Monday, May 9, 2016

Liza Dress

This is an excellent excuse to comment on this beautiful book:

Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress 

The edition is gorgeous, as it is the concept, the pictures and, as I have been able to test, the patterns. At least this one is accurate and becoming. The belt piece seems to be missing though. Nothing is perfect. And I do not like the instructions. As in most commercial patterns from the UK and the US, they are based in mass production, but they are not, in my opinion, suitable for home sewing. For me, home sewing is about doing slowly, carefully and as accurately as possible, fitting and becoming to our unique body. So, the approach I prefer goes preferably toward haute couture than mass production. Of course, that is a personal option, but let us see an example.

The instructions of this dress, which pattern includes seam allowances to be sewn in the machine with only pins holding it together, direct us to sew the open sleeve heads or the neck band to the bodice, with shoulder seams sewn only. If I had done that, the sleeve heads would have started 2cm down my shoulder points. The neck band was in place, but I had also to correct the tightness of it.
Anyways, as I explained in many other projects, I follow the system my mum taught me. She learned it from the 60s seamstress, as did most of the girls in Catalonia at that time, as part of their preparation from becoming good homemakers. My aunts and neighbours, now in their 60s and 70s, share the same approach to sewing. As I have been studying in recent years, their method is close to haute couture in the construction of the piece, although most of them took their flat paper patterns from magazines, mostly Burda. In couture they mostly drape to construct the exclusive patterns.

So the first step is to take the 1.5cm seam allowance off the pattern, after tracing it in tissue paper. There was some modifications to do to the pattern, since this was one of the variations on a Liza Minelly dress.

So you must trace the pattern, give more flare to the skirt and add some sleeves from another famous frock. The different dresses and their variations have interchangeable pieces and sizes, so that gives you lots of different dresses. I love this about this book because it teaches you to work with paper patterns.

To make sure the pattern was near accurate, I put it over the dressform. The only seemingly problem was that the bodice's waist was short. When I tried the dress on, the waist was in place because the fabric weight puts it into place. The author won my respect on that one.

As always, I marked the pattern pieces with tailor tucks, and basted all the dress (only one sleeve) together for the first fitting. There I realized the sleeves hanged low. The rest, including the waist placement, the neck cut, width, length, and sizing was just perfect. Amazing. All the patterns in the book are for a C cup, so I did not even have to do the FBA as usual. HURRAY!!!
After checking it fitted me, I finished the neck band first. Here I had to tighten it more to prevent it from gaping. Baste, sew and topstitch with the double needle. Best wrap dress neck opening I've ever sewn, thank to the book instructions this time. The lengthwise band is such a good idea to keep the neck in shape... but of course we have to thank Diane von Furstenberg here for this design.

I chose this viscose-wool from Stone fabrics, which is natural, warm, perfect thickness, hang and drape. Next season I will have a red one, probably.
After closing the bodice I put in the closed sleeves, mounting them 2 cm higher. They are fine now.
I sewed the skirt pieces together and attach it to the finished bodice, with its belt and all.
Jersey does not fray, so I left all the hem allowances cut at 1 cm and raw. I hand sewed the skirt bottom and side hems, as well as the sleeve hems.
Once finished, I realized another small fault of the pattern that I had not realized before. The back neck was too high and wide. The wide issue might be due to the band sewing, but I have to take some neck off from the paper pattern for next time. A couple of cm at least. Lacking a better solution, I solved the excessive width with a dart.
For the rest, a wonderful dress and a wonderful wool. I will definitely sew more patterns from it in the near future.

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