Wednesday, 20 July 2011


For this SDP project I have decided to work with both flat cutting and cutting on a stand, and specificly I will work with: 
A 1878 afternoon dress from: Nora Waugh`s The cut of Women`s Clothe 1600-1930
A 1861-63 bodice from: Janet Arnold`s Patterns of Fashion 2
A 1890 and a 1917 corset from: Jill Salen`s Corsets.  

Cutting on stand: I would like to further the skills of cutting on stand from the introduction in the Defining practice unit
I want to gain confidence in cutting in order to expand the variation of projects/garments that I can take on independently from idea to final garment. 
Corsets: I would like to gain experience with different cuts and periods, in order to get a better understanding of the different cut`s and the effect on silhouettes. 
Fitting the corsets on a model; I would like to gain more experience and confidence in the fitting; both the situation and the actual fitting of the garment, to be able make the model relaxed and confident in my skills, and to get all the information needed from the fitting.
I  will aim to hand in four clear and professional patterns which I hope a maker can work from independently, backed with a diagram and photos of either a toil or the original reference. 
I expect the work to be very exiting with a good mix of challenge  with new things and a furtering of skills I previously have been introduced to. I look forward to work with both the three dimentional element of calico on the stand, the rulers and millimeters on the table, and the fittings on the models

Friday, 15 July 2011

1861-63 Bodice

This is the Bodice from Patterns of Fashion 1 by Janet Arnold which I intend to cut on a stand.

Before Calico
I didn’t have the right corset to work as understructure so I padded up the stand to resemble the very short type of corset that Nora Waugh describes in `Corset and Crinolines` for the 1860´s

- Padding up.
It would of course have been preferable to have the right corset, but for the purpose of this project, -learning how to cut on a stand, and further an understanding of the 19th century´s silhouettes, I thought that doing a bit of practice on this necessary prep-work and try to copy a particular shape was a good idea.

First cut 
The cut of this jacket was less complicated than I expected. Only the little tail was difficult to work out and will have to be altered when I take the pattern of and make a whole jacket toil.
I made the same mistake again and trimmed too much into the armhole. The bodices of this time had very wide shoulders. -the shoulder seems is 20 cm.

Reference pictures
I am confused about a difference in the illustration and the diagram
The Illustration shows CF to buttoned up all the way down and the pattern leaves a 4” opening. See the research Label, Title: Janet Arnold for the pictures.

First Toil

The neckline needs a little pinch (about 5 mm) in order to sit nicely and not flap open. -don`t know if I should let it stay in, it will be hidden under all the trimmings or try to work it in the pattern. If the neck line had been round it could have been held tight by a narrow cotton tape maybe this could also work with this neckline.
The back seem needed adjusting, the side piece wasn`t lying smooth.
The tail which I could get to work in first attempt was easier to work with when the pieces were sewn up. I still don’t understand how it has worked in the original. If this short box pleat - which it in a way is, is suppose to spread like it does in the illustration of the back view it has an excess of fabric CB in the waist, and if I make it lay folded in like it is in the wonderfully detailed illustration looking inside of the bodice, the tail will not spread out. hmm.....
I have decided to make it spread.


Drawing up the sleeve was very quick. Just counting out inches from Janet Arnold`s diagram, and adjusting the head of the sleeve to the measurement of my armhole.
I am doing something wrong with the armhole because the original dress has an armhole of 44 cm and this dress is smaller size than the one I am cutting which has an armhole of 40 cm, but I but if I make `my` armhole bigger I think it looks wrong. I extended the width of the shoulder about 5 mm this brought it closer to the reference but it didn`t alter the armhole measurement.

Last toil

The under sleeve is made by the pattern given in the book (17" x 13") but it lacks some of the volume in the illustration, which looks like it is made up by almost double the width.For the pattern I will add 10 cm 
The toil doesn’t have bones. it should have had, as the final bodice will have a bone by each of the four darts in the front, and one CB. This might be more important if the fitting was on a real person.
The upper body of the stand is much longer than the lady who would have worn this dress.
The original dress is 10,5" from shoulder point in neckline to the top point of the darts and this dress is 11,5. I think this is why the curve and length of the ribbon and pleats are so different between the two

I couldn`t get the tail to look like the illustrated. It is not as soft and lush, that could have something to do with, too little fabric build in to it and also the nature of calico. The shape CB should be a little more rounded and I can adjust that when I put the pattern on paper.
The text describes the pleats on the tail to be 3/4" but in the illustration it is drawn as it is a least as wide as the pleats around neckline which is 1" Though I would guess Janet Arnold`s measuring is more accurate than her drawing is liked the wider version better and made the pleated ribbon 1" wide.

