Saturday, 18 October 2014

Elen's Prom Dress - Part 3 - Bias Skirts in Satin and Chiffon


Part three of Elen's prom dress is all about bias cut skirts - the good, the bad and the ugly.

For the skirt of the prom dress, I was using a pattern for an A-line bias cut petticoat, which I was going to attach to the boned corset to make a single garment.

Elen wanted it fuller than the pattern, so I "inserted" a wedge section to increase the hem circumference without adjusting the waistband. This didn't work brilliantly - bias cut patterns are perfectly drafted and if they are very unforgiving to change. So the satin underskirt draped a bit unevenly but it wasn't too bad and I reckoned I could work with it as I was adding a fuller chiffon overskirt.

You can see from the photo that the waist to hip underskirt is completely smooth against the body -  essential as the top bit was going to be cut off and the line shown by the stitches would be the new dropped waistline.  I found this new waistline by pinning the bodice over the underskirt and using tacking stitches to mark the line. The line curved down over the stomach, was higher at the side and dipped down again to two "V" points at the back - all matching the shape of the bodice lower edge.
  
We had decided against an smooth A-line chiffon overskirt - the colour of the fabric was stunning but looked even more effective when gathered. And this would make the skirt even fuller, which Elen decided she wanted. Note to self - don't let "client" change her mind too many times!

I decided the the chiffon overskirt would be a full circle with the "waistband" twice that of the underskirt to give nice gathers. Of course the fabric wasn't wide enough, so I cut a half circle for the front and two half circles for the back panels. So I only had 3 seams (2 seams too many in my opinion) which I sewed together using a french seam.  French seams are perfect for chiffon - the raw edges are enclosed neatly and they help reduce the puckers and wonkiness you can get when sewing stretchy bias edges.  I found this blog article by The Dreamstress has some really helpful tips and tricks for sewing french seams in chiffon. 

Now, my "circle" pattern was perfect - I'm a mathemetician at heart so I worked out all the lines and curves and lined up the chiffon selvedges really carefully. But when I hung it up I was horrified. The hem dipped by over 10 inches. A quick search online and I found my answer.

Apparently fabric warp and weft "gives" differently, which is what gives bias cut panels such a nice drape. But in a full circle, the difference is distorted significantly and the fabric stretches unevenly - and continues to stretch. People who handmake full chiffon belly dance skirts recommend you hang the cut skirt for a month before sewing up. I didn't have that long, but I did hang it up for a week and hoped for the best.

Now I had to add the gathered chiffon to the underskirt. Remember the tacked line that marked the new dropped waistband - that was my guide for adding the chiffon skirt.

I gathered the waistband with machine running stitches and pinned and tacked to the underskirt. Then pinned the bodice in place to check it worked before machining sewing the chiffon into place.

Then, very bravely, I cut away the excess silver duchess satin.  Now I had a full skirt, with a dropped waistline that followed the shape of the bodice lower edge, which I could sew together.

Even though I had checked and double checked every stage, I was very, very relieved to find it all went together perfectly - the skirt hung beautifully from the bodice - both on my dressmakers dummy and on Elen!

Nearly finished now. All I had left to do was create the corset back fastening and add some bling.... Oh and add a petticoat lining and do a rolled chiffon hem.....  Will this dress ever be finished? 

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