Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fitting the lining of a supportive kirte

My wool dresses have performed admirably through the fall and winter (even though my pink wool cote is currently missing the left sleeve). At the last event, held indoors, my charcoal grey kirtle and gold Grandes Chroniques dress (and linen chemise under everything) was just right and extremely comfortable. Heading into spring, however, all those layers will cease to be comfortable. I've got a mini-store of linen, so I'd like to use some of those up by adding some linen layers to my garb mix.

I recently purchased 2 yards of 8oz. white linen, thinking that I could use it for a bag. It's not actually ideal for that use, but I'd like to find out how the heavier weight would would work for the lining of the supportive layer. I don't have enough to do the full lining, so I'll have to supplement a different weight for the skirt and sleeves.

Now, the photos that follow are a bit embarrassing, and I know Google Image Search will make a fool of me, but I really felt it important to share with you more details of my process. In the past, I've given you the basic overview of how I do my fitted dresses, but here's a bit more about the part where I fit the lining.

My pattern consists of four panels of muslin generated from the pattern fitting I did last year. Since dress fitting isn't an exact science, each time I use the muslin pattern to create a new dress, I have to go through a secondary fitting. This corrects any errors that may be on my pattern, and accounts for my current size, whether I've gained or lost a few pounds. Unless my body shape has dramatically changed, there is enough in the pattern to work with.

Fitted dresses made from natural materials are highly forgiving. A recent health issue caused me to gain a lot of weight last year, but both my wool dresses still fit comfortably enough. By allowing the lacing to be slightly eased in the areas of most stess, I don't feel too constrained. I was able to wear previous front-laced dresses through my pregnancies with no changes, simply by easing the lacing or allowing the skirt to hike up over my hips a bit.

I commit the pattern to my lining material to do the secondary fitting. The lining then becomes the current pattern for the outer material once I'm done with this stage. By doing it this way, I'm eliminating the need to do any fitting once the dress is actually put together (unless, of course, if I come across an error I'd made.) using the lining in this way also gives me a chance to stretch it to get a better long-term-wear fitting. Linen stretches as it warms up, so if I skip this part of the process, I could potentially end up with a dress that is too loose and no longer flatteringly fitted by the end of a long event.

I cut the heavy linen and sewed it together. Because I'm limited on how much I linen I had, the pieces are only hip-length. If I was doing a full lining with a single fabric, which is more typical, I would cut the full- length skirt at this point, but not the gores. In this case, I will attach the additional length of my skirt and the gores later in the process.

After sewing the back and side seams together, I attached my trusty lacing strips. I fold the extra seam allowance on the center front under to keep it out of the way. Once that's in place, and I've got my lace, I put it on. Please don't laugh.

Okay. A few things first.

  • I'm wearing a non-underwire bra. I've tried the no bra thing, and it's just not comfortable for me. I have been thinking about trying something inspired by the Lengberg bra, but not this time around.
  • The seam allowance is on the outside to make it easier to do the fitting.
  • The armscye and neckline have not been fitted/adjusted yet. They are straight from the pattern to give me enough to work with for the style I have in mind for any given dress.
  • It was late, I was tired, so I'm looking a bit squinty as a result.

Let's have a moment of reality, shall we? I'm sure you can tell that I have a few physical issues that I need to overcome to create a more medieval sillouette. I know that these issues can be somewhat handled gracefully, if not perfectly. In particular, I can't do too much about my narrow shoulders, but the fitting of this rough-cut lining will help with the shape and position of my breasts, and the poochiness of my belly. I must note that the vertical line at my waist is my actual waist, and not a tight cutting in of the linen. For some really strange reason, I gain weight above and below my waistline, resulting in this slightly skinnier band. Always- it never goes away.

This is the first time I've actually been serious about taking pictures at this point in the fitting process, but I'm really sorry I hadn't been doing it prior to this. Not because I'm totally thrilled with sharing them with you, but because they show me the areas that need the most work. I think I might do that from now on, just to give me the visual that a mirror isn't able to. (Until I learn how to spin my head completely around, that is!)

The way that the lining fits across the back is particularly incorrect. While someone of my size can expect to get at least a small amount of wrinkling around the torso regardless of how much fiddling with the fit, the way in which it so precisely highlights the spare tires I keep on my back is not at all flattering. This is where my recent weight gain is really apparent on this pattern. Counter-intuitively, the way to deal with this type of issue is to introduce more ease in the back. There are a few ways to go about it, but it will all depend on where the lining needs adjustments overall.

