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The Vertigo Dress – Part 1

October 28, 2011

Those of you who follow me on twitter may have seen that I am currently on a pattern cutting course.  It isn’t an intense short course like the one Julia went on (which you can read more about here), but instead a course run at my local adult education centre every Monday night for 2 hours.

I am lucky enough to be taught by Deborah Barwick again, who guided me through my City and Guilds Fashion course last year (and you can read more about that here).  She is a designer, and used to make her living from designing wedding dresses.  She is super talented, so I jumped at the chance at enrolling on another of her courses.  To make it even better, there are only six of us on the course – all of whom I met last year – so we all get a lot of help and attention from Debbie.

I must admit, for the first five weeks of the course I can’t say I enjoyed it.  I was trying to get my basic bodice block right, but because I was sewing other stuff at home, I was only using my lesson time to work on it, so it seemed to drag on and on before I eventually got my block right.  Also in this first five weeks we were learning about darts and how to move them, how to cut patterns for gathering and pleats, and how to adjust basic sleeve blocks to make, for example, cap sleeves.  Although I feel I have a very good understanding of how patterns work, it was still pretty mind-boggling stuff, and the endless possibilities that Debbie whizzed through made my head spin!

All this time Debbie was encouraging us to think about what we would like to design, and that’s one of the things I found the most difficult.  I looked through magazines for inspiration and didn’t seem to find anything out of the ordinary, to be honest most of the things I liked I knew I could easily make from a commercial pattern.  I wanted to make something different, something special, something challenging.  I wanted to design something that would not only give me the opportunity to learn about pattern cutting, but also the opportunity to learn new (or improve upon my existing) sewing skills.

So I decided I like the look of Judy Barton’s (Kim Novak’s) dress in Vertigo (1958) – the one she wears when her and Scottie (James Stewart) are getting ready to go out to Ernie’s for the evening.

The front view of the bodice

A side/back view

My preliminary designs for the dress are shown below.  You might have noticed I’ve altered the design of the neckline slightly (and the back of the dress will be slightly different too), because the Vertigo dress is inspiration for my own design and I’m not intending to make an exact copy of it.

Design for the Vertigo dress

Now for the technicalities… (stop reading here if pattern drafting doesn’t interest you!)

I’m starting with the inner corset, which will be boned.

1) I measured the length I would like the skirt to be from my natural waistline.  For a mid-calf length this is 33”.  I traced around my basic front and back blocks and added 33” to the length to make a simple one-piece dress block for front and back.  I set the back dress block to one side for now.

2) I traced another front dress block and stuck together to make a whole front pattern piece.

3) I decided I wanted the asymmetrical waistline to begin on my left 2” above the waist and to go 2” below my waist on the right.

The design

This line bisected the waist dart, so I had to ensure the line continued correctly.  I cut the line and put the skirt piece aside for now.

4) I closed the shoulder darts and opened the waist darts.

5) I drafted the neckline.  I wanted a smooth curve all the way across the body, so I had to fold the paper to get that right.

6) I drafted the shoulder strap, making sure to mark across the pieces I’d be cutting so that I could match up later.

7) I drew the other side of the neckline and cut it away.

That’s as far as I’ve got so far, but I have a little half term to do list to get this bodice pattern a little nearer to completion.

Did I take on a wee bit too much do you think?!  Eek!

  1. JuliaDBennett permalink
    November 1, 2011 8:19 am

    I can’t wait to see this finished! I don’t think you’ve taken on too much at all either. It’ll look fabulous on you, and worth the effort!

  2. Karen permalink
    November 2, 2011 5:26 pm

    wonderful inspiration point. will you make the dress thru the muslin stage for class or all the way to fashion fabric? I look forward to more pictures.

  3. tabathatweedie permalink*
    November 2, 2011 7:54 pm

    Hi Karen – it depends on whether they run my class after Christmas as well. I’d like to at least get the toile done in class, and I am aiming to make the real thing as well, but I’m regarding it as a long-term project! I will of course write about any significant progress I make, but as it’s extremely tricky and time consuming I imagine it’ll be a good few weeks (months?!) before I really get anywhere with it! But I do promise to write a ‘Part 2’!

  4. November 3, 2011 5:51 am

    Amazing! Can’t wait to see more. I’ve always LOVED that dress.

  5. Marie Irshad permalink
    November 11, 2011 11:05 pm

    Wow! That’s incredible!

    I keep meaning to get off my back side and learn about pattern drafting and this looks like the push I need. Really impressed.

    Amazing work. Can’t wait to see the finished dress.

  6. November 13, 2011 7:52 am

    wow…I am already impressed

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      November 15, 2011 9:29 am

      Thanks! I’ll be posting an update blog soon!

      • Loui permalink
        December 15, 2012 4:43 pm

        did you ever finish the dress? L

      • tabathatweedie permalink*
        December 15, 2012 8:23 pm

        Not yet, no. I got pregnant so fitting wasn’t really feasible. I will go back to it one day though after the baby has been born and when my body shape has stabilised. I have never been one to have unfinished projects lying around!


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