Written and originally posted by Ann on http://taoknitter.blogspot.com/.
Questions surface occasionally about the FeisDress™ pattern on the message boards. I thoroughly understand asking for input about the pattern from users before buying the pattern. There are sometimes even questions about what is included in the pattern like a drop waist or different skirt styles. But I do wonder why people using the pattern post technical questions they have before they ask Feisdress...Susan will always answer questions about the pattern. Perhaps it is just habit...I know there are questions asked about using and altering the other available patterns all the time.
So here I will post some information about the pattern that I hope will be helpful.
1) The pattern pieces are accurately marked with seam allowances and notches. The seam allowance are different sizes depending on the pattern piece - i.e. the neck seam is 1/4" to cut down on trimming while the side bodice seams are 1" to allow for alterations.
2) The bodice pattern shape is "drawn to-waist" which simply means that it is designed to fit the torso to the waist. It is not drawn to fall below the waist. It can be easily altered to be a drop waist, but to be clear, for a drop waisted bodice to fit nicely, it must still fit to the waist and then flare out over the hips...it does not fall in a straight line from the armpit to a designated point 1-2" below the waistline. That would be baggy unless the dancer is straight up and down! This link takes you to using the Feisdress pattern for a drop waist, 2 piece. It fits to the waist and then flares out.
I will post my process for lengthening the bodice pattern this coming week.
3) The skirt pattern consists of 4 separate pieces: center front panel (CFP, includes front half of pleat which will be folded under), front side panel (FSP, includes back half of pleat which is not folded unless working a box pleat), side tuck, and back skirt. However, the FSP, tuck and back skirt pieces are all combined to make ONE piece. There are only 3 seams in the skirt: the two pleat seams and the center back skirt seam. Using these pieces is fully explained here.
4) There are grainlines on every pattern piece. They are not labeled, but it was assumed a seamstress would know them for what they are. They are the center lines of the front bodice, sleeve and each skirt piece; however, as the FSP, tuck and back skirt make up one full piece, you need to decide where on the skirt you want to line up the grain. Since most of us interface/stabilize our dress fabrics, there is technically no grain line to be considered for drape and movement. So the only reason to consider a grainline for the FSP/back skirt is if it is a noticeable line that impacts the dress design in any way. As for the side princess seam bodice and back bodice, the grain line is there - diagonally on the side bodice and vertically near the zipper line on the back.
5) The Feisdress skirt pattern includes knife and box pleats, standard and reversed back pleats, and an offset skirt. You can email Susan for instructions on changing the skirt to a wrap skirt. And this link shows how we changed the pattern for 4 and 8 panel skirts.
6) Yes, the armscye looks smaller...it is. It is designed to allow for a wider range of movement. Granted, Irish dancers are not known for grand arm gestures, but they need ease of movement for team dancing. Since the lower armscye comes up higher into the armpit, there is less pulling up on the whole dress. I am still looking for the link that explains that an armscye for dance needs to be cut higher and smaller, not bigger and looser. Here is one that talks about how an armscye should actually be shaped (like Susan's!). It is a bit long and involved, but it is very informative.
7) The directions included with the pattern are quite extensive and include many pictures to help illustrate the process.
8) And there is of course this blog. If there is anything at all that I can answer, please post a question. If there is a point you want to debate, feel free.
January 24, 2007
Written and originally posted by Ann on http://taoknitter.blogspot.com/.
January 22, 2007
Written by Susan and originally posted by Ann on http://taoknitter.blogspot.com/.
You may choose to use a dressmaker who is also the embroiderer, or you may have separate people/businesses performing each task. Either way, you will need to specify what you expect. So much of this depends upon your design which I will discuss in that section.
For now, you need to understand the dressmaking flow.
- DM measures dancer and uses those measurements to alter a pattern to fit. DM may make up a fitting bodice to test the fit. (Something to discuss and document in your standards.)
- DM cuts out the dress.
- The pieces are embroidered.
- The dress is constructed with perhaps another fitting.
- Final fitting – customer accepts dress.
