Sunday, February 19, 2012

Copy Cat - Roland Mouret

Here is the designer dress I have been trying to copy for the past couple weeks between distractions and road trips.

When this dress caught my eye on, I was really surprised to see it was from designer Roland Mouret. I associate Roland Mouret with very form fitting, architectural detailed, dresses like his famous 2006 Galaxy dress. Vogue pattern 8280 pattern was very similar to this dress and very popular among sewists.

More recently, Burda Nov 2011 #113 dress looks very similar to his Macha dress.

Burda Sept 2011 #131

My inspiration dress is from his Autumn Winter 2011 collection.
The description: Grey marled calf-length dress with a navy color-block at the hem. Graphic pattern detailing at the sleeves. Shrug effect around the back creates an abstract cap sleeve. Material detailing at the back comes to a V at the waist. Cowl neck with black trim. Slim fit. Slit at the back.

I really like this dress, the work appropriate colors, the linear silhouette, the sleeve and back details. I decided to duplicate it.  I enjoy  the process of duplicating  designer  garments  - sourcing the fabrics, finding appropriate patterns or drafting my own,   and working through the design and construction steps. It isn’t always easy and I make mistakes as you will see below. It is a lot like solving a puzzle.

I chose a basic sleeveless, scoop neck dress pattern to duplicate the dress. The pattern is an OOP New Look pattern designed for woven fabrics. 
The original dress has no dart shaping in the waist hip area. The model doesn’t appear to have much shape in that area either. But I do and belting excess fabric in the waist area never looks good on me. My bust is very close to my hips; visualize the area between sausage links. So I chose a pattern with darts in that area do get a sleeker look.

The fabric of the inspiration dress was gray and navy wool knit, with a wool, poly, lycra knit for the upper back/ sleeve area. My fabrics, all from Hancock fabrics, were gray and navy ponte knit blends , and a striped poly novelty knit. Ponte knits, especially those with very little lycra, can be treated as a wovens. My plan was to make the basic sleeveless dress, and then figure out how to make the back/sleeve piece and attach it to the dress.

Band Length – I wanted to duplicate the proportions of the navy band to total dress length of the inspiration dress. To determine what that was, I held a ruler up to the photograph and measured the length of the band and the total length of the dress. It  band was about 1/5th of the total dress length. I also looked at where the top and bottom of the band hit the model. It looked like a couple of inches above her knees and a couple inches below.  My dress length from shoulder point to about 4 inches below my knee is 47”. 1/5 of 47 is 9.4 inches. I rounded up to 10 inches for the navy band length.  

On this project, there were a number of issues to work through. They include the following:

Terrible Taper - Being a bit lazy, I made my original navy band without side seams. In other words, one piece seamed at center back. But the dress  was supposed to tapered from hip to hem.  Not a good look to have the taper end at the top of the contrast band.  I removed the one piece band and created one with side seams so the taper extended from hip to hem.

Neckline Nemesis - The pattern back neckline was scooped. Despite looking at the inspiration dress photograph back view countless times, it didn’t occur to me that the back neckline of the dress was much higher than the pattern neckline. Until I started drafting the collar pattern! To fill in the back neckline so that it ended higher on my neck, I drafted and sewed in an insert. It is covered by the yoke fabric.

Collar Collapse - My first collar draft was for a tube shape to be folded over in the middle. Because this collar was on a deep front scooped neckline, gravity pulled it down in center front, and the bottom edge of the collar did not cover the neckline seam in the shoulder area.

First Collar Pattern

Collar does not cover seam
The second draft was longer at outer most edge so when it was folded and draped, the bottom edge covered the seam.

Second Collar Pattern

Collar covers seam

Shrugging Shoulders - The back yoke of this dress extends into shrug like sleeves. Looks simple doesn’t it?  Argg!   I tried drafting it, and draping it several times with no success. We are talking several wasted days. Back to the inspiration photo I went, but this time I enlarged the photograph in the shoulder area and noticed a big tuck/unsewn dart that started at the raglan seam and released at the shoulder point. This was a big ”A Ha” moment for me. I draped the yoke/sleeves using the tuck and had instant success.
Draping the Shrug Sleeves

Draping shrug

Draping back of shrug
It almost like taking a raglan sleeve pattern and moving the shoulder dart from the neckline to the front. This is the resulting pattern piece.
Shrug/sleeve pattern piece

armhole facing
Unique features – the collar is a single layer and folds over so both sides of center back seam are seen – To make it attractive from both the front and back side I used a flat felled seam.
flat felt seam on collar


dress back

Accessories: When I showed my husband the website  picture of the dress, he said" I like those shoes"

So I explained about Louboutin shoes, red soles and prices.  He just grinned and repeated "I like those shoes"  Silly boy! I do too, but they are now longer available and I wouldn't spend that much for shoes anyway.
Louboutin's would have looked great

