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Kate’s outfit, part 3: final fitting

Holy crap, how did this crop up so soon??! It’s only 2 weeks till the wedding now, so it’s the perfect time to have Kate try on the final garments and I can make a few tiny, almost imperceptible tweaks before I drop the perfected package back to her… or at least it would be, in a parallel universe where things work out just peachy the first time around.

But I don’t think I live in this peachy universe, because as it turned out I hit a few issues which meant showing Kate options to choose from, and of course that means I’ll have to implement the final choices after the fitting. Plus, as I was constructing the various pieces of this outfit it became increasingly obvious that the fabric was far too see-through. The facings and seam allowances were glowing through something chronic! But I decided to persevere, get a whole garment together to fit on Kate, and then find a solution to this issue along with any other changes we needed to make after.

So I knew we’d have a few alterations, some alternatives to switch in, and an opacity issue to nail… and I also knew I’d cut my two week contingency plan down to one week by booking a holiday. If I’m honest I wasn’t looking forward to this fitting.

That having been said, the outfit does look lovely šŸ™‚ The design is perfect for her, the overall look of the thing is exactly what we wanted, and the alterations from the last fitting had gone well.

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I’d added a dart to the top to control the flare in the hem while keeping the fit at the bust, but I still made up the alternative top option (no darts, more flare). Darts are staying, fit looks nice šŸ™‚ So that’s one set of options dealt with easily.

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We’ve got a slight problem with a bumpy texture over the boobs, which is down to the seam allowance inside the corset layer needing a trim and possibly also some securing topstitches. And that’s another fairly simple win.

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The skirt is sitting a little too low on the waist, leaving a slightly too big gap between top and skirt at the back. So there we’ll take in a little and it’ll sit higher, which is a wince more work but nothing too scary.

And then there’s the sleeve. I was disappointed to find that the darts felt bulky and left the hem a bit wobbly and chunky. It would be more normal to have a facing at the bottom sleeve, so there would be darts on the outside layer but not on the inside layer, just a smooth panel which attaches to the lining, but Kate really wanted the inside to also be in self fabric with no seams to show through, just an exact copy of the outer layer. So I made her up one sleeve as planned, but I made an alternative sleeve with the shaping from the darts moved into one convex shaped panel, so we have a horizontal seam instead. I thought the look would be cleaner, but maybe it got a little too stark.

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After some discussion we decided to continue with the original darted design. Kate felt that it could do with a bit less volume in the bottom though, so we pinned quite a bit away. I’ll update the pattern accordingly and make up a pair of these new sleeves. We won’t see them on Kate for any more test rounds though, so let’s hope the smaller silhouette isn’t too risky at this late stage!

But the biggest issue to my eyes is the transparency. It’s tolerable, I suppose – she can wear virtually invisible pants and maybe in most of the photos you won’t see the facings – but that seems like a bit of a cop out. Up close the seam allowances look super ugly and the facings are not exactly offensive but shouldn’t be a feature! Instead of tolerance I’m going to take action. I’ll get some more fabric, fuse it, re-cut and replace the outer layer of the skirt and the top. For the sake of an extra days’ work I think it’ll be a vast improvement.

Plus it’ll be less inclined to relax into her butt crack.

 

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Quite a few more things to do then, and not such a long time to do them in! I’ve called in my long suffering assistant (thanks mum) and written a list: it’ll be wrapped up and in the brides’ hand by Friday lunchtime.

So the next time we all see this project will be in the wedding photos!! Good luck on your big day Kate, and don’t forget to remove those sleeves before the soup course šŸ˜‰ xx

 

Clare’s top, part 3: second fitting

Confesssion: this happened WEEKS ago. Despite having been on vacation for a month and a half I seem to be really short of time! But I’d still love to post a few photos of this second toile as we’ve made a few crucial tweaks…





The fundamentals of the style are still the same, but we’ve slimmed down the racer back and straps even more to make a really striking silhouette. We’ve also taken the decision to crop the length so it doesn’t need to be tucked in, not to give a midriff-flash but to eliminate any unflattering bulkiness from tucking into the waistband.

So now I’ll update the pattern and go ahead and make our final version. I also need to take volume and length from Clare’s bought skirt and add a lining. I’ll see her in a couple of weeks for our final fit šŸ™‚

Kate’s outfit, part 2: first fitting

Last week I drafted the patterns for Kate’s design, made up the first toile, and on Saturday she came over for our first fitting. I was super excited to work on it with her! But to be honest I’d gotten into my own head a bit on this one and was worried it wouldn’t match her expectations. As it turned out, Kate was happy as a clam and felt like I was well on the right track…

Sarah Barker bridal | first toile off shoulder top and skirt | Kate

This outfit breaks down into 3 main elements: the boned bodice, the sleeved top, and the skirt. I started with the bodice, using the Helen Joseph-Armstrong book, Pattern Making for Fashion Design, to make a fitted top from my basic block. This part won’t really be on show, but it’s job is to provide a strong structure sitting on the hips and holding the top edge of the sleeveless top exactly where we want it to be.

