Project Drop Waist

Oh, no—more toile photos!

So, it’s no secret that I have Issues with waistbands that sit at my waist. Above the waist is great, below the waist is fine, but waistbands that sit right at my waist—these are problematic.  Especially if there’s going to be any kind of waist emphasis (like a belt), blousing above the waist, or gathering below. I always end up feeling cut in half, emphasizing both the width of my waist (2-3 sizes larger than the rest of me) and the shortness of my upper body.

Unfortunately for me, this describes roughly 90% of the dress patterns out there, and (even worse) a large percentage of the ones I’m dyingtomakerightnowdammit!

Now, I successfully made a dirndl-skirt sundress last summer by adding a dropped waist to a formerly straight-waisted pattern. And, despite being a fairly extreme example of stunt dressing, it was one of my favourite things to wear last summer. But a) this was a princess-seam pattern, and b) I used a shirred back, which allowed me to really fudge the fitting.

So, it appears, the sensible thing to do would be figure out a bodice template—a block, if you will—that I can morph onto these waist-length patterns to drop the waist slightly. Most of the ones I’m concerned with have a simple gathered or pleated skirt, which won’t be much affected by the addition of a few extra inches (and I’d probably be adding inches to the waist anyway).

When I was musing about this the other day (nothing like beating a topic to death 😉 ) I was thinking I would just try adding on to a pattern I already had—Simplicity 3965, say. Lauriana (one of the more fabulous pattern-drafters out there) sagely commented that perhaps it would be less trouble start with a longer bodice, perhaps a hip-length sloper drafted to my own measurements.

Now, obviously she was right, but my (vast and growing) pattern collection is a bit short on such a basic, at least with the length, fit, and dart positioning I wanted. I was, however, reminded of the fact that I had drafted a “fitted dress block” from the book Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear, by Winnifred Aldritch, a few months ago, which had languished un-tested on my hard-drive (I like to mess around with pattern drafting in Inkscape, usually when I am supposed to be doing something else). Partly because Aldritch was a bit vague, or at least confusing, on the issue of waist-shaping.

Anyway, with Simplicity 3965 giving me an idea of how much waist-shaping was required (at least above the waist), I set out on an odyssey. There was printing; tracing; tissue-fitting (on me and my dubious duct-tape double). Sway-back adjustments were made. I have confronted the horror of the shaped dart.

Self-drafted bodice

All for… this. /sigh.

Well, perfection has not been achieved, but I think I might be getting into the right ball-park. The shape (and breadth) of the rear darts is truly terrifying, but they are at least approaching doing the job (although it looks from the photos that the back is still a smidge tight—overall the bodice is quite comfortable. I’m not quite sure what to make of the side-wrinkles in the front, exccept that perhaps a bit more bust-shaping is in order. Additionally, the bust-dart is still about 1 cm high, and the side-seam falls a bit towards the back. I might moosh a teeny dart out of the front armscye to bring that in (or play with the shoulder slope some more).

Anyway, despite the imperfections (which are considerably more evident in the photos than in the mirror… not sure if that means it’s actually better in real life or worse than I had thought) I figured I had reached a point where I was ready to try using it on another pattern. I.E. Simplicity 3965.

Premature? Possibly, especially since I was thoroughly befuddled how to relate the narrow back dart of Simplicity 3965 to my wide, angled, and oddly-shaped one on the self-drafted bodice. But I had limited time to sew this past weekend and I have fantasies of wearing this dress for May Long (which is next weekend—yeah, probably not going to happen).

Simplicity 3965 (modified)

So I matched up the waistline, and attempted to add the shaping of the self-drafted bodice on to the Simplicity bodice. This worked fairly well for the front, not so well for the back. My self-drafted back piece is very wide, but then a lot of the width is taken in by the dart. The Simplicity bodice back is much narrower, with a correspondingly narrower dart. I can’t help but think that a narrower pattern overall would be preferable, but obviously the swayback alterations didn’t transfer with their full force. Alternatively, letting out the hips a bit more might be helpful. Part of what’s hanging me up is that “high back hip” which I still haven’t really learned to fit.

