Pattern Puzzle: NO! pt.2

As usual, comments to the first entry were very interesting and the considerable leg work of providing links to supporting material is useful for us all. Thanks, I appreciate that very much. Discussion focused on the varying ideas of ways the letter shapes were rendered (or could be) along with suggestions and fruitful dissent.

v_and_r_seamingBrina was first to post with a comprehensive description of the effect, saying the shapes were patterned, seamed, likely filled with foam to include a backing to keep them in place. She provided a link that illustrated the seams (right). Brina’s idea is pretty much how I thought the effect was rendered, down to her claim that making the foam larger than the finished dimensions would help full the areas with a bit of compression. And I say that because I have done something similar and learned the hard way. A transferable example is making pillows for which you intend to use a pillow form. The pattern should be smaller than the form. There’s another pattern change to make but that’s another story. Try it this way once and discover perky pillows.

Theresa, Vivian and Sandra made mention of possible shaping via molding, then stuffed. I’d hoped to get at least one response along these lines. Wool hats are shaped over molds with steam. While I didn’t think this is how this item was done (the result is too crisp for molding), I did want people to think of ways to render similar shaping effects and steam molding is one of them.

Barb noted the tops of letters were all one piece but that the sides were a continuous strip following the letter. She also mentioned that sewing would be more difficult than making the pattern (agreed). From the photos, it is not clear whether sides of the letter shapes are formed by a continuous strip or by boxing the seams. This would be a very tough call for a pattern maker. Boxing would mean more and tiny pieces but a continuous strip might be harder to sew. If I were making this, I’d confer with the sewing line and do whatever they suggested for the first mock up and change it later if the desired effect (either way) wasn’t attained. But that’s just me. The point is, with sewing being the challenge, the stitcher’s preferences should take precedence.

Sandra didn’t think this would be difficult and said continuous strip or boxed corners was six of one or half a dozen of another. She mentions that a heavier interfacing such as horse hair was likely used (agreed) but that the shaping was rendered by boning or steaming as opposed to a foam filler. I don’t know about that. With a lining (presumably) in the jacket, one would have to be poking the letters back up through the lining constantly if the letters were crushed, say when carrying a kid etc. But then, maybe they just use nannies or strollers for that. Who knows?

v_and_r_o_sleeveSandra also brought up the matter of the “O” sleeve design with which Betsy concurs and drops a link (right) for another view. At this juncture, the matter of draping vs drafting comes up again and I remain at a loss because -to me- these are two different methods of developing a pattern rather than something intrinsic to silhouette or flow or whatever you want to call it. I think she means that having a looser fitted shoulder on one side vs a tailored fitted shoulder on the other could feel a bit awkward on the body (true). It would help if we had a back view of the fitted side to get an idea of how great the disparity might be but in the end, nobody buys haute couture because it’s comfortable. They buy it because it makes a statement. And I’m not implying that haute couture is uncomfortable and yes, well fitted garments feel best on the body. Hopefully you understand my intent.

I did think alternative words on garments (“please” for job seekers etc) was funny. Thanks for your help everyone.

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  1. Sandra B says:

    By drape I did mean the concept of loosely hanging fabric rather than tailored fabric. There’s an exhibition on at the moment at the National Gallery of Victoria all about “drape” in fashion, and I’ve been reading tailoring information that talks about drape as part of the fit. It’s interesting how understanding can sometimes be derailed by the tiniest variations in local vernacular :-)