Sarah Barker bridal | boned bodice top | Kate

I was worried that the fit on this might not be nice because the curve over the bust is a bit exaggerated and fembot-esque, but I can smooth that out on the pattern and then there are just a few tweaks needed to get that top edge completely perfect. The diagonal boning in the front panels had the desired effect and will the give sleeves a good, solid base to sit on top of.

For the sleeved top layer I draped the body panels straight on the stand. We want this to stand away from the body a bit, so the easiest method for me is to just be hands-on! And then I based the sleeve on a top of Kates’ which she likes the dimensions of, so a nice, quick starting point šŸ™‚

For this toile I didn’t attach the sleeved top to the bodice, because I didn’t want that in the way when I was fitting the underneath layer, but ultimately I will make them into one garment… Except for the sleeves which will be detachable! A brilliant addition to the design which I couldn’t have been more pleased to have Kate suggest.

Sarah Barker bridal | off shoulder top fabric experiment | Kate

Also, this toile has sleeves in 2 different fabrics, which is not a permanent design feature! Ā The white sleeve on the left is in a structured silk fabric from Silk Society in Soho which we’d both really liked in the store – it has great body in one direction but drape in the other so we felt we could do a lot with it. But I’m glad we did this trial, because it soon became evident that it just wasn’t working for us! It gives a cowl effect which just doesn’t look as nice as the calico side, so we’re going back to the drawing board. We also like a much simpler cotton silk mix from Whaleys which could be very versatile and give us a lot more options in combination with fusings, so we’ll have a play with that one next.

Sarah Barker bridal | off shoulder top toile | Kate

We hadn’t wanted an opening in the back originally, but this turned out to be the best fastening solution. We can make the corset body with a zip at centre back and then the top part will have a split here. It was actually a feature on one of the tear sheet images Kate brought to me, so it doesn’t feel like a compromise design-wise. Initially my toile had an asymmetric hem, but that just didn’t work, so during the fitting we have levelled it up.

Sarah Barker bridal | off shoulder top | Kate

For the skirt, I draped on the stand to make a very simple block version of our skirt design, which I then altered for Kate’s measurements in the flat pattern. We’d left this part of the design pretty open ended, so I just wanted to keep the toile as basic as possible for us to project our ideas onto in the fitting.

Sarah Barker bridal | off shoulder top and straight train skirt | Kate

Kate liked the wide slit which is necessary if we cut the front in only one panel. We’ll make the top shape rounded to make a nicer finish here, and I think it’ll be a cute feature.Ā And ultimately this split feature has one very important job to do: to flash Kate’s fairly mental shoes.

Sarah Barker bridal | high slit skirt | Kate

The size of the train I’d put on here was a total guess, but it suited Kate well and we’re going to stick with it as it is. The skirt will have a centre back panel at the next stage though, which goes to a point towards the top of the thigh.

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So my next stage for Kate is to make a new pattern with all the changes and make new garments ready for a second fitting. As we’ve now decided to try out a cotton silk from Whaleys, which isn’t too pricey, I think it’d be great to go ahead and start to make up the next stage in the real fabric! If there are some elements we don’t like and want to remake we can do that quite inexpensively, and if some parts are perfect already then we can save Kate some money by using that for the real thing. I’ll use a 1.5cm wide seam allowance and treat it like a couture garment, altering the garment itself rather than doing a lot of pattern stages.

Clare’s top, part 2: first fitting

Doing this fitting with Clare was such a great start to my sabbatical! From now until October I’m lucky enough to be taking a break from my day job, working on some personal projects and generally chilling out. And this project is great fun! Create the perfect bodice to set off a fabulous skirt.

I prepped two toiles for Clare because we were still caught between two different design ideas: the almost backless v-neck with straps…

…or the low sided tank top we dubbed the sexy tabard…

What was a tough call on paper became pretty obvious in real life! We didn’t even try on the low back bodice, it just felt far too princess-y. Clare had been to pick up her skirt from Charlie Brear that morning and they’d had her try it on with a few camisoles, which I’m sure looked beautiful but just made her feel too traditional. She knew that she’d need something a little edgier to tone down the frou-frou feeling and I definitely agree.Ā So we went straight for the racer back tank.

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It’s so important that a style like this fits like a glove! We don’t want Clare to feel like she’s going to flash every time she turns to talk to someone or reaches for a glass of champagne. So the dart will get a little bit deeper, to pull the open edge close to her body. We’ve added a bit of coverage too, so she’s only showingĀ the right amount of side boob, but then cut in at the top for a flattering narrow shoulder.

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Next step is to mark all of these adjustments on to the calico, take the toile apart and trace the panels off onto paper to make the next pattern. We’re going to make the next toile out of a fabric we like for the final garment, it’s relatively inexpensive so we might as well try it out before we commit, and we’ll have our next fitting in 3 weeks.