Janet Arnold writes very thorough sewing and detail instructions width this pattern. But if I should make this dress for someone and accuracy was important I would like to see the original dress with my own eyes.

Friday, 1 July 2011

What do you mean Janet?

In the pattern diagram CF is only buttoned down to the waist and doesn`t show how is closed below. In the illustration the bodice is buttoned all the way down to the point.


a Corset from 1917


`CORSETS` Jill salen  p. 90

This is a relatively simple corset and not difficult to draw up. I measured all parts in the reference pictures, added up for waist, hip, and under bust measure, and compared with my models measurements. I only had to enlarge the model a little and for ease sake I decided to add 10% to all horizontal measures. I chose to keep the exact length of the original because I wanted see that in real, and I expected it to be simple to add length after fitting if needed.
I learned that for a corset like this it is a waste of time to draw a basic block. I only needed waist, hip and under bust line in the square of a basic block.
I was generally less impressed with this reference as with the 1890 corset. There were details with the length of seams and the placement of the waist band. For no reason the back piece is drawn out of line with the other pieces. Nothing that confuses the understanding of the pattern, it just seems sloppy.
And something I did not understand was the curve in the seam next to CB.
The text describes the bone at CB to be 1.25 cm when they in the diagram are only 1 cm
When sewing the toil I learned that there is a limit to the depth of a curve if it should make up a fell seem, and this corset has bones that are 17,5 mm wide. I only had steel that is 15 mm wide and the SA in this seam could not stretch to make a fell seem without snipping in to it. That makes this particular seem implausible.  ? ?

When first putting it on I placed it too high, so it had to be undone and pulled down but all the pictures show that the corset is still placed about 2 cm too high in this fitting. I don’t think it will matter very much due to the waist in the corset is long and in a way undefined, but I noted at the fitting to make the corset 5 cm longer but I will leave that at 3 cm.
       It is interesting to note that with both this and the first corset I see things in the photos after the fitting that I should have seen doing the fitting! 
 Seeing the bones pointing out makes it clearer why all the bones in the original are rounded so very neatly.


Comparing with the reference

First Fitting
After seeing the corset on Franciesca I am puzzled about how much wider the original corset is around the ribcage than the waist. I didn’t expect this corset to be very tight lace for the reason that one can`t lace in hips the same way as a waist. But it looks like the original has been laced rather tightly since the ribs are much wider than the waist. My corset was too wide around the ribcage, this could have something to do with the fact that I placed the corset too high.
I pinned away about 9 cm all round. I decided only to take away 7 cm in the pattern. I added two cm in CB, and I believe that when the corset is placed rightly and pulled in to make CB meet, the corset will fit Franciesca well.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Princess Dress from The cut of Women`s Clothes 1600-1930 By Norah Waugh

I have chosen to cut Afternoon Dress this because I imagine there is a challenge in managing the large pieces of calico form shoulder to floor, and create a good fit in a dress with a slim waist without a seam in the waist except the one dart in the front.
I have never tried to interpret pattern diagrams like this before and is looking forward to gain the skills to put all this historical reference in to 3D.
The patterns in Nora Waughs books are precise copies original garments.

Something to consider when starting putting this dress into 3D is if the dress should have exact the reference`s measurement or if it is a guideline of proportions, as a modern model/actress would not have previous owners measurements.
Nora Waugh`s notes on the dress:
Afternoon Dress( Bustle) c.1878. The Central School Of Art and Design, London.
A dress of cream taffeta, with a scarf draperu of dream silk in an open lace pattern. The bodice is lined with white cotton to the hips and boned at the center back (21,5 ") underarm (6,5

First Cut on stand.
Front: First experience was to set aside habitual thinking about good fit and where to put seams. This dress takes a lot away under the bust with two vertical and one horizontal dart and in the CF seam, but it has no dart over the bust.  
Graham pointed out to me that the reference showed that the dress padded out by the armhole and this would fill out some of the excess. The rest is `dealt` with by pulling and stretching the fabric.
Back: I realized after having worked a long time in the large back piece that the direction was wrong, this had effect only in the upper part and I was unwilling to unpin and redo 2,5 m calico and 2,5 hours work so I left it to alter on the table.

