Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Unit Evaluation

This project has required a lot of dedication and has been very stressful but ultimately rewarding. At reaching its end I feel it was definitely the best unit choice for me and I have developed my abilities further than I thought would be possible. I think I have achieved my goals which I set in my learning agreement, at the beginning of the project, and feel much more prepared for level 6. I am a lot more confident about my skills in pattern drafting and cutting on the stand and feel more able to problem solve and make my own decisions about the direction of my work. I have also developed my knowledge of women's clothing in the 19th century a huge amount, creating a file of my research, as well as my advancing my construction ability, due to the high standard of finishing on the National Theatre piece.

I have improved my planning,and found it interesting, and challenging, to construct my own time management frame, not having constant guidance as to what stage I should be at with my work. I think I may have possibly taken on almost too much work, as I have been non stop everyday throughout the project and felt much more pressure than on previous units. However this has also pushed me to work faster and prioritise. Looking back on what I have achieved in the time frame, I think I have picked up speed in the way that I work, without loosing any quality. Having said this I have only kept one of my deadlines throughout the project, and this was because I took the mannequin home over Easter. This has made me consider where I might have gone wrong, and was possibly because I was a bit ambitious with joining the two separate projects, the national piece being the major set back which delayed my last toile. At the time I found it quite stressful however now I am pleased to have done it as it is a nice piece for my portfolio and will look good on my CV.

Despite writing in my brief that only one toile was to be fully finished, I completed all three toiles to a neat standard to make them more presentable and clean looking for photographs. Although this altered my ability to keep to my time frames I am pleased I chose to do this, as I now have three completed pieces rather than just one, and it generally only set me behind by one day. Each toile was a challenge in its own way and I think I made the right choice in the patterns that I picked with Dexter, as each has developed my learning further, through varying techniques and problem solving. I have a much greater understanding of patterns and the way information can be interpreted from them, and have learnt to use them as a guide only, due to the changing shape and sizes, the design being much more important overall. 

I think at the beginning I got behind partly because lack of confidence in my decisions and work, without a tutor to guide me when I was stuck, but later on I developed much more confidence in my own ability. With the reduced amount of tutor support, I really had to problem solve and come to my own conclusions. Finding that my choices worked was assurance that my ability to do the project was there and has given me more determination to try and work things out for myself.

I also feel I have developed my understanding of the appropriate fabrics to use for cutting on the stand and different weights of calico and how they relate to different fabrics, the more expensive pre-shrunk and washed calico being a step above normal calico for draping. As I am hoping to produce more period pieces next year I am pleased I to have more knowledge of what is available from the costume store and the way different items can be used to create the right silhouette, but may not necessarily be historically correct.

I did not find the project too pressured until the last week when I was really pushed for time, and generally it has been a lesson in perseverance and patience. Learning that mistakes happen or that a guess was not quite right, was one of the main things I had to deal with, not being under tutor supervision, and dealing with that frustration of doing things over and over until they worked. I feel this has developed my ability to work with stress and being able to carry on under pressure to get the job done. Overall I think this project had made me more competent as a maker and my experiences, developed skills and confidence will transfer positively into my work in my final year on costume.


Arnold. J. (1972) Patterns of Fashion - Englishwomen's dresses and their construction 1 - 1660-1860. London : Macmillian

Arnold. J (1972) Patterns of Fashion - Englishwomen's dresses and their construction 2 - 1860 - 1940. London : Macmillian

Bradfield. N. 1981. Costume In Detail, Women's Dress 1730 - 1930. 2nd Edition. London : Harrap

Cumming.V and Ribeiro. A. (1989) The Visual History of Costume. London : B.T Batsford Ltd.

Ewing.E (1981) Dress and undress - A History of Women's Underwear. London : Bibliophile

Gernsheim. H. (1951) Masterpieces of Victorian Photography.  U.S : Phaidon

Moynahan. B (1999) The British Century - a photographic history of the last hundred years. London : Seven Dials.

Willett Cunningon. C. 1990. English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Dover Publications Inc

V&A (1984) Four Hundred Years of Fashion. London : V&A publications.

V&A. (1981) Old and Modern Masters of Photography. London : HMSO

Waugh. N (1968) The Cut of Women's Clothes 1600- 1930. New York : Routledge.

