Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Swirl

Haute Couture is not always about flamboyancy. It's also about the genius of a special, out-of the-ordinary cut. Given the fact it took me a month to figure out how to construct such a underwhelming look, many of you might be thinking it's a lot of "much ado about nothing." But I found it fascinating to see such a sculptural dress designed on paper as a flat pattern. Such was the case with this second interesting project I found on the page of @biacutwoman on Instagram. Executed in collaboration with pattern maker @mr_o_pattern_studio (also on Instagram), the "minimalist" dress consists of a cowl neck bodice and a single band of fabric that swirls around the body in a look called "Scorpio Dress 2020," designed by Rick Owens. 

Again on @biascutwoman's post, the dress is animated using 3D software showing how the skirt part swirls around the body in a single piece of fabric. It also provides a glance of the pattern pieces. Mesmerized, I watched this Reel many many times and came away with thinking how simple this should be. It was anything but!!!! I'll admit... To copy this dress I cheated...a little bit. At first I draped my own pattern, but somehow it wasn't quite the same as the one in the video.  And then I found another version of the pattern. But with this information, it did not explain everything. It was like one of those college exams where you are given he answers and now you have to show how the author arrived at the conclusion. 

Finally I figured everything out and aligned my pattern to the existing one. But another issues presented itself... How do you sew a dress with a continuous diagonal seam. an how on earth do you press this dress! And can you make a different bodice for the same dress. My friends...Consider this less of a tutorial and more of a FYI on how I arrived at reconstructing this dress for the doll.

In her reel, the pictured dress appears to have been made from a stretch material. I used my doll's dartless slopers (for knitwear) at first, but the end result was too small for my FR ladies. So back to the drawing board. The project begins with the normal slopers but we ignore the darts. The sides of the front and back slopers fall perpendicular from the armhole to the bottom of the pattern. Front and back slopers are lined up along one side.



You'll need to determine the length of the dress by laying the doll down against the pattern (l). I chose a point below the armhole from which the side point of the skirt will fall and draw a horizontal line across the front and back pattern.

I drew a line from the tip of the far right shoulder to that point on the side, then continue on until it his the CF line on the front bodice. Draw a horizontal line from the lower left hand point on the cutting line, perpendicular to the vertical line until it touches the right side of the back bodice.

Measure the point on the right side of the back bodice to the horizontal line below to determine the width the band will be. Make another line that length parallel to the first one. 

Trace each section onto a new sheet of paper and mark as shown (l). Match up points: A4-B6, A5-B7, B9-C11, B8-C20. On the right we have lined everything up to form the skirt part of this dress. 

From this we create a single band which, with seam allowance added, becomes our skirt pattern for a slim version of the dress. We could stop there, but wait....this doesn't look like the original Rick Owens pattern! Personally I prefer the dress without "the train." but for the sake of recreating the original dress pattern, I made a second pattern more faithful to the original.


1. Complete all the above steps.
2. Instead of creating a single column, swing that part C  out from the apex of points 9-10 so that it is perpendicular to the side of the column. Draw in a curved line to join the bottom of the column to the point of the triangle as shown. 

3-4. Your completed pattern will look like this. For the moment, put these patterns aside so we can work on the bodice.

This original dress has a cowl neck. At first I was not going to consider it because this type of neck treatment is difficult on something as small as a 12-inch doll. But the dress is so simple, I felt it really needed some front interest. 
1. Determine how deep you want the neckline to drape. Then drop a line from the neck point to that point. Cut (away the shaded area.)
2. From that same CF point, draw lines to the middle of the shoulder line, middle of the armhole and slightly under the armhole. 
3. Cut and spread, being careful to line up the CF to a straight edge. Spread the triangles evenly until the top triangle is aligned perpendicular to the CF line.
4. Glue it all down and make a mirror image, thus creating a full front cowl-neck bodice in one piece.
5.Your finished pattern looks like this.

Now for the back bodice. It was unclear as to exactly how the original was made. So I took liberties. 

1. Whether you want to keep it simple or try it with a twist, the back sloper follows the lines of the construction lines as illustrated here.

2. You can add seam allowance and join the points together at the top of the neck. Or....

3. You can line up the two back bodices along the CB line, flipping one side upside down. What happens nest is that you twist one side so that it comes together right side up in one piece. I would advise using stretch fabric for this as there is no back closure. Otherwise the first option can come together with a hook and eye for easy dressing the doll.