Alterations on table:
Added volume to the trail by tilting the CB about 40 cm at hem.
Tidied up the lines in the front darts, almost all the sides didn`t have the same length.
Cut out the excess length in the long parts in the back which I could not get to fit on the stand.

First sewn toil on stand.
For an inexperienced eye it makes a great difference to have a whole dress rather than a half… The choice of adding volume to the trail was good.
Seeing the all four darts in the front showed that the darts where too close to the CF and too close to each other in comparison with the reference pictures. The horizontal dart had to be lifted 5 cm to actually sit in the waist, as in the reference.
I only pinned the shoulder seem as I was sure it would need adjusting due to the larger alterations on the back. This made it easy to open up and smooth over the chest and shoulder blades and fit in place.

The Sleeves
For the sleeve I tried to copy the sleeve in the book rather than adapt a contemporary two piece sleeve. I wanted to try out the technique of blowing up the little pattern to a full size because I have never tried it before and because I expected it to take less time.
First I made the mistake of not seeing Nora Waugh`s sleeve as a pattern. I found a very similar sleeve in Janet Arnold and copied that successfully on homemade inch-squared paper. I realized my mistake though when I tried to extend the ¾ length sleeve to a full length and found that difficult. After advice from Dexter I saw that the sleeve illustrated by Nora Waugh was an actual pattern drawn out. I didn’t see this the first time because under and over sleeve has equal width.
Then I drew up the right sleeve for the dress, this was both quick and relatively easy. I adjusted the armhole from 41 cm to 44 cm to fit the armhole in my toil, making sure only to extend the width of the wrist from 23 cm to 24 cm
When I pinned the sleeve to the dress I was puzzled to find that it didn’t hang down close to the body, but stood out. I learned from Graham that this was due to an in build gusset in the under sleeve, which is there to allow for movement for the wearer of the dress. 
. (in the unlikely event that the lady wearing this Princess dress  for an afternoon tea party should need to lift her arms)

The little collar I also cut on the table. It took a few attempts to get it to sit right and it reminded me to lower the neckline. Even though this particular dress is cut on the stand the ultimate purpose for this work is for an actress to wear it and her comfort should be considered.

Draping the two large pieces that goes around the skirt of the dress, called after a while, for a little reflection on the limitations of calico. The top piece is a lacy shawl, and even when i had washed the light weight calico I had chosen for this purpose it was still very difficult to make it drape to replicate the illustration.                                                                                                         For the purpose of this project I have pushed the pleats in the seem so the fabric is  almost bias on the line where it is sewn into the dress,  this made some of the excess fabric disappear. I think; if this was to be made up in real fabric the draping would have to arranged in the final lace by the maker. If the draping should be on for a fitting for the designer to view it could just be pinned on as it is basically just two large square pieces that can be arranged and rearranged without cutting in to it.
The dress stood for two weeks on the stand with the draping, and in that time the light calico colapsed and looked awfull. How is that solved for a dress in real use. Even with a hundred little swing catches hidden to secure the draping it would stil `hang`after a while. Perhaps startch and keep it lying when not in use...

I worked out after a while and with Dexters help that `self silk`most likely means; the same silk as the dress is made of. -for Nora Waugh anyway.

The dress is decorated with pleats and bows on the sleeves and the hem. For this I just improvised and fiddled with the calico to replicate the drawing. The large trim for the hem took a few experiments but I think I came up with something absolutely acceptable.  

Reflect on project
Experience  Experience  Experience ……
The effect is attractive when the same piece of fabric floats in to curves and out on bustles but it takes practice to foresee  the effect, of what one is doing in one end, is going to be in the other end.
After I have made this dress I am very glad I finally got started on cutting period dress on stand, I can see it takes a lot of doing and redoing to gain the experience to work efficiently with books, fabric and stand.
·         Prepare by looking at other pieces alike before jumping in to the actual cutting, and keep at hand doing the work.
·         Do a proper and relevant understructure.
·         See when calico is not the right fabric to work and find a substitute.
·         I work well with both table and stand. -when I get stuck on the dummy I take it of the solve it on the table and vice versa.