  2. Sandra B says:

    I’ve come back to this after some further pondering, and have another idea about how the letters could have been formed, given that it’s couture. Now that I’ve seen the close-ups, which seem to show the seam sitting slightly on the surface, and the perfectly flat face of the letters, I think it was most likely assembled by hand.
    The surface and sides of the letters would be assembled as two or three layers – face, heavyweight buckram, possibly a lining. The face fabric would be turned over the buckram and the lining slipstitched on to neaten and secure it, making a completed component. Then the corners would be joined by butting them together and stitching with a fell stitch. I seem to recall seeing this technique in a vintage home decorating or craft book, maybe for fabric covered hatboxes or lampshades. Or hats.
    I still don’t agree about the foam padding. Those edges are just way too crisp. The outer jacket would be secured to an underlining which bypassed the letters, and then the lining inserted as if it was an ordinary jacket. Any crushing of the letters would be dealt with immediately by the stylist just off screen :-)
    There was another dress in the range that also had a big NO across it, but it was made in sheer organza. I love seam allowances used like line drawings. It looks like the jacket’s skeleton.

  3. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    If you follow the link to see the photo on its page at, then click at the top, then select Viktor & Rolf in the designer menu at the bottom, then select ready-to-wear Fall 2008, you can see the whole collection. The dress Sandra mentions is one of the last photos. There are a couple items with No, Wow, or Dream on, mostly printed on the garment, but mostly there is No in black makeup on the models’ faces.

    I don’t look at that much as most of the clothing doesn’t appeal to me, but a lot of the stuff by Rodarte is interesting, at least for the layering, what they mix together, and it’s pretty high quality stuff (even their stuff for Target seemed pretty high quality).

  4. ~Sherry~ says:

    Interesting how the 3D effect ranges from near zero at the beginning of the N, to about 10-15cm at the L sleeve – complicating things a bit more as the side strips vary in width depending on where they attach. I suppose it is all just measurements though – it would be an interesting looking pattern piece!
    The flat beginning edges of the N are still very crisp, which you wouldn’t achieve with foam alone, so there must be some interfacing+foam combination going on. I’d definitely foam it – for me the risk of a collapsed ‘O’ would outweigh the added weight of foam, and this is probably more of a catwalk item to be photographed rather than a best seller to be worn often.
    To me the R shoulder looks relatively normal, while the L upper arm/shoulder balloons into a sort of leg-of-mutton raglan, and I agree that getting that to merge with the side strips of the ‘O’ would take a bit of handiwork on the stand. I’d probably bumble my way through it, all the while wondering how many of these are going to sell…..!
    It is very well done – love the 3D Superman-like logo effect, and the way the collar and lapel are situated in and around it.

  5. Brina says:

    I’ve worked with a lot of foam in garments worn on stage/for performances. If you use an open cell foam it’s light yet keeps it shape. An open cell foam, because it does not have a smooth face, does needs to be covered so Sandra B. is probably on the right track by suggesting a sandwich of fashion fabric, some kind of stiffening and some kind of interfacing/foam covering. However, from experience I see no reason the seams have to be sewn by hand to get crisp corners or to add stiffing. The other thing is that stiffening and interfacing have weight themselves–so for this to be successful–something needs to be supporting their weight, hence the foam.

    To cut foam accurately use a blade, not shears, to get really clean sharp edges even on an open cell.

  6. Heather says:

    If you look at the entire collection, one of the last pieces had the same “NO” in a sheer fabric, it looked like it was shaped with wire or something like that. I’m not very experienced, so don’t laugh if I’m using the wrong terminology.

  7. Jinjer says:

    ooh, after seeing the back of the dress, I think the O sleeve is not attached to the back of the coat, and that pleat-looking-thing is the flap of the outer sleeve overlapping the inner sleeve.

  8. Seth Meyenrik-Griffin says:

    I made a jersey t-shirt as an intern that had a similar idea in the patterning (I don’t know if the designer had seen Viktor & Rolf’s line or not); the word she used was “out”, and the letters were quite small, 4″ in height. The middle of the ‘o’ was the hardest part; even with a mere 1/8″ seam allowance and lightweight tricot fusible, it was a bastard to sew up. The stand for the letters was 1″ wide, straight (the stand on the Viktor & Rolf coat is clearly shaped to follow the body contours), and notched at every point where it turned a corner. I think that it took me around two hours just to sew three letters…

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