Saturday, February 10, 2018

One-Sided Point of View

While we were busy wrapping everyone in tulle and celebrating our anniversary, the Haute Couture designers in Paris strutted their stuff and the New Yorkers have begun what will be a month long marathon of global fashion weeks. While the girls are off to make their reports, I wanted to do another tutorial based on a recent trend taking the fashion world by storm: one-shouldered necklines!

L-R: Vionnet, Armani Prive, Dries Van Noten, Gillian Anderson in unnamed designer, Mary J. Blige in Alberta Ferretti, Greta Gerwig in Oscar de la Renta. Photos:
This seems simple enough, but often simple is very hard to do well and I thought this would be a good exercise to help you understand how and where you can alter a pattern to bring your own ideas to life. Most fashion schools teach pattern making two ways: using measurements, pencil and ruler on the table and "draping" or "3-D Design" whereby you create the pattern in cotton muslin directly on the dress form. As a student I loved pattern drafting (something I developed while working with commercial patterns as a teenager), but today most students prefer watching the design come alive on a mannequin in front of their eyes.

Flat Pattern Drafting Method
The pattern for this garment begins with the basic bodice sloper. Whenever you are creating an asymmetrical design, you need to work with the full front bodice (or foundation). This is as simple as tracing a mirror image of the sloper on the opposite side of the center front (CF) line.
What I have learned about making patterns for dolls is how easy it is to miscalculate where things fall on the body. If the neckline is too high it becomes a more prudish version of your original design. Too low often results in the design falling off the doll's tiny frame.
1. Until your eye becomes accustomed to your doll's proportions, I highly recommend you place the paper pattern against the body and draw or fold the neckline. Note: I've folded and taped the darts to get a more accurate idea of how the neckline with impact bodice.
2. From the shoulder to the opposite side beneath the armhole of the front bodice, draw a diagonal line. The upper part with be cut away and discarded.
3. Take the back bodice and place the shoulder line against the shoulder line of the front bodice. Mark where the back neckline will start based on what is happening in the front. You want a smooth transition from front to back which is why we do this.
4. I've flipped the back right side up. Now design the line of the back the way you want it.
5. You're not finished yet. You must now match the right back to the left side front and mark where the necklines should meet. Draw your diagonal line. Be sure you label "left back" and right back" on the pattern pieces). Add seam allowance, lay your pattern against the fabric and cut one of each pattern piece.

Draping method
This is the exact same garment as above which will yield the exact same end result. It's just a different approach to pattern making.
We are making what's called a "toile" or a "muslin" out of unbleached cotton. No muslin, no problem, you can use paper though it is a bit trickier to work with. (But be very careful not to tear your pattern as you work.) I start with adding seam allowance to the front and back slopers then making my "shell." Transfer the paper pattern to the muslin, cut out then stitch together pieces, using a basting stitch or a long machine stitch. Mark the center back seam and pin down the center back.

1. After you have created your shell, place it on the doll and sketch out the the lines of your neckline.
2. Note how wide or narrow your shoulder will be.
3. You will need to decide what happens when the front meets the back under the arm on the side where the shoulder will be cut away.
4. Unless the opening is on the (short) side of the garment, you will need to figure how the left and right side come together at the center back to ensure a smooth line.
5. Once you are happy with the look and the fit, you will need to carefully take your toile apart. Trace all markings to a new sheet of tracing paper to create your pattern.
6. Add seam allowance.
The one-shouldered neckline is almost always diagonal. That means it is very easy to stretch out of shape while you are stitching the garment together. As a way to control what happens to that diagonal line and provide a bit of structure, you can add support with a tiny strip of "iron on interfacing." For those of you not familiar with this product, it looks like a cotton fabric on one side and has a raised pebbly surface on the backside. The pebbly surface is placed against the wrong side of the garment and you iron on the cotton side. Here, I cut a very tiny strip (roughly 1/8" (3mm) and placed it along the stitch line. When you are ironing this on, be careful not to scrub, but rather to press (up and down movements). Once in place, you can attach your lining. If you don't plan to line the garment, fold over and hand stitch in place as I've done here.
Here's my one shouldered silhouette side front and back. Use the same method for any dress or for when using the sloper for stretch garments. (If you have a good quality stretch fabric, you may not need the interfacing.) You can leave the arm bare, set in a sleeve or add embellishments, depending on your design!

On Dorian, I took a scrap and made a little puff to which I attached a train (using a narrow rectangle of fabric). The oversized print of this silk really makes a statement!
Which method should you use and when? Aside from an answer like, "whatever you feel comfortable with," I personally see the flat pattern method for simple or "classic" looks, whereas the "draping" method is good for free style "original creations like the one featured below.

