July 17, 2014

The bias cut

Many years ago, back in the early zeros, I had a bias cut dress. I bought it either just before or just after I met E. It was a sleeveless ankle length dress with a gathered flounce at the neckline and an asymmetrical gathered tier at the bottom. The fabric was a thin and soft cream coloured cotton with a dense blue ditzy print. I know goth-y old me loved that dress and wanted to buy it from the moment she saw it in the shop window. And I did.
E used to describe the dress as "horrible but so beautiful on you" and has had a soft spot for the idea of a bias cut dress ever since.

Maybe surprisingly after this build-up, I didn't do a lot of bias cut stuff after I started sewing seriously. There are not a lot of sewing patterns for them and maybe the whole look was a bit 90's anyway. 
One of my first big project when I took pattern making classes with M was a dress to wear to the wedding of friends of ours. It was ever so vaguely inspired by a Vionnet evening dress. That dress was knee length, with a half circle skirt, a bias cut waist piece (from under the bust to high hip) and a one shouldered upper bodice. It was made from a soft mid-grey crepe.
It was a success as a dress for a wedding guest but I didn't get many other chances to wear it. And, like most of the designs I made under M's close supervision, it didn't really feel like 'me' in the end (Which is really peculiar. M is a great teacher and I couldn't have started with pattern making as easily as I did but in the effort to just get her students started on things, she will steer their designs in certain directions. And although I really like her and she's a great designer, my own aesthetic choices for myself always turn out quite differently from hers).
Oh, and I went and checked but although that dress doesn't pre-date my Burdastyle membership, I never posted it there. So, unfortunately I can't show you any evidence of its existence.

Then, four years ago, there was my first attempt at a bias cut summer dress. I used pin stripe linen and wasn't very keen on the result. It went on the shelve and when I was packing for a holiday two years later, I liked it better and brought it with me to wear on that trip. At which time I found out that those shoulder straps will stretch out over the course of the day.

And know, I've decided to try again. Being able to use the bias cut well would just be such a great addition to my sewing and pattern making arsenal. 
And I keep being interested in early 1930's designs but not quite knowing what to do with them...
Obviously, some types of fabric work better than others for bias cut things. Right now, I'm using the same peculiar 'dye it and shrink it and it will become viscose crepe' stuff which I used for this jumpsuit. Last week, I dyed to batches of the stuff. Both using Dylon dyes for use in the washing machine. One of them in Tulip red, the other one in black. I got probably my best dyeing results yet. 
Even so, the tulip red is a bit of an odd colour which looks hot pink in some kinds or light and slightly muted red in others. I wasn't too sure if that would suit me at all.

So, I'm using it for the first version of this new bias cut attempt. 

I started out with my sloper and the instructions for 'lingerie and evening wear' from Winifred Aldrich's Metric pattern cutting for womenswear. I didn't follow the instructions to the letter but just used them as starting point for the adjustment of the width and the placement of the shoulder straps.

Then, I cut the dress from the red/pink crepe (bust pieces with the grain parallel to the neckline, skirt pieces on the bias) and sewed it up. And then, I put it on and started tweaking the fit.

As I had expected, I ended up taking it in just about anywhere. In these pictures, there is still a lot of excess fabric in the side seams, with a lot of stitching so I expect less pulling there after I've clearer up those seam allowances. I kept it all in so I could transfer it onto the pattern. 
The armholes and neckline are still unfinished so they will be a little deeper and have their edges pulled in a little more in the finished article.
After all the tweaking, I'm not unhappy with the dress. Definitely a wearable muslin. 
I think I may give this test version some kind of little flutter sleeve and just finish the insides, the hem (which I kind of like at this length. I should have cut it a little longer...) and the neckline. 
After that, I could make the long version with the flared inserts in the skirt which I have been planning... And I'm starting to come up with more variations on the theme. If this works, I'll be able to make some really nice dresses for hot weather (and just in time).


  1. How funny! Just this morning I was looking at bias cut dresses on pinterest, I'm just in love with the shape of the V under the bust. I wasn't sure where to start but looking in the nightwear section of the patternmaking book is genius! Your dress is gorgeous by the way and the colour works perfectly with the style of the dress :)

  2. that is an amazing dress if you hadn't told us I wouldn't have known that it was bias. I have that Vionnet book and it is so great to look through but so far I have not attempted anything. the color is great and I am looking forward to seeing your other versions of this.

  3. That's really working, so do you expect the straps to stretch again, or in the light fabric will that be ok?