Hannah’s dress: start to finish

Restyle / alterations project

Hannah bought a beautiful gown from Sarah Seven with a view to customising it.

The dress is a style called Sunsets Forever, which has sleeves and high neck line but is entirely open below the shoulders and around to the front waist.

Sarah Seven | Sunsets Forever | Hannah

Sarah Seven | Sunsets Forever | Hannah

 

Design brief

Replace the sleeves and shoulder panels with slim straps, reshaping the front bodice to function without the missing elements, and adding a new neckline.

Alter the fit at the waist and seat and take up the hem to fit this petite bride.

Sarah Barker | design options | Hannah

 

How did we do that

I whipped off the sleeves and shoulder panels and opened up the edges of the front panel panel, pinning it in to an estimation of our new shape.

One of the discarded sleeves got chopped up into strips and re-purposed for self fabric-straps. (Thankfully the bride wasn’t taller – the sleeves were a fairly cropped length and only just gave enough to run from waist up over the shoulder without a seam.)

The length of the bodice and the hem had to be shortened. We also slimmed down the fit over the seat and adjusted the silhouette slightly to hug in under the bum more.

 

Result

Hannah looked fantastic on her wedding day, in a gown which felt trult unique and personal! For more images follow this link to Hannah’s page in the gallery.

Sarah Barker | Hannah

Ruth’s dress, part 1; toile fitting

I’m super excited to introduce my first project of 2018! Ruth is lovely colleague of mine who will be getting married in a few months. Her wedding will be beautifully personal with loads of lovely DIY touches, so she’s looking for the perfect understated, hand made dress. We’ve drawn up this design and I’ve made our first and only toile for fitting:

This project is much more straight forward than a full-on bespoke gown. It’s an elegant, classic design, in a heavy off-white satin. And I love that this dress is an alternative to a big budget frock. I think there needs to be more options out there for people who want a personal, made to measure service, but without the price tag of a custom designed, complex outfit.

So to keep the process simple and fuss-free we’ll only do one toile fitting for this dress. I’ve draped it directly on the stand in calico, but then re-cut the top part in the correct fabric so that we can check the volume in gathers before we commit. Having seen it on the body and made a few adjustments we’ll go straight for the real thing.

I’m so thrilled that it looked good on Ruth from the get-go! With an un-fussy, clean design like this one there’s really nowhere to hide: the fit and finish need to be perfect. But this has been a great start, and the shape suits her so brilliantly – I’m happy that this is heading in the right direction.

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Kate’s outfit, part 4: a few photos from the wedding :)

Just thought I’d post a couple of shots Kate’s sister sent me from the wedding!

It’ll be a while before I see the photographers images from the day I guess, but I’m so looking forward to that! To be honest that’s the best bit of the whole process, seeing someone you’ve worked so closely with looking incredible in a beautiful set of professional photos. It’s a real contrast from my day job in mass-produced fashion, I’ll definitely be missing that personal connection when I go back to my normal life next month.

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(What a stunner ☺️ 💘💘💘)

 

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:

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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.

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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

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 🙂 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 🙂 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 😉 xx

 

Kate’s outfit, part 1: design

So, the start of another project!

Kate and I have 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 a brilliant eye for a strong look, and I’m confident I’m going to enjoy this one!

Kate is getting married in September. She’s struggled to find a dress she likes; 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 aesthetic a little better.

She’s brought me this sketch…

… and a few 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 it 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 a conversation started about what kind of things she’s feeling for. As it happens we actually found a fabric she really loved which may turn out to be the one. This silk we saw at 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. Good plan b’s though.

 

 

All that jazz is now 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, so I’m planning to get the ball rolling on this soon and then really get stuck in in July.