Monday, March 19, 2018

Neck & Neck

Prior to joining our crew in Milan, I wanted to pause for another tutorial on neckline treatments. For a long time, there hasn't been anything special (aside from one shouldered gowns) with necklines. Increasingly however, I'm beginning to see dresses and tops sporting a variety of necklines. What really prompted me to do this project was the sublime gown by Balmain worn on the Oscar red carpet by the iconic actress, Jane Fonda.

This dress is really super simple....a body grazing sheath with a two eye-popping details: square shoulders and a sharply cut neckline. Before we get to that dress, let's first look at how different necklines are designed into a garment.

We must go back to our basic slopers. Whatever happens in the front will impact the back in most cases.
Square Neckline.
1. Place the front and back slopers end to end at the shoulders.
2. Make a mark at the mid point of the shoulder line, another on the center front (as far down as you want) and another on the center back (as far down as you want). Make a horizontal line across the bodice from the mark on the center front and the center back Those lines should run perpendicular to those vertical lines. Draw a diagonal line to join the first two lines as shown in diagram #2.
3. The pattern will look like this.
4. Add seam allowance.

Sweetheart Neckline
5. This is pretty much the same method. It begins by placing a mark roughly 1" (2cm) down from the neck on the shoulder and another as far down the center front line as you want. Draw another line perpendicular to the shoulder as far down as you would like, and then a curved line from that point to the mark on the center front.
6. Place the back sloper end to end along the shoulder of the front sloper. Draw a horizontal line on the center back (where you made a mark). Starting where the line falls on the shoulder from the front sloper, continue that line until it intercepts with the horizontal line extending out from the center back.

Bateau neckline
It is hardly noticeable. But actually, this is a wide neckline with just the right amount of rise in the front over the throat and a graceful dip at the nape of the neck in the back.
7. Mark the mid-point on the shoulder line of both the front and back slopers. On the front sloper, make a mark that is 1/8" (3mm) above the center front point at the neck. Draw a new line
8. On the back sloper, make a mark that is 1/8" (3mm) down from the neck on the center back and draw a new line.
9. Trace off. Then add seam allowance to complete the pattern.

Finishing Touches: Fold and sew (or glue)
Now that you know how to do necklines, how do you finish them?  A full, edge to edge lining is  ideal, but not always practical. Moreover, depending on the style, not all clothes need to be lined. So you have two other options. If the lines are simple and the fabric isn't too complicated, you can simply turn the edge down and stitch or (fabric) glue down and iron. Tip: Join the garment together at the shoulders. Press, then turn and stitch or glue while the garment is flat. Then sew the sides and complete the garment.

Finishing touches: Facings
I hesitate to recommend facings because often, they add bulk around the neckline. But if you don't want to line the outfit and the design is such that you cannot simply fold and stitch (which is the case of our sweetheart along with more complex necklines), then a facing will suffice.

 1. Facings are created by tracing off the top part of the pattern while avoiding darts. In diagram one, the red dotted line indicates the part of the original pattern I will use to create the facing for this bodice. Make sure the length at the side seams are equal from front to back.
2. Here's the pattern for the facing.
3. When you have a pattern with a more involved design--like the sweetheart neckline pictured here--you should mark the design directly onto the wrong side of the fabric because you really must respect the sewing lines. Sew the facing along the shoulder line only. Sew the garment along the shoulder line only. Press the shoulder seams flat. Place right side of the facing to the right side of the garment and pin. Then carefully sew the two elements together.
4. Very carefully clip around the neckline. Turn right side out.
5. Press well, one section at a time.
6. Baste or pin along the neckline edge.
7. Make tiny cuts around the armholes of both the facing and that of the garment. Press each inwards.
8. Pin the edges of the armhole facing together with those of the garment.
9. Using a single thread (needle and thread) sew the two together. Press well.

