May 4, 2014

Planning and Patterning a Custom Dress

I just cut the fabric for the custom dress I am working on. Do you or have you sewn custom garments for profit? 
Recently I have limited the amount of sewing I do for others. Due to the fact that retail and mass production has skewed the conceptualized worth of sewn goods by the general public (READ: non sewists). Turns out a custom dress does NOT cost $20 and my services are NOT free, most proposed sewing projects do not move past that point based solely on my rates. Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way that money for my labor hours has to be agreed upon first and this typically detours all non serious clients. There are times when I accept an invitation to sew for someone other than myself and at a reduced rate, this is such an occasion. A friend was in need of a special occasion dress and I was delighted to take on the challenge, first because I knew how important the dress was to to her and secondly because I really wanted to alter and fit a garment to her proportions... she is petite, full busted with broad shoulders and back. These are the main reasons that make me really enjoy sewing for others. Their appreciation of my handiwork lends to a dress they will love fondly for years to come and a sewing challenge for myself keeps me dedicated to the project while allowing me to expand my knowledge. 
The concept for this garment was proposed as a dress with sleeves, summer weight. No purple. Everything else was up to me which really did not help with the design direction. Amazingly while walking the mall we spotted a dress in a store window with cutout details that jumped out at both of us at the same time. Like this cotton blend dress but in a print fabric: 
It was decided that I would create a similar dress with a fit and flare silhouette and cut out details in the front and back, added sleeves in a print fabric with out a purple hue. I tracked down a pattern that had the basic design lines I wanted for the dress body and that could easily be adapted to the design in mind; Simplicity 1418 and the sleeves from Simplicity 1803. Here is a quick drawing of the envisioned dress: 
I was on the hunt for fabric. The best thing about sewing for a friend as a client you can really narrow down your fabric options based on your insights of the person therefor you are not blindly fabric hunting. Swiftly I picked three fabrics and emailed the links, they were all perfect picks. In the end this fun kaleidoscope floral cotton sateen panel print from Michael Levine won out: 
It was time to adapt the pattern. My though process was that I could adjust for the FBA (tutorial in route) then divide the yoke for the diagonal cut outs. Perfect in theory...
I traced my pattern and attempted to draw my cutouts at so many angles (all the colored markers). I was on the verge of giving up when I was struck with a novel idea. If I were to create a template of the diagonals that could pivot I could adjust the fringe (diagonals) to adapt to the neckline of the garment. 

After making a muslin I decided to adjust the fringe depth. I also changed the direction of the fringe across the yoke so it would correspond to the fringe in the back.

My template worked like magic and I was able to plot the yoke fringe on the center front panel then trace each section and add seam allowance to create my patterns. 
Taking on this project I was bound to learn something new, I just thought it would be in the fitting stage! 


  1. I can't wait to see that! I agree... I don't sew for others often, especially after I tell them how long an item actually takes to sew and what that would mean for costs. And thorn there is " yes I sew... No I do not want to hem all the curtains for your house...."

    1. Yes Rachel, I did not even mention the personal time a sewist invests in each garment! And I too have been hit with the curtain hemming proposition before.. I would make a ball gown any day of the week before hemming curtains.

  2. I can hardly wait to this dress made up. It is going to be amazing. I have also cut back on client sewing. We agree on what is to be made, price, and bling. Then they want more and more and more and I have to say No and NO and NO. This year I am making three dresses and a shirt and I doubt if I will do any more client sewing.

    1. Thank you Ann..I hear you about the client add on extras at some point you have to put your foot down!

  3. This will be so gorgeous. I think it is so nice of you to make this dress for her, the fit will be perfection.

    1. Thanks Lori! My first fitting was almost spot on so the final fit will be a breeze.


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