I just can’t seem to avoid alliteration in my blog-post titles as of late! Truthfully, however, this title really seems to sum up just how badly I have been bitten by the “couture” bug. Earlier in the summer I signed up for Susan Khalje’s class, The Couture Dress, on Craftsy. I’ve mentioned it several times in my past posts, but now, my couture dress is finished.
The Craftsy course included this Vogue pattern:
Although I could have substituted another pattern for my dress, I decided it would be beneficial to follow the exact steps which Susan takes one through in her course. (It helped that the view I chose to make reminds me very much of a classic 1960s–style dress).
My idea of making a “muslin” or toile has been completely transformed by this course. I now know it as the most essential ingredient in the proper fit and alteration of a garment – and although the process of producing a useable muslin is time-consuming, every minute is worth it. There is nothing quite so discouraging as spending a lot of time, energy, and money on a garment and then not being completely satisfied with the fit. Making a couture muslin eliminates this possibility almost entirely. Check out the online preview of the course if you want to know more about this concept.
There are several “hallmarks” of couture construction, I have learned: Control, Generosity, and that all-important duo of Form and Function. So what (in a nutshell) do these terms mean?
A few examples of Control are:
1) Control of the fit, which, as stated above, is the purpose of the muslin.
2) Control of the stitching line, which is your reference point for sewing – as opposed to the seam allowance, which is how most of us were taught to sew. Lots and lots of basting is the key to controlling the stitching line.
3) Control of the inner seams, the raw edges of which are each catch-stitched to the underlining.
The two big examples of Generosity are:
1) Cutting out the muslin, the underlining and the fashion fabric with very large seam allowances which give you the flexibility you might need to make changes in your final fitting.
2) Allowing – and taking – the time to do a lot of hand-sewing, fitting, and detail work.
Finally, Form and Function are well illustrated by these two examples:
1) A couture lining is always applied by hand, using the fell stitch. To insure that the lining will not “migrate” to the outside, it is secured by the very lovely pick stitch – doing the job (function) in a truly elegant way (form).
2) The zipper (if you are using one) is a regular zipper (not invisible) which is set in by hand, again using the pick stitch.
Now that you’ve gotten a few glimpses of my dress inside and out, here it is all finished:
One of the things that appeals to me so much about couture construction is how transferable it is to vintage patterns. In fact, I would go so far as to say that parts of this type of construction are implied in many vintage patterns. Here is an example from a construction sheet from the early’70s:
Consider for a moment this advantage of using vintage patterns over contemporary ones: contemporary patterns, which are usually “multi-sized”, are drawn with the cutting line only. To make one of these patterns usable for couture construction, you must add the stitching line onto the pattern tissue, adding another step in the whole process. Vintage patterns (except for unprinted ones, of course) have the stitching line drawn on the tissue – ready to be traced onto your muslin fabric (which becomes your ultimate pattern). All of which brings me to another alliterative phrase . . . as I find myself Valuing all the many Virtues of Very Versatile Vintage!