23 October 2009

Just one wafer-thin mint...

It might be time to admit that I have a problem. Once I have all the materials on hand to start a project, it gradually but inexorably becomes irresistible. So although my plate is already full with everything else I'm working on, I just couldn't not start the 18th c. open robe anglais I've been thinking of.

Actually, I was really itching to cut into the the main fabric (a linen-cotton blend with narrow printed stripes - inexpensive for a trial run of the design). But reading through the instructions, it became sadly clear that I couldn't start there. So instead, I cut the bodice lining and started the fitting on that instead. Now, this is really a draped gown - you can't work straight from a flat pattern and expect it to work. But I don't have a dressmaking form, or even a fitting helper - so I'm trying to drape a bodice on myself while wearing stays, and that's a contortionist act if ever there was one. I started by basting the fronts together, then putting pins at the corners of the side-back seams while wrapping it around me, at which point it was held together enough to not fall off, and I could set the shoulder straps. Maybe I just got lucky, but the straps really fell right into place the first time. At that point, I pinched close to an inch out of the side seams and re-set those corner pins, then ripped out the front basting to take it off again. While I had it off, I switch the side seams to overlapped rather than right sides together, and re-pinned a tentative seam line. Then it's an iterative process: put on, carefully pin front seam where the basting had been, pull on seams to see how much room is left (and make a mental note), unpin fronts, take off, adjust seams (measuring to keep the two sides even), repeat. It was easiest for me to work down from the top - getting the underarm just right before worrying too much about the waist. I think it took about 2 hours to get the fitting done. Really, an assistant or a dress dummy would have made this a lot easier. There are some fitting photos here when I was almost finished - I did one more round of adjustments afterward.

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