The DM is responsible for preparing the dress pieces so they can be embroidered. This usually means that the dress pieces have been interfaced and marked. Embroiderer and DM will need to work together and test different interfacings in order to find the right combination that will embroider well. The DM might prefer that the pieces are not cut out exactly to size yet – sometimes the embroidery causes the fabric to pull up and “shrink” a bit – and if so, the embroiderer needs to know that. The pieces have to be clearly marked so that the embroiderer can see the center line, the cutting lines, hem and seam lines etc. These will be used for placing and sizing the design. Depending upon your pattern, the pieces need to be clearly labeled as to what they are – the front side panels may look like back side panels, left side and right side may not be obvious – or the wrong design could be embroidered. All these details (and more) need to be worked out and agreed upon. They need to be written down. When the bus hits the DM and you need to bring in someone new, the written guidelines will save you time and money.
You and the dressmaker & embroiderer need to work out placement standards. For instance your skirt will be cut with a 1/2” hem and that will be clearly marked by your DM. You must specify that the designs will start X” above the hemline at the center lines (also clearly marked by DM). That way you won’t have some skirts with the design sitting right on the hem and others with it floating 2” above it and off center. You will ensure a consistent look. Every embroidered piece needs placement stated – don’t leave it up to the embroiderer to guess and remember what she did last time.
Selecting a Dress Pattern
I started making ID dresses before there was a pattern available in the US. There wasn’t a big internet presence, so information was very hard to obtain. I had to develop my own method for making a pattern for the skirt, and I drafted the bodice patterns by hand. Chances are just about every dressmaker who has been doing this for 10 or more years had to invent their own wheels, too.
The school I initially worked with wanted to bring in several dressmakers (moms as well as storefront seamstresses) which was a good plan. Unfortunately, none of them ever worked out because there was no real pattern. I’d go and show them how I’d make the skirt pattern and draft the bodice but the results were not good. A lot of them decided not to even try. Or they reinterpreted the skirt and it didn’t have the same look. Mostly they’d start and just quit part way through.
I’d hate to see that problem occur now because there are several patterns available. I feel strongly that your school should purchase a set of patterns that will be “loaned” to your DM(s). This is essential if you will be using moms or a non-ID specific dressmaker. (Some established DMs have their own patterns and may refuse to use a third party pattern.)
The pattern can serve as the master guideline for such things as:
- Skirt proportion: Should the side panels be half the width of the center front panel? Or two-thirds? Or equal width? (Note: You must decide upon the skirt proportion before you commission an embellishment design – your artist needs to know the size and shape of the canvas.)
- How wide/what type of pleats do you want in the front and back of the skirt?
- What angle is the center front panel? The side panels?
- How much seam allowance should be left in each seam?
A good pattern with good instructions can give your school additional flexibility and options. You may be able to call upon local sewing talent in your school or town. I suggest you purchase copies of available patterns for evaluation.
Selecting a Design
You can draw your own design “in house,” select an existing “per use” design from a designer’s catalog, or commission a custom/exclusive design.
An existing “per use” or “reusable” design can be purchased and used by anyone anywhere. That means you may see solo dresses with the same (or nearly the same) design on them. Since the colors and fabrics would be different, that isn’t the end of the world. There are MANY school dresses currently being worn that have reusable designs. You would pay the designer an agreed upon fee for every dress your school has made. You may be able to negotiate a lower price by purchasing rights to some number of dresses ahead of time. Fees for a single use vary significantly from designer to designer but ballpark is $30 - $60.
The custom or exclusive design is one that you purchase for the sole use of your school. The designer may or may not retain rights, so if you think you will be using parts of the design as your school logo or as background on your website, be sure to discuss the use beforehand. Fees and conditions vary - $150 and up.
If you decide to commission a design, you will need to provide the designer with some information and guidelines:
- Dress pattern information: What commercial pattern (if any) will you be using? What are your skirt proportions and angles? Is your bodice darted or made using princess seams? You want your design to fit nicely on your pattern pieces.