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I’m also going to make some alterations to the skirt. It’s super beautiful, but has a volume and a frothiness which is a bit much for Clare. So I’ll reduce some volume from the sides, shorten the train, and remove one of the two net under-layers. It just needs to be a bit more wearable and a bit less photo-shoot.

Kate’s outfit, part 1: design

So, the start of another project!

Kate and I haveĀ been colleagues for a few years: she’s a designer and I’m a pattern cutter, but we’ve never actually worked directly together. She’s great fun with aĀ brilliant eye for a strong look,Ā and I’m confidentĀ I’m going to enjoy thisĀ one!

Kate is getting married in September. She’sĀ struggled to find a dress she likes;Ā there are a great many Swarovski crystals in the world, also bows and lace and frills and what have you, and that is not doing it for Kate on any level. So she’s come to me with some sketches and design ideas and we’re going to put something together that suits her contemporary modern aestheticĀ a little better.

She’s brought me this sketch…

… and aĀ fewĀ tear sheets of inspiration including these lovely images:

She wants a skirt with a very straight silhouette from the front, a slit to help show off her shoes, and a big, soft pleat in the back from which a short train emerges. We can be a bit flexible here, we might mess around with itĀ a bit when we’ve chosen a fabric, but generally this part is good to go.

The top part is a bit more hazy. Kate likes a statement sleeve, she fancies totally off shoulder, and she’s thinking that from the side the top should swing away from the body. It seems pretty narrowed down to me! But it’s not concrete yet, she’s still thinking about it.

I’ve drawn out a few rough options for her to consider hopefully they’ve been a good jumping off point for chats with her friends and family at home in The North this weekend.

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We’ve already had a quick lunchtime whip round some Soho fabric stores, just to get aĀ conversation started about what kind of things she’s feeling for. As it happens we actually foundĀ a fabric she really loved which may turn out to be the one. This silkĀ we saw atĀ Silk Society has a completely different character when draped on the grain or across it, it’s the left hand cutting on the card below. In one direction it has a sproingy body to it which could make an awesome sleeve shape, and in the other it could be a soft and supple train.

We took some other bits and pieces away with us, but to honest they’re a bit boring by comparison.Ā Good plan b’s though.

 

 

All that jazz is nowĀ collated in my Kate envelope. Next week we’ll sit and pin down the exact starting design, I’ll also take Kate’s measurements and then I can get started on the first draft of the pattern! I’ve got 6 more weeks of work before my sabbatical period,Ā so I’m planning to get the ballĀ rolling on this soon and then really get stuck in in July.

Initial design ideas

Clare’s top, part 1: brief and design

The ever-lovely Paula has recommended my services to her delightful friend Clare, who is having trouble completing her bridal outfit. She’s fallen for, and indeed bought, a beautiful skirt from Charlie Brear, and now needsĀ to essentially grow it into a dress.

The skirt fabric is textured and feminine, with an all over cut-out floral motif:

Charlie Brear skirt fabric swatchCharlie Brear fabric swatch

And the skirt silhouette is simple – full length and high waisted, withĀ a soft volume to it:

Carlie Brear skirt, basic top designs over masking tape

Having printed thisĀ screen grab from internet, I drew up 3 veryĀ basic top options for her: a soft, drapey cami, aĀ boned bodice, or a high front / low back combo.

The inspiration images for the completed look included backless and strappy dresses with a laid-back, boho vibe, so the cami option was a good starting point to take forward. Clare’s happy to go bra-less so we can add as much or as little coverage in the back as we fancy, but she’d like the security of something a little more structured and firm in the front. Therefore we’ll move away from the draping satin feelĀ and aim forĀ somethingĀ soft but fitted, maybe with a view to using aĀ lightly fused raw or textured silk.

In our first sitdownchat Clare and I ran through our various first ideas, talking over the styles she’d tried on and also the tear sheets and Pinterest pins we’d both collected. As we came to some conclusions about definiteĀ yessesĀ and nos I made some rough sketches, and have subsequently tried to spinĀ out each small idea into a few variations:

Initial design ideas
high apex front with princess seams and double straps
Initial design ideas
lower apex front with panels and single straps
Initial design ideas
high neck with darts
Initial design ideas
high neck with wider strap and boat neck

The next stepĀ will be talking Clare’s measurements and making the initialĀ pattern. I think I’d like to make two toiles for the first fitting: one V neck version with princess seams, and the other with a high neckline and darts. From those two bases I think we could have a good jumping off point for all manner of variations, so we can do the real designing in the first fitting. It should be quick to make these up seeing as they’reĀ allĀ so small! So we might as well maximise the possibilities.

The wedding will be in September andĀ I’ll be free from work onĀ a little sabbatical from July, much to my delight! So for the time being this project will progress very slowly, if at all, but when the summer kicks in this’ll get the dedication it deserves.

I’ll blog about the progress here and will eventually be proud to featureĀ Clare’s wedding photos in the autumn. In the meantime you can follow me on Pinterest to see some of the inspiration clippingsĀ for this and my other projects. You can also find me on Instagram @ sarahbarkerbridal.