emails, so thought I would do a post.

First Kilynn wrote: I have been looking at the school dresses you are making for Teelin. I really like the way they look in the back. How much stiffner are you using in the CFP, the FSP, and the back? Have you put decor bond on all sections? Do you use Firm Flex in the back or just the CFP and FSP? I am working on school dresses myself and an wanting to make them as easy to handle as possible. I also wanted to make them washable like the Teelin dresses. What mother would object to that!!!

Then Amy: I have a question about stiffener in the Teelin dress. I know you use Firmflex in the front of the dresses and they look great! We are so excited! We have ordered some Firmflex to try! You didn’t use Firmflex in the back of the Teelin dress did you? It drapes so beautifully. We are still working the “bugs” out of our school dresses. Currently, we have Decorbond in the back of our dress. The problem is, the dancer sits down wrong and BAM! nasty crease! We use a polyester satin as our lining and a gabardine as our main fabric. We were thinking of no Decorbond, but maybe a very lightweight interfacing on the satin lining to help give it some body. The satin tends to “grow” especially when you hit the curve and the bias kicks in. Does that make sense? We’re trying to get away from the stiff two-dimensional look. I love how figure flattering the Teelin dress looks, none of this trying to put flat cardboard on a round cylinder nonsense. Any advice would be appreciated.

Are you 2 working together or just on the same wavelength?

For the school dresses, I prep the fabric by fusing it to a tricot (just like french fuse) interfacing, not a woven and not decorbond.  The tricot supports the fabric, giving it a tad bit more body, but it does not add much weight at all, allows the fabric to move, and it will not crease the way a woven can and decorbond will!  I feel that this interfacing fuses the best, and I have yet for it to bubble away the way the woven can. 

That is all I do to the back of the skirts.  I do use decorbond on the areas to be embroidered on the front which then have one layer of Timtex underneath, but unless I am embroidering on the back, I do not use any other stiffener in the back.  Why?  First, I personally like the back skirts to move easily, and second, since these dresses get so much wear, I do not want decorbond or stiffener to crease or break down from all of the sitting and kicking that the backs are subjected to.  Even if the backs are embroidered, I only use decorbond in the appropriate area and then remove the excess to allow the skirt to retain as much movement as possible.

Now for the satin lining…I use crepe back satin which has some weight to it, and I do not interface it.  Here is what I do to keep the hem from bagging below the hem:

  1. After the lining and outer skirt are hemmed together, trim and clip the seam on the curves, then press the seam on the right side so the seam fabric lies underneath the lining.
  2. Use a multiple zig-zag stitch to attach the lining to the underneath seam fabric. The multiple zig-zag allows give on the curved seam and helps keep the lining fabric from falling below the seam to be seen from the outside.
  3. Iron the fold between the lining and outside skirt. I press on the inside so I can see a thin line of outside fabric to ensure the lining cannot be seen at the bottom of the hem on the outside.
  4. Then, I take the time to smooth and pin the lining to the outside fabric so I can sew a few lines of stay-stitching on the pleat fold lines from the hem to the waist. This basically guarantees that there will never be any bagging.  I sew 3-4 of these lines on each side of the back skirt (6 to 8 lines of stitching in total).

Did I answer everything?

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.

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?

It has been said…

…that we should try having the dancers perform with bags over their heads…Molly (one of our members) wrote: “I loved a male adjudicator’s comment once that he would like it if each dancer wore a plain garment with a bag over the head so he couldn’t even see a face. Then he would be judging only the dancing!”

While I was eating my lunch, I perused the New York Times.  I found these:

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Hey!   No wigs!!!  Next we can get into the most outrageously shaped and colored headpieces!!!  Shamrocks!  Knots!  Celtic crosses!  A can of Guinness!!

Fascinating…I would love to get inside this designer’s head!!!!

Dress Alternatives?

So, did ya see this dress on dance.net?

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Saw tons of these in the pics from AIs…seeing them everywhere now. Guess they are the new thing, eh?

As usual folks are bitching about the cost…so I have found some alternative sources…ID has turned into a long array of beauty pageants, so…for about $200 and all you have to do is add sleeves…
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Hey this one already has sleeves!!
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Or, for a little more flavor, let’s go over to the square dance shop!
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And for the adult dancers…
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We also have the pageant dresses with a more ballet flair for those who want to retain an air of class…here’s the long skirt…
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My favorites are the short ones…why not? We look at their bloomers now anyway!
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Hey, how about just add a jacket top to this?
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One personal favorite…
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Or, they can just add sleeves and lop these off to the correct bum-baring length…
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But this is my ALL-TIME favorite! We can start a new width trend! Although, this is really expensive again, but we KNOW the world qualifiers are not satisfied until it costs more than a car!
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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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Troubleshooting: Vertical Skirt Crease

So, I made this dress for Aislinn last year:
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(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:
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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:
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Looks like a belling issue caused by faulty connection between the bodice and the skirt…but is it?

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No, it is belling caused by a vertical crease…

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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First, I sew the pieces to strips of Firmflex.

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

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

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Fuse the fabric to the front sides of the strips.

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Trim.

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Finish fusing.

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

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…this is where I place the boning strips.

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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.)

“Reselling dresses for Profit”

ReAnne has started a discussion of this raging topic on the forum: click here

What do you think?

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