Monday, 27 July 2009

RTW Knockoff Competition - Photo Shoot

As promised here I am modelling the finished dress. As a illustration of how versatile the style is, I've put together a look for each season so you can see how I might wear the dress all year round.

As it is currently winter in my neck of the woods, I'll start with my winter look. This is probably how I'll wear the dress for the next month or so. The dress works well as a layering garment as it it neat fitting enough to wear with cardigans and jackets but has enough room to slide a fine polo neck underneath. The astute among you might recognise the mermaid scarf I started ages ago and never posted when it was finished.

Next up, spring. I like how this dress is dark but not too dark so it can be worn in warmer weather without looking too heavy. This is my spring look with a simple cardi.

Summer is the 'purest' look so here is a front and back view. I am really happy with how the dress turned out. The fit is nice and it's really comfortable.

Finally my autumn look. I quite like this one, it's a bit St Trinian's although my fella (rather unkindly I felt) pointed out that I could look like a convent novice if I'm not too careful! I'll have to either use really funky accessories or maybe a non-white blouse in future.
So that's a round up on my entry. I hope you like it - I certainly do. I have found the whole project a lot of fun and very motivating, which I hope I an carry forward into my upcoming projects.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

RTW Knockoff Competition - Done!

The cold that I was battling last week turned into a really bad cold that wrote me off for the entire weekend. I recovered a bit through the week but now I have developed a really nasty lung infection and am not feeling myself at all. Fortunately through clever prioritisation of tasks (ie. not doing any housework or grocery shopping) I have been able to work on my competition entry and, yay, it is now done!

There weren't any particularly difficult aspects of construction, so I focused on precision, neatness and good fit. Here are a few photos of some processes...

One of the first steps was to make the french darts. Because I made an fba there was a lot of fabric in the dart so I sewed a line of zig zag about 6mm from the sewing line and trimmed away the excess fabric.

I really like how the french dart changes the grainline of the side front. It's a subtle feature but I think it's pretty.
I ended up reshaping the dart slightly to cut in under the bust. It was looking a bit sack-ish before this alteration.
I have a traumatic relationship with invisible zips. When I used to teach I always managed to get my students to do awesome invisible zips so it's not that I don't know how to do it, it's just hit or miss as to how well it goes on any given day. I have learned to do them early in a sewing session, after I've warmed up but before I start to get tired and lose focus. I am super happy with the zip in this dress though - it is almost invisible!
I finished most of the seams with a Hong Kong binding. The seams that are completely enclosed (shoulder and armhole) are finished with zig zag. The fabric is very ravelly so a line of overlocking would probably just pull away. I like the look of bound seams anyway. I overlocked (serged) the seams on the lining.
This is the hem facing on the front. You can see the inside of the centre front pleat.
Here is the front pleat and hemline from the outside. The hemline shaping is a lot less exaggerated than the inspiration dress but I do not have legs like a baby giraffe so I prefer to keep them covered up.
Here is the finished front view on the dummy.
And the finished back view. I've just realised ow peculiar the mirror reflection looks. My dress does not have three sleeves!
Being winter it's hard to get daylight shots, which I need for black garments but I have a day off tomorrow and my fella is finishing at lunch time so he has said he'll take pictures of me in the dress when he gets home tomorrow. If you're lucky I'll be well enough to wash my hair and put on some slap, otherwise I'll just have to blur out my head or something!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

RTW Knockoff Competition - Fabric

Just a quick catchup today as I am trying to fight off a cold before it gets its hooks in. I am travelling well on my RTW knockoff entry, the lining is cut out and I'll cut the main fabric tonight. With luck I'll get a good chunk of sewing done tomorrow. There are still a couple of construction issues I have to work through but I am going to have to work it out as I go.

Here is the fabric, it's a mix of really dark charcoal and ivory threads. The weight is very light and drapey, so I am not sure how it will take a pleat but I do think the drape of it will suit the dress well.
Apparently it is 65% wool and 35% polyester, I'm pretty sure it originated in Asia and I am sceptical as I wouldn't say it was the highest quality suiting I've ever come across but it's not terrible either. I'll have to ask my sister to touch it - she is horribly allergic to wool and can tell instantly if there is any wool content in something.

