“Creative Dressing” – Bias Tube Designer Garment

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.

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I’m just soaking up some summer sun…

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.

100_5887a-comp-front&back skirt comboWearing 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.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a soft and drapey 100% rayon challis

NOTIONS:  Only thread was needed and on hand already.

100_5976a-compPATTERN:  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!

100_5928a-compTOTAL COST:  …only the cost of the fabric, about $10

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 scale100_5978a-comp 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.

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This is not the pattern, just the basic shape of the cut of fabric used to make the bias tube.

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.

100_5912a-compThe 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.100_5884a-comp

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.

100_5914a-compAntony 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.

100_5924a-compVersatility 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!”

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A Shapely 1962 Sundress

Out of all the fashions, styles, and decades of clothing which I sew, I can only go for so long before the need to make something from the 1960’s makes itself manifest. I do love making and wearing the 1960’s style, and am always so impressed with the patterns and clothes I make with patterns from that decade. Personally, in those patterns I find the styling lines so interesting to the point of impressive and notice the fit from the 60’s to be either difficult or spot on. This unique sundress is one of the best examples of a 60’s – a superbly complimentary fit combined with an unexpectedly rich floral print. This is by far my favorite make for this years’ summer.

100_5595ab-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton, bought from the quilting section of Hancock Fabrics. The cotton print had the label “Eclectic Elements by Tim Holtz – 2014 Bouquet“ on the selvedge. It is a multi-layered, off-inked mix of flowers – roses, hydrangeas, lilacs, and peonies – in soft but strong colors. The straps are a poly/cotton linen-look fabric, leftover from making my 1931 day dress (see post for that here).100_5653a-comp

NOTIONS:  I only bought a pack of piping. The zipper, thread, bias tape, and a hook-and-eye (for the top zipper closure) were all on hand already.

PATTERN:  McCall’s 6261, year 1962, an “Easy-to-Sew” pattern

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was finished on July 8, 2015, after maybe 15 to 20 hours from start to finish.

THE INSIDES:  Inside, almost every exposed seam is a French seam – just how I like them! Seams that aren’t French are the hems, the neckline (because it’s covered by facing), and the long vertical seam with the piping, which is covered with bias tape.

100_5655-compTOTAL COST:  My total for the fabric on sale and one pack of piping is about $15 to $20.

I love the way the floral print could be uber-feminine to the point of being overwhelming, but this is prevented and softened by being blurred slightly and muted in colors, especially with the contrast dusty olive green of the straps and piping. This is fabric caught my eye as a very close similarity to the dress of the left model on the pattern envelope cover drawing. So, I went along with sewing my look-alike and also picked the same contrast, happy to have an opportunity to use up scraps from my “leftovers” stash. When I use scraps from one project and incorporate them into other projects, I feel like I’m intertwining all my creations, giving them a subtle ‘common ground’. Most of the time, I shy away from copying envelope front model pictures or drawings, after seeing how modern patterns have the worst cover examples of any patterns. However, the vintage pattern’s drawing cover can be so cute and appealing, and I get so tickled when I am able to find a modern look-alike fabric for a vintage one. So, I guess I’m guilty of a lapse in creativity by being a ‘cover copy-cat’, but at least I know then that it’s a true vintage design.

100_5617a-compThere are two bodice options to this pattern – a regular “on the fold” cut bodice, in cut one piece with darts, or an asymmetrical, mock-wrap, princess-seamed bodice, cut in two parts. I chose the two part bodice as it is more unique, offered more interesting creative possibilities, and (as I correctly thought) seemed to have more amazing shaping.

