Monday, December 30, 2013

Keystone Dressmaking

keystone is the wedge-shaped stone piece at the apex of a masonry vault or arch that locks all the stones into position, allowing the arch to bear weight.  The term is used figuratively to refer to the central supporting element of a larger structure, without which the whole structure would collapse.




One Saturday morning while still on my engagement Cloud 9, I picked up my pattern-drafting tools, paper, some muslin, a glass of Riesling and embarked on journey to make my wedding dress.  I said to myself “so…where do I start?”.  After some thumb-twiddling and rhythmic tapping of my pencil on the table a few times I found the answer……get another glass of wine!!!

I knew exactly how I wanted to finish but was cluelss as to how to start.  As I postulated different approaches to the construction process (Bottom-Up, Top-Down, Center-Out?), the one thing I was sure of is that it had to fit.   Having been a bridesmaid 3x I fortunately had my old BM dresses hanging around and noticed that they all had something in common.  They were distinct in style and fabrication, however as strapless dresses, they all were very well (as in closely) fitted in the bodice.  Despite the various designs on the bodices and various skirt weights , the bustiers (under-bodices) were nearly identical.   That was my “AHA!” moment.   As long under-bodice is nice and snug, I could GO CRAZY with the designs on the top and on the skirt because it would be very well supported.  The under-bodice is a keystone.  I perfected the under-bodice before starting the any other part of the dress.


BM dresses and corresponding under-bodice. All 3 ended at the waist.  
I continued to the hip for the wedding dress.



I estimate about 55% percent of the my overall patternmaking (not construction) time for this dress was the under-bodice. I started by draping a princess seamed bustier as instructed  in Draping for Fashion Design

I used a VERY heavy muslin specifically for the under-bodice.  I had about 5 yds. in my stash with no recollection of where I purchased it.  I eventually found another provider who charged a whopping $12/yd.  I’m sure that is not what I paid previously.  I was told its called “tailor’s muslin”.  I boned the princess seams and just center of the zipper and side seams in the back with an awesome sew-through boning I found on Ebay. 

Since my dimensions have changed since I ordered this dressform, I opted to include a seam at natural waist for more flexibility in making fitting adjustments. I later blended the pattern pieces together to remove the waist seam.  A huge lesson for me was to ADD MORE SEAMs when overly frustrated with fitting issues like puckering or pulling. I often cut right into the muslin and pinned it back together in a frenzy to manually smooth out puckers.  I would keep the “helper” seam in the next version of the muslin until I was sure the issue was resolved. 




Given my time crunch I didn’t document much of the fitting process in pictures.  In short, since this top is extremely fitted, the hard part was figuring out where to cinch and where to release fabric.  This is where my second biggest lesson comes in:  Do not try to make your body fit the shape of a pattern you see in the text book! The body never lies. I spent way too much time wondering why my pattern “looked right” on the flat but looked horrible on me.  I often would make a fitting adjustment, transfer it to paper – then erase it because the pattern no longer looked like the textbook.  Insane!

For example look at the text book version of the busiter pattern.  I’m curvy and not very tall so my natural waist is actually much higher at the side seam than in the front. Once I accepted this fact all my fitting problems where resolved.  My only fit worry from there was not losing or gaining weight. 

{book pattern}

{actual pattern}


Up next: The design……..

4 comments :

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

I am still in awe of the fact that you designed and sewed your own wedding gown! Thanks for sharing the birth pains with us.

overflowingstash said...

Me too - in awe that is. Others have made their own wedding dresses, but your one looks properly haute couture!

So glad you're back blogging. I love your style and creativity, and was sad that when I found your blog you seem to have stop blogging.

Then came the wedding dress reveal. Then nothing again. I was worried you've went back into hibernation! I was really looking forward to learning more about how you created your fabulous wedding dress. So what a great end to 2013. I hope you'll continue blogging in 2014. Happy New Year!

Tracey said...

Thank you for sharing your process with us. The end result was spectacular. I look forward to reading/seeing more of your journey to the wedding day.

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