Yes, I did finish the piece in the time limit. No, I haven’t posted until now… Life got in the way.
Extraordinarily comfortable! Doesn’t get tangled when constantly toss and turn in my sleep. It is pretty, sexy and sexy. Did I say sexy? And yet, as long as I didn’t turn around, I would be happy to answer the door in them. Very modest from the front The fabric is the right kind of weight and texture. I upgraded the lace for something softer tot the touch and classier to the look and more robust to wash.
Designing a really posh hospital gown… It’s not exactly warm.
What will I do differently?
For the next version I want to add some of the ideas that can be found in this gold lame/silk evening dress from the 1920′s.
The sleeves were too long and a bit too voluminous so I nee to take them in. I don’t like the hospital-ness of the back but do like the openness so I will look to angle the back towards the front and not have a straight drop. It definitely needs MORE LACE! At the neck, at the sides – I want to emphasise the angles ala Deco. Also not entirely entranced with the waistband on the knickers so that will need to be refined.
I will be using a ballet pink silk satin and ivory lace for the next one! So stay tuned!
Ok onto pattern cutting.
So I am using non-stretch fabric in the main bodies of both the top and knickers. This means I have to think about ease. What is ease? Ease is the space between you and your clothes that allows for “ease of movement”. When you move your clothes to pull, cut, bind or rip (when you bend over…). Mostly in lingerie you work with negative ease – stretch fabric needs to be stretched to fit and this requires a lot of Maths! So I will recheck a standard UK20 measurements and add 4 inches/6cm tothe overall meaurements as waist, hip and bust. I will also add a couple of inches to crotch and the rise.
These are my first drafts. They will change at each stage. When I cut out the draft pieces I will redraw the shapes with my scissors. When I cut out the fabric I will redraw. When I sew I’ll redraw with the sewing machine. Changes will be made along the way and when I am finished those changes will be transferred to the original drafts and then redrawn again. This is a process and being flexible is key.
At some point when cutting out the French knickers I decided to make them ouvert.
And here’s my first fabric choices from stock fabrics:
Ok – so life has been overly busy and in the tradition of having a gazillion projects half finished… Great design comes from necessity.
The heat is driving me potty and I need sexysexy pajamas that are comfy in this heat!
- I hate bunching around my legs
- I turn over a lot and hate non-flexible straps that then cut off the circulation in my arms
- …also get twisted around my body so that I have to stand up to re-sort everything
So French knicker shorts sorts the bunching problem. On open backed T-shirt design will hopefully stop the twisting and strap problem. The brevity and looseness of both will help with the heat.
Now how to make it sexy? A very light weight black satin with side lace see though detailing…
Here’s my quick sketch
Still battling the, “its a lot of money for what it is…” notion, I thought I would use the concept of the Dress Diary to show you the design process from research and conception to finished product. Along the way there will be opportunities to help me make choices and influence the final design.
What is a Dress Diary? Its a series of blog articles most often written by amateur tailors and costumers (some times professionals but not very often because the fashion industry is so secretive) to show other amateur costumers their experiments, ask advice and to teach others about their techniques. Here is an example of a completed diary by a truly inspirational seamstress and innovator: Mode Historique – Striped Anglaise Diary. While the fashion industry hides away it’s designs until revealing them with great publicity at a catwalk show – the world of media is changing. What better way to show you the quality and care that goes into every garment than by taking you along for the ride?
I began researching designs for baby dolls and nighties about 18 months ago (Wow! that long ago? Yep. Boundary disputes can be very distracting. But that’s another story…). I looking through the collections at The Metropolitan Museum of Art website. I get my best inspiration from history and then I like to put my own spin and modern tailoring techniques onto the redesigns for a modernly retro feel.
I found this charming Amazonian baby doll and wrap by Iris made in 1964 and from the collection of Mrs. Sylvia Pedlar. I fell in love immediately with this sexy peekaboo number. If you look at the image of the back, it ties like a halter but at one time I believe the straps were sewn more conventionally into the back. That kind of long, non-adjustable strap would have meant that it would have been very difficult to keep the straps from slipping off the shoulders – hence the change to tying it at the neck. I also liked the combinations of fabric finishes with plain weave silk, satin and georgette.
When starting to sketch, I had to keep in mind a plus size figure’s needs. The bows on the origional would look unbalanced, making almost a clowninsh feature of one breast. I wanted a softer, more alluring feel with a Grecian gathering at the shoulders. I wanted to maintain the very naughty side opening matching slits in both the nightie and the wrap. At first I thought to keep it very simple and use a seethrough georgette for the main part of the nightie have a wide strip of satin ribbon highlighting the nightie’s side slit opening and make the wrap fully in a matching satin. As I began to work out modesty issues of exposing one nipple to the world I began to envision different laces; Chantilly eyelash edged, 3D layered lace, guipure… Comments about my current robe/wrap selections is that the women who wear them don’t just wear them in the bedroom but out on the town as well. The impact there in fabric choices becomes more flexible with satins, brocades and full fabric laces to make it a transitional wardrobe choice.