10. Once you have finished the neckline and armhole edges, fold the garment down and stitch the sides (and back).

When you have finished, you will have a neckline that is shaped like the top of a heart over the bustline and is square in the back. This was a very popular look in the 1940's, especially coupled with puffy "leg of muffin" short sleeves! Sometimes over the years, it tends to fall out of favor. But you can modify it to serve your needs. For the gorgeous velvet dress below, designed by New York designer, Brandon Maxwell and worn by Viola Davis for this year's Golden Globes, a lot of you (and me) fell in love with the look.
Creating what appears starts out as a "slip dress" in 1/6 scale, particularly in velvet, is quite a challenge. So I made a modified version of the "sweetheart" neckline. And since stretch velvet doesn't fray, I didn't need to do anything special to finish the edges. Note: only seam allowance has been added to the shoulders and the sides. There is enough stretch in the fabric for the doll to slip into the dress without the need of a back opening. So the dress is only made of two pattern pieces!
I started with the (dartless) knit sloper. Then modified it by redrawing the neckline using the same "heart shaped" design, but with slim "straps" over the shoulders.

Behind the Design: That Balmain Dress
Okay, I came here to find out how to make THAT dress......

Even though Jane Fonda's dress has a bit of a train in the back, I decided to keep the basic dress as a long sheath. If you really want, you can add a wedge of jersey (in the same color) into the center back just under the knee. But for me, the drama of this dress is really the power shoulders and the dramatic neckline.
1. This is one of those rare occasions where the design of the front doesn't impact the back. That is because the dress is close to the back of her nape in the back and drops down and wide in sharp points in the front. So, I begin with the zig zag design in the front. Be careful not to draw the zig zag too small or the design won't be too visible when you have finished.
2. The back sloper remains unchanged.
3. Because this dress has square power shoulders, you must lift and square off the original shoulder line. Line up the front and back slopers so that the shoulder points align as shown.
4. The top of the shoulders run horizontal (and perpendicular to the rest of the sloper. Extend the curve of the armhole to meet the top of the shoulder.
5. Take the redesigned front and overlap it with the back along the center lines. Note the difference in height. Raise the front and lower the back so that both slopers are equal in length at the shoulder line.
6. Redraw the pattern.

7. Line up the front and back bodice patterns along the new shoulder line. We cannot have the armhole come to a point, so make a mark about 1/8" (3mm) from the widest point on the shoulder.
8. Make a mark 1/8" away from the bottom of the armhole on both the front and back pattern. Draw a line from that point back down to the waist of the pattern. Now redraw the armhole
9. Because these are padded shoulders and we have lifted the shoulder line, we must lift the cap of the sleeve. Whatever the amount your shoulders were lifted--1/2" (1 cm) in this case, you add to the top of the sleeve. The best way to do this is by tracing off the original pattern. Then sliding the sloper 1/2 along the center line and tracing off part of the cap. Redraw to that the lines blend.

Here is my finished pattern. Unless your fabric has a lot of body, you will need to make and sew in shoulder pads. You can find them HERE.

Well, the girls are waiting for us in Milan to show us their faves from the Italians' Fashion Week. We'll see you all there in a few!!!

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  1. A great tutorial.
    I often use the method with cladding in my works. The neckline looks nice and professionsl then.
    As always, your dress delight with the perfect performance and sensational appearance.

    1. Thank you, Dlubaniny. And thank you for suggesting "cladding," the method of using of bias tape around the necklines. In the US, there is a product called, "Seams Great," a sheer, lightweight bias tape which adds no bulk to the garment and is particularly useful for doll scaled clothing. I realized I had overlooked that technique only after posting this project.

  2. Great tutorial! As always! And your creations are wonderful. Your version of Balmain's dress is great, but I like also the black one with sweetheart neckline.

    I usually use lining of the whole top of the dress or facing the neckline, it allows to maintain the shape of it.

    1. Thank you Kamelia. Many of the necklines of the garments I've been making have been pretty simple, so fold and stitch or edge to edge lining is what I've been using. For the Balmain dress, I used a pretty heavy fabric (which I shouldn't have). I didn't want to use a lining, so I settled on a full facing.

  3. Bardzo dziękuję za te wykroje i szablony. Nie jestem krawcową i dla mnie uszycie czegoś tak wspaniałego jest wprost niemożliwe!
    Dobre, sprawdzone szablony są podstawą dobrego szycia!
    Dekolty, które tu prezentujesz są wspaniałe! Biała sukienka (Jane) jest fantastyczna!
    Uwielbiam Twoje kreacje dla lalek!
    Pozdrawiam serdecznie!