I loved the neckline of the Oscar de la Renta dress worn by actress Greta Gerwig at this year's Golden Globes. It really isn't that hard to recreate in that it's based on our simple one-shouldered neckline.
1. Start by making a toile (sloper with seam allowance cut out of muslin). Place on doll body.
2. With a pencil, design the neckline. Here, I'm drawing it directly on the muslin. The strokes should be big. If the details are too fine, they will be lost when you add the lining!
3. Again, the body is a 3-dimensional object, so you will need to figure out what is happening on the side.
4. And you will need to decide what will happen in the back.
5. Once you are happy with the design, cut away the excess to get a better look at what's happening.
6. In my case, I was happy with the neckline, but once I cut the top away, the right side didn't hug the bust the way I wanted. So I pinched in a tiny dart to make it fit. Once you are happy with the fit and the design, it's time to take the toile apart and make our paper pattern.
Please note: Exceptionally, I have designed this so that the front is connected to the back at the shoulder line. What that means is, the front and the right back bodices will form a single pattern. I did this because the part going over the shoulder is narrow and I wanted to avoid bulk at that point. Just be aware that when you do this, 1) the pattern piece will take up more fabric, 2) the back will fall on the other words...the back will have a bit of stretch.

Make your paper pattern. Flatten out the toile and trace all markings onto tracing paper. Make any adjustments to maintain symmetry of the darts. Be sure to label the pattern pieces so that you know what they are and how they attach to each other. This is especially important with asymmetrical patterns. Add seam allowance.

This garment is best lined! Use a very lightweight material.
1. Sew the right back to the left back (blue dotted lines). Sew the lining to the garment along the neckline (red dotted line).
2. Turn the garment to the right side out. Very carefully press along the neckline.
3. While this is still flat, I turned under the armhole of the garment onto itself and pinned in place. Then I turned under the lining onto itself. Hand stitched the two together. Now complete the rest of the garment by stitching the sides together.

I only made this design as a top which means it can be combined with any evening skirt or trousers for a dramatic look!

Before I close the subject, you know I always like to present a "simple solution" for those who might feel this tutorial is a bit intimidating. There is another look I've seen on the runway. It falls along the lines of the Alberta Ferretti gown worn by Mary J. Blige. It consists of a strapless dress and a single sleeve. You can either make the dress using the sheath pattern, or craft a tube out of stretchy fabric and add the embellishment of your choosing.

Off the Beaten Track
1. Let's make our base. (Can be applied to any style of strapless dress.) I started by using the pattern for the one-piece camisole.
2. Make a tube by cutting a rectangle of fabric big enough for the doll to get her arm through it. Hem the top and bottom. Make one stitch down the edge and turn right side up. Slide this onto the arm.
3. Pin where the top of the sleeve meets up with the top of the camisole, then stitch it under the arm.
1. You can use ANYTHING you want. Here, I took a rectangle of silk and hemmed all four edges.
2.  Softly hand pleat it with your fingers, pin along the neckline and tack in place. It will go under one arm and over the opposite arm.
3. Tack it on top of the sleeve as well as under the arm.
4. Continue to tack it to the neckline in the back
5. Tack it to either side of the center back seam. The top or dress can be closed with snaps.

E-Z 1-Shoulder looks
1. Adding a strap to this top acts as a support for any embellishment you might want.
2. A cluster of silk flowers gives a feminine aura to my otherwise austere camisole.
3. A tiny bit of faux fur really glams things up. Here, I've added a sleeve to the camisole underneath.
And just look how a single ribbon can spruce things up!

With the exception of the runway photos (courtesy of, all photos and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist 2018. Please do not reproduce without prior permission. Thank You.

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  1. A great tutorial. If I had the patience to fine- tune it all, my work eould be much nicer. Unfortunately, lack of time and impatience require simplifications of each design.

    1. Thank you Dlubaniny. I understand you completely which is why I always try to explore some super simple alternatives for each theme! If you were making garments to sell, that would be a different story. But often when it's for our own pleasure, (just like in real life with "fast fashion,") it's normal to look for a quick and easy way to simply get the look!

  2. Great post, many useful things - as always. :) I love riding it.
    As you wrote - I use both technics of making patterns. It depends on the outfit. But I like making paper patterns - you can always use them another time, sometimes they requires only minor changes. :)

    1. Thank you, Kamelia. I totally agree with you. I tend to use both methods depending on the outfit, as well. I always make patterns because you never know when you might need to use them or some element of them again.

  3. When i saw Dorian's gown, Pucci came to mind! Love all of these dresses, great piece once again! How do u come up with these lovely names for your dolls? :)

    1. You know, I hadn't thought about Pucci, but you're right. I have a lot of this fabric and was anxious to use it since I usually make everything in black or white. I thought a print would be a nice change. It's totally out of scale for the doll which makes it even more spectacular! Most of my dolls are named after supermodels, runway stars, past and present. Dorian was named after Dorian Leigh, one of the top models of the 1950's. In my collection there is Pat (Pat Cleveland), Joan (Joan Smalls), Iman and Giselle (Gisele Bundchen) among many others. Whenever I run out of names, I google to find names and try to match up the name with the look of the doll!