I'll wear the lining around the house for several hours. I usually put a cardigan on, just so it's not so weird, but everyone in my house is pretty much used to this sort of thing, so it's not really awkward for me. I'll go about my daily business, picking up kids, kicking back on the couch, doing laundry, etc. in order to generate heat and get the linen to stretch. At the end of this, I expect the lining to not really having much fitting anymore. Different fabrics get through this processes in different ways. The green linen I used on my charcoal gray kirtle was a light-weight linen that was very sensitive to wrinkling, but did not stretch too dramatically. The natural-colored, medium-weight linen on my pink cote, however, stretched considerably.

Here's a before & after of how the 8oz. linen lining looked after about 3 hours of wearing:

BEFORE | AFTER
BEFORE | AFTER
BEFORE | AFTER
BEFORE | AFTER

At first glance, there isn't an overwhelming difference, so the heavy-weight linen doesn't inherently have a lot of stretch. There's still a lot of correcting to do here, though. The bust support has completely disappeared, and since my bust is no longer even close to the right place, the front lacing is now gaping. The shoulders have loosened, as well as the waist.

At this point, I would normally go straight into correcting the fit. As my regular assistant (hi mom!) is battling a cold right now, I'll need to put it aside for now. In my next post, though, I'll continue showing you this behind-scenes look at my dress fitting process.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for being brave and showing us these photos!

    I think you are a little confused about your waist, though. Your natural waist (as per dressmaking) is much higher than most modern people realise. You can find it by bending sideways: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT7FV3HO1ogyAR8mh1GuzaEbbNiPooorr7uKAb8soFei_7rtc70
    It certainly isn't below your belly button.

    I think if you inserted your all gores in line with where the small of your back is you might get a more flattering fit. If you are wearing supplementary bust support (e.g. a bra) you can 'skim' (using a tiny bit of positive ease) from this point down, rather than using negative ease from the underbust to the hip. This should be more flattering and should remove the issues you've been having with funny horizontal drape lines in the top of the skirt.

    (At least, that is what I've found works best with people with a similar shape.)

    I look forward to seeing how your dress progresses.

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    1. No, I'm not confused. That line is my waistline. It is not below my belly button, though I can see why you might suspect that. My belly button is actually right on that line. I'd certainly like it to be higher, but sadly, I haven't done enough sit-ups yet.

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    2. Forgive me for the assumption.

      However, I do hope you will try inserting the gores higher. Even if you just do it in your mock up, hate it and discard the idea, I think it would be worth the try.

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    3. I keep playing around with gore placement. Just about the time I figure out where it works best, I gain weight and my shape changes :( I think I was very close to getting it right on my pink wool dress. I think you're right, though, that I might be better off putting them really high to start- it is definitely worth trying.

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  2. I would also like to thank you for your bravery! It's nice to see how others compensate for fitting issues, particularly those of us who are well-endowed.

    I made the mistake once of making a linen kirtle that I didn't give enough time to stretch. Even though it's two layers of linen and two layers of cotton canvas, boned, it still goes limp on me by the end of the day, and I get the dreaded boob-saggage. /sigh #lessonlearned

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    1. The way I see it, I can suffer a bit of embarrassment if it means that one plus-size woman out there is inspired or encouraged to try these tighter styles and stop thinking of their size as a limitation. My physical issues aren't necessarily unique, so I know there has to be someone out there that is just WAITING to find this! Thank you for your encouragement!

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  3. This is fantastic! I'm going to have a go at making a fitted kirtle as my next garb project, and have been wondering how to fit it in a way that offers real bust support without lumping things up terribly. Your entire blog has been invaluable to me for the past year, not least for your links to children's garb.

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    1. I'm so glad you've found my blog helpful! I'm gathering materials now to make a whole slew of new garb for my kids, so hopefully I'll have much more to share with you on garbing little ones this spring!

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  4. Thank you for posting this! (my previous comment seems to have gotten eaten :-( ) Wearing the lining around the house for a few hours is brilliant. I just made a supportive 15th century dress, and while the fit is pretty good when I first put it on, it does stretch and loose a bit of support as I'm wearing it. I'll have to try your method for my next one! I'm looking forward to the next installment

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    1. I started doing it because I was getting really sick of being able to slide out of my dresses at the end of the day without unlacing them! Since making this a required step in my process, I have not had anywhere close to the same loss of fit. It does add time, but I think it's totally worth it.

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    2. Plus it adds a significant amount of silliness to the process, which is always worth it!

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