Friday, February 25, 2011

My New Frontier: A 1960’s cocktail dress: Part One - Introduction & Sizing Up the Pattern

Hi Everyone!

Our adventures in pattern drafting continue with our much loved circa 1960 cocktail dress, Spadea’s # N-1077, otherwise known as Philip’s stunning creation, Black Beauty!

Spadea is a long-gone, mid-20th century pattern company, and their history can be found here.

Philip has already made up this dress as is, in its original size, out of a sumptuous black satin. Then, he proceeded to bedeck, bedazzle, and encrust his creation in iridescent black glass beads.

As you can see, it is a wonderful example of finery and sophistication.   Who wouldn’t be inspired by this amazing work of art?!

Bottom Line:  I want one.  But I want a West-Coast version, made in a cool yet bold Hawiian Barkcloth, with no drape, and embellished with black palette spangles on the solid black background:
I have *just enough* Hawiian Barkcloth fabric to create this dress with no drape...
but how cute will it be?!?!?!
Our Spadea pattern is a vintage size 14, which is a modern day 6, which I am not.
In order to make this style fit, I will have to increase (grade up) the original pattern from a size 6 to a size 8 size 10. 
What is my end goal?? To have a fabulous, flattering real vintage dress pattern that fits me.  This Spadea style is perfect to start with because it is:
1.) Simple – Just a bodice, waistband, skirt, and optional front drape!  The facings at the neck/armhole area can be easily replaced with bias tape to finish the inside, which I plan to do.
2.) Flattering –Bateau neckline, hourglass shape, what’s not to LOVE?
3.) Easy to sew - with areas of opportunity to tweak , simplify or improve the construction quality and finishing.
4.) Versatile –Looks great in anything from Satin to Cotton to Lame’!  Can be made with or without the drape in front for a sleeker, or less formal look.  In fact, without the drape, this is a simple, sweet little boat-neck wiggle dress….wooork!
Well, here I go again….a whole weekend of nothing but tracing & re-tracing patterns, and the results are worth every moment!
The entire original pattern consists of  9 pieces: Front/Back Bodice, Waistband. Skirt, facings, and the front drape.  ***I will be showing the front bodice only as an example of the tracing/sizing up process.  Note: The Front Drape piece will not be included in this 1st dress, but will be explored/sewn at a later date, in a different fabric.

First, I trace all the original tissue pieces, marking all punch holes and perforations.  This 1st tracing is now my master copy, and it will remain unchanged, as an exact copy of the real vintage pattern.

Original tissue pattern from 1960

1st TracingExact copy of the original (Sorry, the photo is light, but you get the idea :)
I create a 2nd tracing from the first, and I make adjustments to the body width and length by slashing & inserting strips of paper.  I have calculated how much I needed to add to the original pattern to make it fit me.  In order to increase black Beauty up to a size 10, I had to add 3 ½” total to the original pattern width, and 1” to the total length.
2nd tracing: slashed and spread to evenly increase length & width.

Here's a lil' breakdown of what I did:
WIDTH: Since the patterns for the Bodice, Waistband, and skirt are placed on the fold and represent one quarter of the body, I divided my total width measurements by 4, then applied that number to each piece.
In other words, 3 ½” divided by 4 is 7/8”, so I added 7/8” to the width of each piece.
LENGTH: I evenly divided the 1” length needed between the bodice and skirt. 
So, ½” was added to the bodice length, and ½” to skirt length.
The best way increase the overall size of a pattern, is to add throughout the body, instead of just adding to the side seams and bottom edge.
I’ve created these quick ‘n dirty images of the bodice and skirt to clearly show what I did, and what you should NOT do: 

Once all the pieces are increased in size, I clean up the overall shape, double check & triple-check notch placement, making sure everything matches and lines up for good sewing.
Now all the pieces are ready to be cut in fabric!
3rd tracing: All cleaned up in a size 10 and ready to use!

Stay tuned for Part Two:  “Sewing a Wearable Muslin” where the dress will come to life in all its size 10 glory!

-Kathleen, In Oakland

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