Remember, I began with these sketches over a year ago and the images I were using as inspirational are free in the interwebs. In the meantime, others found the same inspiration. Here’s LaPerla’s version in white georgette and pink satin edging and white lace details. Made from 100% silk and retailing at £435.00.
Its a sexy little one piece – so no separate wrap. As a one piece it uses less fabric which makes it easier and more cost effective to mass manufacture. Its a cleverly thought homage to the original which solves the halter vs back strap issues with the integrated wrap shoulder and a spaghetti strap on the other side.
So this was the first part of the Dress Diary. In the next part I will dive head first into fabrics and begin to create the toille (draped pattern).
Gussets! We all hate the cheese wire of centre front and centre back sewn panties and the camel toe that inherently comes with too small or too narrow gussets. Traditonally gusset front seams are placed just at, to be plain, the vulva. This can be very irritating and absolute hell on a very sensitive area. Placing the seam there may be more visually attractive, but it does not address the health issues many women face. First I made the gusset both wider, to cup rather than cut, and then longer to extend over the sensitive areas and to help you feel more protected against possible exposure or accident. Then I employed Victorian tailoring techniques usaully only applied to jacket or bodice fitting to create a seam line that allowed for more fullness right where a mature woman needs it. The back seam uses the same techniques creating a more luscious curve to your bum while also reducing bunching and wedgies. What’s the point of having expensive elegant underwear if you are always having to pull it out of… well, you get the point.
And, I hadn’t thought of it until this very moment, but for those who practice a more “glamorous lifestyle” – there’s more room to tuck too! We do try to encourage diversity!
So – higher cut legs, a waist line that wraps around your hips, a specifically tailored gusset to a woman’s needs – The Plain Jane isn’t so plain.
What I find so disappointing in other designers is that they say they are creating “NEW” lines that are “innovative”, but actually they are only the same old cut and patterns but in different colours. Here are two examples. Can you tell which top designer or high street shop produced which pant?
It is the same pattern and the same finishes from all three companies.
As I move forward, my challenge will be to take my pattern and take it from Plain Jane to uber sexy and truly innovate! My first foray is the Low Rise Jane.
Ever buy hip-hugger jeans and have the back of your knickers embarrassingly exposed whenever you bent over to… well do anything? This Low Rise version of The Jane holds to all of the principals of The Jane for comfort and stability. These are designed to hug the top hip and then dip into a well fitting, secure V. There are other versions on the market that have elastic that crisscrosses over the back linking the two sides like a waistband. But with the way that this Jane has been designed there the V is so secure it wont fall off your hips and as it is attached to the Jane gusset, no bunching or riding up either.
You may now bend over with confidence!
These and all the current versions of The Jane can be found at the following online outlets
Anyhoo tell me what you think and if you have any suggestions on what you would like the Jane to do next!
“A seam in your crotch is like a cheesewire covered in sandpaper. Thongs are instruments of torture. Don’t even talk to me about knicker with tight elastic on the legs, or god help us, a non-breathable fabric gusset.” – found in The Lingerie Addict
I have made some serious rants in the past about the sizing and fit of lingerie and now at last I can finally tell you what I have been doing about it! Since I stated the business back in March of 2011 with just an idea that I could possibly make my own lingerie I have been exploring vintage patterns and modern techniques in a journey to create a simple pair of pants that was fit to purpose. The quote from The Lingerie Addict article pretty much sums up how I feel about fit. But having comfy panties does not mean they cant be dead sexy too. to emphasize my meaning below is a picture of two women in your typical bikini knicker. As you can plainly see the same design of pant does not suit both sizes. Plus it was incredibly difficult to find an image a mid-range plus size woman wearing underwear as most places sell knickers modeled by a UK12 or UK14.
The next set of pictures show a prototype I developed for a new way of cutting and fitting plus size panties in comparison with regular low rise panties on my long suffering intern (LSI) (who is also a size UK14). BTW: I have made all the images in greyscale because we are talking about bodies, not sex.)
The image on the left shows LSI with her normal low rise pants underneath the prototype. You can see the regular panties cut in at the waistline and start to create a “muffin top” effect. Also the legs are cut very low on the hip so every time she sits down, the pants begin to slide sown and off. The image on the right shows just the prototype. Instead of a muffin top, she has smoother more elegant curves and as the legs are cut to sit at the top f her leg, no drag AND her legs look much longer!
The industry has not changed in 30+ years. The same patterns, styles and methods are used. They take the one style that was designed for a size UK6 and then scale… Again here we see why that narrow thinking isn’t appropriate. In the high street traditional low rise LSI looks like she has a very unflattering spare tire, a lumpy bum and a possibly deformed back, but in the prototype she has a smooth curvacious and cheeky shape.
The last photo shows how the prototype sits higher on the hips. The one thing I find many women, myself very much included, is the loss of my knickers in what I call the “rear creep”. They slide down and then fall off while somehow managing to create one heck of a self wedgie.
