Bias match-stripe

While browsing Danielle’s website, I found this picture of a Chanel bias cut jacket.

Ostensibly, I’m supposed to be doing research for my upcoming participation in the carnival of couture but all I can think of is how these pattern pieces look in a marker. After all, what do I know about fashion? All I know how to do is to dissect it and this jacket struck me because the match stripe was done incorrectly! The match stripe on this jacket -while impressive as it lies on the bias- doesn’t line up. I’m glad to know that even couture designers are fallible.

Anyway, I thought I’d do a little quiz for you guys to see if you can figure out what the house of Chanel did wrong. Honestly, it’s not that hard. Here’s the quiz -the red line represents the the matching stripe which lies along the grain line. Which of these, A or B represents the correct layout of the pattern pieces? Below is “A”

Below is “B”.

Putting this another way by looking at the pattern pieces directly, which view is correct. Below is “A”

Below is “B”

If you said “A” for both of the examples, you are correct. This is just one reason bias garments are more expensive than regular ones; you have to get that grain line correct so you’ll need somebody with more advanced pattern skills. Fortunately, this is a mistake you’ll only make once. If by chance you thought that “B” was correct, I’d suggest printing the pieces out, folding back that front zipper seam allowance and laying the pieces side by side.

Now I’d like to go over the standard work or conventions of proper pattern piece labeling and identification. Below are the pieces labeled and identified correctly.

Please observe the standard convention of the information block precisely. The conventions of the information block are (and in this order):

  • Style number.
  • Piece Name. Please note that “Right” is designated with “R” and it is circled. Ditto for the left side.
  • Cut quantity
  • The directional “Face-up” is included, meaning the piece cannot be flipped to cut its opposite side.
  • The size

Other marking conventions:

  • Color coding: the match-stripe is marked and labeled in green (or purple) ink. All other writing should be in black ink only.
  • Write “match stripe” on your match stripe.
  • Note the use of block lettering. Please do not write in cursive, pass on the whirls and flourishes. Assume the person using the piece does not speak English.
  • Use numbers rather than letters if at all possible (one reason styles are numbered, not named).
  • You can be redundant. By this I mean you could also write the letters “R.S.U” meaning Right Side Up. “R.S.U” can be written either above the style number or below the information block but in somewhat larger lettering.
  • You should put a large “X” on the back side of these pieces. “X” means “do not use this side”. Again, redundancy is encouraged. I also like to write “W.S.U” which means “wrong side up”. Some companies like to use green back pattern paper to prevent the wrong side from being cut; the green side being the wrong side.

A note about match-stripes and grainlines:
These are not necessarily the same thing! The grain line is always marked in black ink. A match-stripe must always be marked in contrasting colors because it indicates absolute matching and a grain line does not. A contrasting match stripe -whether it runs horizontally, vertically or at bias- is a defined match point and a grain line is not. A grain line only indicates the length of grain rather than the requirement to match any set point. In other words, according to standard work practices, if you used black ink instead of green and failed to write “match stripe” along it, your cutting people are not to blame if you don’t get a match stripe.

Lastly, if your match stripe falls along the grain line (as this pattern does) you only need to mark that. However, if your match stripe line does not fall on your grain line, you will also need to mark the grain line -in black ink- on the pattern in addition to the match stripe.

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  1. Sara says:

    Ahh! Over winter break from school, I started trying to make my own patterns and when I saw Danielle’s Chanel post, I was so perplexed about it.

    How do you calculate the difference in distance when laying out the pattern pieces?

  2. Alison says:

    Now that you mention it, Eagle-Eyes, the stripe match doesn’t look quite right. But the grey stripe on the left side is just narrower than the grey stripe on the right – it isn’t shifted up or down equally at the top and bottom.

    Perhaps the fabric has been eased into center front the better to display the boobies? That is, the center front runs between the breasts, against the breastbone. There has to be ease or darting or otherwise suppression to allow this to happen, as the straight line down the breastbone is shorter than the curved line over the breasts. And this suppression is exactly between the breasts – so it’s in the middle of the grey stripe at the left, but to the bottom of the grey stripe on the right – distorting the match stripe.

    It’s hard to tell without a better look, but I think the lower grey stripe is matched properly.

    Kathleen, if this is the problem (whether in this example or a hypothetical one) can you show us how to correct for it?

  3. Freda says:

    I’m trying to figure out why you would only need the match stripe in one direction. Since it’s a plaid, wouldn’t you need another match stripe perpendicular to the first to make sure the plaid lines up both ways?

  4. Julia in Houston says:

    I don’t get out shopping any more, so this might be one of those dumb questions. heehee Do the high end RTW factories ever ‘do’ chevroned stripes and/or plaids? I just keep loking at A and at B and thinking that I’d have done a lay out so the ‘stripe’ would chevron.

    Regarding Alison’s comment, wouldn’t the shaping for the bust come from the bias cut and thus there’d be no need for any sort of dart equivalent?

  5. ShereeSews says:

    I have been trying to determine if the plaid is an even or uneven one. The texture seems to throw me off, sometimes it looks balanced on each side of the dominent center bars, and other times it appears uneven.

    Thanks for all the insight!

  6. Alison says:


    I think it’s even, but that darting makes it appear uneven in places. For instance, I am positive I see a diagonal dart in the light stripe just below the bust on the right side, starting from the centre line midway between the bellybutton and the middle of the breastbone and following the direction of the light stripe toward the bust point.

