Sunday, May 29, 2011

Carolina Herrera Dress Knock-Off Part 2

I have completed the skirt of the dress. It is basically a tapered pencil skirt with waistline darts, a center back seam and a center back seam vent for walking ease. I used the first pencil skirt pattern I came to when rooting through the patterns on my sewing table.
The dress fabric is a light to medium weight white linen, rather coarsely woven. Seam allowances on the wrong side of the garment show through to the right side. To prevent that I decided to underline the linen with Bemberg rayon in “ Camel “, a color that is very close to my skin tone. The linen and rayon were cut from the same pattern pieces. The rayon underlining was laid on the wrong side of the linen with all edges matching. It was basted to the linen, by machine, about ½ inch from the cut edges. Then the cut edges were finished with a serger. All darts and seaming was done by treating the rayon and linen as single layer of fabric.
I pinned up the hem when testing the fit of the skirt, but I will wait until it I attached to the bodice before actually completing the hem.

I wanted to talk a bit about how I did “research” on the inspiration dress. I like to have as many photos of an inspiration garment as possible; full size photos and up close photos of style details. I print the photos out on regular printer paper and study them. I often put grids over the model or garment and estimating the width of style details such as belts, collars, neck bands, etc. in proportion to the finished garment. I found this dress on the website, in the slide show of CH’s 2011 Spring RTW show. The largest photos of a garments on this site are found on the full screen view of the runway slide show. will not let you copy a photo to your laptop. But the photo can be snagged by using the Print Screen key on the keyboard, typically abbreviated as “PrtSc”. This key makes a copy of the screen, in bitmap format. The screen print can be pasted into photo editing software, word processing software, presentation software or even an email. I use Powerpoint because it allows me to crop off the headers, advertisements and other non-important stuff around the image, add text, arrows, etc. And if I plan to use the photo in a blog post, I save the PowerPoint file in a picture format(bitmap or jpeg. The best photos of designer clothes are often found on online retailer sites like Neiman Marcus and Berdorf Goodman In addition to describing the garment and listing fiber content, they have high resolution photos and a zoom function that lets you look at any part of the photo up close. These sites also prevent you from copying photos directly to you computer. To capture a detail shot, I zoom in on the part of the garment I am interested in and use the PrtSc function as described earlier. did not show any close-ups of this dress and I really wanted to see how the trim was applied to the bodice front. I could not find the dress on any online retailer site. But I did find a Youtube video of the fashion show it was in. YouTube Video The dress starts down the runway at about 2:50 min into the video. As the model turns at the end of the runway, the photographer zooms in on the bodice. I used the Prt Screen function to capture screen shots of the bodice, though they are not great quality. I know there is other software that allows you to pull frames from video’s, but I don’t have it. Fashion shows are also a good way to see a back view of the dress as the model walk back down the runway in the background of the next dress.

Looking at the picture above, I think I know how the ruching was applied to the neckline. I have made samples of three different applications methods and will share them with you next.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Carolina Herrera Dress Knock Off - Part 1

The highlight of my weekend was fabric shopping in the NYC Fashion District. It was a spur of the moment thing. There were some extra seats on the Northern VA ASG charter bus and P. and I grabbed them. The 4 hour bus trip seemed to fly as we talked to a great group of sewing enthusiasts that included fellow bloggers Jane and Michele. I made fabric purchases at Mood, Paron's and Metro Textiles. Kashi opened up Metro as a special favor for us. He is every bit as nice, and enabling, in person as other bloggers have reported. Most of my purchases was there.

There are two contests running over at that I am participating in; the Vintage Pattern and the Knock-Off contests. The Knock-Off contest ends on May 31, a month before the other one, so I set aside my vintage pattern to start on my knock-off.

It is this Carolina Herrera dress from her Spring 2011 RTW collection. I just love the use of the ruching and shaped band around the neckline. Yes, it is low cut (the first comment I hear from anyone I show it to) But it is not like there is decollete showing and I have the same lack of it as the model. I spent the early part of the month looking for similar fabrics. Based on zooming in on the photo, it looks like the main fabric is an off white silk jacquard overprinted with black floral sprays. The ruching is a sheer white fabric which is sewn over part of a solid black fabric band. The solid black band extends beyond the ruching and is covered by a strip of sheer black fabric. I had no luck finding a similar print silk and rejected the idea of overprinting or stamping a black floral motif on a jacquard silk. I decided to use this printed linen from Denver Fabrics. The print is in an olivy brown and purple, so the trim will be brown instead of black.

Duplicating the bodice design with flat pattern drafting was beyond my skills and available time. I remembered a quote by Tomoko Nakamichi, author of the Pattern Magic books. She said "When I was a student, I remember how difficult it was learning pattern making off the blackboard. I achieved the shapes I wanted by making miniatures (of the garment) out of paper, flattening them out by inserting lines and cutting them to make a pattern . It gave me a great feeling of satisfaction, but I knew that logically, it was a dubious way of going about it." Dubious for her, but it works for me. Another person who uses this technique is Shingo Sato. He calls it Transformational Reconstruction. Shingo has published a fantastic book by the same name and it comes with 2 CD's containing many of his Utube videos showing the technique.

