Monday, December 31, 2012

Draping a Backless Dress

For my next project I decided to make a backless dress using a draping technique. Draping is a great technique that can be used to create a multitude of designs and lets you let your imagination go wild! Its   also a relatively easy way to make a flat pattern without needing to know much about pattern making at all.

I did a couple of quick sketches to get an idea of what I was aiming for (sorry about the quality I'm not exactly talented at drawing!). I love the Breakfast at Tiffany's dress and that basically where I got the idea from but decided to modernize it a little. The skirt will be gathered and short to make it cute and girly. The open back will have pearl beads running across it to give it the classy feel. The front will be very simple with a boat neckline and side bust darts.

Back of the dress with pearls running across

Front of the dress with simple bodice and gathered skirt

So here goes.....

What you will need:

- muslin or other cheap fabric in a light color
- dress form in your size
- scissors
- lots of pins
- something to mark the fabric chalk or a pencil will work fine

1. Cut out a piece of muslin that will fit fully over one side of the dress form - add a few inches extra and overestimate as its a pain when you cut it too small. Then fold this piece in half and iron down the fold line so it leaves a crease mark.

2. Lay the fabric over the dress form so that the fold line goes down the middle and pin in place down the centre line.

3. Smooth out the fabric to the arm holes and neckline and pin in place. You will need to make slashes at the neckline and arm holes to get it to fit properly. You will only need to do this on one side as we will just mirror the pattern at the end. At this point I also cut off quite a bit of fabric off the bottom to make it more manageable as this is only going to the waist I don't need it to be that long. 

4. I decided to add a standard bust dart to my design but remember you can put this dart anywhere you want for your own design. To make the dart pinch the extra fabric and pull in the direction you want the dart.  

Make a fold in the excess fabric so it looks like a normal dart making sure everything stays smooth. 

Pin this down and hey presto there is your dart!

5. Draw around the neckline and arm hole using your chalk or pencil according to your design. Now trim the edges of the muslin so its a little more neat and today. Add slashes where you need to. You want to leave about 2 inches on all the seams in case you need to add any fabric later.

So thats the front draped and done now for the back...

6. As you did with the front cut a piece of muslin so it will over the entire back with some excess and fold down the center and iron in the crease. Pin the muslin down the center line of the back on the dress form. Smooth it out to the shoulders and arms. I am not adding any darts to my back so I pulled it pretty tight. You can add darts in the same method as we used for the front if you desire! 

7. Draw the outline of the back you want on the muslin and match the seams as well as you can to the front on the side and shoulder. Don't forget to draw side and shoulder seams on both the front and back. 

8. Cut out the shape of your design leaving an excess again just in case. Put slashes in where you need to. 

9. Remove the muslin from the dress form and you almost have a working pattern for the bodice of your dress - woohoo! For the back fold the muslin on the crease line you made and cut out the shape onto the other side of the fabric to make a full pattern. 

Sorry about the photos from here it got dark and the light in my sewing room is pretty dire! 

Cut out the center area and you have a full back done. 

10. The front is a little trickier because of the dart. First you need to mark the outline of the dart before taking the pins out. I just draw along the fold line with pencil. Once you have marked the dart unpin it and fold it over along the crease and cut the outline for the other side. 

11. To transfer the dart to the other side I use pins and pin down the line if the dart on both sides. Then flip over and you can see the pins on the other side. 

Then flip over and you can see the pins on the other side. Mark the dart using pencil and you have your full front bodice. 

12. Try and test your newly made bodice! Sew the darts with a long stitch and sew front and back bodice together leaving one side or the back open so you can actually get it on. I am using a side zip so I left the side open. I didn't take any photos of this part sorry. Make any adjustments you need to make i.e. altering the bust dart or side seams etc. It is very important that you the fit right at this stage so take your time and be certain it fits the way you like before moving on. 

13. The next few steps are to make a flat pattern which you don't necessarily need to do if your just making a one off dress. If you unpick the muslin including the darts you can use this as the pattern. For both cases cut along the seam lines so you don't have any seam allowances on the pattern. This reduces the error that can be made when trying to add seam allowances at this stage. 

Cut out back pattern with no seam allowances
14. To transfer this to paper simply pin the back to paper draw around it then cut it out.

15. For the front cut it out the same as the back without any seam allowance and pin to the paper. To transfer the dart I use the pin method again.

For the dart add a triangle so it can folded over and sewn into the side seam. 

And thats finally it you have made yourself a unique design that fits perfectly using draping. All you have to do now is the simple task of actually making the dress! Stay tuned for photos of my completed project. 

Thanks for reading and as ever please feel free to leave comments and questions :-) 
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