COUTURE: Insights into the making of a dress crafting with silk chiffons, crepe de chine and applying couture sewing techniques. What reference book to use to achieve the best results in couture sewing. And, who originated couture pleating?
The making of dress by hand pleating bias chiffon
Working with a quality chiffon is a good start in hand crafting bias pleats. This technique requires “patiences of an angel” with an awareness of feel in your finger tips.
Constructing narrow pleats by delicately folding fabric on to itself, equal width and depth, clean edge, slowly shaping around the bodice pinning in place to hold. Once you start, the process becomes almost meditative as you keep your eye on the marked bias grain. In this attempt in hand pleating, I made a few mistakes. For example, like running out of chiffon and secretly adding more so I could finish the pleated panel.
Finally, after being satisfied with the pleated panel and cutting the shape the next step is to wax silk thread to hand sew in between the pleats. This is where your hand sewing skills take centre stage but are hidden in between the pleats.
Construction of the dress using couture sewing techniques
The dress comprises stylistic and decorative elements using draping, pattern-making and couture sewing techniques. The bodice structure (corselette) includes: boning, three layers of textiles featuring one asymmetric panel of chiffon pleating and the other shaped darts in crepe de chine. The bias skirt made with crepe de chine adding extra wide seams for weight, lined in silk.
There were many challenges, one being sewing the skirt side seams and applying the zipper by hand. When constructing the dress, I use many temporary stitches throughout the garment to meet these challenges. For example, before machine sewing the side seams, applying ‘Lap basting’ stitches and tissue paper to stabilise the fabric. I baste the zipper in place to ensure perfect placement and ease then by hand use a back stitch to hold in place.
Couture sewing reference book by Clare B. Shaeffer
My go-to reference book by Clare B. Shaeffer, Couture Sewing Techniques, The Taunton Press, 1994. One of my treasured reference books for couture sewing with it’s informative diagrams, photographs and detailed instructions.
Mentioned here are some of the stitching and techniques used in reference: even basting, lap basting, backstitch, catchstitch, fell stitch and French tack. Hems, the idea of controlling fullness in the curved shape hem and constructing a coreselette. This book is a must-have for your reference library you too will find it to be your favourite guide to couture sewing.
Origin of couture pleating
The pleating technique was taught to me in New York, now trying to research who originated this technique. Although, I am not a fashion historian the closest may be Madame Grès? I am awestruck by her dresses so ethereal, one may ask how did she construct such dresses?
My answer: “It must have been a patience angel.”
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