I’ve been a habitual indie pattern sewist since I came back to dressmaking in recent years. I’ve loved everything about it: the stylish patterns, the sense of community, the fangirl culture. But most of all I’ve appreciated the companies’ efforts to teach people to sew, with detailed instructions and sew-alongs. I’d found the ‘Big Four’ commercial patterns quite intimidating and difficult to fit. My 21st Century measurements didn’t fit neatly into one size, but my skills weren’t yet up to major adjustments.
Check out the morning hair!
But recently I’ve felt a change. I’d spent much of last year focusing on fit and had developed confidence in my skills. The final shift came when late last year one of my favourite Indie companies launched a pattern that was almost impossible to fit. The ensuing drama made me take a second look at the Big Four on the assumption that their patterns were the product of a more thorough design and production process. I gave up on the toile of said dress, but saved the charcoal grey and silver quilting cotton for something worthy.
So here it is: the culotte dress (aka Vogue 9075). I referred to ‘The Complete Photo Guide for Real Fitting’ by Sarah Veblen to figure out how to fit a princess seam bodice. Following the book’s instructions I made up a size 14 bodice and identified where to release the seam to get the fit right. No FBA required! I just had to let the bust seams out 5mm above the bust and then reduced by 5mm below the bust. It worked!
I made a few other tweaks to improve the bodice fit: I’d got the bust spot on but had to take a curve of 5mm from the side seams, and angle the invisible zipper seams to remove excess whether the fabric was pooling a little at the lower back. This time around I machine basted the seams so i could fit on the fly. It was all going swimmingly until I basted the bodice to the culottes: the result was serious discomfort! My final adjustment was to reduce the culotte waist seam allowance to 10mm and increase the bodice waist seam allowance to 20mm. This raised the waistline to it’s rightful position and gave me just enough room for comfort!
I’m now looking at the Big Four’s catalogues with new eyes…. Any suggestions?
Let’s get one thing straight: no-one looks streamlined in culottes! These crazy bags have created a mini-fashion moment just about every decade since the 1920s. I can definitely remember the 1980s version, and was dubious about them then! But suddenly they feel cool again, and have been popping up on the blogosphere over the last year or so. When I was working up to this pattern I came across this historical pattern summary on the McCalls blog, commenting on how culottes began as a feminist statement about practicality. It’s quite fascinating to see how little the style has changed.
My first experiences of dressmaking were with Prima magazine sewing patterns. In the early 1990s the patterns came with the magazine, rather than now when you have to order them, or buy them on eBay, as I did this one. I remember looking forward to each issue to see what I could make. The instructions were clear and easy to understand, although now I’m a bit more experienced it would be helpful to have finished measurements so I could have better judged which size to make.
I have been sewing a lot of repeat patterns lately, as I haven’t had a lot of head-space for innovation. I also needed a whole new work wardrobe for this climate. So I’ve been also been limiting myself to my pattern and fabric stash. It’s been a good excersie in appreciating what has worked in the past rather than just forging ahead with the new. To be honest, I’m dying to get on with a BHL Anna, but I haven’t been able to lay my hands on a new printer cartridge, so inspiration and innovation had been on hold. In news just in, printer ink has arrived from UK!!
As I’ve been on sewing autopilot with my numerous Laurels, Monetas and Bettines (yet to be blogged), it was extremely satisfying to start a new pattern with news skills to master. This was my first ever fly-zipped trousers. The instructions were really easy to follow. I took it slowly and went old-school and used tailors chalk and tailor tacks to mark the fly and pleats. That said, I did have to unpick the zip once and re-do as I’d got my folds the wrong way round and the zip concealing flap wouldn’t have concealed the zip! I blame it on being left-handed and having an oppositely-wired brain.
The fabric is black linen (with probably a smidge of poly) from China World Mall in Bangkok. It was cheap as chips, and was lovely to work with so I will be restocking at the earliest opportunity. I’m very pleased with how they turned out. I’m feeling slightly on the She Wears The Pants spectrum! It was only a matter of time before the East Asian aesthetic kicked-in.
I’m wearing my culottes with last summer’s Sewaholic Belcarra blouse in Liberty Tana Lawn Mitzi blogged here.
So. Culottes. Could you? Should you? How do you wear yours?!