    I suspect the embellishment is at least partly to divert the eye from this sort of thing. Wonky plaids and matches would be really obvious in an unembellished, high-contrast fabrication.

  7. mamasmina says:

    I too would have done a chevron. Unless I do a stripe on the horizontal – which I never never do, chevrons are my thing. It would have been so pretty with a chevron. I’d have been burned with the B layout too – but I see what you mean.

  8. Eric H says:


    As a first guess at how to lay them out, I’d say find the angle of the stripe relative to the horizontal. The vertical offset will be equal to the [tangent of that angle] times [your (horizontal) seam allowance]. I bet Kathleen has a non-mathematical, heuristic means of finding it.

  9. jinjer says:

    Eric, why get so complicated? Just make a pattern without seam allowances, but the front edges up against each other (maybe even tape them together) and draw a bias stripe across them. Then add seam allowances. As Kathleen has mentioned before–you might as well do this on your blocks whether you intend to use a stripe or not: helps later.

    Anyway, calculations are way less accurate than butting-up, which can’t possibly fail, no matter what inaccuracies exist in your equipment.

  10. I definitely think the stripe is uneven, although it is nearly even.
    ignore the center front, which is (purposely?) obfuscated by sequins, and blur your eyes out on that shoulder.

    If I’m right, the jacket was not laid out like ‘A’ in Kathleen’s drawings at all. Rather, it was laid out so that the two front pieces are rotated 180 degrees to match up with each other. That’s why the substripes don’t match up, but the edges of the stripe grouping does. I’ve posted an image of my hypothesis on the discussion board.

    What I’m wondering is whether this arrangement prevents the spiralling effect that would occur with either ‘A’ or ‘B.’…? By that, I mean the way seams spiral around the body when a garment is cut on the bias so that the grain points in the same direction all the way around. A chevron arrangement naturally balances this effect, but to get an apparent continuous stripe maybe some trickery was required.

    The thing that really impresses me about this jacket is that the stripe on the sleeve visually matches up with the stripe on the jacket, rather than matching it at the sleevecap/armscye, where it wouldn’t match for very long, anyway….and that the whole positioning of the stripes avoids the heavy grey stripe near the armscye/sleevecap, which would look jarring because they don’t match. wow.

  11. Julia in Houstoin says:

    Thanks for mentioning the sequins! These aging eyes didn’t see them – had to take the photo into Photoshop and enlarge it a bit – but I still haven’t made out any sign of a dart. This has nothing to do with the way the jacket was cut, but those scattered sequins are a really cool idea!

  12. jinjer says:

    oooh, this is just too much fun to think about.

    re: the invisible dart., I now suspect that the second horizontal row of sequins–the one just below the boobies– is concealing a SEAM. (!) Do you see how the faint lines of the plaid below the sequins seem stretched relative to the row above –and Alison, I see what you’re talking about on the right side of the photo: The stripe is offset in the armpit, but to me it looks like the offset neatly coincides with the row of sequins, whereas the white and grey sections remain the same width (pretty much) everywhere, which wouldn’t be true if there were a dart. SO I think the jacket front was cut in four pieces–two top sections, which were eased into two bottom sections. pretty amazing.

    I don’t think the CF looks eased–to me, the edges of the both grey section seem to match up all the way down, but the fact that the grey section looks to me to be a slightly asymmetrical grouping of sub-stripes, it really defies the eye. And the sequins don’t help.–I have to “jump over” the sequins to see if I’m still on track.

    I’m certain the sequins were put there to discourage this type of analysis ;P

  13. Shelley says:

    I definately agree that there is a very inconspicuous seam around the empire line. I don’t think there’s a matching flaw down the centre front, it’s just the ease around the bust into this oh-so-amazingly hidden seam.

  14. Eric H says:


    I knew there had to be another way, but the mathematics of it were just too tempting. [engr] And since when is finding an angle and its tangent “complicated”? There is simply no way that anything is more precise or accurate than calculating it. 8~) [/engr]

  15. Eric,

    Calculating it is one thing, recording it is another. The calculation may tell you to shift the stripe by 1.234 inches, but a typical pattern maker’s ruler won’t be of much help with that degree of precision. Whereas with the raw-edges-butted-up method, the match stripe will match perfectly at the seamline, cause that’s where you drew it.

    This reminds me of one of my favorite math quiz questions ever (3rd grade): If you have a towel rack that’s 21 inches wide, and 4 9″ by 30″ towels, how many towels can you fit on the towel rack at once?

    Answer: all 4. Just fold them first.

    Kathleen, I apologize for getting so OT…I’ll stop now.

  16. Clevo says:

    Would the same principle apply with plain high contrasting horizontal stripes for a fitted top (wedged shape) where I need the stripes to match along the seem that runs down under the arm?

  17. Seth Meyenirk-Griffin says:

    @Jinjer: I am confused I think; how is there a dart/shaping seam concealed? When I look at the jacket it looks like the plaids are continuous, without distortion. If there was a dart somewhere, wouldn’t you see distortion/reduction in the plaid pattern *at that specific area*? I know that Chanel suits often use(d) very loose weaves (in their high-end/haute couture), so perhaps they’re doing the shaping through steaming over forms in the front?

    If you can diagram it for me without the confusing sequins, that would be awesome. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

    I find it odd that a zipper is used at all; most of the classic Chanel suits are famous for their meticulous handworked buttonholes… I guess this might depend on whether this is a RTW piece of from a runway show.

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