Saturday, 16 July 2011

Inside A Ready to Wear Dress - Part 1

I have not yet ventured into making clothes for work.  The dress code for work is a suit and so I wear them a lot and in particular shift dresses.  My shift dresses range from H&M £30 numbers to more upmarket £100 plus numbers from Jaegar or Hobbs.  They are good quality, even the H&M ones.  They set a high benchmark and I feel that I can't start making clothes for work until I can produce something of a similar standard.  There will come a time when I will want to try something that I can wear for work.  I thought I would look inside two of my dresses to see how they are finished.

I will divide this post into two parts.  Look out for part 2 which I will post at a later date.

First up is a dress from H&M costing around £30.  

What a bargain for £30!  A well made dress, with nice fabric and some neat design details like the waistband and the faux-pockets.   I'm no expert on clothing manufacturing but my lay person's guess is that these extra details add to the cost of the construction process.  More things to do.   It's amazing that we can pick up something of this quality so cheaply.   I realise there are ethical issues as to why we can pick up these things so cheaply but I'm not going to explore them here.  

The dress fabric is 64% polyester, 34% viscose and 2% elastane.  The lining is 100% polyester.  

Here are the back views and what it looks like inside out.  

The dress is nicely finished on the inside.   There are front and back facings, which extend down to the side seams.  This is an interesting detail.  As home sewers we're used to neckline facings only.  There's nothing to stop us from tracing out the entire top of a dress and using that as a facing instead.  

Another interesting detail is the white line on the back facing.  This is in fact a piping made of white lining material (with no filling in the piping).  It seems to be purely decorative sewn with attractive white running stitch in a thicker embroidery thread. 

On the other side of the facing, instead of white interfacing, there's a soft black fabric.  It looks too soft and nice for an iron-on interfacing but from what I can make out (see further below) it is iron-on.   The same interfacing is used on the other side of the waistband.  The lining is attached to the lower edge of the facing, the layers trimmed to around 9 mm, serged and the edge pressed up.  I don't know how it manages to stay pressed up but it does.  

The side seams are trimmed to about 8 mm and pressed open and the raw edges finished with a serger.

Here are some close ups of the zipper area inside out.

I think the mark of good ready to wear is the neat finishing on bulky seams and crisp, sharp corners.  How do they do this? (By the way that black interfacing does seem to be iron-on.  This is apparent from an unbound edge on the inside near the top of the zip).   This is what I can make out:

1.  The back neck edge between the shoulder seam and the zipper - these edges are left raw (not bound or serged) and are trimmed right down to around 4 to 5 mm.  The interfacing is layered (trimmed to around 2 mm from the zipper edge) for about 1 inch, tapering out.  (Collette Patterns do this on their invisible zip tutorial).  

2.  The centre back seam edge at the top of the zip is folded towards the back of the dress before stitching the shoulder seam.  Collette Patterns do this, as did Tasia on her Crescent skirt zipper.  

3.  There is a strip of the black interfacing on the wrong side of the dress at the edge starting from the top of the centre back next to the zipper up to the shoulder seam.  This is ironed on before the neck edge seam is stitched as the stitches run through the strip.

4.  The shoulder seam is also unfinished (not bound or serged) and trimmed to around 1 cm.  

5.  It's difficult to work out how the armhole is finished.   My best guess is: the armhole facings are stitched to the dress, pressed towards the facing, the seam is understitched to the facing,  the seam edge is again not finished (not bound or serged) and trimmed down to around 4 mm. The wrong side of the dress armhole edge is reinforced like this: a very narrow band of twill tape is stitched to the right side of a strip of the iron on black interfacing.  Before construction of the dress that strip is ironed on to the wrong side of the dress at the armhole edge.  When stitching the facing and armhole edge together, that stitching runs through the  interfacing strip and so the twill tape lies under the stitching (ie the opposite side to where Tasia puts the twill tape in her Crescent skirt sew along).  If you imagine the twill tape was sewn to the dress (instead of just being sewn to the interfacing as mentioned above) then the stitching would show through on the front of the dress. It doesn't as it is in fact just stitched onto the interfacing strip. 

I was at first surprised to see the shoulder and neckline edges unfinished but there was no reason to be.  I remembered that even with home sewing, if the seam is enclosed in the facing there is no need to finish it.  It wasn't a complete surprise to see how far down some of the edges are trimmed - 2mm in some cases or 4 mm.  This does seem to be the key for clean, flat edges, particularly where are are lots of layers and a thick fabric.  

I have been meaning to analyse a ready to wear dress for ages.  I decided the only way I would get around to doing this is to write about it.   Conclusions?   There are some interesting tips and tricks that I may or may not use myself.  I has been a useful learning exercise to try and work out what they have done. It has also taken some of the mystery out of the neat finishing on ready to wear.  

What else is happening?  My Lonsdale dress from Sewaholic has arrived.  I will follow the sew along posts before starting my dress.  I realise it will be nearer October by the time I finish my dress.  The weather has been so dismal recently that it is difficult to imagine decent weather breaking through.  I haven't even had a chance to wear my Crescent skirts yet.  

I'm making a Burda t-shirt at the moment.  I am underlining it with another layer of the t-shirt fabric as I thought it wasn't thick enough.  I have no idea how this will work out.  It is a bit of a pain basting the underlining pieces together.  I have one more piece to do before I can start the sewing!

Happy sewing.  

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