100_5611a-compThe construction steps were adapted and varied a bit from the instruction sheet in order to accommodate adding in the piping trim all the way down the front asymmetric side seam. I did the darts first, of course, but then I sewed the bodice pieces to the skirt pieces and left the top edge facing for last. There was a bit of forethought needed to sew the two different top pieces to the skirt sections and not be totally confused. To understand what I mean here, know that both the front and the back skirt bottom to the dress are made of three sections (six sections in total). Thus, I had to sew both the middle and the left skirt pieces together to attach to the left bodice panel, but the skinny right bodice panel was sewn to a single right panel. The back bodice is one piece, sewn to all three of the back skirt sections joined together. The piping was then sewn in with the asymmetric vertical seam connecting the entire (bodice and skirt) left/center front to the entire right front so the side seams could be stitched for a completed main dress body. Besides the construction order being changed so I could add in piping and a slight downgrade in size, nothing major was altered to the design of the dress according to the pattern.

After sewing my 1944 Easter dress together, I felt very confident and excited about working with piping again, but I did improve on my method of sewing it into a seam. For this project, instead of sandwiching the piping in with the seam and sewing everything all at once (as for the Easter dress), I first sewed down the piping to one side of the fabric at the given seam allowance width. This way the piping was in sturdily place and acting like a “curb” to my final seam with other fabric laid on top.

100_5657-compFor a while, I was on the fence as to whether or not to add piping to the top bodice edge. Hubby helped me reason that it would unify the piping down the front, finish off the edge, and make the green contrast standout more. Since the piping happened to luckily be the exact color match with the fabric for my shoulder straps, I might as well use more of it! With the piping added along the bodice edge, I did not iron or sew on any interfacing to the facing. The only drawback with the piping along the top edge is the fact that the chest size is set for the dress now…it’s not forgiving. My arm and chest muscles can’t get any bigger, but for now, the dress fits, and it’s my summer standby go-to outfit this year!

100_5604a-compIt was a bit a challenge when it came to adding in the side zipper, because all the curving and shaping was in the side seams, instead of in main body dress panels. This is a something I see in 50’s and 60’s patterns, whereas in most 1940’s patterns, which also often have multi-paneled skirts to dresses, the shaping is in the panels that are part of the main body of the garment. (See the patterns for my Mock-wrap ’46 dress and Winter Mint ’42 dress, for two examples for panel shaping, versus my ’50 wrap top or “Whiz-wrap” skirt, for two examples of side seam shaping.) The only main body shaping to my ’62 sundress was at the bust. Speaking of seams, I loved to see how the skirt panels coordinated with the darts for the bodice. Even the straps for the shoulder are sewn on at a vertical match with the bodice darts – what irony…beautiful symmetry paired with asymmetry!

100_5654a-compWould you believe the shoulder straps are actually shaped like a half circle? Check out the pattern back.  This is the ingenious way the pattern resolves design of the straps sewn so far over by the armpits. Usually with straps so far apart, they would slip off the shoulders, and that’s really not a problem on this ’62 dress since these straps deceive the eye and curve in towards the neck to stay put. Smart! I would never have guessed, nor did I think it would work myself, until actually wearing the dress as designed. Vintage patterns always have so much depth and interesting design to offer…more than what meets the eye on the envelope drawing!

Near our house was the perfect setting for an era-appropriate backdrop. There is nothing as appealing to me as an architecturally interesting building, especially one as much loved, well known and local as what people of our town know as the old Buder Branch Library building. (See the B.E.L.T blog page for a handful of links about this building.)  For many years it has been home to The Record Exchange store, which sells used vinyl records, cassettes, movies, and audio/visual equipment, so the whole retro-flashback feel is still alive in this amazing building. It was built in 1961, the year before the date of my dress, and I am always in awe of the graceful, standout Mid-Century Modern style of this building. Just like a well-made garment, the old Buder Branch Building is picturesque and beautiful from any and every angle it’s seen from.

In all, what you see in this post is my perfect warm weather fix…the 60’s era, a sundress, comfy cotton, complimentary shaping, and flowers – everything I love about summer! What can you sew to make your favorite season instantly better than ever?

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Me in front of my favorite summer blossom, the “snowball” bush.