Starting a “Simple” 1912 Day Dress

I’ve got a case of Costume ADD!  My squirrely brain has landed on this “quick and easy” 1912 daytime tea dress.  I thought I would just throw it together…ha…haha…HAHAHA.

I started with draping a pattern, which looked pretty darn good:

I was so confident, I went for it with the dress, only to discover that my pattern sucked (of course!) all around the sleeves and armscyes.  I perpetually have problems with this – when will I finally figure it out!?

Feeling rather lame, I fell back to safety, and altered a modern Simplicity blouse pattern, which has actually worked out just fine.  All I did was slash-n-spread a few inches at the waist (keeping the shoulder the same), raised the waist by a couple inches, for that high-waisted Edwardian look, and scooped the stitching line down in front, to gather it up and make that puffy blousy 1912 front.  The collar is simply matched to the neckline edge in front and back, and drawn into a shape I liked, with a seam at the shoulder.  For the sleeves, I just shortened them, and added a cuff.

I should stick to altering existing, working patterns, because nothing is more discouraging that having cut your fashion fabric and then having an issue with your pattern. 🙁  Good thing I had a lot of this fabric!


    • Lauren Stowell

      March 6, 2013 at 9:08 PM

      It was Simplicity 5194, but you could do the same to just about any shirtwaist/shirt pattern either with a waist seam or no waist seam (but avoid ones that have, like, empire waist seam, midriff portion, etc.)

  • AuntieNan

    March 6, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Hi there! I have to ask the question here — painful, I know, as you have worked so hard (with a file, no less, if I remember your blog entry??!!) to alter your fitting dummy for period fitting use. But — are you sure that hunk of fiberglass (?) or plastic (?) has the same shoulder configuration as you? I'm only looking at a photo, but the inanimate woman appears to be quite ramrod-straight with absolutely no shoulder slope at all. Maybe get a fitting buddy (and the requisite libations) to do a little geometric study of your shoulder angle, armscye depth and proper diameter from back armscye around the bicep to front armscye?? That could affect the fit of a bodice and sleeve BIG TIME!
    Good luck with this! I am sympathetic, as I am forever drafting the pattern, whipping it on and off myself (no fitting buddy handy) and discovering I have wasted hours and yards…
    Best of luck,

    • Lauren Stowell

      March 6, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      Hi AuntieNan – the dummy's actually pretty spot-on to my shoulders and arms (when the arms are attached), but as with any dummy, it's a tool, not a rule. It doesn't account for my slumpy posture, haha. Normally if I can get the armscye an sleeve to fit the dummy arms/shoulders, it'll fit me, but on this particular pattern drafting adventure, I was trying a new technique with the French Curve ruler, and made all kinds of stupid mistakes. Primarily, my armscye was far too low under the arm, so no matter what sleeve I stuck in there, it wasn't going to work.

    • AuntieNan

      March 7, 2013 at 2:35 AM

      Aha! The French Curve! I will run like a stag from that tool when next I see one!
      Great explanation, and I love how patiently you dissect the mistakes, all the while laughing at them instead of the juvenile cursing that ol Nan indulges in.

    • Lauren Stowell

      March 7, 2013 at 2:52 AM

      I think it's a great tool, I just don't really know how to use it! lol! And there is plenty of cursing that goes on behind-the-scenes here, too, haha. Nobody's perfect 🙂

  • undeadgoat

    March 6, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    Speaking as someone who comes from the background of fashion school rather than historical sewing . . . make a full muslin when you're unsure of details! If you don't want to do a whole full skirt, you can do just the bodice; the weight of the skirt will change the final fit but "royally fucked" should be noticeable!

  • KittyKatt

    March 6, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    It would be interesting for you to do a more dynamic dummy, such as a duct tape or gummed tape dummy with the help of a friend and then compare it with your commercial one, altered as it is. I bet you will be surprised as heck at the difference, I bet you will. 🙂

    • Lauren Stowell

      March 7, 2013 at 2:51 AM

      My dress form works very well for my purposes. Of course there are differences and drawbacks, as with all dress forms. The fault was with my patterning – what I did to the draped pieces after they came off the form. I should have left them alone, haha, then maybe my bodice would have fit! Instead, I tried to do the armscyes and sleeves with the French Curve, and got all kinds of backwards on it, and therein lies the fault.

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