I also learned that it takes experience to interpret the illustrations in Nora Waugh`s books. The drawing of the draping in the front looked more like a apron than the large lush pleats she describes in the text. My calico stood out like an oversized pocket. After a long! And hard stare, Dexter worked out that vertical line in the illustration was an indication of a pleat which stopped the horizontal pleats coming from the side and took away the `pocket` excess. I could have spend a day in the library and not worked that out, and makes me wonder I haven´t thought about finding a photograph of the dress, which there must be somewhere when the dress is still in The London School of Art and Design.
hmm.. thoughts for research

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

a Corset from 1890

Making the pattern.
   `CORSETS´ Jill Salen   p. 63
Actually drafting the pattern in itself was good fun, and less difficult than I had anticipated. The challenge turned out to be to transform the original petit corset (-waist 53 cm) to a much larger corset. (I decided to deduct 11 cm from Linda`s natural waist of 107cm to 96cm.) I enlarged all the corset pieces proportionally to fit on the basic block I had drawn from Linda`s measurement.
This approach turned out to work well, but only to a certain point, as not all areas grow larger as we our bodies does. The most significant mistake was CF. in fact a very small must is likely to have a wider flat area CF than a large bust.
I could see it looked wrong when I had made up the first toil, and was able to make an alteration already before the first fitting. This was lucky because CF was still too wide between the breasts but no more than we could make the other alterations keeping this in mind.
As a bonus I realized that I need to learn more about drawing plus size blocks.  The front shoulder looked more like a beak than a shoulder part due to the bust measure of 122cm and X front 39 cm, and I wouldn’t have known how to make it work for a blouse or shirt.

Making the first toil.
It took me a day to sew the first toil, this was with all the pieces cut out. I really really must learn to sew faster! To learn from this is to keep very! clear marking on all! parts at all times as it will prevent a lot of wasted time re-sewing toils 
To save time I tried to replicate the cordet gusset and panel with stayflex and stitching. I think it served the purpose for a first fitting with many alterations in waiting, but as it also shows in the pictures it doesn’t have the structure to hold the weight of the body.
First fitting  
CF needed to be lowered, because it was pushed out by the bust, this created more of a sweatheart-shape in the design line than the original, but this was an accommodation to the different body shape.
The biggest issue was the bust. I had not thought of the fact that a bigger bust weighs more than a very little one and for that reason alone needs more bones to be held in place. By altering a seam between one of the gussets and under the arm, and putting in a lot more bones in the side I hoped to bring Linda`s great bust forward instead of it coming out to the side as it shows in the picture.


The side seam above the waist was pulled back and needed adjusting, and below the waist it needed shaping/taking in, for the hemline to sit nicely on Linda´s hips.

Because I didn’t secure the bones in the channels, the fabric gathered under the pressure.  The fitting would have shown the corset better if I had cut the bones in the right length and secured them.  I didn’t seem a problem at the fitting but because of the pictures I decided to add 2.5 cm in each side seam for the next fitting. All together I was positively surprised by the general fit of the corset and I was happy with the fact that the CB met neatly all the way down

Making the second toil.

 I was able to sew this toil in one day with all the cording in because I this time

For the gussets that were fully corded I cut 4 cm seam allowance around the pieces and it proved to be enough to accommodate for the shrinking, and I could trim the pieces into the right shapes after.
The cording in the body pieces proved a little trickier.
Because there is a mix of bones and cords decoratively next to each other I had to sew one bone channel at the time and then put a cord in, starting from the middle of the piece and working out wards. I had not forseen that each cord channel would make the fabric shrink 1-1½ mm depending on how tight I sewed it, and with 28 cords around the whole corset it has to be taken into account while making the pattern.
Even with this considered in the pattern it could be a problem with handing over the sewing to another maker. Putting in cords for piping of decoration is something one `set of hands` does different from another and if the cutter has allowed for 1½ mm for each cord and the maker only use 1 mm and there is 20 cords around the a corset it is a difference of 1 cm in the final garment. This would perhaps not be an issue in a corset of the size I am making this time, but if an actress is having a dress made for a waist measure of 64 cm and the corset turns out to be 65cm. Perhaps I am being too particular…
Anyway, I ended up pushing the paper pattern along and extending the non-corded areas to make up for the 3 cm I would have lost in my toil.