Willett Cunningon. C. 1990. English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Dover Publications Inc.

Lomax. J, Ormond. R, Singer Sargent. J (1979) John Singer Sargent - and the Edwardian age - an exhibition organised jointly by the Leeds Art Galleries, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. UK : Leeds Art Gallery.

1973 Toile Final Evaluation

I was disappointed I didn't get to finish all of the buttons as I think this would have really completed the overall finish of the piece.
I was very happy with the quite neat silhouette of the toile and the subtle contrasts between fitting and volume which the calico shows nicely.
I think the pleats of the skirt look neat and follow on well from the line of the box pleats above. Despite taking me a very long time to get right I was pleased with the underskirt in the end.
This toile has been the most stressful of the four total pieces I have created for this unit. This was mainly down to the limited time in which I had to complete it, which in the end turned out to be only a week and a half, and also to it being the most decoratively complicated and only full toile. I have worked really hard to complete the toile to a neatly finished standard, with all the different design elements included, in the short period before hand-in and feel quite proud that I managed to achieve it.

I have had to use all my developed skills from the last few pieces to create this toile, including draping technique (from the previous two toiles), working under pressure (trying to keep to the set deadlines) and finishing to a high standard (National Theatre blouse). I think my development shows through in this piece and although I have tried to work to the best of my ability with each part of the unit I think this toile has shown and proved to myself what I can do under pressure and working with a tight time frame.

I think the overall silhouette is quite a good representation of the design, although on reflection I wish I had had more time to spend on getting the overhangs of the rouching, on the underskirt, more loose looking, as it was on the design. I think it has the right feel but in comparison does not match as well as the rest of the dress to the design. One of the key principles I have learnt from this piece is to give myself enough fabric to work with. I found my eagerness to form a shape lead me to cut off too much fabric, resulting in having to attach some when I want to change a shape dramatically. I think the decorative elements of this last toile really complete it and make it something I would be happy to present. I was particularly pleased with my decision to represent the mauve edging shown on the design with two lines of stitching. This wasn't a very time consuming process but is quite effective in representing its decorative attribute by exaggerating the changing hem line. 

Originally my intention was to attach fastenings to the toile to hold it shut, rather than pinning it. I inserted placket to one side, and then was going to have poppers to close it, however ran out of time. This is not how I would have finished the toile as a costume piece, I would have used eyelets and lacing as suggested by the pattern. However for the ease of presenting the piece and displaying it on the mannequin I was going to use poppers as they are quick to fasten. I had also brought and covered enough buttons to complete the decoration of the toile although I felt attaching all of these would not have been a good use if time in the end, and although it would have completed the look more fully, it was not necessary as they would not have demonstrated any developed skill. It is frustrating that I did not get to complete these last elements but as a whole I was happy with the piece 

Overall I was happy with this toile for the time frame in which I had, however I do feel that if I had more time to complete it I definitely could have improved it by taking more time on the hand stitching of the front panel and getting the drape of the underskirt right by changing the pattern and experimenting with different ways of getting the right drape using the tape. One of the defining elements of this last piece I have noticed is that I have developed much more ability to cope with stress, especially in the last few days.

1973 Toile Development Evaluation

The darts of the front of the bodice were my first challenge to make aesthetically pleasing. This was because of the different shape of the mannequin to that of the original garment, the underwear, although I attempted to replicate the shape as accurately as possible, would have been different and generally the sizing and body shape would have not been the same. This resulted in me having to extend the length of the darts much further down the front of the bodice than that of the design and pattern. I tried my best to keep the as short as possible but to achieve the right fit they had to be made longer. I was not happy about this at first but as the toile developed this feature was not really noticeable.

The length of the dart here can be seen to be much longer than that of the pattern, in particular the dart nearest the centre front. This was necessary to make the piece fit and did not end up being noticeable as the longer dart was covered by the front decorative panel.
This was my initial attempt at the shape of the hem, later on it can be seen to drop quite a bit to match the length of the underskirt which shallows out the curve. It is almost a shame as I quite liked the curve created here, however the designs hem line is somewhere between the two, which proportionally to the length of the underskirt in the pattern does not work.
I found with the first part of the construction of the bodice I was not giving myself enough fabric to work with. I discovered, with this later style of princess line dress, the change in shape from the top half to the lower half is more than it looks and the volume of fabric needed is much more.The box pleats at the back of the bodice were another example of this. I had followed the pattern in its sizing for the pleats but when constructed on the mannequin there was not nearly enough depth in the pleats for them to sit right. I have learnt steadily through out the project that the pattern is only a guide and that I should allow my self big allowances of fabric when drafting on the stand.