Also, in this one you can see the lovely sunburn I acquired on Mother’s Day.  This is what happens when I sit back and let other people organize the day’s expedition… my mother’s day brunch turned into a two-hour wander on a new segment of riverbank, with nary a squirt of sunscreen to be seen, on the first really summery day we’ve had so far.

I’m hoping that one more muslin will be sufficient—sewing these up is quick, but annoying, and I’m running out of crappy zippers. 🙂



Filed under Sewing

21 responses to “Project Drop Waist

  1. Hopefully 3rd time will be the charm you are hoping for. 🙂

  2. It is looking pretty good! as a fellow owner of very sudden hips I would suggest slitting the muslin up the side seams until the whole front piece and the back waist bit sit flat, then pin in an extra bit of material to fill up the gap, but add the majority of this extra bit of fabric to the back pattern piece, to try and get the side seam to go vertically after the adjustment, whilst accommodating the extra curve needed. Try filling in the gap and then drawing the new seam line on with a pen or something. Currently the whole thing is riding up towards your back waist which is probably not helping the front diagonals. I would also add that, depending on how you can move in it, it might be worth moving the smallest bit of the waistline up a tiny bit, to pull it in more higher, and give you slightly more space round the back further down.

    • Splitting the toile to the hips is a great idea, thanks for reminding me of that! Man, those are going to be some funky-shaped pattern pieces when I’m done…

      • This is very similar to what I was going to recommend being hippy myself. (and maybe hippie…)

      • totally, all my pattern pieces end up looking really silly, with massive kick outs at the hip and ginormous bust darts, but they make sense assembled and that is the main thing!

        I would totally second Lauriana’s thought to have 2 back darts on each side, I always think that looks really cute anyway!

  3. oh my god your toile faces are too cute. good luck on number three… i am sure you will emerge triumphant (karma for missing out on that basketfull of value village patterns).

  4. I’m glad you decided to go with a dropped waist block! Even these toiles look much better than the original Simplicity 3965. And Oona is right; your faces (and hair! I have such a crush on your hair) are the best!

    • LOL! Thank you—especially since these are what I’d call “bad hair” photos ;). It was nice at the beginning of the day, but hours of sweat and wind caused some major hair-droop. (My hair doesn’t really “do” volume, it takes a lot of product and a fair bit of luck). If it helps, I have major envy of your hair, too… 😉

  5. It’s amazing how we are on such a parallel journey right now! And the simple fitted bodice can be really freakin’ complicated – for whatever of the 500 reasons apply specifically to you! I wish you good muslining. But, if you have to keep on for yet another after the next, know that you’re doing yeoman’s work! It’ll pay off!

  6. That’s the cutest toile I’ve ever seen! I usually end up using random printed material for toile, which winds up looking very strange. I think you’re right to do the dropped waist, but I have no clue as to fixing the back darts. I might try to do without them altogether (I just bought a dirndl style dress pattern, which has back darts that extend into the waist, and I’m going to try leaving them out entirely for the first toile).

    I am also running out of crappy zippers.

  7. This toile looks very good at the front and nearly there at the back. The fit is certainly better than that of the waist length pattern bodice.
    If you back darts are very deep, you could divide the width of each into two smaller ones (my sloper has that). About fitting the hip, I think monkeysocks’ suggestion could work pretty well.

    And in fact, as I’ve seen in my vintage pattern collection, gathered or pleated skirts from a dropped waist bodice were a major look in the mid-1950’s. So if you want, it could still work as a ‘period look’ 😉
    I’ve used a bodice of that length with a half circle skirt and with trousers (for the winter jumpsuit) myself.

    Good luck with the next toile, I hope it will be the final one.
    Oh, and thank you for linking to my blog!

  8. This is why I am avoiding the bodice sloper. Kudos to you for tackling it.

  9. Make a sloper. Fit it well once. Then modify every pattern you make to its dimensions. It’ll save you so much suffering in the long run. Or, stop sewing from the big four XD Ah the t’internets. So easy to sit around passing free advice. I forgot to add the hemmer instructions into my last post, but I’ve remembered to add them to the next one. It’ll ping you when it goes up.

  10. I found a good excuse to postpone continue bodice slopering work, so I’ll check yours out instead!! I am very interested to see how you get on … Looking way better than the first one too :o).

    PS am off to thrift some more crappy zippers too

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