Pattern Puzzle: NO!

viktor_Rolf_noJust curious but what operation do you think is the hardest to sew well -consistently? I’ve always thought it was sewing a “V” comprised of four pieces; two topside, two underneath such as that of notched collars and the like. Complicating a four piece V is if one side (two piece) is eased onto the smaller under piece -a typical requirement of notched collars on suits. If this isn’t a skill you’ve yet mastered, I wrote a tutorial on sewing a three piece V neckline (scroll down) that will get you going.

Thus is the preamble to today’s pattern puzzle: No! Ayanna sent me a picture of this coat designed in 2008 by Viktor & Rolf who were protesting the increasing number of seasons added to the fashion calender. As to the latter, more than five seasons just isn’t tenable for many firms, how do you juggle it all? Unfortunately, increasing expectations are such that many start ups spread themselves thinly in an attempt to do it. My opinion is to start with one (Fall), master that and then tackle adding another season the next year and so on, ending up with a maximum of four or five. Personally, I couldn’t see doing more than three but it also depends on your market. I have one client who does 12 collections a year. The most amazing of it is that she manages to have a personal life.

Anyway, any takers on drafting the “NO!” in the Viktor & Rolf coat? I don’t think the draft would be as difficult as the sewing. The trickier letter being the “N”; “O” would be like sewing a hat. If this exercise wouldn’t convince you of the necessity of smaller seam allowances, nothing will. What say you? Give this one your best shot and have fun.

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10 comments

  1. emily says:

    I’ve been wondering about this pattern/sewing procedure since they walked the runway a few years ago. V&R almost always have at least one garment in each collection that baffles my mind. I love it! and would love to hear thoughts about how to construct this! I would love a jacket that says POW! batman style!

  2. Brina says:

    My guess is that they cut foam shapes into N and O configurations they wanted. I would say that doing this on the dress form is the best way to get dimensions that work with the body–(although you would not have to and it would probably work to start with drafted shapes)–since the O sit on or at the shoulder and both go over the bust. Then, like any good upholsterer you drape the fabric over the foam forms–or you could measure. Oh, and usually foam is cut larger than the finished size so that it is compressed and fills out the form–slip cover etc–completely. Or you could measure the foam shapes and draft a pattern to cover them that way. While there are a number of ways to seam the most common is to place the seams where the corners turn–so on the edges and where the numbers attach to the garment. Alternately you could make hollow forms of the N & O out of horsehair or heavy Pellon or something like that. In that case they would not be crush proof like the foam–but might work just as well. Oh and you’d need to have a back on the hollow form to help it keep it’s shape. You could also stuff the N & O forms with some kind of fiber fill but that would probably not have as sharp lines of lines that if you made it out of foam. FWIW, I think the O would be harder to sew onto the garment.

  3. Theresa in Tucson says:

    I can’t see any seams so I’m going to assume the fabric is a knit, say a gray wool jersey, with the letter forms made out of a dense foam rubber. The letters could also be styrofoam and the back cut to conform to the body. If the letters were foam and the fabric stretched over them I would paint the foam the same color as the fabric, use spray adhesive to adhere the fabric and pin in place until set. Use velcro, stitching or more glue to attach to the dress. Styrofoam comes in many different weights and can be coated so the edges don’t deform. Come to think of it you can do the same with foam rubber – think sponge sanding block.

  4. Vivian Baumann says:

    hmmm , or think hat attached to jacket,
    An extra growth if you will… Milliners use wire to give shape, and a bit of buckram or even acrylic sheets for support. a felted wool would easily hide the seams and with hand sewing involved (which I would guess would be essential to this piece),
    wool can also be “blocked” another milliners trick, then set with laquer.
    I am a costumer so I think this way.
    this is not a cut and sew peice, or is it , I don’t know what I don’t know

  5. Barb Taylorr says:

    I was not going to answer this one because it seemed so simple, but as no one else has offered the same thought as I, so here goes:
    The top of each letter is clearly one piece. I’d makes the sides one piece also, a continuous strip that follows all around the letter. If there’s no stretch in the fabric I might cut that strip on the bias. i’d decide that based on the give of the foam filler and the mechanical stretch of the cover fabric.
    I would not cut the foam larger than the fabric cover. I would make them precisely the same and all corners would also have to be meticulously clipped. The difficulty of this one would be in the sewing, not the patterning.
    If you had made a really perfect cover pattern you could insert the foam filler after the cover is sewn to the bodice.

  6. Sandra B says:

    Wow, everyone seems to think the letters are where it will be tricky, I pretty much ignored that bit – boxed corners or gusset strip, both would work and neither is particularly tricky. I’m leaning towards a strip gusset around the outline because a) it would be easier to get a crisp corner b)it has to be a strip gusset around the “O”, so for consistency it would be the same on the “N”. As for needing some filling, I don’t agree that it would be necessary, but I agree with Brina that a backing would be necessary to prevent it pulling out of shape. I’ve done quite sculpted work with just firm interfacings, including an extreme shoulder that nearly got away with no shoulder pads. (click on my name, I can’t get the hang of linking, sorry) This jacket, however, is haute couture, the real deal. If necessary I imagine they could source heavyweight horsehair or something, possibly used boning somewhere and they would definitely have sculpted it with the iron and steam, such as Aitor Throup alludes to in the construction of his tweed skulls at http://styleskilling.com/2006/10/11/aitor-throup-part-i-when-football-hooligans-become-hindu-gods-a-3-d-comic/

    What intrigues me most is that big “O”. I’m wondering what the heck is going on with the sleeve there? The depth of the “O” is part of the sleeve itself, meaning the sleeve head is not going to look much like a standard tailored jacket sleeve. There’s also something interesting going on at the bottom of that sleeve, with a dropped armhole. I can see a fold parallel to the side of the “O”, I presume it’s there to allow for movement, although I doubt a left-handed batter would find enough room to swing in this one ;-) I’m also wondering how they balanced the weight discrepency – with one fitted sleeve and one draped sleeve, does it feel like it’s always slipping to one side, or did they somehow accomodate that? Another reason to not have any padding in those letters.

    Victor and Rolf create some enormously interesting cuts – as intellectual as Rei Kawakubo’s work can be, but more aesthetically pleasing. Possibly about as wearable, although as a mother of young kids, there are days when I would reach for the “NO” jacket well before breakfast. But seeing as it’s late and my tired neurons are making random connections, how about a YES jacket in white silk, for a wedding? Or a MAYBE jacket for loans officers at banks, or a PLEASE? for jobseekers. That would put the WOATS and GOATS to shame :-D

  7. Elle says:

    I don’t understand why the need for so many seasons either. There’s a Plum Sykes article in this month’s Vogue about this issue too, but more like from a consumer/socialite’s POV.

    Back in the days, top designers like Balenciaga supposedly only had to work four months a year to produce 2 collections. The rest of the time he’s either goes on vacations or he’s bored out of his mind. Don’t know if it’s true or not, I read it in a book ;)

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