Friday, April 18, 2014

CoutureGRAM: Underbust Stay

I thought I would make it a separate post to highlight the technique, rather than put it as a reply to your comments. You asked about the blue strip that extends from the center front between the bra cups to side seams all the way to center back.

Image: Source
What we see here is an underbust stay. This one I think is made of a max 1cm-wide elastic encased in the same fabric as the dress (you can recognize an elastic by the gathering of the silk casing). It is held in place by at least four thread chains, around the bust cup, close to side seams and in the back, over boning channels. The ends are finished with a hook and eye. This underbust stay may have been sewn ( it is not really recognizable on this image) to the garment where bust cups begin at the center front, about an inch from where they cross.

The purpose of an underbust stay is to ensure a closer fit of the bodice in a strapless dress. It provides additional support to the underwires and creates a cage effect with the vertical boning. Just note how the boning extends over bust points across underwire - this can tend to move away from the body where the underwire is placed. This is, by the way, another reason why spiral steel boning is better than rigilene for example, which is less flexible.

I can imagine this dress had a waist stay as well, but was removed at some point. All in all, quite an interesting construction we are seeing here.

Phew, I don't know how about you, but I love peeking into couture garments. I wish I had an access to a costume museum archive - I would accept any job there, just to have an opportunity to see and touch these garments. Sigh...

Happy Easter to those who celebrate, and a wonderful sunny weekend to those who don't :) 

P.S.: Thanks a million for your amazing feedback on my patternmaking and fit series. It means a lot to me!

CoutureGRAM: Dior Silk Gala Dress

Dear readers, I continue my Couturegram series and present another recent find from the web: Dior Gala Dress from Spring 1958 collection. The dress sold for a whopping $16,000 on   The purpose of COUTURERAM posts is as always to learn from great masters of couture. Enjoy!

"Robin's egg blue faille with sweetheart bodice, built-in boned net corset with hooks & eyes, full skirt over ivory silk and seven layer banded crinoline, ivory silk under skirt, self rose and bow at bodice center front and over gathers at either side of hem, back zipper" 

Image: Source
Image: Source
Image: Source
Image: Source
Image: Source

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On My Sewing Table: Burda Peplum Sleeve Dress

Guest blogging for Burdastyle is a discipline challenge for me. I got quite a few 'unblogged' projects, a term coined by a fellow blogger Rachel Pinhero, because I never came around photographing them. With Burdastyle projects it is different. I take a lot of images and have to send them in time, no matter what. So, here is my April project, a peplum sleeve dress #112 from the February issue of Burdastyle magazine.

Fabric is chosen...

silk tweed from B&J, New York (yay, another stash busting project!)

... a muslin is sewn up (the dress doesn't pull on me, and the neckline doesn't gap, hmm...)...

By the way, the pattern is huge, so if you like the dress and want's to make it, go down at least one size smaller. I would even recommend as much as two sizes. It's worth measuring bust and hip circumferences on the pattern itself and choosing the size that corresponds to your measurements plus some ease. I went down from 38/40 (top/bottom) to 34/36. 

... adjustments are made

If you want to know more about planning process and some couture techniques I am planning to use, go over to Burdastyle Blog to read my guest post. As always, I am happy to hear your comments!

Monday, April 14, 2014

SSDA 7: Measuring darts

We discussed many possible fit issues that are direct result of incorrect measurements of circumference (waist and hips), front-back balance, as well as started talking about darts.

We also have covered how to take five measurements, waist circumference, hip circumference, and front, side and back length. It is time to finish the measurement posts with darts.

In my last post I briefly showed you the purpose of darts and how standard dart calculation can cause problems with the fit. In most patternmaking methods we are instructed to use standard values instead of measuring darts. Why? I believe there are two reasons:

  • Most common patternmaking methods are developed for ready-to-wear. They are based on adopted standard measurements, and therefore there is no need for additional measurements.
  • Dart are tricky to measure if you don't know how to do it.

Note: One modern patternmaking method that uses dart measurements was developed by Galya Zlachevskaya, a Russian pattern-maker and designer. However, her method requires taking more measurements for very accurate results. 

It is not such a crazy idea to  measure darts. Some methods ask you to measure the distance from your waist to hip on your side. How is it different from a dart length? In fact, what you measure in this case is the side dart length, from the waist to the most protruding part of your hip. That is not tricky, wouldn't you agree?

