Not too often can my own clothes boast that they can do more than one wearing function and come from an idea of a designer (besides myself, of course). This project is like an “all-inclusive-package” to a tropical destination between the print, the fabric, the design, and utility. The designer, Antony Kwock, compares it to “a chameleon”. It is basically a rectangle, cut on the straight grain, connected on opposite ends to become a bias tube wearable in many different ways for variously shaped women.
To quote the designer about this creation, “You can make it in cotton for the beach, you can make it in fine wool and wear it with a belt and jacket, you can make it in crepe or satin for evening, draped and caught to one side with a brooch (as it is in the book’s model picture…see below).
The distinctive feature of the design is the spiral seam that turns the flat piece of fabric into a tube…being cut on the bias it moulds to your body when you wear it, draping itself around the natural curves. When you cut something on the bias, the seams are usually tricky to sew. This (project) is like taking a straight line and softening it, giving it dimension…the lines are carried right around the body.”
After I had made the bias tube garment, I actually found other ways to work the ingenuity of the design by using it as a skirt, too. Wearing it as a skirt actually reminds me of an OOP modern Vogue #1310, by Chado Ralph Rucci.
Wearing it as a dress, though, I had tried draping it around me by taking a brooch and pinning it in the center and on the side of me, but the pin made tiny holes in the fabric. I can even criss-cross the straps across my chest for an even more decorative front before tying at the back of my neck. However, in this post our pictures of the bias tube worn as a dress I merely define the waist with a belt.
FABRIC: a soft and drapey 100% rayon challis
NOTIONS: Only thread was needed and on hand already.
PATTERN: The pattern is from the book “Creative Dressing: The Unique Collection of Top Designer Looks That You Can Make Yourself” by Kaori O’Conner, copyright 1980 (my copy is a second edition from 1981). I bought my copy of this book several years ago from a used book fair for $2.00.
TIME TO COMPLETE: From laying out the fabric and cutting out to done and wearable only took 2 hours on the evening of August 7, 2015.
THE INSIDES: The spiral seam is done in a French seam and self-fabric bias binding covers all the raw edges of the bodice section. The bottom is folded under twice in a semi-wide hem. I love my French seams, but I am intrigued by the idea from the designer to sew it with the seam facing out…hmmm, so many options!
Now, the source book for this garment, “Creative Dressing”, is a must have for anyone who is interested in ingenious, cultural, and sometimes unusual designs for both sewing and knitting. The text, the projects, and the pictures are spot on and surprisingly fashion forward, not outdated. For more about this book, see the blog “DIYCouture” where Rosie writes an observant and thorough review of “Creative Dressing”.
In the book, the sewing projects are drawn out on small blue-lined graphs with the scale for enlarging in the corner (most patterns are 1 square = 2 inches) while the hand knitting projects are mostly code abbreviations (some are graphed out). All the patterns are divided out in an interesting but sensible method – ‘Transcultural Clothes’, ‘Fabric and Surface Design’, ‘Design and Designers’, ‘Machine Knitting’, ‘Hand Knitting’, ‘Technological Chic’, and ‘Wedding’. There are several projects by Victor Herbert (insert excited happy expression on my face) and Les Lansdown to mention the more well-known designers…also the ones I will feature in another upcoming post about making their designs from this book.
When it comes to making this design from Antony Kwock (read about his life here), I will not say too much because you really should just find and buy the book for yourself! I will say that between the construction method and the finished product, the bias tube garment reminds me of a cross between folding origami and assembling a Mobius strip. Reading the construction instructions really doesn’t make sense mentally until you just start doing it in reality, but follow it as directed and it will work! Opposites do attract and go well together in this garment. I was doubtful as to whether or not this project would even look decent or turn out, but something so simple is really fool-proof as long as your measurements are precise, matching on both sides. If you examine the pictures closely enough you should be able to see how the twisty seam starts at the center back, to wrap around and end at the hem on the opposite side. “Greenie Dresses for Less” blog made a basic muslin of the bias tube dress, too, and you can clearly see the spiral seam.
The only personal changes I made to this dress was to shorten the length just a bit, taking out 10 inches from the finished length between the lowest matching points. I was in between the sizing measurements given (30 to 34 bust, 32 to 36 hips), but being on the bias it is really not all that exact when it comes to fit. Even if someone wanted to make a size up it would be easy – simply make the width wider. Later, I decided to leave out the pleat or tuck recommended at the point of the neck opening…the bias tape supported that corner well the way I did it.
Whether worn as a skirt or some sort of dress, this garment seems so simple but feels like a desirable luxury to wear. In the rayon, it is so soft, gently hugging and flowing around me with every move, I am as comfy as if in a nightgown. Now I know why women (and designers like Vionnet) in the decade of the 1930’s loved to use the full bias cut…it makes you feel glamorous, it helps you make the most of your natural curves, it is easy to fit and creative to sew. Finally (most importantly), bias cut garments are very comfortable. The multi-colors in my version of the bias tube make it compatible with many varied accessories, such as belts, sweaters, and jewelry.
This bias tube garment is this year’s birthday present to myself. Every year at the height of summer (July/August) I seem to pick out a special project for myself as a treat…even though I’m the one doing the sewing and such to make it! (My other ‘Birthday-present-to-myself’ projects can be seen here and here.) Sewing something special and creative is indeed a joy and not work to me.
Antony Kwock, the bias tube’s designer, made some very relevant and useful comments in the “Creative Dressing” book, which really makes me think. I’d like to end this post with some of his thoughts. “Clothes should dress the body but not hide it. You shouldn’t allow clothes to give you a personality. I like clothes to be simple and workable, to have a smart, clean classic look – but not a look that never changes. Everyone feels like a change from time to time.” This is why he explains he designs basic pieces, “things that can reflect different trends, different styles, different moods, without ever being extreme in themselves.” It’s a shame Antony Kwock didn’t become a bigger name than he was.
Versatility is more important than you realize until one has a piece that goes a long way in your closet – like a white blouse, or a special skirt, or a garment like this bias tube. “Men can get through a whole year just by switching around the things in their wardrobe; women tend to buy things that can just be worn in one way, and then have to go out and buy still more things. The more a woman adapts to the way men dress – in spirit – the closer she’ll be to discovering the secrets of looking good.” If you’re a seamstress like me, you can achieve this easier than anyone else dependent on RTW. “When it comes to style, less is more!”