The pleats initially looked a little flat and were creating knife pleats rather than box pleats as specified by the design because there was not enough fabric. The pattern of the design has the seam, of the back and side pieces, sitting in the fold of the pleat rather than the pieces being evenly spaced so it was a bit of a challenge to space them evenly but I achieved it in the end.

I was pleased with the result although on reflection I think I could have made the depth of the pleats even larger. I was particularly pleased with the decorative stitching that I added to represent the edging and I think it works well with all the different levels of hem.
I found the hardest part of this toile was the rouching of the fabric with the tape pieces. It was very time consuming trying to get the opposite sides semetrical especially with the pleats that had to form again from underneath. I re-worked this section of the dress at least four times until I could get it to work. The pleats I did even more than this as I found once swing catched  they could sometimes move exposing the stitching so I had to start again. The placing of the tape was not as straight forward as I had thought as I added it after sewing the skirt together, this was possibly a fatal flaw and resulted in the challenging factor of getting the underskirt even. The pleats also contributed to this, as the tape was not wide enough to cover the length of some of the pleat one side would drop ruining the whole shape of the rouching and the pleat. I solved this by adding an extra length of tape that hung off the main tape to hold the other side of the wide box pleats.
This was one of the earliest attempts to create the rouching effect with the skirt. I was not happy with the way the fabric was falling and went on to change it numerous times after right up until the end.

The levels of the under-skirt look right from the side in proportion to the rest of the dress here , and these didn't really change, it was just the sit of the pleats underneath that was the main problem.
The general construction of the under-skirt I found quite interesting. The pattern did not explain how the large amount of fabric fitted into the small space at the back so I had to look at the design for a solution. Eventually our assisting tutor Dexter and I worked out that the skirt was pleated at the top. This pleating followed through to the pleating lower down, being interrupted by the tapes in the middle. This was really hard to make work and took a long time with many attempts to get the pleats straight and looking nice. As I've said this was partly due to the tape but also because of the seams in the underskirt which made the pleats twist. I think this element of the piece would have worked better if the underskirt had been constructed from two opposite panels. If I was going to produce the piece in top fabric I would have tried this method to see if it worked. I think the reason for the three panels of each side of the underskirt may have been due to the limited widths of fabric in the 19th century meaning they would not have been able to create such a large piece.

I think the finishing inside of my underskirt does not match the standard of the rest of the toile and I am slightly disappointed with this. I did not have enough time to complete it to a high standard and just had to focus on getting the pieces to look right from the outside. I was also slightly dismayed that I didnt have enough time to attach all the buttons I had covered, as this was quite a design feature of the piece. However other things had priority and I think I managed to complete everything necessary.
To compensate for not managing to complete all the buttons I had to draw on in pencil the remaining buttons. This was not the effect I wanted but had to be done to save time. I may sew on the rest of the buttons after hand  in to complete the piece.
I was most pleased with the result of my piping of the cuffs and decorative panel. These were elements to the design that I had some apprehension about undertaking as I knew they would be time consuming. But as I had stated in my brief that this final toile was to be a presentable costume piece, I felt it would look much more aesthetically pleasing if the decorative parts were fully complete. This put a lot of extra stress on myself up to the deadline, leaving me a day to finish my blog however I was glad I completed it as it really makes the piece.


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

1973 Toile Planning and Evaluation

Proposed Time Plan 09. 05 - 18.05
The hand in time for this final week of the project has been extended by the course from Monday morning to Wednesday afternoon. This gives me extra time to complete the unit and my final toile so I feel hopeful that I will be able to complete the piece to a finishing standard I am happy with.

