Friday, February 28, 2014

The Frock - Darted Sloper (2.1) in Knit

More drafting!

Today we are deconstructing The Frock.

First, some brag shots to show you the dress itself and all its lines.

These photos make me laugh because this dress is so not-me. I made it to wear to a relative's wedding last year. I could've worn pants and boots, or a random skirt and blouse, but it was a summer wedding and summer in Minnesota is precious enough to want to dress up for. Also, every now and then, just for the practice, I like to kick myself out of my comfort zone: I'd never sewn-by-draping before AND I don't wear frocks. Two birds killed with the one stone.

What's even funnier than me in this dress is how I started sewing it when I didn't actually know what it was going to look like ultimately. Hahahaha! I started out with just a vague idea that it would be a cross-over wrap front with a pleated tummy panel, sleeves (didn't know what kind) and some kind of drapey skirt (didn't know what kind). The entire process was "draft, cut, sew, fit, and take a break of several days to meditate on how to salvage the mess". Nothing like living dangerously.

Drafting and sewing it was easy, but it was not an instant-fit-from-sloper sort of garment. Reasons:
  1. The wrap design means there are fixed seams (like the side ones) and there are moving pieces. And one does not know how the moving pieces will lay on each other until they are on the body, with the fixed seams in place.
  2. As said, this dress needed a combination of draping and drafting in order to get the fit I wanted. This means that I drafted the basic pattern, then added all kinds of extra length and width and curves here and there, cut it out and then gathered and pinned like there was no tomorrow. There are no darts at all in the front bodice. The draping was to compensate for their absence, while creating a clean silhouette.
  3. It is in knit fabric, which means there is the lovely extra consideration of the stretch factor. Which one can take into account if one wants in the drafting process, provided the garment is designed to uniformly stretch everywhere. And provided that one actually wants one's squidgy bits accentuated by a tightly-stretched garment. No, thank you. Instead, this dress was designed to have no stretch across the upper bodice (at least in the outermost layer), diagonal gathers in lieu of armscye darts and horizontal pleats in lieu of both the vertical waist darts and contoured side seams.
  4. The majority of the stretch was confined to the lining. Specifically, the lining was deliberately made from a hold-in-the-squidgy-body-bits fabric. I used swimsuit lining because I was too lazy to leave the house to buy powernet. 
  5. Because the outer and lining layers were performing completely different functions (toga on the outside, leotard on the inside), the two layers were from different patterns. The lining layer was cut as a fitted garment (directly from the French dart sloper) and the outer layer was cut from a combination of the French dart sloper and dartless slopers, plus draping. So draped-dartless on the outside and fitted-darted on the inside. 
This dress is interesting to dissect for two reasons:

One, it's an example of one of how to make a shaping dress. Any garment that shapes our post-baby waistlines is a good garment to learn to make, right? Even if you hate the design, the techniques and principles are a bit helpful, I thought. Specifically, with appropriate fabric,

  • gathers can be made tight for support, angled for a darted effect and loose for draping and decoration.
  • a lining can be used for support and shaping, and not only to restore modesty to a thin outer fabric or conceal seam allowances.
  • its weight can have a happy streamlined effect on the body. Heavy fabrics e.g. linen, wool, jersey, rayon, hang on one's body and don't ride up as one moves. Working with knit means that as the garment is stretched horizontally across one's body, it also shortens vertically to compensate. The weight of a heavy knit (or the additional fabric of the skirt of the dress) pulls the bodice fabric back down so that the stretch is four-way and proportional. The overall effect are clean, smooth lines.

Two, it's an example of how to flit between dartless and darted. Or of how to use both darted and dartless in the same location on your body. Or of how to use the effects of darted in a dartless way.

This all sounds very vague, so let's get specific with some diagrams.

Beginning with the back - because it is the most straightforward - here is a sketch to show how The Frock's back bodice was derived from the regular block/sloper. It is just the top half, with a little extension below the waist to match the front's tummy panel. The back pieces of both the outer layer and the lining layer are identical.

Here is an overview sketch of the front drafts,

which we will examine in sections.

First, we took the French Dart Sloper and cropped off the portion we need, which is the top half, plus the region of the abdomen and hips. 

We kept the armscye bust dart (1), to ensure that the armscye fit snugly. However, we didn't leave it as a dart, turning it instead into gathers because they are more consistent with the style of this dress.