Let me warn you before starting, I am explaining every step in a great detail. This should help you take measurements yourself understanding what you are doing. The actual process of measurement taking is rather fast, and the calculations minimal. To make it even easier for 'draft-alongers', I will later include a measurement taking and calculation chart. 


I hope you are rubbing hands, readers! Let's start! This measurement should be taken as a part of the measurement taking session, but for practice you can measure only darts. You should wear some moderately tight clothing, leggings and a body-hugging T-shirt would do. You should be wearing an elastic, and for your measurements use consistently either its lower or upper edge as a reference line.  To make it easier, let's mark the most protruding parts on the back, front and side with a pin, pinned horizontally. We will be measuring only one side. If you have an asymmetric figure (indicated by the difference between the left and the right side length), logically, you will need to measure on both sides. I won't be covering asymmetric figures in this post, however, because I would like to explain the concept first.

We now have two reference points for each dart, the waist and the most protruding points in the front and the back.  What we need now is two rulers. I like 1" transparent acrylic rulers for quilters, or even better this Westcott 10ths/Metric Beveled Ruler, 12-Inch/30cm (B-65). If you don't have those you can make rulers yourself with two layers of manila folder and mark ruler units using metric system. We will be making some calculations, so using metric values makes it a lot easier.


We will be taking two measurements - Dart Depth (DD) and Dart Length (DL) - and repeat them in the front (F), left side (L)  and the back (B). For asymmetric figures, measurements are taken on both, left and right side.

Let's start with taking measurements in the back as an example. Position one ruler vertically from the most protruding part of the buttocks, toward the waist. Position the other ruler horizontally, so both rulers cross at 90 degree angle as in the illustration below. Measurement units should start from the waist and the most protruding point accordingly.
Rulers (grey rectangles) must cross at right angle, with one ruler being parallel, and the other - perpendicular to the floor. 

Write down Back Depth (BD) and Back Length (BL), and proceed with the remaining dart measurements in the same manner.

FD =                         FL =
LD =                         LL =
BD =                         BL =

TIP: Practice on a dress form, a friend or family member to gain some confidence. Make sure that the rulers cross at right angle, and that the horizontal ruler is strictly parallel to the floor.


Now, unless you are a measurement wiz, there will be an error in your measurements. In addition, when measuring darts we cannot consider the 2cm ease that we added to our waist circumference (1cm for half pattern). With darts, because the are key to the fit, only a little error is tolerable. So, at this stage we need to check how big the error is. To do so,

1. calculate total dart intake (DI). This is a more accurate value, so we will use it to calculate the error.

DI = (hip circumference - waist circumference)

Note: Your waist circumference value must include ease. Also, we divide the total dart intake by 2 because all the calculations are done for half body. 

2. add up all the dart depth values you measured, to calculate the total dart depth (DD).

DD = FD + LD + BD

I wanted to note that terms dart depth and dart intake are only nominal, to help differentiate between the different ways we measured or calculated them for this particular post series. Normally, both terms are interchangeable, with dart intake being more common. 

3. subtract dart depth from dart intake to get the error value (e)

e = DI - DD

If you measured more or less accurately the difference between the two values should be about 0.5 to 1.5cm. If not, try to re-measure yourself.

We finished the measurements, readers. In the next post, we will calculate darts, and then, determine the location of the side seam. I hope you are not discouraged by the amount of information. Please do ask questions and post comments!

Previous Straight Skirt Draft Along (SSDA) posts:

Coming up:

SSDA 8: Calculating Darts
SSDA 9: Side Seam Placement
SSDA 10: The Measuring Session
SSDA 11: Drafting the Skirt
SSDA 12: Making a Toile and Analyzing the Fit

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sewing Mystery Series: Threaded for Trouble

Readers, I am speechless.  I came across these mostly Southern Sewing Circle mystery titles through a newsletter, books that have been actually published on Amazon. What a use of a sew-related vocabulary! Or am I the only one having fun? Look at this language feast:

Sew Deadly
Death Threads
Pinned for Murder
Deadly Notions
Dangerous Alterations
Reap What You Sew
Remnants of Murder
Stitch Me Deadly
Dire Threads
Threaded for Trouble 
Quilt or Innocence
Taken in
Knot what it Seams
Thread and Buried
Deadly Patterns 
A Custom-Fit Crime
A Fitting End

I'm pleating for mercy, readers!


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