When I pre-washed it the smell was terrible - like strong petrochemicals, maybe that was insecticide.
My original plan was to add a contrast border around the hem as it looks a bit like the original has some sort of band. I bought a metre of black crepe but decided it looked too heavy with the main fabric. Luckily there is enough to make a skirt from later!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

RTW Knockoff Competition - Toille

Hi all,
Thanks for following along with me on this project. I am finding it has really reinvigorated me and I am enjoying the process immensely. Although day dreaming all day and trying to ponder construction issues is not very helpful when I'm trying to wrap up at work and hand over all my projects - but boy, is it fun!

Here is my toille with a description of the pattern changes I made after fitting it...

Fortunately all the issues are easy to fix so I will go straight into fabric this week.

On the front, I made an fba by slicing through the french dart and continuing to the centre front. Next I pivoted the pieces to add 1cm at the bust (note: my dart doesn't point towards the bust point but my trusty Readers Digest book seems to indicate that this method will work). My french dart is now enormous but trimming and grading later will take care of that. The dress was also a little snug at the waist so I added 1.5cm there, tapering to nothing just under the armhole and at the hip. I think this will balance the silhouette a little and get rid of the 'lump' of shaping at the side hip. The sleeves and neckline are fine and I am really pleased with how the front pleat looks.

On the back I made the same side alteration and, in addition, reshaped the centre back. Apparently I have an 'erect' figure (I have several ex-ballet teachers who would strongly disagree) so the upper back was too big. I took 1cm out of the seam above the waist and added 1cm below the waist to make a little extra room for my ample derriere. Interestingly this straightened out the centre back seam so putting in the zip will now be easier.
The only design feature I had to modify was the shaped hem. Mine will never be as extreme as the inspiration (my knees are definitely not my best feature), but I did want it a bit more obvious than this. I have now fiddled with the pattern to make the sloped portion a sharper angle.

Next I'll introduce the fabrics as write a little about how I'm planning to construct the dress. Stay tuned!

Friday, 10 July 2009

RTW Knockoff Comp - The Pattern

I thought I would have to draft the pattern from scratch for this project but a quick hunt through my stash turned up Vogue 2538 (OOP).
This pattern is like a bad penny (except in a good way)! Some of you may remember this pattern was a contender for my winter coat last year, but I couldn't use it because I had previously cut out a size 10 and couldn't be bothered grading it up to my current size. Kristy wrote to me at the time to let me know the dress was a winner. By some miracle I hadn't cut out the dress pattern and the 12 was still intact. Here are the original pieces:You probably can't see well but there are some really nice features - the shaped back seam and the french darts principally.

Of course there are a couple of changes needed to the base pattern to get where I need to go.

On the back:
  1. Added 3cm at hip level tapering back to nothing at the waist (this dress is quite narrow through the hips and that part of my body is not size 12!).

  2. Made a 2.5cm sway back adjustment, removing length above the waist.

  3. Added 2.5cm to the centre back hem length tapering to the original length at the side. I'm not sure if this will add a slight train to the back hem or compensate for the sway back - either way I'll see how it looks.

You can see the back pattern has a rather odd shape now, but I think it will stop my side seams swinging forwards.

On the front:
  1. Added 3 cm at the hip. I folded out the french dart before drawing in the shaping so the dart will still fit in as designed.

  2. Added a pleat at the centre front. The dart is 1cm wide at the neck edge and 5cm wide at the waist, with the flare continuing all the way to the hem. I added these distances twice to create the front and back of the pleat (make sense?)

  3. I shortened the front length by 5cm at centre front and squared out across the pleats. I followed the original hemline at the side seam for the first 10cm then used a straight line to join the two points. I hope this will be enough to mimic the hem shaping in the inspiration. I'll draw the band depth on the toille so I can see how it will look.

  4. I didn't do an fba, but going by the tissue measurements I should have enough room in the bust.

The pattern pieces were really difficult to photograph so I hope you can get enough details to see where I am going with this.

I'll use the original sleeves and omit the collar.

Next post I will show you the fabrics I've chosen and the toille. Fingers crossed it'll work out!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

5746 is My Lucky Number

McCalls M5746 turned out to be my lucky dress after all. Now I can let the cat out of the bag.

