Let's do the back first. We began with the basic/foundation block and used it as is from the waist up. From the waist down, we chopped it off about abdomen- level, flared it very slightly from the waist to the hem (see red arrows), and curved the hem up at the side seams. We also kept the back darts.
Nothing dramatic there. It is completely symmetrical and very straightforward draft. No fit issues, either - the back sits on the body as the foundation block/sloper would, even in its muslin stage.
From a drafting point of view, the qipao is an interesting garment for many reasons.
One of these reasons is its asymmetry. By that, I don't mean that its hem slants lower on one side of the body, or that one sleeve is different than the other. Instead, I mean that the front pieces are different on the right and left side in the draft. You might be familiar with cross-wrap dresses, whose mirror-image front pieces cross over the body and cannot be laid out along the center front fold. See sketch below of a typical cross-wrap bodice (ignore the numbers; they are for another tutorial).
However, they are still mirror-image symmetrical and the left and right pieces can be cut out with the typical double-layer layout of fabric. In addition, their symmetry implies that they have identical darts, and any fit issues can be easily corrected by replicating the adjustments on both pieces equally.
The front qipao drafts, by contrast, cannot be laid out along the center front fold AND are not mirror images of each other. The sketch below shows how this draft evolves from the front french dart foundation block. The red piece is almost the full front bodice, with one shoulder chopped off. That shoulder is "replaced" in blue, as an inner layer,
Since we're on the topic of darts, let me digress a bit and talk about curved darts. Everyone knows straight darts, right? They are the triangular/diamond-shaped pinches of fabric you sew shut to take in ease in localized hollow spots.
Curved darts allow you to shape those hollow spots more precisely. They are especially useful around rounded portions of the body e.g. the bust region.
Here are three kinds of curved darts you might use often:
We use concave darts to curve the fabric around a mounded area, like the side of the bust. Well-endowed folks, take note: your garments should always have an armscye dart, because it shapes your armsyce around your assets more fully than a french dart or a sole waist dart. In addition, very well-endowed folks might enjoy making this armscye dart a concave one,
so it curves around the side of your bust more gently and does not peak in a nippley-looking dimple.
|bird's eye view of bust area|
When sewn shut, the dart still looks like a straight line, but the fabric has been pinched in a curved way behind it.
We use convex darts to pinch more fabric in a particularly hollow area, like the region immediately under the bust. See this hollow underbust area on Fleur?
Side view - that area is not a straight ramp:
A convex dart takes in more fabric at the apex of the dart where the body is hollower,
to produce a more closely-fitted profile
Like the concave dart, the fabric is pinched in a curved way but the dart itself looks like a straight line when it is sewn closed.
Princess seams are two darts joined together. The kind I commonly use originates from the armscye. At least one of the darts gets curved in the process of merging. See in the sketch above how that armscye dart curves downwards to meet the apex of the vertical waist dart? In addition to the fabric now being pinched in a curved way, the closed dart itself is also a curved line:
Let's talk about the collar next.
That mandarin collar is just a stand collar. There is nothing special about it. If you've ever sewn a shirt collar, you'll know there are two parts to it: one is the stand, which is the erect ring of stiff fabric that holds the actual pointy collar up.
All you need to know about drafting stand collars are
1 they have to fit around your neckline.
So measure half your neckline from center back to center front, and make sure the bottom edge of your stand collar (drafted in half) matches that exactly.
2 they are curved.
The more closely you want them to slant inwards to hug your neck, the more curved they should be. See my collar draft below - the bottom edge rises away from the horizontal reference line quite a bit (shown by black arrow).
3 use indirect interfacing.
When you assemble a stand collar, it is best to have three layers:
- The outer fabric
- The inner fabric (lining)
- The interfacing: a light fusible (no SA) ironed directly onto a piece of cotton (with SA) to create a stiff, thin and SEPARATE sew-in layer. Do not iron the fusible interfacing directly onto either of the lining or outer fabric layers, or you will get rolls, puckering, or uncomfortable stiffness as the collar curls around your neck.
Finishing up now: there is a separating zipper along the side seam.
Now that the bodice is finished, all that are left are the sleeves.
Traditionally, qipaos and qipao blouses have cap sleeves. These can be integrated into the draft by extending the shoulders out, or set into the armscyes.
Cap sleeves are not for everyone because they cut off at what is (for most people) not the most flattering part of one's upper arm. I've heard it said that unless you are a teenager, or have exceptionally toned or skinny arms, avoid cap sleeves and opt for a slightly lower sleeve hem.
I'm working on a separate post all about sleeves and angles and stuff like that, so for now I'll just show you some pictures and say two quick things:
Muslin version Final version
1 Always obtain a superior armscye before attempting to set in a sleeve. Otherwise, your sleeve, no matter how beautifully drafted, will be compromised. Check out the muslin armscye in the photos above - it was too large. An armscye that is too large restricts movement (counter-intuitive, I know) because it pulls on the sleeve when one moves one's arm. A smaller armscye pulls less on the sleeve and allows more freedom of movement.
2 The shallower the angle of set of a sleeve, the more movement it allows, especially with fabric that has very little give. Translation: a more horizontally-lying sleeve (final version) is more comfortable than a more vertically-lying sleeve (muslin version).
Before we end, let me encourage you not to be afraid that unstretchy fabric + a snug fit = uncomfortable or impossible to move in. All you need to do is fit your armscye and bust well and you'll be surprised at how much movement you can manage.
We're finally at the end now!
I made lots of little changes to the original draft in order to get the right fit for this style of garment and the fabric I was working with. In order to understand the difference all those adjustments made to the final version,
you have to remember what the muslin looked like:
See you back for the Frog Button Tutorial!
(Or the Sleeves Tutorial. Whichever I'm in the mood to tackle first).