Clare’s top, part 4: final fitting(s)

Last week on Friday I fitted what I’d hoped would be the final garment on Clare. Unfortunately it turned out that we had not cracked the fit around the bust at all – so I treated this as another sample round, made my alterations and went away to make remake it. The darts were looking far too pointy! The seam under the bust was also sitting too high on her and the neck didn’t lie nicely against her body:


Oh, and also, she couldn’t get into it! That was a pretty big hitch. I had to cut a seam and pin her back in. The trouble was that we’d taken it in to be a closer fit, but with an invisible zip like this one I needed to keep a short length of closed seam at the bottom. Or at least I thought I had to… until I found an amazing open-ended invisible zip at Kleins, which has really saved the project! I’ve no idea how I could have solved this issue without it.

So a week later I went back to see her again, with much better results!! The fit is vastly improved, and I think she’s looking lovely in this feminine but cool outfit.



IMG_2332 (2)

I’ve altered the Charlie Brear skirt now too, taking out 180cm from the volume at the bottom, hemming it to Clare’s required length and shortening the train. I’ve also added a lining and removed one of the two layers of mesh, which means the skirt is now less big and much less see-through, a win-win in this instance!

Clare will get married next weekend and I’m super excited to see the photos! I’m sure it’ll be a lovely day, and hopefully the Welsh weather will be kind to her xx

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. So we went straight for the racer back tank.


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 showing the right amount of side boob, but then cut in at the top for a flattering narrow shoulder.



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.


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.

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 needs 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, with a soft volume to it:

Carlie Brear skirt, basic top designs over masking tape

Having printed this screen grab from internet, I drew up 3 very basic top options for her: a soft, drapey cami, a 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 feel and aim for something soft but fitted, maybe with a view to using a 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 definite yesses and nos I made some rough sketches, and have subsequently tried to spin 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 step will be talking Clare’s measurements and making the initial 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’re all so small! So we might as well maximise the possibilities.

The wedding will be in September and I’ll be free from work on 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 feature Clare’s wedding photos in the autumn. In the meantime you can follow me on Pinterest to see some of the inspiration clippings for this and my other projects. You can also find me on Instagram @ sarahbarkerbridal.