In this tutorial I’d like to share my own method of designing dress patterns based on the construction kit principle.
My method is good because:
- It helps you spare room for storing your patterns;
- It provides endless opportunities for further modification;
- It removes any size limitations of the initial standard patterns.
I have sketched schematic patterns of the top of a corset-based dress for better clarity:
There is only one difference from the regular corset pattern: it is prolonged to the hips.
You can always distinguish three horizontal lines on any pattern – the bust line, the waist line and the hip line. Vertical lines are the fold line at the front and the central open edge at the back.
99% of corset-based dresses are princess dresses with two princess seams in the chest area at the front and two princess seams at the back.
A dress like this can have any kind of a top and any neckline. It can be strapless (like shown in the picture); it can feature a boatneck or integral straps: singlet-type straps, halter-neck, off-shoulder straps. It can be a dress with sleeves that cover the shoulders. Or it can be a very open dress with a fancy décolleté and a low cut back. It can be anything you like.
I have chosen a basic pattern as an example. But it doesn’t mean it you have to work with standard patterns. I will show you how to adjust patterns after individual measurements in the next tutorials.
And now I would like to show you how to build a pattern of a corset-based dress and its skirt combining standard pattern elements as if they were construction kit pieces. My aim is to prove that you don’t have to construct a pattern from scratch for every particular size or style.
I’ll start from the basics.
First I’d like to talk about the classic straight cut. You can see two models.
This dress can be decorated with any kind of drapery or falbala, or it can be smooth and straight with a side slit or a back vent, a wiggle dress or a flare dress, etc. All these dress styles can be made after the pattern we are about to discuss.
All these dresses are based on a corset top and a straight skirt.
Let’s return to the pattern. What do you do in order to turn it into a straight cut dress? You should prolong its vertical lines into a straight skirt of desired length.
In other words, there’s another horizontal line on the pattern – the skirt length. Your dress can be long, medium or really short. It makes no difference. I simply prolong the lines perpendicular to the hip line right on fabric whenever I want to add a straight skirt. I apply minor alterations later if necessary.
For example I can narrow the skirt using the side seam or princess seams at back...
Or I can add a vent there...
...mark the length of the slit on the pattern, etc.
And again, I’d like to emphasize that all patterns of the dress top can be modified according to your client’s size.
A few more words about the pattern: whenever you’re making a straight corset-based dress, you feel tempted to make darts at the front of the skirt instead of full princess seams going down to the bottom. But any corset-based dress is known for its accentuated bust area, sloping hips, emphasized waist, and very flat stomach. These peculiarities are taken into account on the pattern.
And if you try to cut a one-piece skirt for two pieces of the corset front, then the dart will be located rather low and you’ll still have to prolong the seam of the skirt nearly to the very bottom.
What concerns the back half, you can cut a one-piece skirt pattern with no princess seam in the middle. It’s enough to combine the patterns and account for the original seam allowances.
What you see below are corset-based dresses with a bell skirt.
The skirt is straight to the knee level or above and the rest of it is flared along the side seam. It’s a very popular skirt style. I sew such dresses with a slit along the middle of the leg and drape them with chiffon or lustrous silk satin, i.e. there are many possible variations. But this dress model is always based on a corset top and a one-piece bell skirt. I have a bell skirt pattern and I don’t worry about its original dimensions. It’s surely great to have a cardboard or plastic skirt pattern with a double-checked flare that satisfies your clients and yourself regardless of the size. The key is a beautiful side seam line.
I prolong the vertical lines on the central front piece to build a pattern for this corset-based model.
And I prolong the back piece as well. Please note that I’m using a ready skirt pattern.
Then I match the hip lines of the side piece of the dress top and the skirt pattern. I trace the skirt pattern with a pencil or a piece of chalk following the side seam. Next I shift the pattern to match the hip line from the opposite side. And I trace the other edge of the skirt.
After removing the skirt pattern I have an accurate pattern of the dress.
I work on the back piece the same way. I match the hip lines from one side and then from the other side and trace the edges over fabric.
I can apply any alterations with regard to the model: make the skirt narrower or flare it, mark a slit, etc. I have turned two separate patterns into a single pattern for a one-piece bell-skirt dress.
Now let’s look at a more complicated task: a corset-based dress with a godet bell skirt.
The skirt has a bell-like flare along the side seam and a godet at the back which can be prolonged into a beautiful train. This dress looks stunning as you walk: it’s somewhat narrowed towards the knees with a slim fit at the front and there’s a very beautiful train or just a godet flare at the back.
Just like in the previous case I have a separate pattern of a godet skirt.
It turns into a dress pattern the same way as before. I simply prolong the vertical lines of the front piece to the required skirt length and then I carefully match the hip lines of the top and the skirt and trace the edges over fabric. I don’t care if the waist lines are mismatched. I am only interested in the bottom part of the skirt – from the hip and down. I can apply additional alterations later if needed: add a train, a gore, etc.
And now I’d like to talk about making a pattern of a fishtail dress or a godet dress.
The construction process remains unchanged.
I have a pattern of a godet skirt. I place each skirt pattern over the corresponding corset pattern matching their hip lines and trace the edges onto fabric. First I trace it from one side and then I shift the pattern and trace it from the other side.
Let’s go ahead. The dress has a skirt that flares at the hips.
I take the pattern of the skirt and turn it into a dress using the familiar scheme. I do it even when the skirt pattern is considerably smaller than the corset pattern customized after my client’s size. I believe you have already grasped the essence of the method. And if I need to change the flare, I re-draw it right on fabric. That concerns, for example, wedding dresses with fuller skirts.
And, finally, the last model I’d like to touch upon is a dress that flares from the waist.
I follow the same steps. There’s only one difference: I match the waist lines of the corset pattern and the skirt pattern, i.e. the flare starts right at the waist.