I wore the dress to a job interview at another Government Department and whadya know? I got it. It's a promotion, closer to home and seems to be a really interesting role. It's a newly created position too so it's a chance to make my mark on something.

What's even better is I have to use up all my flexi and banked hours before I finish on July 31, which means I'll only be working 4 or 3 day weeks until I go.

A perfect chance for me to do extra work on my RTW knockoff entry...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

RTW Knockoff Competition Part One - Inspiration

I've entered the Pattern Review RTW knockoff competition which runs through the month of July. I've been feeling a little unproductive lately and I think this will help me get back on the horse, so to speak. I'll be documenting the process here and writing a review over at Pattern Review with links back here.

The idea is to take inspiration from a RTW garment or outfit and create an interpretation or copy of it - mine will definitely be an interpretation rather than a direct copy.

First, my inspiration. In this month's Australian Marie Claire, the ONLY garment that caught my eye was this dress from the Calvin Klein Fall 09 RTW collection.

Image from (second from the left on the bottom row).

I love that it is flowy and loose but without looking like a sack. The pleat down the front will give a strong vertical (and therefore slimming - I hope) line and also gives extra fullness to the skirt. I also love the shaped hem line.

A quick search turned up side and back views, which is handy!

Image from
Image from

I'll be making some changes to account for the fact that I am not a 17 year old supermodel.
  1. I'll add cap sleeves to balance my hips.
  2. I'll keep the shaped hem but make it less extreme so it's a bit longer in the front.
  3. I may or may not lower the front neck - I'm not sure how such a high neck will look on a d-cup bust.
  4. It looks as though there is a plain band around the hemline (but I can't exactly tell), I will most likely add a hem band and I will make a feature of it.
  5. Finally, and most obviously, I won't be using an evening fabric (the inspiration dress is some kind of wonderful silk-metallic-burnout-velvet) I will make it in suiting to wear for work

I am pretty excited about this project, I think it looks deceptively simple. I reckon it will be a challenge to get it to look sleek and not frumpy, and the front pleat may introduce some grainline issues that could be a problem. Also the shaped hem means that the inside of the dress will be seen at the hemline, which means I will have to come up with a clever way of finishing the inside. I think I'm up to it though. The next stage is to find and modify a pattern and make a toille.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

M5746 The Lucky Dress (I hope)

The pattern is McCalls M5476.

(Sorry about the unflatering shaft of light - it was a really sunny day).
Pattern Description:
Dresses A, B, C are slim-fitting and have lined bodice, front and back darts, back slit and back zipper; dress A has collar with pleats, self carrier and contrast tie ends; dress B has collar with pleats and cap sleeves; dress C has gathered sleeves and ribbon belt; lengths are 1" above mid-knee.

Pattern Sizing:
4-12. I cut a 12 at the top grading to a 14ish at the waist and hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, except for my minor changes.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
They were fine, I only glanced at them and used a slightly different construction method (because I lined the skirt and used an invisible zip).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I love the radiating darts mostly, although they don't really show up on my fabric as much as I thought they would.

The cap sleeves are cute too but I do get a tiny bit of armpit cleavage which isn't so great - but I think that's because I didn't do an fba.

Fabric Used:
Rayon poly lycra blend with a little stretch to it. I lined it in acetate.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I graded out at the waist and hips, lengthened the skirt to just below my knee, converted the back split to a vent and made a sway back alteration.

[As an aside, I have always had major trouble with the sway back thing. It is only during the construction of this dress that I finally worked out I needed to make my alteration above the waist and not below it. This is why skirts and pants fit fine but blouses always look a bit weird!]

Anyway, I also altered the collar significantly. I used the original pattern piece but cut it so I would have a finished width of an inch. When I sewed it in place onto the neckline I snipped the seam allowance on the left side of the front bodice so the band would fold back onto the bodice. I held it in place with three vintage buttons that someone gave me in return for hemming his jeans.

Oh, and I also lined the skirt.

I didn't do an fba and if anyone figures out how to do one on this style please let me know!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes and yes. I think this style would work for many occasions depending on the fabric chosen.

I wore this to work on a special day and I hope to find out soon if it's now my lucky dress!