Miss Ashley jumped into the picture taking session, but only because it had started to sleet and she wanted to go into the nice warm house.  It started snowing shortly afterwards and has continued to come down all afternoon.  Since it was 68 degrees F yesterday, it melts as soon as it lands. Crazy weather!
Me and Miss Ashley

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Road Trip Report

Last weekend, my friend Paula and I took a fabric/fashion road trip, traveling south west to the cities of Charlotte and Asheville, in the state of  North Carolina.
Road Trip route
Stops included several independent fabric stores, a thread outlet, snoop shopping at Neiman Marcus and Bellagio, and a museum exhibit of Chanel garments.  
Friday morning, bright and early, we headed to Charlotte, NC, a 4.5 hour drive south west from Richmond, VA. Our first stop was Charlie Rector’s thread store.
Long Wood Mills

That is Mr. Rector on the bench in front. He warned us he was a little hard of hearing and slow moving But he was definitely a charmer, with lots of stories about the southern textile industry.
Bench Requirements

My aunts and grandmother worked in textiles mills, near St. Pauls, NC, in the 50’s and 60’s. I remember going on a factory tour with my aunt and being awed by the complex and fast moving machinery weaving fabric. Those mills are long gone now.
Aisles and Aisles of Thread
This store stocks massive quantities of serger and embroidery threads at excellent prices. I bought serger thread in colors I can’t find locally, and some heavier thread to use in the serger loopers for edge finishes. I also enjoyed looking at some old machinary in the back room, that winds 6 individual strands of thread into a twisted cord. I want one of these!
Cord Winder
The second stop that day was Mary Jo's cloth store. This little door opens into a 32,000 sq. ft. fabric store in Gastonia, NC.

It had an impressive amount of quilting and home dec. fabric and many beautiful bridal trims and laces, but not much of the high end silk and wool garment fabric I was hoping to find. I bought some solid colored 100% wools for slacks, which were a good value for $10/yard.
That evening, after dinner we headed to the designer department at the nearby Neiman Marcus store and happily touched and examined the garments until the lights dimmed to indicate the store was closing.
The next day started with a 2 hour drive to Asheville, NC. Rain and fog shrouded the mountains during our trip, but the sky cleared when we arrived in town. After a quick lunch in one of the village eateries, we stopped in at Bellagio A store full of art to wear garments and hand crafted jewelry. So may beautiful garments and embellishment ideas. Their web site has wonderful pictures for inspiration.

From there it was a short walk to Waechter's Fine Fabrics.
Waechter's Fabric Store

   I often browse their web site and admired the fabrics. They are gorgeous and very pricey. Definitely above my "have to have" price point. The button selection was awesome, and they carry many of the independent pattern lines. I really enjoyed seeing the sample garments made from their fabrics. All are pictured under the inspiration tab on the web site. After seeing this sample garment of the Decades of Style Matinee Blouse, I had to buy the pattern. When I lifted up the bottom edge of the front to examine the hem, I saw a sticky note on the dress form with this written on it. "yes, you will have to wear leggings" Hee Hee

Decades of Style - Matinee Blouse
As we walked out of the store I picked up a brochure for a Fabric, Fiber, Bead Trail which listed other area shops selling beads, fabric, and yarn. With the help of Paula's GPS we found and visited several of the shops in the brochure. I purchased some vintage fabrics from Kitch Fabrics and we headed back to Charlotte after a long day.
On the last day of our trip we went to the Charlotte Mint Musuem’s exhibit: Chanel - Designs for the Modern Woman. On view through 26 February 2012. The Chanel garments were from the 1980 to 2010 time frame and there was only 18 of them. But those few garments had a wealth of details to examine and marvel over. And they were displayed in a way that we could get very close to them, as long as we did not touch. I took lots of pictures, but I also did some line drawings to help me remember some of the seaming which was so well pressed, it was difficult to see in the photos.

Almost all the garments had princess seams of some sort, most of them originating from the shoulder. I think this is the key to the Chanel silhouette and fit. Several of the jackets had the three piece sleeves which Chanel is known for. And the matching of plaids, seam lines and lace motifs were impeccable.

hand sewn whip stitches affix fine silk tissue ribbon to edge

Silk net lace over wool.  Notice the matching

Chanel printed on every closure -all 7 of them!

Close up of beaded button

The car travel time passed quickly thanks to the two music play lists that Paula's DH created for our trip. Charlotte1 for the trip down and Charlotte2 for the trip back. Each song was a surprise. They triggered memories; "I saw that group in concert when I was 17." Or "Aww, that's so sweet!" moments - a song sung at Paula and Gerry's wedding. Or "I can't remember my PIN, but I remember the name of the one hit wonder group that did this song 30 years ago!"  moment.

The trip was great fun. We saw a lot and bought a little. Now I really want to do some sewing.