  • Draft basic shape of toile, front, side and back panels
  • Refine toile shape
  • Add collar shape and front panel shape
  • Start drafting underskirt panels cut in calico
  • Experiment with pleating skirt at waistband 
  • experiment with creating volume with tape
  • Draft sleeve
  • Draft underskirt in pre-shrunk washed calico to see drape in softer fabric
  • Mark up calico toile on stand and remove
  • Start putting pattern pieces on paper
  • Complete putting pattern pieces on paper
  • Cut pattern from pre-shrunk washed calico
  • Put decorative marking on pattern pieces, stitched in coloured thread?
  • start sewing pieces together
  • Over-lock edges
  • Start hemming edges
  • Complete hemming edges
  • Start decorative elements

  1. belt with bow piping
  2. Piping around edge of front panel
  3. Piping on sleeve
  4. piping on collar 
  • Blog
  • Blog
  • Complete decorative aspects
  • Take photos of final piece 
  • Complete blog
  • Hand-In 15.00-15.30

Record of weeks time frame


  • Constructed front

  1. darts
  2. hem line
  3. collar and decorative panel shape
  4. back and side with box pleats
  • back underskirt drafted and draped
  • experimented with tape on underskirt to create volume
  • drafted underskirt in pre-shrunk and washed calico
  • re drafted shape of underskirt
  • redrafted shape of box pleats on jacket
  • draped front panel
  • Started to put pattern pieces onto paper 
  • Drafted sleeve
  • Swing-catched pleats and further experimentation with tape
  • marked up calico pieces to create pattern
  • took first toile of mannequin
  • marked out all pattern pieces onto paper and made some adjustments and neatened some lines
  • transferred into paper pattern pieces and cut from pre-shrunk, washed calico
Friday (Not allowed into studio until 13.30)
  • Hemmed all pieces of bodice and skirt
  • Stitched decorative lines on to represent edging
  • Completed box pleats at back of bodice and stitched into place
  • Sewed skirt pieces together, pleated and attached to waistband
  • stitched underskirt into jacket
  • stitched front and back pieces of bodice together
  • piped collar, cuffs, front decorative panels and bagged out
  • covered buttons 
  • put sleeves in
  • inserted front placket to dress
  • pinned in place the front panel and cuffs
  • slip stitched, swing catched and buttons cuff to sleeve
  • slip stitched front panel
  • created and piped belt and bow, and centre front strip decoration (slip stitched on)
  • attached tapes and re-arranged pleats and swing catched in place
  • sew buttons onto front
  • Blog
  • Hand-In 15.00-15.30
Time Frame Evaluation
I was very grateful for the extended date of our hand-in as I was very much needing the time. The National Theatre blouse had set me back in my weekly planning quite a bit and I was seriously debating whether I would be able to complete this last toile to the standard I had set myself in the brief. The piece was still a big challenge to complete in the time frame that I had but I managed to get it done with some courage and perseverance!

When I began the cutting it was helpful  that I had already sourced the undergarments from the costume store, as this allowed me to go straight into the drafting and gave me at least an extra mornings cutting time. Although I indecision on the shape of the darts possibly cost me longer. 

The main time consuming factor was all the decorative features at the end, once the main construction had been done, as lots of hand sewing was involved as well as the piping. As I had specified that my last toile was to be fully complete and neatly finished I could not cut corners and had to make it as presentable as I could despite the limited time. 

There were a lot more elements to finishing this garment than I had previously considered, and only discovered them when I came to the next step in my making. All the details of the design  meant I had to take the mannequin home and spent some very long weekend completing all the elements of the toile until it was at a standard I was happy to hand in. I do not think I would have been able to complete the toile if I had not taken the work home. This has lead me to consider my overall time keeping. If the factors of the extended deadline and ability to take the mannequin had not been there I am not sure whether I would have completed this last toile in the 2 and a half days at uni that we had in the last week before hand-in. I think this was because I fell behind earlier in the project, with everything taking me longer than I anticipated, and this has had a snowball effect to the end of the project. However all things considered I think I have done well to complete this last toile fully having been under a lot of pressure.

1873 Toile The Beginning

This is the third and final toile that I shall create for this project. I shall be drawing on all the techniques and skills I have previously learnt to help me complete this toile in the short time that I have. Due to this short amount of time I shall only be creating the bodice section of this design as I do not feel I would learn any more from drafting the skirt as well and this would make finishing for the deadline impossible. This toile is to be a fully constructed piece with neatly finished edges as to be a presentable piece demonstrating my draping in a more finished form.
The pattern for this toile is from Norah Waugh's The Cut of Women's Clothes. The shape is an interesting mix between the princess line and a polonaise and should be a challenge for draping. I shall start by drafting the pattern pieces in calico on the stand and then transfer them to a paper pattern. From this I shall use to construct the full toile from pre-shrunk, washed calico which is a much softer fabric and will drape and show my pattern cutting nicely.