- Which dress pieces do you want embroidered?
- Front bodice - always
- Center skirt panel – always
- Side skirt panels –usually
- Skirt back – optional. This is a significant expense and may not be noticed as “missing” if you opt for an eye-catching shawl
- Bodice back – very optional.
- Sleeves – usually. Do you want the embroidery directly on the sleeves or as a removable “patch” or cuff? If it is on the sleeve, adjusting the sleeve length causes the embroidery to float towards the elbow or fall into the hem.
- Shawl – almost always. You can decide to go with a draped shawl with no embroidery. Decide upon the size/shape for a stiffened, embroidered shawl.
- Do you already have some sort of school logo or initials you wish to incorporate in the design? Initials or an image that is very easily identified as unique to your school gives some folks a problem when used on the front of the dress. The argument is that it could influence an adjudicator if he/she can identify which school a dancer represents. I wonder how many times a judge (or anyone else) must see a dress before knowing the association. Anonymity certainly would disappear long before the dress. Personally, I find wearing initials on the front of the dress to be rather like a billboard. However, on the shawl, I find it charming. Let your designer know how YOU feel.
- How extensively do you want the design to fill your dress pieces? There are many variations on this, but simply put, do you want your skirt & bodice full of embroidery & appliqué from hem to neck? Or do you prefer a design that stops short of the waistline seam and only partially fills the dress? The full version is very impressive. However, when such a dress is altered, the alteration (especially at the waist seam) can become glaringly obvious. Either the design is cut off or a gap appears. The less filling designs take to alterations more kindly.
- Shaped pleats, hems, sleeves and shawls add to the cost of a dress. Be sure to tell your designer if you want them included in the design.
- If you already have school colors selected, tell your designer. That may influence the design. Will additional colors be allowed?
- If you are SURE that this design will ONLY be used on a single size/age group, tell her so she can produce a design with an appropriate feel.
- Do you want your design to consist of mostly embroidery or appliqué work? All-embroidery designs tend to look best on smaller dresses, especially if the width of the satin stitching will remain the same no matter the skirt size. Embroidery machines can increase the satin stitch size if the design has been properly digitized (to be discussed with your embroiderer/digitizer.) If the design will be “hand guided,” the stitch width depends upon the machine. Home machines usually fall in the 5 mm to 7 mm range. Industrial zigzag machines often go up to 12 mm. The point is that on a large-sized dress, the design won’t be as dense as on a small sized dress and could look rather anemic. So if you plan on having moms (or an embroiderer who doesn’t use digital equipment) embellish your dress, you might be better off with an appliqué-heavy design. Appliqués will enlarge with the design and fill in large sizes as well as they do smaller sizes.
Be sure to look at your design “life sized” – not just on 8 ½” by 11” paper. Enlarge it to fit on a small skirt and on a large skirt. Does it work well on both sizes? Look at it from a distance – are there any accidental “arrows” or “bull’s-eyes” on the crotch or fanny? Are there “boob blossoms” or “eggs” on the bust line? Will it flatter large figures as well as petite ones? Are there horizontal lines across the hips that widen them? Look at it upside down. (Ann has written about this issue in her Diary...it is in section 14.)
- A border around the bottom of the skirt is lovely design feature. But, it will make sizing the design much more complicated and expensive. It is very difficult to do well.
In this example the red skirt is the original design. Now we need to put it on a skirt that is the same length, but for a wider dancer. The border forces us to stretch the design sideways and the circles become fat ovals. The whole thing looks squattier.
Again, the red dress is the original and now we need to put it on two taller dancers’ skirts.
We started with the blue skirt and just enlarged the design until it fit that skirt length. When we try to use it on the orange skirt, which is the same length but for a narrower waist, the design is too wide so now it has to be squeezed to fit. The circles become elongated.