Basically this is the technique:

1. Cut and join flat pieces of fabric to assemble into a three dimensional garment. I made a muslin of my bodice sloper with the center fronts extended as the fronts on this dress overlap.

2. Draw in the new seam lines on the three dimensional garment. I put the sloper on, and roughly drew in the style lines for the neck bands with a marker. Sorry the marker was green and hard to see in the photo below.

I took off the sloper and cleaned up the style lines. Note: the pieces do not lay flat because the sloper darts are still sewn in.

3. Take the three dimensional garment apart and flatten them, to get individual pattern pieces. I cut apart the sloper on the style lines and laid the fabric pieces flat. As you will see from the pictures below, the sloper bust darts and back shoulder darts disappeared and were incorporated into the shaping of the neck band because the edge of the band went through the points of the darts: basic dart manipulation. This technique works because the relationship between the flat pattern pieces and the three dimensional structure of the garment never changes.

I used the parts of the sloper as pattern pieces and cut the pieces out of fashion fabric. I sewed them together and was thrilled to see how good the muslin looks in the the neck and chest area.

Next Task - Working out the details of the ruching strip: the amount of gathering, shaping, and how to attach it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Field of Flowers

After such a long blog silence you probably wondered if I ever returned from vacation. I did. Vacation was fun and relaxing, once we got to our destination. We were flying south on the day that multiple tornadoes touched down in VA and NC, which resulted in late flights and missed connections. I have now added “spent a night in an airport” to my life experiences. We arrived in FLA a day late and 200 miles from our original destination city. Sadly I have no sewing related vacation adventures to share. The rental car unexpectedly sped up or veered off course any time I pointed out a fabric store. And all three males in the car chorused in unison “Fabric! You don’t need no stinking fabric”. This is a misappropriation of a line from one of their favorite movies, Blazing Saddles. The original is “Badges! We don’t need no stinking badges”.

Key West is very laid back. We spent our time at the beach, walking around town seeing the sights, sailing, or out on boat fishing. I did not catch any fish and Dad, I seemed to have inherited your quick to get seasick gene.

After three days there we drove up through the Keys to the South Beach area of Miami. South Beach is a whole different world. We stayed in a modern condo in one for the restored Art Deco buildings that faced the beach.
DH is great at finding wonderful vacation accommodations through VHBO (Vacation Rental Homes by Owner) sites. On a whim we Googled the condo owner’s name, which was on the lease, and discovered that Canadian hockey stars invest their money in FLA real estate. Here is a view from the balcony. The beaches were wide and the water warm.
At night there is a parade of folks, all dressed to impress. It was great people watching. Our last day we drove up north as far as Boca Raton, checking out the beaches and towns. The only sewing related thing I did on our vacation was reading. I took along the books Digital Fashion Illustration with Photoshop and Illustrator and Digital Textile Design I received Photoshop software as a Christmas present. Doctoring photos isn’t my thing but designing fabric prints and fashion illustrations really excites me.

For the past few weeks I have been working on the top and skirt from a vintage 1940 Vogue pattern.

But the computer gremlins struck the PC where I stored photos and the draft post on this project. So while my in-house geek squad moves the drives from the old PC to the new one, I'll jump to my latest project - McCall's 6286 blouse.

This is an over blouse with a wide open neckline. It is labeled “easy” but with many darts, a shaped front band, and a portrait collar, I would classify it as " medium". I always have to make shoulder alterations and I am pretty comfortable doing it to set in sleeves. But raglan sleeves like the ones on this blouse, never fit me well and intimidate me from a fitting perspective. I tried drafting raglan sleeves from my sloper and comparing them to the pattern, but the neck line of this blouse is so different that I had trouble establishing the neck point and shoulder point on the pattern for my comparison. So I decided to do a muslin of the sleeves. I wanted to do the alterations on the shoulder, where the raglan sleeve dart was located. So I slit the raglan sleeve pattern on the grain line from the dart point, creating front and back pieces. I added a seam allowance to the shoulder curve, sewed the sleeve pieces onto the bodice and pin fit the curve of the raglan sleeve from neck point to sleeve edge.

I marked the line of pins with magic marker and transferred the shape back into a one piece sleeve with shoulder dart. Success! Here you can see the difference in the original pattern and my sleeve pattern.

The fabric I used is a a medium weight cotton rayon print. The blouse flares out below the waist quite a bit.

I wore it with a belt as shown on the pattern and it looks okay. Without the belt defining the waistline, the blouse length cuts me in half. I am seriously considering shortening it by 2 inches and wearing it without the belt. It will give me a longer leg line. I thought the 10 acre field of dandelions behind our house ( Please Mr. Developer, mow this field before these flowers go to seed) was an appropriate location to photograph this floral top.