In early 2018, a simple slip silhouette dress pattern was drafted to allow me to demonstrate couture sewing techniques in my hand sewing intensive course at Maiwa School of Textiles. Since then, I have made four variations of the dress silhouette showcasing different fabrics, seam finishes, and surface manipulations. Having a simple silhouette to showcase a variety of machine and hand sewing techniques is ideal while teaching our clients.
Earlier this year, we cropped the dress pattern to become an easy-to-wear slip top. In doing so, this allowed me to continue to demonstrate with clients but with less fabric waste. Pictured below, you can see the variety of slip tops we have made to date, with the most recent changing up the design elements the most.
Our latest slip top variation was created as a demo garment while instructing our client Anita. I had initially taught her how to draft a simple slip top for her daughter, using the original slip top pattern. Anita wanted to take this slip top even further by introducing darts, gathers, convertible straps, and an empire seam. So voila, a gathered slip top was born!
Creating a Toile (Fit Sample)
Before cutting into our intended fabric (ombre silk), we created a toile (fit sample) to test out the gathers, bust dart, convertible straps, and strap width and length. All of which were changes from the original slip top.
Creating a toile is extremely important in the design process. It helps a designer test out their concept, pattern draft, and correct fit requirements. Not only that, but it also assists the designer in understanding the best sequence of construction. Typically a toile is made out of muslin fabric. But when the final intended fabric for use does not move like muslin, you can choose to make your toile out of a similar but cheaper fabric than your final fabric. We used silk charmeuse. Not exactly cheaper, but it is what we had on hand, not to mention it best resembled the drape of our final ombre fabric. Silk charmeuse fabric is from Atex Designer Fabrics.
After fitting the toile, the following adjustments were made to the pattern.
In 2017, I picked up ombre textured silk fabric from Nagato Fabrics in Nippori Textile Town in Tokyo, Japan. It was the last of the bolt with only 2 m left... so I bought it all! The fabric is 25” wide, which is more narrow than typical fabrics. I was informed that this type of fabric is meant for kimonos, hence the narrow width. Nagato Fabrics is one of my favorite textile shops in Japan as they have three shops within one block of each other to experience. For more information on Nagato Fabrics, check out our blog post: Latest Design: Couture Striped Jacket.
The upper bodice is lined with a grey silk charmeuse fabric, purchased from Atex Designer Fabrics.
Our slip top might look simple in nature, but as per usual, there are a ton of elements hidden within this design. While our top features French side seams, a topstitched tailored hem, an empire waist, front bust darts, convertible straps, and a lined upper bodice, I want to focus our attention on our designs' most visual element— gathers.
Gathering Sewing Tips:
Creating variations of a basic silhouette is the best way to explore a pattern to its fullest. There are other elements we could potentially add to future versions of this slip top such as pleats, round neckline, color blocking, double straps (2 per side instead of 1), cross over straps, pintucks, lace overlays, and the list goes on! What design elements would you like to see on the next variation of this silhouette? Let us know in the comments below.
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Designed, photographed, and written by Sheila Wong Studios.