Volumes of style

There's plenty of volume out there in fashion world, and I thought I'd like to get some of it...but the tulip skirt is not for me. Instead I designed a dress with soft pleats and big sleeves.

My inspiration began with this fabulous dress, which I picked up in a op-shop in Fremantle about 10 years ago. Originally the dress was ankle length, with the flowers increasing in density towards the bottom of the dress. I cut it off above the knees. Over the years I have resewed almost all the seams as the old thread wore out and now the fabric is sadly disintegrating.

This dress has an interesting yoke feature. If you look closely, you can see that the yoke line connects 2 French darts horizontally at the bust level. I wanted to incorporate this in my design.

Here is a sketch of my plan. The yoke area is defined by 2 French darts. I pleated the area below the yoke to add volume. The yoke controls the colume so that the dress doesn't end up looking like a potato sack!

Originally, I planned an A-line dress, but my final design ended up with straight skirt sides. I found that the illusion of volume was much more flattering than volume itself.

The steps to create my pattern were
1. Begin with an Easy Fitting Bodice Block (see "Metric Pattern Cutting" by Winifred Aldrich)
2. Move the bust dart to a curved French dart, ending near the hip bone.
3. Connect the tops of the bust dart and separate a yoke at the top of the dress front.
4. Draw in a square neckline on the yoke piece. I used an existing dress to determine the length and width of my square neckline.
5. Add width to the centre front of the bodice section below the front yoke. I added 5 cm to the CF of the top of the dress (ie total 10 cm extra width) narrowing to an extra 2.5 cm at the CF of the bottom of the dress (ie total 5 cm extra width at the bottom of the dress).
6. Pleat or gather the front bodice. I used 6 angled pleats towards the CF (ie 3 each side). The angled pleats created a little more volume than flat pleats.
7. I added a total of 1 cm ease to each of the side seams in the hip area (ie extra 4 cm total ease).
8. Add back waist darts (I pinned these on my body form).
9. Shorten the sleeve block to ~ 8 cm below the elbow, including a 2 cm casing.
10. Add 25 cm flare to the sleeves over 5 sections (ie 5 X 5 cm flare)
11. Change the shape of the bottom edge of the sleeve so that it is slightly shorter at the back and slightly longer at the front.

And that's it! It may not be haute couture, but I'm feeling rather pleased with myself.

The dress was made up in a silk charmeuse from EmmaOneSock. The shiny side of the charmeuse is on the inside.

I liked my muslin so much that I put in the second sleeve to wear as a house dress. The seams are only basted and there are no facings, but ironically, I may end up wearing it more than the real thing. I am planning a hip-length, sleeveless version to wear as a blouse, probably in a plain fabric to emphasisze the pleat detailing. I think I would need to take in the side seams under the arms and include an invisible zip in the side seam for a sleeveless top. I would also like to make a retro-print version, maybe using contrasting fabrics for the yoke and bodice, to throw on over togs for summer.

And after it was all done, I saw this photograph in a magazine...a Lisa Ho silk shift with big sleeves for $459...about $400 more than my version.

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