Friday, 5 September 2014

Project formal, the foundation. Burda Style 01-2014 113 + Patternmaking for Underwear Design

I've made a couple of formal dresses before, but somehow, this is turning into one of my most technically challenging projects. Most of this is self inflicted! Some of my blogging absence has been due to a lot of unblogworthy thinking and planning time. (The rest was knitting.....)


 Most strapless dresses need a foundation to prevent wearing malfunctions. For my older daughter's formal dress, also strapless, I made a traditional princess line bodice foundation, based on Claire Shaeffer's somewhat scanty instructions in Couture Sewing Techniques, and was happy with it. However, daughter the second has a more curvaceous figure, and more exacting requirements, and wanted more shape and structure in the bust of her foundation to emphasise the sweetheart neckline of her dress. She wanted something more like a long line bra or corselet.
Unfortunately, the bust section of the Burda bustier toile I made earlier was not at all flattering, nor supportive. I decided to add bra like cups and bridge to the bustier,  for more structure,and went looking for either my Kwik Sew bra pattern, or my Leanne Burgess bra making book. 2 days later, my pattern collection and fabric cupboard were unaturally tidy, and I was forced to realise that I had carefully put all my lingerie sewing references in a Safe Place, from where they would only emerge again when they were not immediately required.
My long suffering family (one of whom suggested that I buy a corset!) was greatly relieved that I was rescued by Kristina Shin's Patternmaking for Underwear Design, a book that has been lurking on my sewing shelf since Christmas, after my inital perusal filled me with disappointment. I had bought it with the intention of drafting myself a bra pattern, but the only bra drafting instructions in the book are for a 75B, which fits no one in our house, and the measurements for each drafted line are given  within the instructions, with no tables for any other sizes, making the usefullness of the bra instructions quite limited - but we decided to increase the cup size of the foundation for illusionary purposes, and decided the given cup size of 75B would do for the size 34-taken in bustier, with a bit of discreet curve enhancement.


I drafted a 3 part T cup underwire bra cup and bridge, following the instructions without undue difficulty (although having 2 unlabeled markings that were only identifiable by reading two separate earlier chapters of the book was annoying, as was the tendency to constantly refer back to the basic bra block- which uses the same letters as point markers as the 3 part cup, only in completely different places!).

This was not quite the shape we wanted, so I then rotated and split the lower cup and drafted an upper cup to fit a slightly higher bridge and not require a strap - a shape that is not given in Shin's book.
The cup was larger than expected, despite being cut out in a woven rather than a knit, as assumed in the instructions. This could have been operator error and was fixed with a bit of trial and error trimming. Fortunately I do not plan to make a lot of these garments in the illusionary size.
I used foam bra lining (cut out and pieced to fit from an existing bra, and added a small "fillet" made from 2 layers of cotton/wool quilting batting to the lower third of each cup. The "pad" or "cookie" shape given in Shin's book was not the correct size nor shape for the cups, so this was again made by  trial and error.
As the upper cup was still too large, and we did not want excessive padding, I applied 3 rows of shirring elastic by this method through the outer cup fabric and foam lining at the top of each cup and gathered these to fit. Although producing the desired effect, this looked rather messy, so I lined the corset with a rayon knit (I draped this over the finished outer corselet and cut to fit - much easier than applying all the fitting changes from the woven outer pieces to a woven lining)


The entire upper border of the corselet is finished with  slightly stretched lingerie elastic for added security. I hand appliqued a stretch lace to the upper cups to cover the shirring (this is practice for the actual dress), and also to most of the upper border of the remaining corselet because it looked pretty.


The remainder of the construction was much more straightforward. Each vertical seam is boned with rigeline on both sides of the seam. The outer fabric is a firm weave silk (from my grandmother's silk painting supplies), and the underlining is silk organza. The boning casing is herringbone weave linen.
As it is still 9 weeks to the wearing of the dress, I wanted to allow some room for girth changes.  so I used a commercial elastic fastening (Prym) instead of the right centre back section . As you can see, I actually used two of these, as the fastening is designed for a long line bra. The two fastenings are abutted, joined with zigzag stitch, and a ribbon applied over the seam for prettiness (she doesn't need the stretch at the waist). I chose to fit at the wider of the two hook and eye loops as my daughter tends to lose weight when under stress, and is currently finishing her final year at school, with constant assignments and exams. If the opposite occurs, well there is a bit of stretch in the elastic ;).

