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Category: style

how to: get a perfect fitting bust

I designed a dress a few years ago for a fall collection, and it was the most simple dress you can imagine. It wasn’t trendy or fussy, and other than two well placed pockets, there were no bells and whistles, because I’m a big believer that the bells and whistles aren’t always necessary. Sometimes, simple is enough.

The Millie dress was always popular, and it was in every collection I designed up until the very end. Like many other things I designed and sold at one point, I never managed to keep a Millie dress for myself. I wish I had, but the beauty of sewing is that nothing is ever really gone forever. And now, I finally have one of my own.

The Millie dress, over the years:

I actually made this dress last summer, but it’s only now making its debut. I was reminded of it recently when I used the remaining two yards of the fabric on a spring blouse, which you saw me wearing in Florida and in this post from last Friday. I got the fabric (cotton sateen) in early 2016 from Fashion Fabrics Club and, not surprisingly, it sold out pretty quickly. Fingers crossed they restock their sateen inventory soon!

Because the design is so simple, it’s important to get the fit just right. The bodice has front princess seams and a back dart, and there’s a very simple trick I use to get a closer, more flattering fit around the bust. (A lot of you commented on the fit of this dress, so here we go!)

You can apply this technique to self drafted patterns as well as commercial patterns, and you can also use this method to shape front bodice waist darts for a closer fit. For this tutorial, I’m using my own sloper to draft a front bodice with princess seams.

Essentially, what we’re doing here is taking out some fabric from under the bust and contouring that area to fit more closely to the body.

I’ve traced the front bodice and drafted a princess seam. Then, I mark on my dart legs 3″ up from the waistline, which is where I want the bodice to fit me better. Now, this is important: you will want to measure yourself because this particular measurement is different on everyone. For instance, if you’re short waisted, you may only need to measure about 2″ up from the waist and vice versa for you taller gals. When I first started doing this to my patterns, I tested it on a muslin to make sure I was taking in the right amount in the right place.

Next to the marks on the dart legs, I measure about 3/16″ into my bodice. Those of you with a bigger cup size may need to take more in here, and the reverse is true of smaller cups. Cup size aside, if there isn’t much difference in the bust measurement and directly below the bust, this adjustment may not be necessary at all.

Using a French curve, connect the waistline, marks under the bust we just drew, and princess seam lines. Your pattern will look something like this:

For reference, this is what a princess seam looks like just following the original dart leg, and one that has been shaped. You can see the difference that 3/16″ makes!

If you have any questions, let me know. I hope this helps you get a closer, more tailored looking fit on your spring projects. Happy Sewing!

one pattern, three ways: mccall’s 7163 (and a tutorial)

This may come as a surprise, but I love trends. I love following them, I love watching the industry evolve and grow, and I enjoy watching the somewhat predictable cycles of styles go in and out of fashion (flared jeans are coming back, you guys!). The trick with “trends” is making the ones you really like work for you. Some trends are worth figuring out for yourself because they’re that fun or cute, and some are here and gone so fast–usually because they’re terrible–that all we really need to do is watch them crash and burn. (Anyone remember the ridiculous exaggerated shoulders and epaulettes on jackets a few years ago? Or the huge monograms on handbags that were around for a second one season? Yeah, either you have no idea or you do remember because they were so absurd.)

In college, I took a fashion forecasting course (one of my favorites), and that class had an immersive component to it where we studied in Paris and London one summer. (It happened to be the summer that Yves Saint Laurent died. We were in Paris the day of his funeral, and a couple of us braved the crowds to get as close as we could to the cathedral for the service. We watched Valentino and Armani walk right by us. I will never forget that day, but that’s a post for another time.) Being in Paris and London and studying in real time and up close what was happening in street wear and in the shop windows there was incredibly interesting. The next big thing in trends usually hits the European market before it finds us in the US, and there’s usually some clues about what’s going to happen next if you watch closely enough.

This year, we’re seeing a few different things as far as trends go, but sleeves are a big, big trend (the more interesting and detailed, the better), and off-the-shoulder, ruffled blouses are everywhere. Everywhere. I happen to like this trend, because it’s a nice alternative to silly tank tops and it’s a fun option for warm weather. The more billowy the top, the more air is able to flow around you. Plus, they’re cute and anyone can wear them. I thought I’d give this trend a spin, and in my search for a pattern came across a pattern from the McCall’s catalog that is a few seasons old, but no less adorable or on trend.

I first made this pattern in a floral cotton sateen I had in my stash. I made a dress using the same fabric last summer, so this was a great use of what I had left over, plus it’s always nice to see a fabric more than once in a collection, and you know that’s what I’m all about when I sew. Instead of making changes to the pattern right away, I cut it as is, view D. Talk about an easy project!

the sequin skirt

The subject of today’s post is not practical. It’s not an afternoon project, and it’s not really a project for beginner sewers.  It’s not something that will be worn more than a handful of times in its lifetime, and the cost-per-wear value is almost nonexistent. This skirt is not a lot of things but none of that matters, because this skirt is magnificent. It’s the every-once-in-a-while “treat” project, where we indulge ourselves a little and buy the pricey fabric and really invest the time into crafting and building a quality item of clothing. A special item, to be worn when you want to look and feel like a million bucks.

There’s a history behind this skirt. I designed the original, which I named ‘Charlotte’, a few years ago after seeing a truly special sequin fabric and envisioning a floor length skirt for myself out of it. A few months later, I included it in a spring collection as a test to see how customers would respond to it, and it was a hit. It was the single most expensive garment in the line to produce so eventually we had to stop selling it, but I’ve carried a torch for that skirt for years.

Late last year, I decided it was finally time to make one for myself, only it wouldn’t be floor length. I thought a lot about the length for this skirt. Floor length is obviously more elegant and showstopping, but it’s completely impractical. I mean, let’s all consider for a moment just how ridiculously impractical it really is. Where on earth would I ever wear a floor length sequin skirt? Even the semi-formal events that pop up on the calendar every once in a while certainly don’t call for a floor length skirt like this. Plus, it’s kind of a pain to wear, as skirts like this sometimes are. You’re constantly picking it up to walk up and down stairs or get in and out of a car, and it has an annoying way of trapping all the heat on earth underneath the skirt, surrounding your legs in suffocating temperatures more unbearable than Texas in July. But boy is it pretty.

Letting go of that design broke my heart just a little bit, because the shorter length doesn’t quite have that wow factor that the maxi has, but it still packs a punch. For me, the midi length is more versatile. I can style it for parties or formal events, but it also works for a special date night. It’s also appropriate year round in Texas, which is an important thing to consider when you invest so much time into making your clothes.

I wanted a skirt with some volume to it, but nothing too enormous. I drafted a half circle and that, the simple yet chic half circle, is the pattern for this skirt. (For more information on drafting this pattern, see this post from January.) The fabric is a sequin “cracked iced” design on white mesh, which I got from Fabrics World in NYC. I treated the sequin fabric like an eyelet or lace and underlined it in a bottomweight white twill, to help with support and give the skirt some body. The hem is finished with a facing, which is fully interfaced. The skirt is lined in bemberg rayon and I put an exposed zipper in the back. I did this for two reasons: there’s no chance of the fabric catching on the zipper, and it was the easiest zipper application for this skirt. Also, it matches and looks pretty great. I originally thought about using horsehair braid in the hem (which is why my facing is 6″ wide), but in the end decided there was no need. The skirt has just the right amount of volume in it.