But so far the prototype looks like basic high leg knickers – the innovations lie in the gusset! But I will cover that tomorrow in glorious Technicolor!
Over the Christmas period I received quite a few requests for petite sizes. So I sat down and had a really hard think about the business. Where was this all going? The demand seemed to be there for my designs in all sizes and frankly it would add to my sales. As a startup I could definitely use the income.
What would be the pros and cons of going full size range? The pros are obvious; greater audience, more money, larger ability to place product in a wider (pardon the pun) market place, more sales…
And the cons? I spent the first year of the business doing research into sizing and fit for plus size. It’s basically an open frontier where no man, thankfully, has tread accurately before. Refining patterns for each design in each size has taken a great deal of time and tester research. Adding another 6/7 sizes would double my workload and require a change in mindset to understand the needs of smaller body shapes. Face it, I’m no stick and I’m never going to be. Even when I was a teenager I had hourglass curves and Lara Croft’s measurements. I have no empathy at a skin level for regular sizes. I do not have the instincts for it. I would be fighting against my nature and therefore design garments not fit to purpose. Basically I would suck at it.
The time and research it would require is prohibitive.
The second big con is why I entered this business in the first place. A normal range person (XS/S/M/L) can walk into any high street store and find something on the racks in their size. It may not be a perfect fit. It may not be a wonderful colour. But there will be choice. I can’t. There won’t be anything. Sales people will look at me and wonder with looks of disgust on thier faces as to why I have even entered the store. Even the many stores who have jumped on the plus size bandwagon will only have the rare one or two items in XL which will have been ripped off the shelves as soon as they came in. And they will have been basics in bad colours from cheap fabrics and just plain tacky.
Plus size women do not have choice. There are only a few high street chains in the UK who go above a size XXL. There are a few more online options but most often when I find something truly genius it is out of stock (something I have ranted about in the past) or size selection only goes up to an XL, or worse yet an L.
I started this business because I wanted choice. That everything out there did not fit, was cheaply made and just plain tasteless. The process of even looking for garments was humiliating.
We deserve choice of beautifully designed and manufactured to the highest quality clothing that is well and attractively presented by people with a true empathy for the client. Ultimately I didn’t get into this to get rich, although it would be nice. So my apologies to those who may be offended by my decision, but the company is RavenDreams Plus Size Lingerie.
I have slimmed down to a size 20 which means I can buy a swim suit from Tesco. The body is impossibly long but as I am a designer, I have taken 4 inches of of the crotch to make fit me and stop some very embarrassing exposure. So now it fits at the bottom but my 40 GGs are one bounce away from doing the can can for the public. Sigh.
In recent moans, being honest about my rants, I have looked at “shapewear”. And in a recent article by Margert Bognerief expounds on the lack of fit to puropse design. Instead of plus size designed for a plus size body we have size 6 scaled for size 24. Gok Kwan and Spanx making girdles for thin people. I.E. because they don’t have plus size bulges, it sits right and does the job it was designed for. But try and find anywhere that stocks anything above a size 20 for the people who actually need it. Because the advertisers and the TV shows tell you if you want to look sexy or have a high street dress to look half way descent then you must wear a push up bra, thigh slimming pants and a waist sincher. Why? Because the dress was designed initially to look good on a size six. Not you. Then, even the size six is wearing shapewear. The dress is not fit to purpose of you have to do all that as a size six to look good in it.
The designer Catherine Clavering in an interview discussing disability and diversity in lingerie, admits that even she does not design for her own needs citing also the complaints of some of her customers; gusset width, positioning of seams the hell of non-fitting underwear…
This and constant experimentation leads me to the conclusion that what is out there is not fit for purpose. What is the point of design a garment that you the designer can’t wear?
I know this is my blog where I am supposed to big up my own products and sell sell sell… But we need to radically redesign basic underwear and the concepts around them. Throw away the book and get back to basic questions:
1. Can you take it off to pee easily?
2. Is it comfortable for long periods of time?
3. Does it fall off or roll down when you sit or walk long distances?
4. Does it flatter your shape without pain?
My designs have been slowly mutating as the feedback comes in. In response I have created The Plain Jane which is the basis of all my patterns for knickers. (Pictures to follow) There is not a straight line in them. The seams and fit is closer to Victorian jackets than modern panties. They are designed for to the above purposes and they are my most comfy, secure, and sexy knickers. If only I had time to make more for me!
When I get back from the beach it is time to show you all something new!
I think the hardest thing about being on my own is that no one has n my back but me. When I make a leap of faith there is no one to catch me. But on the other hand that was the situation when I was married. At least now I can leap and there isn't some one holding me back other than myself. It's been very very scary but things have gotten better and not just for me. my Meifod at no 20 may hate me but at least now they have planning permission for their extension which they previously did not have. Now onto the lawyer to fix the problems with the trespasses.
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