This crinoline I had spotted in our initial research into the costume store and knew I would probably use it for a later toile. It has the right flatness at the front with the sloping back that had potential to be padded out. It had a small amount of volume and length two factors which I thought would suit the design.

This was the next stage of building up the silhouette on the mannequin. I found this great flounced petticoat and then lifted the back even more by placing a bum roll underneath the second layer of flounces. This really created the volume needed for the back of the bodice and skirt.

 The final stage was to add the last thin petticoat to help smooth out the layers of the petticoat underneath. I also added some flounces to represent those on the underskirt which I would not be creating. This gave me a sense of proportion and height to make it easier to work from the design. Overall I was pleased with the silhouette I created with the undergarments and felt I had used the costume store to its capacity to create my required shape with various undergarments. I was also quite grateful to having made it ready to start before I began on the last toile week as this saved me a lot of time.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

National Theatre Blouse Final Evaluation

Final garment complete. I could find a large enough mannequin to fit the blouse properly so it looks a little large and baggy here.
I was very pleases with the profile of the blouse, the sleeve shape is elegant with its small amount of gathering.

Again due to the small mannequin the shirt can not be seen to fit in as nice a manner as I would like to present but I took photos anyway to demonstrate its general shape.

The production of the blouse for the National Theatre hire department turned out to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated.  I had to work out in what order the construction process would be in, with some referral help from our guiding technician. I found the process interesting as I was having to add more finishing details to the garment than there were on the prototype. This took more time to complete than would have done if I were to copy the blouse stitch for stitch.

It was interesting to work under the 'workroom' environment, being given a prototype and pattern and also working with supervisors. I enjoyed the experience and found it useful, although it was a little stressful. My main drive for doing a piece for the National Theatre Project was to gain this taster experience but to also have the prestige of creating a piece for the National Theatre hire department on my CV. 

It is one of the first times I have used someone else's pattern to create a garment and I am not sure I found the process enjoyable. As I was using thicker and more rigid fabric for my blouse than that of the prototype, and the pattern for the knife pleats for the cuff and collar was too short, so the piece of fabric I had cut for them was too small. However I only discovered this as I was pleating it and then had to spend time correcting this and extending the length of the fabric so I had enough pleats to fit all the way round these areas. This set me back a lot of time and was one of the main reasons I was so behind on my time schedule.

The nature of my fabric made the pleats very hard to press into shape of their own so I had to tack them individually into place, the whole length of the pleat, to make sure they remained neat and fresh for when they were inserted into the blouse. This process I was happy to do to achieve the right finish however it was again a time factor that I had not planned for and so set me back again.

Due to being so behind on my schedule I am under alot of pressure to complete the last part of my project which is my full toile, I had hoped to have at least a week and a half however this has been reduced to only a week. I shall do my best to complete it in the time frame although I am nervous it may not be finished to a standard I am happy with

The lace provided by our supervisors was slightly thinner than that of the middle piece for the blouse so I had to extend the pattern by 4mm each side where the front joins the side panel. This allowed me to keep the same shape on the front where the extra fabric would have been too noticeable being at the centre front. I think this was an elegant solution as it is not noticeable at all and did not have a knock-on effect to any other part of the blouse

I felt I have developed my finishing skills on this section of the project, having to pay close attention to my stitching working, on the decoration with just top fabric. Also working with a white garment I learnt a lot about keeping it clean, and pristine looking, for the hand in, constantly washing my hands and keeping it on the hanger in a cover bag when it was not being worked on. This technique of hanging my fabric pieces, rather than folding them, was invaluable in keeping the item looking fresh and new rather than over-handled. As a whole I found creating the blouse quite stressful, due to the nature of the project and having to do processes numerous times to achieve the perfect result, when being confined to a short time frame. However I am pleased with my finished garment and am happy for it to be presented to the theatre. Despite it setting me back quite badly on my time frame, the result I achieved was worth it and the blouse I feel will be a good asset to my portfolio.

Here is the garment with its sister blouse on the project, created by my good friend Emily Manning. I created a size 14 while hers was a 12.