This snug armscye, when set with a sleeve, 

now does not gape.

We removed the french dart and vertical waist darts and, in their place, accordian-folded the abdomen and hip region into a high-recovery panel (2)

We also contoured the resulting side seams inwards (3) to compensate for the darts. This principle was explained in an earlier post in which we created a dartless sloper by removing the darts from a darted sloper. 
Case in point: see red arrow - that topmost pleat/gather is at an angle, impersonating a french dart. And if you scroll back up to the brag shots at the beginning of this post, you'll be able to see how those gathers aren't all horizontal, instead draping at angles across the underbust area, duplicating the effect of bust darts.

The newly-undarted front bodice was then ready to be adapted into its wrap halves.

We slashed diagonally across the chest as shown (4) in mirror image to create the two layers of the composite front. The outer layer remains as is, but the inner layer gets its tummy panel portion cropped off in favor of a slightly dropped waist (5) that matches the back draft. This leaves just one, outermost layer for tummy-control duties; the bulk of two layers' worth of gathers would have nullified this effect altogether.

Next, we drafted the lining of the front bodice. 

To match the outer garment layer, the draft was again slashed across the chest. Because this fabric (swimsuit lining) was so stretchy, the armscye dart could be removed (6) without danger of gaping, and the bottom of the armscye raised to compensate. To achieve a streamlined fit, the waist darts (7) were preserved. 

Here are some photos of The Frock turned inside out, so you can see this streamlined effect, even while the lining is compressing all the layers of gathers and pleats underneath. 

There is a simple facing on the diagonal neckline.

As mentioned earlier, the back lining has the same vertical waist darts as the outer back,

with one slight difference - the back lining darts are full-length (i.e. they come up to the shoulder blades) for maximum support and streamlining,

while the back outer darts are very short-  just enough to take in the ease in the small of the back while the side seams do the rest. 

Then, the dress was assembled. The 4 layers of the front bodice and the 2 layers of the back bodice were sewn together, tested for fit, and then attached to a semi-circular skirt (and its lining). I toyed with various skirt styles, including the fail-safe A-line. Eventually, the semi-circular won - in spite of it making me look even shorter than I am- because its drape seemed to flow with the rest of the dress.

Finally, the sleeves. I tried various, more streamlined styles and eventually gave in and ruched it. Ruching is too fancy for me, personally,

 but it goes with the rest of this dress, so I let it be.

The top of the sleeve is ruched with elastic

 and the bottom gathered in place with pleats.

Here is a full-frontal shot of the dress, which I couldn't take while wearing it,

(or the straight-on back shot, for that matter,

not to mention a three-quarter back view without twisty contortions).

And did you notice there is no zipper? Whoo. But the best part? I can scrunch it in a ball and throw it in an overnight bag (along with my pearls). Frock or no, this dress is definitely growing on me. I never would've guessed.


  1. Such detail! And it all came together so beautifully!

  2. Beautiful dress! The fit is perfect. Love the fabric too.

  3. Wish I could follow this in a way to make use of....I admire what you did here! Definitely not garment sewing 101 -- so please keep this whole blog thing around for lots of years until I get there! ;)

  4. This is one flattering Frock. I love this kind of post from you. I always learn so much.

  5. Your dress turned out beautifully, and you look fantastic in it. I especially like the last photo in the initial set of "brag shots." And easy care? even better. So impressed that you designed it yourself!

  6. I like it! I definitely doesn't strike me as "you", but I agree, it's fun sometimes to make something just for the challenge of it. Do you think you will get much more wear from it?

  7. Oh its just lovely, and the explanation is perfect. Its nice to see great fitting clothing again. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Your so nice and pretty!
    Your dress is beautifull!

  9. I'm sooo glad that I discovered your blog!!
    LOVE all your posts that I've read so far. The tutorials you shared, they are absolutely gold mine to me!!!
    Agree with mailergoat, please keep this whole blog running for many years!

  10. I posted a link to this post at patternreview - there were some very appreciative comments there about how clearly you explained it. (Have you thought about writing a book???)
    Here's the PR link so you can read the nice things people said -

    1. Mel.J: Thank you for the link and shoutout!

  11. WOW!
    You're a genius, and I've been sewing quite awhile. I'm probably old enough to be your mother. Well done!!!


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