I began casual lessons in pattern drafting a little less than a year ago. One of things that stood out to me then as it does now, is that, for a beginner, pattern drafting is slow. This simple dress was months in the making.
Despite having worked my way through more than a few patterns by the time I made my first custom sloper, I was not aware of all the hurdles involved in drafting personal designs–taking full body measurements, math, becoming acquainted with all the depths of that magical graded ruler…The list is long and precise, and margin of error runs high as experience sewing clothes is not necessarily transferable to drawing them.
The first steps were laborious as I tried to wrap my mind around thinking of clothing in previously ignored depths. Classes left me with a feeling far different from sewing, and much closer to what I experience after hours working on my thesis. As I built bodice and skirt slopers, and then a combined dress sloper, the idea that my efforts would eventually turn into a beautiful, personal garment remained abstract. But eventually something came out of it all and pattern drafting quickly became easier. Despite spending more time working on patterns than anything else, as I still now do, sewing surprisingly got easier, and better, too.
Since beginning lessons, I’ve drawn three finished patterns–a puzzle-like wrap dress, a whimsical Bishop-sleeved blazer, and this simple slip dress. I also have a wide leg pant at in the final steps. While the blazer is an upcoming fall project, I’ve sewn the wrap dress (featured on IG) and slip dress. This might not seem like much after a year of casual drafting, but I’ve learned that the time frame and experience of creating patterns differs from buying a pattern and sewing it up. I guess I didn’t realized that when you draw your own designs, they don’t come with their own instructions. Plus, drafting from your own measurements doesn’t mean that you can skip out on muslining the pattern. It means that muslining becomes unavoidable. However, for me, these steps make me appreciate the process more than ever before. Overtime, the idea of creating the garment has taken on a whole new meaning.
While I doubt pattern drafting is for everyone, I am thrilled at the direction it has taken my sewing. I have a better concept of design, of fit, of construction, and of just how long truly crafted garments take to make. This corresponds to my goal of making clothes that will last for longer than I’ll be able to personally wear them, and serve me artistically in a way that compliments sewing with purchased patterns (something I continue to love and do). Creating this slip dress, for however simple it may be, puts this goal in action.
Although a slip dress can by put together quickly, I spent a while sewing this first version of my custom pattern. Most of the time was spent attempting a technique, then redoing it, or just undoing it as I worked out the sense of putting together this dress. I have the option of sewing a dress version with a back zipper (like this one) or cutting on the bias for an actual slip version. Working out the spaghetti straps took longer than anything else. Placing the straps was not easy. I wanted double straps in the front, and eventually settled on looping them through partial bra straps which keep the lingerie look going. I also finished the back with picot edge elastic, and lined the front cups.
The floral mid-weight rayon fabric is one I fell in love in the winter from Blackbird fabrics. I’m happy it became this dress as it seems to maintain the sense that first inspired me to sew with it–something delicate, but dark and romantic. I hope to continue drawing custom patterns to sew with, if only to keep up the playful, curious aspect of creating my own clothes. That similar rush that comes with learning to sew, the idea that “maybe, I could really create exactly what I want,” is certainly present in pattern making, too.