Sally lent me a book called Women’s and Children’s Garment Designing written by “The Master Designer”. The odd thing about it is that nowhere in the text does the -presumably- man’s name appear. This version is copyright 1992. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the “master designer” series (there were several books); self publishing has a very long history in apparel manufacturing. This book is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is his grading process which I’ll write about later. The second item of interest is how he drafts the center front lines of tailored garments. Before I get to that, I need to explain something about pattern making that’s bugged me for a long time. These concepts apply to everyone but those of you interested in drafting to fit the aforementioned egg-shaped thoracic chest should pay the closest attention.
But first, a bit of background to one of my drafting pet peeves. By way of example, when we draft the front princess line, the pattern shaping follows the lines of the silhouette of the body. I don’t think many would quarrel with this. This is a convention that is observed when drafting for various parts of the body but totally ignored when it comes to other areas. Why?
For example, why is it that when we get to the center back line, we don’t follow the same convention? The center back line of the body is not straight, yet most of the time, we draft as though it were. Usually, one makes measure of the entire center back length of the figure which is -for the sake of example- 16″ from nape to waist. We are then instructed to draw a perfectly vertical line of 16″. Now, those of you who’ve drafted lots of suits or have worked in leather apparel will know better. Your drafts of the center back line are closer in resemblance to (crude) sketch B below:
So, those of you who have worked in tailored apparel and know that the center back line is not straight, why is it that we draft the center front line as though it were straight? The latter is what’s bugged me for years. If we’re not drafting the center back line perfectly vertical, then why is there a resistance to also shaping the center front line? The difference in the center front slope is much greater than that of the back so if one were drafting for shape, why do we ignore the front center line when it has the greatest degree of slope? Consequently, were we to follow the convention as applied to the princess and center back lines, the center front lines should resemble sketch B below:
As someone who’s played with the center front line quite a bit, there’s a myriad of reasons for why we do it this “modern” way but it didn’t used to be like this. If you look through drafting books from the late 1800’s and before, you’ll see the center fronts were rarely drafted along perfectly vertical lines. I realize that most of the books of that era only covered men’s attire so one may think that this is a peculiarity unique to men’s bodies but I’d disagree. Rather it is women with the greatest degree of disparity between the neckline and full chest measure. If there is to be shaping of the center front line it should be more pronounced in women’s attire than in men’s. There is a robust history of drafting for men because men were more likely to have garments professionally made and since the authors of drafting books were tailors writing of which they knew, it only stands to reason that these concepts were reflected in men’s apparel. However, an absence of the details for drafting women’s clothes doesn’t mean the same concepts did not apply to women’s bodies, only that the author-tailors didn’t make women’s clothes or write about them.
Returning to “The Master Designer”, I found this book interesting because adjusting for the center front slope is a very common feature of his drafts. His blocks are drafted in consideration of the center front slope. Consider:
By the way, I don’t think his proposed solution for the center front line will work unless you drafted your block to include that CF dart from the get go. But then, I haven’t tried it. I can definitely tell you his solution won’t work if your chest is egg-shaped. There is another solution for that. What is usually done is that the center front line is straightened as shown below. This has the effect of making the neckline too big.
The problem of a too-large neckline is more pronounced in women with egg shaped chests. You know you have this problem if when wearing a high necked garment with a mandarin collar, you’ve got gobs of extra fabric in your front neckline. Actually, you can notice the effect in lower necklines too; it’s why your front necklines gape. Some people have taken to easing the front neckline, in effect pulling in a dart.
Below are four sketches: A, B, C and D. A illustrates how patterns are usually cut for the center front line. The real shape and neckline is superimposed.
Consider B. If you want to correct the neckline, you’ll need this dart. This subtracts the fabric from the neckline that was added to the center front line in order to straighten it. This dart also applies if you aren’t using a princess line pattern. Now, if you don’t want that dart as shown in B, you can pivot the thing out which is shown in sketch C. Sketch D shows an approximation of what your piece might look like if you were egg-shaped and/or had a larger than average bust.
I realize that this shaping reflects a radical departure from what you’re been taught to think looks right but if it’s not fitting you right then maybe the pieces are wrong. Maybe the people who have the typical oval shaped chest can get away without a neckline dart but unfortunately, I don’t think egg-shaped people can (in tailored garments). One way or another, you’ll either need a neckline dart or a princess line in which to pivot the dart out. I realize this represents yet another layer of complexity in drafting but I’ve been unable to find any other way around it. Hence my hesitation and reluctance in discussing the topic.