‘A collaboration?’ I hear you say. ‘With whom?’. It’s not someone famous but someone who’ve known me since I was a baby. It’s my mom. As with most of my other posts, it starts from a single comment someone made. In this case, my mom went through the pile of fabric I have back home in Malaysia (Yes! I have fabrics stashed back home too!) and said wouldn’t it be a waste if the fabrics became moth ridden? Reading between the lines, I asked if she wanted me to make her something and she quickly answered yes.
But this time I asked her to think about what she wanted instead and I will be the pattern maker (and seamstress). So the first thing she said was that she didn’t have a lot of shirts and would love to have one. Since I didn’t bring any of her patterns back home from UK, I decided to drape the pattern on her and create a bespoke pattern.
We started out with some non stick fusing (you may know it by the brand ‘Vilene’) and I had my mom in a thin fitted T-shirt (to pin the fusing to) so I could drape the fusing directly on her. I started out by draping out the yoke, the back piece and the front piece to form a bodice. I only did a half bodice as we wanted to save some of the fusing for another project.
The tricky bit was draping the sleeve. I started out from the top of the sleeve but when I reached the underarm, I found it too cumbersome and abandoned the whole process and opted to do it the other way round as shown in the diagrams below.
This method involved draping the sleeve from the underarm, folding the sides of the fusing inwards to form a closed sleeve and continuing to drape the top of the sleeve.
I have never tried this technique before and it’s a bit of experimentation but the results worked quite well. However, a little warning, the sleeve that is draped looks more like a jacket sleeve with a high sleeve head compared to a shirt sleeve head that has a lower sleeve head. I’m not sure if this works but if the model holds her arm out in 45 degree, this could reduce the sleeve head. Alternatively, I could have reduced the height of the sleeve head on the flat pattern and silt opened up the centre of the sleeve to adjust the armhole length but we kept it as it is as we liked the shape of it.
With the initial pattern done, I carefully marked out everything, took it apart and cleaned up the lines. Then it was reassembled again so my mom could wear it again.
As the pattern was pinned together as a separate piece (instead of to the T-shirt), we could check the fit and add to it if required. In this case, we found that the centre front was a bit far off so we added another centimetre to the pattern and also cleaned up the neck line. The pattern pieces was then taken apart and to double-check that the pattern fits perfectly, I measured my mom’s bust, waist and hips and checked that this measurement fit (with some ease). This pattern was then traced on to paper and all seams ‘walked-through’ to ensure that they all fit. Seam allowances, grainline and pattern information were all subsequently added to produce the final pattern.
As I was about to cut out the fabric, my mom (the designer) asked if the fabric was enough to make a shirt dress instead. So I made some modifications to the pattern pieces above and found out that in order to do that, we need to chop the sleeve into half. Mom said she prefer 3/4 sleeves as it’s too hot to wear long sleeve anyway so changes were made and the fabric was cut out ready to be sewn (in sweaty, hot and humid 33 C temperature!!!!!).
The result is a very bespoke dress that fits my mom very well. It may not be a perfect size 10 dress but this dress is made to fit a normal woman, not a model.
You may have seen from the pattern pieces that we put in a mandarin collar instead as she didn’t want the shirt to look too corporate.
Mom’s one tough client but I loved every minute working with her. She says the funniest thing (she thinks Marc Jacobs is a biscuit manufacture) but tells me when she doesn’t like a certain feature. And best of all, she designed this dress (verbal design!) and can wear it with pride. I tell everyone I know who comments on the dress that my mom designed it and they are amazed too!
I think dad was secretly eyeing our collaboration and just today he told me he wants a shirt as well too.
Anything for my mom and dad!