Without the border, I’d only need one size for each inch or two (depending upon how “fitted” and full the design is) of skirt length. With the border, I will end up making unique sizes for just about every skirt. Or I’ll be forced to change the skirt angles for every dress to fit the design. That means some skirts will be proportionately wider than others. Either way, it gets ugly – more time, more skill, more patience is required from your dressmaker and embroiderer. Some will just not do it and you’ll end up with designs that are cut off or end short.
I always advise against an embroidered/appliquéd type skirt border on school dresses.
Also, to fill the dress pieces consistently, design sizing is critical. Your embroiderer must be willing and able to produce many size increments (one per 1” of skirt length). The less filling type of design is less sizing dependant and you can probably do one size per 2” of skirt length. This is a CRITICAL issue to be discussed in detail with the embroiderer. If they tell you that 3 sizes will fit all – children through adults – be sure to order full samples of these magic sizes and judge for yourself if it will work to your satisfaction. (You will pay for these samples.)
Collaborating with a designer on your dress will probably be the most fun part of this project. Some people find it difficult because they can’t express what they want in words. Find pictures of dresses you like and ones you hate. Don’t worry about telling the designer you don’t like what she’s drawn – you won’t hurt her feelings. She’s trying to figure out what will please you. So if you don’t like it, say so and try to figure out WHY you don’t like it. The more feedback you give, the easier the process. Believe me, nothing is more frustrating for the designer than sending out sketches/ideas and getting NO comment or “what else do you have?"
More to come.
January 19, 2007
Written by Susan and originally posted by Ann on http://taoknitter.blogspot.com/.
For the record, I do have vested interests. I sell an ID dress pattern. I sell designs for solo and school dresses. I make and sell solo and school dresses. So what I say should be considered biased. Feel free to comment from your own point of view. I am open to intelligent discussion. The focus here is to offer advice to new TCRGs who are developing their first school dress.
The following is directed to the school dress design team. The team may consist of the TCRG and no one else, or it could include parent(s), student(s) and even the school’s dressmaker (if you already have one).
The ID team dress makes a statement about the school it represents. Everyone involved – TCRG, parents, students – hope for an attractive, flattering dress with great stage presence that will fit and last for a long time yet cost very little. Unfortunately, these goals are somewhat at odds with each other and the mission of the design team is to weigh the importance of each, set priorities and make some tough decisions for their school.
The issues the design team must address are:
- Select a dressmaker/embroiderer
- Select/commission/approve an embellishment design
- Decide on colors
- Select fabrics
- Select dress pattern
- Establish an ordering process
- Document dress fitting, construction, and embellishment standards
(Discussion of these issues will be out of order.)
The circumstances unique to your school will determine what you consider when. The order is important because every decision you make will influence all your subsequent decisions. The team CAN control the order in which these issues will be addressed. Be aware that your approach order will limit options available for the next selection.
The team also must determine which selections are absolute (unchangeable) and which may be treated as “preferences” (open to revisions or substitutions). Here’s an example:
The team has selected an embellishment design, colors and fabrics. Now they are looking at dressmakers (DMs). DM-A insists that significant changes be made to the design for reasons related to her equipment or methods. DM-B refuses to use the fabric the team has chosen. Both DMs may (and most likely do) have very good reasons for their stands. Is the team willing to change the design and/or fabric? Or, will these DMs be excluded and the search continue? In this case, we’ll say the team’s design choice is absolute and the fabric choice is flexible. They were unhappy with the changes DM-A wanted to make, but they will consider alternate fabric types. So, DM-A is out and DM-B is still under consideration.
I will continue to discuss each issue in the design process. As you read and consider my opinions, please remember that this is one of those situations where you need to get it right the first time. Any changes made to the design, construction, embellishment, color, fabric, or fitting standards of the dress will make previous versions obsolete. Parents will be very unhappy, feel cheated, “unfavored,” and blame the TCRG and the rest of the design team members personally. Resale values drop and disappear.
