Dress Forms

After seeing Cloth Habit’s post today about dress forms I thought I would share one of my favorite Fashion Incubator links: Japanese dress forms.

Take a look at the link, and pay close attention to the shape of the armholes on the standard vs Japanese dress form. The armhole on the Japanese form looks almost like someone took the standard armhole but scooped it out in both the front and back, and widened it quite a bit. There appears to be more front-to-back depth than for the standard armhole. As Kathleen mentions in her post there’s no symmetry either.

I don’t own a dress form, which seems to surprise a lot of people. Part of it is due to expense and lack of space. The other reason is that most of them just don’t seem anatomically correct. I often think that clothes look better on dress forms than real people because they have the ideal proportions that aren’t seen on most people. I’m not talking about just measurements either, but rather the way certain aspects, like the ribcage and hips and shoulders, are shaped. (This is why I disregard most pattern reviews that only show the garment on a dress form and not a real person, unless they are for something like swimwear or lingerie. To me clothing is meant to be worn by a real person and you don’t get an accurate depiction of it when you drape it on something that doesn’t move or squish.) I heard there’s a place in the Baltimore/DC area that now does custom dress forms via body scan, which should solve the anatomy issue, but again, the expense and lack of space make it something I’m not interested in at this point.

I have a feeling that part of the reason why so many people struggle with fit is because a lot of home sewing patterns are probably designed to fit the standard dress form and not a real person. Looking at the Japanese form I can see:

  • the bust is more shapely
  • the underbust smaller (and with a vertical rather than angled drop to the waist)
  • it is possible the upper chest is narrower (the armhole looks shifted more onto the body)
  • the belly is more prominent/rounded
  • there’s a slight dip between the belly and upper thighs
  • the back has a steeper angle from shoulder blade to waist, and from waist to the fullest part of the butt. In my opinion the pelvis looks slightly tilted backward for the standard form and forward for the Japanese form.
  • the overall lines are curvy rather than angular

I would be very interested in seeing a front and back as well as side comparison of the two dress forms.

You can read more about how the Japanese dress form was developed here. The short version: they took body scans of young, well-proportioned Japanese women and made a composite of the scans before turning it into a dress form.

Spandex World Bramaking Materials

I just got in some bramaking materials from the NYC based Spandex World. They have reasonable prices and a wide selection of stretch fabrics. Here’s my thoughts:

  • I am impressed with the heavyweight powernet. It feels almost as firm as the powernet of my RTW Panache Andorra bra and has a snappy stretch. It would work as a standalone or underlining band fabric for medium sizes, and give great support if doubled up for larger cup sizes (if you like your bands firm). I bought it in both white and light nude, since nude can be a difficult color to get correct when dyeing at home. The white has a softer texture than the nude. (Maybe some finishing chemicals need to be washed out?) At $10/yard I also consider it very reasonably priced. Certainly much more reasonably priced than Bramaker’s Supply’s $30 powernet. It is 50-52″ wide.
  • The white matte milliskin would make a very durable lingerie fabric, especially for something like the Christine Jonson body shaper. I think smaller sizes could probably get away with using it for a band without underlining it if they made the band short enough. It has a firm stretch. (It stretches to at least 80%, but you start encountering resistance at around the 25% mark.) Since it has the potential to be very bulky if finished with regular lingerie elastic I would finish the edges with either stretch lace or foldover elastic. It is nylon so it should dye with acid dyes.
  • The white lightweight Supplex is nice. Thinner, a slightly softer stretch, and softer in texture than the milliskin, but not quite as slippery. I think it would be the ideal fabric for panties, or for covering bra cups. I really like it! It is $12/yard. Like the milliskin it is nylon, so it should dye with acid dyes.
  • I am not a fan of the non-stretch spacer foam. Instead of being light as a feather like the other foams I’ve tried, it is quite heavy and feels very dense. It feels like a piece of supple cowskin leather. It doesn’t seem like it would breathe very well, and has a slight chemical smell. However, it is very cheap – only $12/yard as opposed to polylaminate foam from places like Sew Sassy, which starts at around $18/yard. So if you are looking for the absolute cheapest option out there and/or need an inexpensive muslin foam this is probably it. While my machine tends to skip stitches with Sew Sassy polylaminate foam it sewed this one perfectly and the edges were very smoothly butted together.

One thing I want to note about ordering from Spandex World: they don’t seem to have any lower cost shipping options like USPS, so if you are somewhere near the NYC Garment District I would recommend buying in person instead of ordering online. The shipping for my order – which was less than $50 – was $15. Ouch!