And so now you have the pattern, the next burning question is..... how do you put this together? How on earth do you sew this?

Sew together the bodice. turn under the neckline and the armholes but leave the bottom of the bodice alone for the moment.

1. Take the "skirt" part and hem points 1-4 (top of the back). Then line up points 1-2 to those same points on the side and midpoint of the front bodice.

2. That you understand what we're doing, I've flipped the dress to the front side so that you see exactly where you begin joining the skirt to the bodice.

3. Take point 6 (the other side of the back) and join it over to the opposite side of the dress. 

4. From that point on, join the seams together and sew along the seam line. Though it forms a diagonal line across the body, while sewing will feel like a straight line right down to the hem with everything fitting perfectly together. 

You will need to press the bodice seams down and press the other seams open. Be extremely careful to press and not scrub the iron against the fabric because when the fabric is on the diagonal, it will stretch out of place!

Here's a better view of Nichelle's dress.

One of the challenges in making this dress is fit! The bodice doesn't hug Nichelle's body in the back the way I'd like, so a added a very thin wire belt, hidden under the front of the dress and stitched to the sides. I also cut the waistline below the original dress to make an otherwise "discreet" look very sexy at the back.
Nichelle's dress is made from a stretch fabric. So what happens when you create the exact same look out of a woven fabric?


Helena's dress was cut from a white satin dévore fabric. I used the simpler back bodice in lieu of the one with the twist here. I did have problems getting the back bodice to lay flat against the body, so I made a few tucks and added a bow to disguise the problems I had at the top center back. I also made tucks (held in place with a few stitches) to simulate draping of the cowl neck and the drapery in the back. Here too, I cut the pattern with a slightly higher back drop.
Remember how I told you that I made the mistake of using the dartless sloper for this dress. Pictured here is Anna--the doll with the tiniest most filiforme body in the house in this dress. It's made from a 2-way stretch rayon and it's back was cut a little higher. I tried to flame seal the edges with the thought of not hemming. I'm not so sure it was the best idea. 

One of the things I enjoyed about @biascutwoman's video, is how gracefully the dress comes apart. She used it to emphasize how the dress. But somehow I wanted to capitalize on that swirl effect. Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do, but I did come up with this....
I simplified the top altogether, ditching the cowl neck and choosing a simpler bodice held in place with red ribbon.
I only stitched up the dress to the center back which created a sort of tail. I still have issues with the fit in the back, but I also wanted to keep the lines clean and simple.
So I added sewed on a thin gold chain to the waist at the back, allowing for a better fit and a way for Noor to get in and out of the garment.

The above dresses were all created with a bodice and a simple, parallel band. But what happened to the version with the train?

Here it is. I was pleasantly surprised at how pretty it was! And yes, we did cheat by concealing a few hidden stitches to the cowl neck and the back drape look authentic.

And we also added a ribbon tied into a bow at the back. The color is sublime on Dorian.


And so we can say....mission accomplished!



While I've been busy trying to work all of this out, fashion month has been going on. I sent the girls out to scour the collections. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.


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5 comments:

  1. I always admire your work. It's so hard to sew such simple (in look) creations in 1/6 scale. Amazing.

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    1. Thank you so much Kameila for your very kind words. Indeed it is difficult to sew such tiny fashions. After I finally figured out the pattern, the next challenge I faces was...how on earth do you sew this thing. It took me a bit to figure that out as well. I hand sewed the entire dress because the challenge with bias cut garments is they tend to stretch out of shape as you are sewing and ironing them. I can't believe how long it took me to make such a simple dress. But now that I know how....it is now so easy and doesn't take long at all.

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    2. Well, I can imagine that. I always have the same problem with things like that.

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  2. Hello April,
    Thank you for this new post. I have to admit that I haven't made the H dress yet because I have so many ideas going around, but I will make it at some point.
    Thank you for this new dress which seems simple when looking at it, but which is very structured. I don't know if I'll try to do it, but your result is very successful, I particularly like the red one.

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  3. Hi, April...this so conjures up all the 30-40's fabulous dresses that seemed to float across the skin of the actresses. Where the simple walking across the room was 'the show' and reason for viewing the sometimes trite storylines. SO, interesting, and I have bookmarked this, if I ever get to sew again...my needles and spools box is still missing, lol. Sandi

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