About couture designing departments
As with all garment styles in a designing department, couture work moves from designer, to pattern maker, and then to the sample maker. The same industrial sewing procedures used to produce samples for the mass market are used to make high-end samples. The difference is that only the best sample makers sew high-end garments. The top patternmakers cut and oversee the production. High-quality fabrics are used. Considerable hand sewing is often present in these garments. Preferred customers custom order couture garments after seeing samples of the garments in a store’s couture department. Sometimes the garments are ordered with changes in length and fit. The customers’ clothing is cut and sewn in the designing department.
The process used to make high-end garments in the industry that sell for thousands of dollars in NYC can be used in the home. The garments shown above cost less than $100 to make. They were sewn on a Pfaff 260, but could have been sewn on a treadle or Featherweight sewing machine. Considerable hand work was involved. The suit has bound buttonholes. The blouse snaps closed with covered snaps. Lining finishes the jacket and skirt’s seam allowances. French seams finish the blouse seam allowances. Both the suit and the blouse were cut and sewn to match.
This is the process…
Decide what to make based on one’s lifestyle, figure, color palette, and what is needed in the wardrobe.
Prepare the pattern:
- Trace the pattern, reducing the seam allowances. Put the original pattern back into the envelope so it is available for reference.
- Make any additional fit corrections such as widening the waist and inserting bust darting.
- Check that all seams sew. Lay each sewing line over its companion sewing line to make sure that they are the same length. They should not be off by even 1/16 inch in length.
- Trace patterns that are on the fold so they can be cut on the open. Cut NOTHING on the fold! The industry NEVER cuts on the fold.
- Diagram 2: The printed back pattern is shown under folded tracing paper. The pattern has been traced onto the tracing paper with reduced seam allowances. Then the printed pattern is removed. The traced pattern is turned over and traced. The traced pattern is then opened and the fabric cut on the open.
- Cut the pattern in muslin. Cut on the open (diagram 3).
- Fit the muslin. Mark all corrections on the muslin.
- Correct the pattern. Check that all seams sew.
- If there were many corrections, make another muslin and check the fit again.
- Do NOT cut the fashion fabric until the muslin fits and looks good.
Prepare to cut the fashion fabric:
- If possible lay the fabric over a grid. (If cutting slippery fabric, first lay tracing paper on the cutting surface.)
- Lay the fabric on the open, face side up.
- Check the fabric for flaws. Determine which direction to cut the fabric. Turn the fabric’s selvage over.
Mark the selvage with arrows that point the direction the fabric will hang down in the finished garment. Turn the selvage back in place.
- Pile the cut pieces up with all patterns laying one direction. Lay in the largest patterns first, then the smaller patterns.
- If the fabric is slippery, lay tracing paper over the fabric so as to cut the fabric sandwiched between the tracing paper.
Cut the fashion fabric:
- Cut right-to-left, left-to-right if your are left handed. This keeps your eyes the same distance from the work as you cut (diagram 5).
- Block out the pieces that are hard to reach, then cut the pattern. This makes cutting easier.
- As you cut, wrap each piece in its pattern so as to have the pattern available as you sew.
- Pile the cut pieces up. Take the pieces with their patterns to the sewing machine.
Sewing the garment
- Sew the darts.
- Do everything possible to each piece before sewing it to another piece.
- Either finish (prep) all seam allowances now, or finish the seam allowances after sewing each seam. The second option is probably better. If overlocking (home sewers call this serging), the knife may cut some of the seam allowance away, reducing the size of the garment, if the reduced seam allowance is sewn on the proper gauge.
- Set the zipper. The zipper ALWAYS is set first, or as soon as possible.
- Sew all seams up (hem to shoulder) – inexpensive clothing is sewn down, expensive clothing is sewn up. That is because operators who sew inexpensive clothing may not be able to control the sewing, causing the hem rather than the waistline to be uneven since they are sew down.
- Sew on gauge. Note: The presser foot shown in the diagram is a straight-stitch foot. If you do not have one, you need to buy one. A straight-stitch foot should be used whenever you are sewing straight seams. Otherwise your material will jam in the race (diagram 6 above).
- Check the seam allowances with a transparent ruler to make sure they are sewn on gauge (diagram 7).
- Make sure all seams are open when sewing over them.
- Wait to press until the garment is finished (diagram 8).
Update on Grading to Fit
All 480 + pages of the book are finished. I’m now grading the slopers to scale, which will be downloaded so as to be taken to a UPS or other store that has a large printer. The slopers are basic patterns from which custom fitted slopers are developed as one works through the book. The custom fitted slopers can then be compared with the original slopers so as to be able to grade home sewing and other grade-rule patterns to a custom fit. Hopefully the book will be ready for the market within a month. The custom fitted slopers can also be used to develop pattern styles. Because the slopers fit, the developed pattern styles will also fit.
The book includes considerable bust fit, addresses asymmetrical fit, shows how to develop a grade rule, plus much much more. All material has been class-room tested. Minimal equipment is needed, just tracing paper, ruler, pencils, basic drafting tools. All can be done in the home.
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© Laurel Hoffmann, 2019.