In other words, making mistakes and “learning as you go” will be costly, both monetarily and emotionally. Be prepared to pay upfront in order to save in the end. You may be asking dressmakers, embroiderers, and suppliers to provide you with samples for approval. Since a significant amount of time and effort will be required, expect to compensate them. Be prepared to spend the time it will take to get the dresses you want. Don’t let some deadline pressure squeeze you into accepting a less-than-expected dress because it is better than no dress. Plan on it taking at least a year from the time you begin this journey until your dancers perform in their new costumes.
On Getting Hit by a Bus
The bus is the bad thing that Murphy says will happen. The bus is life interfering with the best laid plans. The black bus brings sick children, dying parents, natural disasters, fires, auto accidents, legal problems, emotional breakdowns, divorce, discontinued fabric, broken machines, and postal strikes. The white bus brings prayed-for pregnancy (with triplets!), the spouse’s promotion and transfer to a different region, the daughter’s engagement and wedding plans. A bus will eventually hit us all. No matter what you do, you can’t prepare for it all, but if you address the right issues you may still get your dresses.
What do you really need?
Before you begin making any dress plans, analyze your school’s needs. First, how important will team dresses be in your school? Is yours a “solo school” with little team dancing? The school dress is a step up from skirt-and-blouse but once outgrown, generally not replaced. Dancers with solo dresses wear them for performances and parades.
Or, do you have a “team school”? All dancers are required to dance figures and school dresses are worn for performances and parades.
Most school fall somewhere between the two extremes, but deciding how central the dress will be to your school image will help you to develop workable solo/team dress policies. Will your dancers have to “earn” (reach a particular level of competition, such as preliminary championship) solo dresses or will each dance family have the option to purchase a solo dress whenever they feel like it (within your dance organization’s rules, of course)?
Will the school (or some booster organization) be subsidizing dress costs? For instance, you may choose to apply performance fees towards dress expenses. Besides facilitating dress purchase, this may allow the school to stake partial ownership of the dress to prevent sale outside of the school.
What is your overall costume plan? What will the new students (who haven’t yet committed themselves to ID) wear? Generally it is the skirt-blouse outfit. Some schools have a skirt made; others select a skirt & blouse from a uniform catalog or just leave it up to the parents to find something appropriate. In my observation, the uniform catalog option works best. Even if it eventually costs more than a “custom” skirt, parents feel better about purchasing “real” clothes. They can justify the expense – dd can always wear the outfit if she gives up ID.
The main school dress will be around for years. Changing it will be very disruptive, even if there is strong dislike for the dress throughout the school. It is tempting to try to design a dress that will be all things to all dancers and suitable for every opportunity that arises. There is pressure to have a dress that is as fancy/glitzy/jazzed-up as those on the podium at major competitions.
Some feel the need to provide a less-embellished version of the school dress, a “junior” dress for older beginners (often some sort of jumper with embroidery on the bodice).
And don’t forget about special “performance” costumes used for shows or recitals. Typically, these are more “Riverdance-y” and not stiffly embroidered.
Adults need their own dresses that are more tolerant of a “full figure”.
And so it goes. But is all this necessary? For a new school, to start, all you really need is some sort of beginner option(s) and a team dress. All the others can be added as needed. (Just be sure you anticipate the need and start early.) Even though changing the design of the team dress is difficult, if you start simple you can gradually add in an “improved” version of the team dress for “senior” teams that will be dancing in major competitions. The older style dresses can eventually become the “junior” dress.
After you analyze your school’s needs, take some time to analyze your TCRG’s needs as well. The TCRG needs to decide his/her role in the costume drama. After the dress has been designed, approved and ordered, it is common for the TCRG to wish to “back out” and just let it happen. Complete withdrawal is not possible. Much of the ordering process can be delegated; however the TCRG remains the final authority. There will be situations in which the dancer and DM disagree. Many of these problems and issues can be anticipated and covered in the fitting, construction and embellishment standards document. But there will still be tough decisions which result in either an unhappy parent or DM. Try to avoid it and the DM and parent will be angry and you could lose both.