  4. Bardzo Ci dziękuję za wykroje tych sukien. Mam w planach uszycie właśnie takiej kreacji! Twoja kreatywność jest niesamowita! Suknie na lalkach prezentują się wytwornie! Z wielką przyjemnością je obejrzałam i jestem pod wielkim wrażeniem :)
    Pozdrawiam Cię bardzo serdecznie!

    1. Olla wrote: Thank you very much for the patterns of these dresses. I plan to sew just such a creation! Your creativity is amazing! Dresses on dolls look elegant! I watched them with great pleasure and I am very impressed :)
      I greet you very warmly!

      Thank you, Olla for your very kind words. The one-shouldered dress is a very elegant look. I think it makes the wearer look like a Grecian goddess!!! So happy you stopped by for a visit. I'll see you soon. Big hugs. April

    2. Masz rację. Porównanie do greckiej bogini jest bardzo, bardzo trafne :-)

    3. Olla wrote:
      You're right. The comparison to the Greek goddess is very, very accurate :-)

  5. I have a question, i have many vintage 12" fashion doll patterns & none mention lining the garments, is it possible to still line them? Thanks in advance.

    1. Absolutely. You only need to construct a double of the garment in a lightweight fabric like China silk or a light cotton. Attach at the neckline. If there is a collar (like a stand-up collar), attach the lining back to back (right side facing you) with the dress then attach the collar, tucking its lower edge under and tacking it over the lining.

    2. Thank you again!
      I have another question,I've always wondered where do designers get their ideas for their clothing lines?

    3. Sorry for the delay in answering this. That is an excellent question. Contrary to popular belief, the fashion designer is one of the most knowledgeable, informed and cultured individuals. Inspiration comes from absolutely everything surrounding them: nature and current lifestyles, foreign lands and art movements in the news to political and socio-economic trends! The late Yves St. Laurent was inspired by the colors and folkloric costume of his North-African birth place. Christian Dior inspired by his mother and aristocratic home. We are exposed to exotic cultures through the work of Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto. The late Patrick Kelly brought his down home Mississippi roots to the Paris catwalk. When the first president (Nixon) to make an official trip to China landed on the Asian continent, designers everywhere had elements of Chinese design in their collections.
      Where manufacturers are concerned, design teams are usually sent to trade fairs to gather projected color and fabric trends as well as "shopping" trips to see what is selling well in the European and Asian markets.
      When I worked in the Caribbean, I encouraged students to bring the local aesthetics, folkloric background and current lifestyles right into their color & fabric palette and their designs.

    4. That is so awesome! Thank u so much , always wondered! :)

  6. WOW stuning post <3
    Love so much that silk fabric print and the dress as well
    Like you sometimes i prefer to connect the back and front in one piece to avoid the shoulder seam, the problem is when we want to lining the pieces , i keep making experiments to find a good way not to hard to do it, hope to share it more ahead.
    The runway looks more beautiful with your dolls <3

    1. Thank you sooooo much, Rose for your very kind words. Coming from you, I take that as a very special compliment!!!! Yes, part of the work here, is trying to come up with shortcuts and techniques that simplify doll clothes construction and eliminate bulk. I look forward to seeing more of your experiments as well as the wonderful draping techniques you do so beautifully well! Big hugs.

    2. You welcome i love your work so creative <3
      The 3D shapes i do is a bit stressing too many hours and patience, i would love to post more on my blog.
      Right now i am preparing some simple pieces for the Portuguese fashion doll convention in April,hope to make some pictures of the event and post here on blogger.

  7. Lovely and so elegant, I love this style! The big print silk is perfect, it's a stunning dress! I'm glad the one shoulder style is a trend, everybody can wear it. And the dolls look fabulous in your creations! Great post :-)

    1. Thank you. And yes, the one shoulder style appears to be a trend as you will see as soon as I post the couture report. This is a such a regal style! I'm glad it's back!!!

  8. Wow <3 Thank you for this tutorial <3 <3

    1. Thank you, Urszula. You are more than welcome! Glad you enjoyed this post!

  9. I soooooooo need you in my life !! I went to sewing college ( got a CAP in France) and learn to draft pattern but this concept was totally out of my possibilities. even if today I can still sew machine and hands properly, the pattern making still eludes me. you are such an inspiration.

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words and welcome to my blog. If you haven't "grown up" with patterns, they can be challenging. The abstract shapes can be quite confusing. Often in the classroom, it involves a certain amount of math and precision calculations. Here, I do rely on a lot of the drafts are based on full scale human pattern making. And I certainly understand how dolls (1/6 scale) can make pattern drafting fun. Just beware that sometimes I simplify or eliminate elements (like facings) to facilitate the doll. But other than that....get a doll, make slopers for her and join in on the fun!!

  10. How do we contact you for business?-

  11. I'm not really sure what you are looking for. But if it has to do with purchasing any of the doll clothes on this blog, nothing, for the moment is for sale. For numerous reasons, I have not yet set up an Etsy shop. But when I do so, I will be sure to announce it on this site.


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