Sunday, November 28, 2010

Further Blue Book thoughts

I was going to title this "final thoughts" but that sounds:
a) too morbid and b) too final- there are always more thoughts.

On the left I have pinned out the excess length along the neckline. It is about 1" (2.5cm). That amount would need to be shrunk in to get the neckline to lay flat against the body. It does create a full chest which is the fashion of the day. I have concerns about being able to shrink that much in with the fabrics we usually are given to work with.

On the right, I have unpinned that dart and smoothed the neckline flat to show you what happens then at the shoulder. This of course throws all the excess fabric from the neckline into the armhole-(sorry, no picture). Not the best look either.

As I have said, I don't use this draft as a basis for my work but I wanted to show what results you can expect to get from it.
I think it is important to understand the mechanics of a draft and then you can make an informed choice about what you would want to use for a project. You may want to use it as is or you may want to adapt or modify it to work for you.

Further, thoughts/modifying options:

This basic draft is shown without a front chest dart, and I think that is a nice period look, but some of that excess in the front neckline could be transferred to a chest dart, which would be acceptable (front darts are indicated in the "novelty vest" section).
You could move the neck point closer to the centre front line, reducing the length along the front edge and opening up the armhole a bit. That would mean less shrinking required in the neck and maybe requiring a little shrinking in the armhole.
Or you could use a bit of both.

Whether you choose to use one draft or another, my purpose in teaching is to look at different systems of drafting, analyse their merits and deficiencies, and to look at the styles of the day.
I try to teach a bit about the mechanics of the drafts so that the student can understand and develop their own framework for drafting and apply it when interpreting costume designs.

On top of all this, just in case you think we've been merrily drafting away just for drafting sake, we've been drafting different period styles for our fitting volunteers and making up toiles and trying them on real live people.
I can't thank them enough for doing this- coming in and being measured and fit, standing there patiently while we fit and discuss their body shape and how to make the alterations required.
Thanks to Steve, Kon, Blake and Matty.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blue Book waistcoat cont'

Continuing on with the Blue Book waistcoat, you can see that the balance is off . In the top photo the fronts are short and are pulling up causing an excess of fabric in the back armhole, a diagonal tension from mid back to front of armhole and if you can see it, my waistline is tilted upward.
In this photo, I have unpinned the shoulders and pulled the front of the waistcoat down so the tension line disappears and the waistline drops into a more pleasing line. The CF stays on the CF line in doing this. This reduces the excess at the back armhole, and releases some fabric below the shoulder blade which I have pinned (a belt at the back waist would be used to draw this excess in)
I have tried to keep the shoulder in alignment so that I have not changed the neck point position yet. You can see that it has dropped a full 1.5cm (5/8").
If you look at the fronts in profile you can see there is still an excess of fabric in the front neckline that needs to be dealt with somehow. The question is how. The answer depends a lot on your fabric. Can it shrink in enough?
Honestly I would love to get a good wool that would, but it is a lot to shrink in- almost a full 2.5cm (1"), so it seems unlikely. Besides, we're as likely to get something strange like- well, I don't know- lame, or velvet, so another way of dealing with it is necessary.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

neck point

I feel that I should title this "What is she going on about?"

I've been teaching and talking all day long and sometimes feel like I become less coherent as the day progresses so I hope this will make sense :)

Anyway, in order to explain, I made this little drawing.

First thing - the back neck of the waistcoat is where it is- it is stationary, so we are moving only the fronts.
The fronts are also held in position at the centre front and at the chest level and do not move from the chest down.
The neck point of the fronts are going to move.

In the left side of the illustration, the neck point is close to the CF line. The shoulder is not very sloped and the armhole is straighter in shape. The resulting neckline is the length it is.

The middle picture shows the neck point moving away from the CF line.
The neckline of the waistcoat has lengthened, and correspondingly the shoulder has sloped a bit more and the armhole shape is less straight.
(Remember, when the shoulders are sewn, this front neck point gets joined to the back neck point which is in a stable position.)

The picture on the right shows the front neck point moving even further away from the CF line. (like the Blue Book draft)
This has lengthened the front neckline even more and when the shoulder seam is sewn, all that length in the neckline is held between the neck point and the CF.
As it is a greater distance than the body requires, it ripples and something has to be done with the excess.
The armhole is quite rounded and shapely, and smaller too.

I know that the silhouette of the period is very "chesty" and I also know that the tailors of the time did a lot of shrinking,streching and manipulating the nice/heavy wools they were working with. They could, for instance, shrink in some excess along that neckline, thereby creating a fuller chest silhouette.

I hope that helps explain what I meant.
Now for a glass of wine and dinner.

Monday, November 15, 2010

half muslin on the stand

This is my "Blue Book" waistcoat pattern cut in muslin and pinned to the stand. As I said I just followed the draft as is.

