Making a dress without a pattern is a lot harder than a top. You have so many more variables to work with—how will it get over your head, fitting the bust, hips and length all at the same time, so many more pieces to fit together, and lots of other little details that, if missed, can really mess the whole thing up. Now don’t think I’m a dress making pro—I have several incompletes and flops sitting in my sewing room waiting to be fixed or scrapped. But I have found that a well thought out process makes the biggest difference when designing your own dress.
Most of the dresses I make are inspired in one way or another by one I see online. I shared in this post how I make a knock off. I’m going to review the process again today as well as show you how I start to formulate a plan when making a more complex clothing item. This plan is essential when I am using fabric that I don’t want to sacrifice.
For this year’s Easter dress I’m knocking off this Gray Ruched Flower Dress from Dorothy Perkins. I pinned this dress 10 weeks ago, and I can’t even begin to predict how many times I’ve pulled the link up and stared at it, enlarged it, analyzed it, admired it, stared at it… You get the picture.
There’s something in the way that my brain works where I can visualize how something is assembled. I can look at it, envision how pieces come together, and then (with some work) translate that into my own version. I’ve practiced the most with fabric, but I really think that I can wrap my brain around how most things assemble. My problems happen when I don’t take the time to think enough.
After becoming acquainted with every inch of every view provided of the dress, the next step is to draw out what the individual pieces of the dress will look like and then plan out how I’ll assemble it. Back and front in a dress like this are not the same. So I have to think through drape and fit and what will affect how the dress falls (like your chest, hips, belly, butt). All those are taken into account. For example, since my stomach is expanding and I’ll belt the dress above it, it’ll cause the front of the dress to be shorter than the back if I were to cut them the same length. So I’ll do a gentle curve down in the front at the hem.
My next step is to actually write out the steps I’ll take in assembling the dress. As you can see, I changed my mind a bit along the way. I had to picture how the fabric will sit after each seam. How I’ll then turn it inside out, how the steps will flow from one to the next, and how my seams will be best hidden. And then, I have to hope it’ll actually work! It’s very likely I’ll be changing some of these steps along the way as I actually sew.
As a little soapbox thought: I’ve seen pins on Pinterest where the pinner will caption a project with, “Wish the blogger actually gave a tutorial,” or, “I’d love to make this but there isn’t a tutorial.” I feel like these are critical captions. What I don’t think those pinners understand is that making something totally off the top of your head takes work. And not everyone can process through a piece ahead of time like I do. Some might be better at just winging it. Or maybe their plan changes so many times as they go (I’ve been there) that it’s impossible to explain what all you did. Or maybe they’re working with little time and taking pictures of every step would slow down the process too much. I don’t think any of my followers would caption like this, but I just had to get it off my chest. Ok, stepping off my soapbox now.
My next post in The Making of a Dress will be about actually drafting up pattern pieces for the dress. Which can now be seen here.
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