Style Arc Saskia Bustier

So incredibly seasonally inappropriate for New England right now!

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In addition to finally getting some lights and playing with my new posing app, the photographer at work gave me a crash course in fashion/portrait lighting and posing a couple of weeks ago. I decided to try to apply what I learned! Hence gratuitous amount of photos…

Here’s a couple of “guts” photos showing how the zip and facings are put together. Style Arc has a line drawing that shows this, but I often find it easier to view a photograph. (And you can see how much shaping is built into the bust!) Not my most beautiful work, but it gets the point across.

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My bedroom/sewing area got above 55°F degrees for the first time in a month, so I celebrated by making this top. Between the constant snow and general bitter cold – lots of single digit and subzero days – I’ve done hardly sewing this month. (If one more person asks “is your wedding dress done yet?!” I’m going to scream. Who wants to sew, let alone fit, in a room that struggles to get above 50ºF/10ºC degrees? I’ve been practically living in fleece yoga pants.)

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The Style Arc Saskia bustier has vertical princess seams and 1/2″ wide straps. It closes at the center front with a zipper. The zipper is placed a few inches below the upper edge, so the neckline slightly opens up to a V. There’s no boning, but it does call for a stiff fabric (such as denim or brocade) to maintain the shape. Pattern pieces are included for a lining, which is optional. (I chose to not line it.)

In an email exchange sometime last month Style Arc offered to send this top to me for free. I said yes because I have always had a weakness for bustier and corset style tops. They were really popular in the late 90s/early 2000’s and I always loved how they highlighted my waistline and upper body.

The fabric I used was a medium gray Theory stretch denim from Mood. It is a medium-to-heavyweight denim and has a stiff hand with lots of body.

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I recommend using a fabric with lots of body for this top. When I made it up in muslin the fit was totally different. There were all sorts of weird wrinkles due to the fabric collapsing from not having enough structure on its own. I decided to just go ahead anyway with making up the top out of the denim (which as you can see, was very reasonably priced). I made the side seam allowances 5/8″ instead of 3/8″ for a little extra fit insurance and cut it out, only to discover that I didn’t need the extra room after all.

For interfacing I used Pro-Sheer Elegance Medium from Fashion Sewing Supply. My zipper is a #5 brass zipper from Cleaner’s Supply I had in my stash. Topstitching was done with silver jeans thread, also from Cleaner’s Supply.

Alterations:

  • Took a 1″ vertical tuck at the center back. (I must have a narrow mid-to-lower back. I’ve found this is a normal alteration for me with strapless tops.)
  • Added 2″ to the hips at the hem
  • 1/2″ swayback alteration
  • Took in the side seams a total of 1″ due to the stretch of the denim.
  • Moved each front princess seam inward 1″ for my close-set bust. Had I used a non-stretch fabric I probably would have moved them inward just 3/4″. I left the straps in their original position, so instead of lining up with the princess seam they are about an inch to the outside.

For an ultra-fitted look I could have done a little bit more shaping at the waist, and under the bust, but I chose to leave it as-is. The result is very fitted but not as tight as a formal strapless bodice be, and there’s slight positive ease at the waist. This will be a casual warm weather top and I felt like a little bit of extra ease would make it more comfortable to wear during the hot summer months. Adding boning would have made it fussier than it needed to be.

One thing I found disappointing about this top was the upper neckline edge. The front notch didn’t match the line drawing. The line drawing shows it as a very angled notched V. The upper edge is actually cut straight. It is only angled due to the natural gaping from the lack of a zipper and pull of the fabric. It is slightly off center too because the edge of the zipper overlap is slightly to the left rather than centered. I also had a lot of trouble getting the front zip overlap to stay smooth at the top – it kept wanting to pull outward rather than staying flat. Part of this is due to the bulk of the #5 zipper pull (which is why I don’t use them in jeans anymore.) I tacked in some 1/2″ Rigilene boning at the center front edge, from the neckline to just above the waist and then shaped it with an iron, in an attempt to get it to stay a little bit more flat. It is better than without it, but is still not as flat as I would prefer.

Despite the neckline issue I think the design lines and fit are very flattering, and it is comfortable to wear as well. The fit over the bust is very good, and once I took a 1/2″ tuck at the center back the shaping there was spot-on. If I made it again I would use a #3 instead of #5 metal zipper and angle off the center front to make it look more like the line drawing. I would also shorten it a few inches so it looks more proportionate when worn untucked with fuller skirts.