Second fitting
The bust and the CF was at the second fitting the only real issue to address.
Another 5cm was taken away for the cups to sit only the width of the busk apart and the design line over the cups had to be higher.
The line of the slits, in which the cups are put in where adjusted in order for the bust to be held in better.
To accommodate for taking width out at CF I added a centimeter    -with a bone in, at the CB and the look at the back benefitted from these two bones.
The decorative effect of the bones and the cords showed up nicely in the fitting.
The curve in the hip panel was adjusted to hold in the tummy.

I learned from the fittings:    To make sure CF sits precisely at CF while lacing up, as it can`t be adjusted when the corsets sits tightly.
Good words for addressing the  issues that arise with fitting on a plus size model.  
To   have some good points on the lace, saves time in lacing up.
An assistant is almost necessary
That a false back is absolutely necessary
That Dexter`s technique of grabbing the model by the waist and shake her, in order to make the body succumb further to the shape which the corset dictates, take a lot of strength, diplomacy and confidence.
A corset for a heavier body needs more bones to hold the shape, than a corset for a slim body

It is difficult to make alterations on the corset. When it sits so tight one cant open a seam to alter, and there needs to be at least a few cm to take in, in order to pin it and that is only areas with no bones. This means notes are very important to support the drawn-on lines.

Because there were so few alterations for the second fitting I decided to make up the corset from the toil.  I died it with bones in it witch was interesting because it shrunk in hight where there were no bones and I had to smoothe both hemlines. It shrunk in width also but no more than it could be compensated for with and extra cm at CB. I trimmed and herringboned all the SA and edged hemline with cotton bias binding. The corset ended up pretty enough for a photo shoot to go in a portfolio. I didn’t just do this for the photo, but I have never before tried to sew in a busk, and I would like to keep the corset for reference for the period. -and a messy toil wouldn`t be worth keeping.
  This could lead to think that the second fitting, another time, could be done in top fabric and the time spend on sewing up the calico toil could be saved. But not only was I lucky that the alterations was mostly taking in, and the letting out was within the plenty SA, but the stitching in the fabric and the strain put on the seams during the fitting  leaves marks in the fabric and a delicate fabric would end up too damaged. Even this calico shows the marks for the original design line over the bust and the hip panel.


I am exited and very pleased with the silhouette I created on Linda in the final result. She is laced in 14 cm from her natural waist measurement and the corset was generally a little more comfortable for her when left open 5 cm at the back. The pictures also show that there still is an issue with the curve under the bust. -where the wire would sit in a bra, This could only had been fixed by making a whole new corset as the slits which the gussets are fitted into are too deep. I have altered this in the pattern but this alteration is of course not tried out and that leaves a little 
`unknown` for a final making of a real corset from this pattern.

Looking at the back view it is also clear that the corset should have more width across back.
If the corset should go under a dress it could just be laced more open at the top but as this corset is made to be seen it really should have this alteration.
-I learned from Graham while making the corset that for performance purposes one would rarely put this much work into a corset that wasn’t to be seen.
The extended width across back would not only ease the sense of tightness under the arms but also create a stronger hour glass figure in the back, as it has so greatly in the front. I have also chosen to alter this in the final pattern but as with the under-bust curve it is guess work.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Nora Waugh`s Pattern & Illustration

This is the dress I have chosen from Nora Waugh`s The Cut of Women`s Clothes 1600-1930 (1968 Faber and Faber) It resembles the dress I saw at the study trip to Hampshire Museum Center best. A very similar dress can be seen in Janet Arnold`s Patterns of Fashion 2. (1964 Macmillans Publishers ldt) This particular dress is also described in Costume in Detail 1730 - 1930  p. 237-239 by Nancy Bradfield (Eric Dobby Publishers) I intend to use these two descriptions as reference when working with The Afternoon Dress 1878.