    1. Olla wrote:
      Thank you very much for these typefaces and templates. I am not a tailor and for me to sew something so wonderful is simply impossible!
      Good, tested templates are the basis for a good sewing!
      The necklines you present here are wonderful! The white dress (Jane) is fantastic!
      I love your doll creations!
      Best wishes!

      Thank you Olla. You make such beautiful and intricate knit and crochet clothing for your dolls, I am always surprised when you tell me that you are not a tailor! But then again, I can neither knit nor crochet. Together however, between your fashions and mine,.....we can both agree....our dolls are dressed in lovely attire. Big hugs. April

  4. What do you not do well with these clothes? I'll answer that. Nothing!

    1. Ha ha ha.....thank you for the compliment's not that there's nothing I don't do well...the problem is that most fashion today is ridiculously simple. In my lifetime, I've seen incredible fashion that I would never be able to figure out. But, sadly, we're not seeing any of those types of clothes anymore.

  5. Love the blue & the white ones! Very pretty.

  6. Oh i also love the black dress! The black, white & blue ones are my faves!

  7. I just wanted to ask do you know of a good method of removing dark stains from doll vinyl? I'm always careful to line the garments but did not think that the shoes would stain , now one of my FR16 dolls has dark stains on her feet from a pair of black shoes which weren't even left on for less than 5 or 7 minutes! Any advice would be great. Thanks.

    1. Yes. If you look back at a post I did last year, "Spa Day" you'll find a tip for getting rid of those dark stains. Any acne creme, sun light and a bit of patience will do!!! The first time it happened to me was with one of my favorite Model Muse Barbies whose arms were stained from the black lining of her fur coat. We were both heart broken. But after using this method, all of the stains disappeared. But it took several days! doesn't matter the color of the doll, it works the same without altering the original skin color of the doll!

    2. Will benzoyl peroxide gel work as good as cream? Its hard to find the acne creams anymore all i see in stores are gels. And since where i live we don't get any sunlight in the windows. Would a hair dryer or lamp light also work? I was told that stains in hard plastic are permanant & that I'd have to learn to live with it. I really hope this works. Thank u again.

    3. Yes, the gel works the same as the cream. What counts is that it contains the key active ingredient, Benzoyl peroxide. My dolls who were affected by the staining were largely Barbies, which as you know, have hard vinyl bodies. The purpose of putting the doll in the sunlight after applying the cream, is largely to speed up the process. But don't worry if you don't have direct sunlight. It's not about heat (so don't use your hairdryer), but rather, you are trying to help bleach out the stain. Worse comes to worse, it might take a little longer for the stains to disappear. I checked on my doll daily. And from time to time, applied more cream throughout the process.

    4. Thank you again! :) You should have an "Ask April" column lol

    5. Hi April! I just wanted to update you on the dolls feet staining. I bought a cvs brand 10% benzoyl peroxide cream, applied it a few times and left the doll lay indoors for a day or two and already im seeing results! No sunlight needed like you said. Im going to try it again to try and get the rest of the staining off but so far im impressed with the results! Thought anyone reading this could benefit in case they have a similar issue! Thank you so much again! And Happy Easter!

    6. Isn't it remarkable!!! Like magic! Really happy (but not surprised) you had a happy ending! Now your dolls don't have to fear black clothes! ;-D

    7. The stains are gone & im so happy her feet are back to normal, but i was told recently the benzoyl peroxide can supposedly eat away at the plastic or vinyl , so I'm kind of concerned now. Maybe just some have experienced that. But just putting that out there as caution for any other collectors including yourself!

    8. Well.....I haven't seen that information anywhere! It may have to do with what kind of doll and the age of the doll that makes the difference. The early vinyls FR used were more porous and susceptible to staining than the newer dolls. And so far, I haven't seen any evidence of the acne creme eating away at my dolls. But, it's always good to be cautious! As long as you don't keep dark or strong colored clothes on the doll for months on end, I don't think you'll have too many problems. As an extra precaution, you can also line your doll clothes in a neutral (beige) color!


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