The lower border of the corset is zigzagged to attach all the layers, then non stretch lace was applied to cover the zigzagging. I did not want to add bulk with a hem or binding.


The finished foundation met with approval, and I am well into the next stage of the dress.


Kyle said...

What a lot of work!
I like your daughter's nailpolish, quite fun!

Summer Flies said...

Well, I knew the absence was for the formal dress but didn't imagine that you would be making a corset! What a great job (and Mum). I laughed on not finding the book you need. I did the same thing last week with my new Ottobre... couldn't find it.. looked everywhere. It only popped up when I cleaned up my sewing room! So I guess there was that benefit. Can't wait to see the dress.

Rosi said...

Wowzers that's amazing sewing!

fabric epiphanies said...

Doesn't the loosing weight when stressed make the process so much fun! My daughter is and has done the same under pressure this year.

That corset looks like a lot of work. I am looking forward to seeing the finished dress.

Dilliander said...

Wow! This will be a dress and occasion to remember. So clever... can't wait to see the finished outfit.

Sharon said...

You are an amazing Mum, can't wait to see the final dress and hear all the details.

Lyndle said...

I never fail to be impressed by your skills. Perhaps you should write an underwear design book? This is a beautiful garment. Your daughter will have to arrange a 'season' of balls requiring strapless gowns, to get maximum mileage from it. Hope the dress sewing is a nice brain rest after this!

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely beautiful piece of work. I love the way you have used the lace and I think the fit is very good indeed. This will feel nice and supportive and give your daughter alot of confidence that nothing will fall down, out, slip or sag. She will also be able to eat, breathe, laugh etc. Your perseverence is astonishing, but this is how we learn, isn't it? Soon you wiill surely be making bras for everyone!

Carolyn said...

Wow, this is amazing work and sooo impressive! Her ensemble is going to be absolutely amazing, and all made by you! For my daughter's ball we just bought a strapless bra!

Scruffybadger said...

An engineering feat! It looks amazing, but soooo complicated. Well done! I'm in awe too

Clio said...

Wow this is an impressive and time consuming project! Looks like it fits her to a tee!

Janine said...

This is going to be incredible. What can I say but you get sewing blogger mother of the year award.

Anonymous said...

Suggested you BUY a corset? They were foolhardy!

So would you say the underwear drafting book is worth the money it cost? On further perusal did it show a way to draft more bra sizes?

kbenco said...

"On further perusal did it show a way to draft more bra sizes?"
Unfortunately, no, it doesn't. Some limited measurements for other cup sizes in the 75band width are given (A, C, D)but only the top curve and depth to bust point - 2 of the 4 measurements needed to draft the cup. I could not see how these measurements could be obtained from taking a personal body measurement for any other sizes. There is no information on how body measurements are related to the band size, and this would be difficult to extrapolate without considerable trial and error, as the measurements are not directly circumferential, and stretch is a factor. No one in my house has a 75 band size, so,this section of the book is useless to me, other than using the cup "B" to be a C in the next size down as described in the post (and it turned out too large).
As far as the bra is concerned, no I do not think this book is worth the money, and I was disappointed, feeling that it did not meet the promise of its blurb.However, I have not fully reviewed the book, which also has drafts for t shirts and leggings, related to personal body measurements and made up wonderfully by Melissa of Fehr trade for example, and the underwear block is also related to body measurements and has been used successfully by Katherine of Blooms Fabric Obsession with great swim wear results. I feel that for these other blocks, the book is likely to be very useful, and in these other areas, gives value for money. It is only the bra section that has the limitations I've mentioned. I plan to write a more thorough review of this book when I've used more of it.