Self Drafted

I recently had the fun of sewing costumes for an adult dance group.  About half a dozen costumes, mostly for men.  Now, I don't have a lot of experience sewing for men, but I was under the general impression that men had less fitting issues than women.  This did not match up to my experience.  Of the 4 blokes that I was sewing for, one was lanky and lean, one was short and stocky, another had the broad, muscly chest and narrow hips and the last one had more of a rotund shape.  The broad chested, narrow hipped one was the hardest to get right, and in the end I created a "bust" dart from mid shoulder to his pecs.  3 out of 4 of them had much thicker necks than the Burda pattern that I was using to make their jackets, but perhaps that is a dancer thing?

Whilst I am on the topic of sewing for men, this morning my hubby informed me that his orange work shirts were infinitely more comfortable than his yellow ones.  That would be the Hard Yakka ones being more comfortable than the King Gee ones.  Well, I was delighted to hear it, because there is nothing I love more than a bit of pattern comparison, to understand why some clothes work better than others.   My quick investigations revealed that the Hard Yakka one had a yoke, with a couple of pleats in the lower back to fit onto the yoke.  The King Gee one went for a wider back, with no pleats.  The Hard Yakka one has a higher underarm, and what looks like a more fitted armscye, resulting in a shorter shoulder seam, and narrower chest and back.  I guess the King Gee shirt is quicker to sew, with less detail and less curves.  The sleeve length on the Hard Yakka is the perfect length.  Apparently everybody finds the orange shirts more comfortable than the yellow ones, but when pressed for details, I could not find out who "everybody" was.  I was only asking to determine whether different body shapes prefer different shirts.  Maybe I'll cut up one of the Hard Yakka ones and make a pattern from it.

Back onto the costumes.  I also made a cat suit for one girl and then part of a wedding dress for another.  The wedding dress was the most fun because it was a bit unusual and required a lot more thinking on my part.

As I was playing around with the wedding dress, Pam posted a blog entry about the term "self-drafted" (I can't seem to link to the actual entry, but it was dated 5/2/2012).  I try not to take too much notice of opinions on the internet, as the world is a big place filled with all sorts and everybody is entitled to an opinion, but this post did put me on the defensive a little.  Perhaps because I use the term "self-drafted" a lot.  Well, this costume does not meet Pam's definition of self-drafted, because I did not start with my own blocks, but I'm still calling it that.  I'll let you know what I did and you can decide for yourself.

I was given a photo of another costume and a raw silk overcoat that had some similar features to the desired costume.  This overcoat was made in a woven fabric, but I thought I could get the costume to work better in a lycra.

  • I measured the dancer.  Bit of a bummer, I did not realise that the tape measure I was using started from each end, and that the dancer's measurements were all somewhere in the middle of the tape, and sometimes I read from one side of the tape and sometimes the other, and I am always a bit nervous measuring the dancers, so I was not thinking clearly and did not discover this until I got home and had a strange set of measurements written down.  Nothing like adding to the challenge!

  • I took a Kwiksew pattern for a basic tank swimsuit.
  • I marked on the line for the bottom of the bodice, a little below the pattern indication for the high hip.
  • I took a basic bra pattern, and combined with my knowledge of typical waist-to-under bust measurements, I drew the cup lines from the bra pattern onto the front swimsuit pattern. 
  • I put in a seam line from the top of the bra cup to the side seam.  I did this because I don't usually have fabric for muslins when making costumes.  The lycra I was using was thicker and heavier than most, so testing the pattern in a a regular lycra may not have given me an accurate result.  By breaking the front up into more pieces, I would have less of the bodice to re-cut if something went wrong.
  • I drew on the the style lines for the upper front bodice.  I had to take into account the fact that the basic swimsuit had bust darts, and the bust section of my costume was cut out.
  • I split the lower section of the bodice into vertical sections.  This not only added style lines, but it also meant that the lower centre front bodice could be lined with a woven, holding the bust cups in the right shape, whilst allowing the lower side panels to be made of lycra, giving the required stretch for dancing.
  • I took the back of the bodice and added princess seam style lines.  I then moved some of the curvature of the side seam to the princess seam.
  • I tried the bodice on the dancer.  I had to take some length out of the upper front bodice.  I re-cut this piece.
  • The armhole and neck edge were bound.  The underbust cups were held in shape with bra wire channeling.
  • I read about drafting peplums.  It seems that there are 2 general approaches. The first is basically a short circle skirt.  The second is to take a skirt pattern, flare out the darts, split the skirt and flare it out a bit more.  Being lazy, I went with the circle skirt.  I put the bodice on my dressform (at a bit of a stretch...I am just a wee bit bigger than the dancer).  I pinned on the peplum but was not happy with the drape.  I played around with it a bit, moving the waist seam on the peplum and the side seams of the peplum until I was happy with the drape.  I marked the shape of the peplum at the centre front.  The peplum hem was left raw.
  • I tried the costume on the dancer.  I had to let out the lower back side seams a little.  All seams but the side seams were overlocked.  I had only basted the side seams to allow for fitting and also allow the costume to be adjusted for other dancers in other performances.
Dancer and dance teacher were both happy with the costume.  This dress was worn over the top of a red lycra dress.

On the way home from watching one of the performances, my daughter's friend commented that the wedding dress was her favourite costume...and she didn't even know that I made it.  Couldn't be happier than that!


  1. anngallagher14119 July 2012 at 02:43

    hello any chance of any pictures of the costumes please ?

  2. I am pleased the costume was worn over something, I was beginning to wonder what sort of show it was...lol! You are very game, taking on such ambitious costumes

  3. Sewing nerd you are. How funny that you took the time to investigate your husbands complaints.

    Also, I think it is a good thing that the bride costume wearer wore something underneath. Otherwise that would be a funny type of play to watch. I'd also like to see some photographs of these costumes.

  4. Maybe instead of self-drafted, "custom designed?" Sounds more expensive too. :-)

    1. Oh, I like that. "Custom designed" it is!

  5. Fun post---I too am happy to hear this was an overdress!

  6. Thank goodness for the underdress. Custom designed sounds nice.

  7. The costume sewing sounds interesting. I like custom designed too. I think if you are formally trained, terms like "self drafted" have particular meaning that does not carry through, or have any significance at all to most people. To me, it does not matter what sort of block you use to start, all the changes you make to a pattern are self drafted - because no one else is drafting them for you! If I was a pattern designer with a certificate to prove it, I might feel differently about this, but your designs sound self drafted to me.

  8. How fun! You must be sewing up a storm! It'd be so fun to learn different bodies as you are doing. I think you are definitely drafting this dress, using personalized blocks. It's your design... My two cents.

  9. Wow, you are brave to tackle dance costumes! And I was amused by your men's shirts story. Obviously quicker to sew does not necessarily mean better fit.

    I can understand the difference of opinions regarding the term "self-drafted". It doesn't tell us "where the block came from". Do all professional drafters make a block from scratch every time? I really don't know, but wouldn't think so, especially for mass-produced clothing lines.

  10. That does sound like a challenge...
    I checked out that link you provided, and (phew) found that my own use of the term "self-drafted" seems to pass her criteria! since I use my own sloper that I developed from my own measurements with the help of Pattern Magic illustrations. But I hate it when sewing bloggers get all Nazi on other bloggers, as in: oh, you "can't" do that... etc Each to their own.