Fitting, Construction and Embellishment Standards
Your objective is to present your definition of a well made dress and to itemize the points of agreement that you have worked out with the DM. I want to make clear that I am not advocating that you dictate to the DM how she should conduct business. What I am suggesting is that you decide what you expect. The DM may agree to it or not. Or she may have a different approach that would work for both of you. This is not meant to be a hostile document to be used against a DM. It is meant to specify exactly what you want so the DM won’t have to guess. Most DMs really want to please their clients. If done correctly, the document will outline exactly what it will take to do that. It will cover common “what if” situations and clearly state who is responsible for what. This will be the place to state what payments are due to whom and when the fees should be paid.
Fitting standards will protect both you and the DM. Many parents pressure the DM to construct the dress too large (“room to grow”). The result is a dumpy-looking, sagging dress that twirls around the dancer. To look best, the ID dress must fit snugly to support the skirt. Otherwise it hangs from the shoulders, the sides of the skirt fold in towards the front, and the skirt spins at the waist. Since the DM is being paid by the parent, she may feel she should comply with the customer’s wishes. However, if a fitting standard is available, the parent will know beforehand what has been agreed upon. The fitting standards should provide a reasonable range that will accommodate just about any age, size, shape and allow the DM and parent to work together to make a dress that will be acceptable within the school. Extremely unusual cases can be addressed individually but will necessitate TCRG consultation. You may also find you need different ranges based upon a dancer’s maturation/size/potential for more growth. You want to be flexible and take advantage of the DM’s expertise.
“Ease” is the term DMs use for the “how much bigger than the body measurement” they make parts of the dress. For instance, if your chest is 40” and I make your dress with a 40” bust, you will not be comfortable, able to breathe or move much. Some ease is required. An experienced ID dressmaker can help you set a range (or ranges). Setting them down in writing, beforehand, and giving them to the parents will anticipate many conflicts. Consider ease guidelines for the bust, waist and (for younger dancers) the shoulders. It is also good to detail hand/wrist points between which the sleeve should fall.
Skirt length is the most difficult to specify because there are several ways to measure “above the knee”. Pick one – kneeling is probably least open to misunderstanding - and then specify a range (X” to Y” above the floor). Again, you may have different ranges depending upon age/size.
Standardizing how/who measures your dancers is the key to adhering to the fitting guidelines that are mutually set between you and your chosen dressmaker(s). You cannot have ten people measuring ten dancers in ten different ways and expect a DM, no matter how competent, to fit each dancer well or consistently. You will need to work with your DM. If she is local she will probably measure the dancers herself. If you have chosen to use an overseas or long-distance DM, you will heed to be trained in how measurements are expected to be taken. EVERY DRESSMAKER WANTS DIFFERENT MEASUREMENTS TAKEN DIFFERENT WAYS. Even if your DM is local, it is a good idea to have someone within your school trained in taking measurements for the dressmaker. Growth-spurt emergencies happen and it will facilitate things if the DM doesn’t have to come back to re-measure. Both DM and parent should keep copies of the measurements.
Your construction/ordering standards are statements of how you want your dresses made and how the ordering process will work. You will discuss and come to an agreement with your DM about each specification. At a minimum:
- Specify your base fabric(s) – type, color, manufacturer(s), product code(s)
- Skirt/bodice/sleeve lining(s)
- Interfacing(s) – list dress pieces that you want interfaced and the type of interfacing you want used
- Stiffener – specify where stiffener should be used and the type/amount.
- Seam Allowances – specify amount at key seams for easy alteration (center back, bodice sides, bodice waist, skirt waist, sleeve, etc.)
- Sleeve hem – how much?
- If the bodice princess seams/darts must align with the center front panel, say so.
- Seam finish – do you care if all your seams are finished and how? Pay particular attention to exposed seams in the skirt. Should they be bound? What about the back zipper- do you want the zipper in the skirt finished with the lining so that it doesn’t show during kick up?
- What happens if dancer grows before the dress is finished? (Commonly an alteration fee will apply.)
- How/when can a dress be cancelled?
- If multiple dresses are ordered, who decides on priority?
- Bodice lining – do you want the bodice interlined or bag lined?
- Sleeve lining?