The first thing I saw in the pattern (previous post) was the location of the front neck point in relation to the CF construction line. It is excessively far to the right. The result of this is the fold of excess fabric you see in the front neckline.
As you move the neckpoint further away from the CF, more fabric is thrown into the neckline and the armhole closes up (gets tighter).....As the neckpoint moves closer to the front, fabric moves from the neckline and the armhole gets less rounded as the ease moves there.
If you have access to a stand, try it- leave everyhting else as is, just play with shifting the neckpoint position .....
I know that some of that excess couldor would have been shrunk in using the iron, but not that much, and for our purposes, we need to have less manipulation required.

The other issue is the short front balance.
Can you see the waist constuction line in the left photo and how it is so far above the waist of the stand? The front armhole looks pulled tight and there is tension diagonally from the back side seam at the armhole toward the CB waist.

I didn't pre-make any adjustments in the pattern nor did I check any of the other measurement charts in the book that may have corrected this so I will go back and check to see if there was some instructions hidden somewhere.
I personally like to take a nape to CF waist measurement on the client so I can use it to check against the pattern for accuracy. If the pattern is short I can lengthen the front. There are many other methods for determining balance but that is the one I like to use.

Next I'll show you what happens when the shoulder is released and the options for the neckpoint.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blue Book waistcoat

The Blue Book of Men's Tailoring- ahhh- one of those "go to" books for so many people.

Originally published in 1907 and reprinted in 1977 with the tag line "Theatrical Costumemaker's Pattern Book for Edwardian Men's Costumes" it seems to be one of the earlier republishing efforts directed specifically at recreating period dress, and as such seems to be held in high esteem by many people.

I like to look at it for reference to the pattern shapes, not for the drafting instructions, but I am revisiting it here for teaching purposes. I had heard of a menwear course somewhere that used it as their primary text and I was quite surprised and wondered if the students were successful, but that is another topic.

First thing to notice is that they measure the client over an existing waistcoat so you must allow a little more ease than a plain measurement just over the shirt. Little things like this are often missed because they are mentioned in the beginning of the chapter, so you have to read more than just the page containing the draft. It also helps to read the section on making up as well for clarification of other details. Details of ways of doing things that are often taken for granted in the book because a tailor of the time would have just known how and what to do. A little sleuthing in required when using most drafting references.

So I am using a size 108 (42) stand for my purposes and estimating a height of 176cm or 5'9"-5'10".
I've done it here in pen so it is a bit easier to see.
I just followed the draft as written, as most people are inclined to do, using some proportional measures from their charts for front length for instance, and we'll see in the next post what it looks like on the stand.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

waistcoat drafting

Lela and I have spent the last few days drafting up waistcoats from a selection of drafts from a variety of sources, and time periods.

I thought it would be a good introduction to the different ways that pattern sytems work on the body and how the fit and styles change over time.
At this point it is all about making patterns and checking them with a half muslin before we actually pick a style and make a toile for one of our fitting volunteers.
The end result is to be able to develop your own framework and understanding of drafting rather than following one specific draft for all your needs.

As you can imagine, in the theatre we may be called upon to create the look of any period, so you don't want to be locked into a 1950's draft for everything nor do you want to be locked in to an Edwardian period draft and try to make it work for a 1950's look. It is important though, especially when learning, to draft them up and see if and how they work. We need to be able to go into a first fitting knowing what to expect from our pattern.
We also have to make allowances for the fact that fabric manipulation was very important and built into the drafting systems in the past, but we cannot be guaranteed a nice wool to work with, so we must be prepared to adapt the pattern rather than the fabric.

In these photos you can see the results of a half muslin drafted for a standard size (108cm chest) using the "Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear" draft.
Now this is obviously a metrification of typical British drafting of the mid to late 20th century.
I have a few issues with this draft as it is written- generally in regards to the ease in the body (draft 5cm in but lose almost 4cm to seam allowance and shaping makes it too tight) and the fact that on a stand at least, the balance is short- in other words the fronts were pulling or tipping up. I recommend marking in a horizontal line to indicate a line of plaid to check for distortion. In the shoulder photo you can see how much I have dropped the fronts in order to get the waistcoat to sit more level. I don't think that this could have been accomodated by ironwork of the fabric.
Hmm......... what else? The neckline seems quite wide and it is almost as if they took away the traditional back neck strap of wool and just left the neckline as it would have been without. There is a large amount of waist suppresion on the side seams, which I would reduce slightly. The shape of the front panel is quite blocky and broad which could just be style but I also didn't like the angle formed at the shoulder seam at the armhole. I don't know about you but I like style lines to have a nice continous flow especially over seam joins, so I'd fix that.

I don't use this draft and I was surprised by some of these things especially since this is supposed to be used as an industry textbook to develop patterns for manufacturing. It is also the third edition so either no-one else finds the same issues (or is bothered by them) or no-one has bothered to make corrections in between editions.

The next one I'll show you is from "The Blue Book of Men's Tailoring" c 1907 .