Pop Quiz: Fix this dress #2

At left below is a photo of a dress I stumbled on today. Perhaps it won’t surprise you that it’s on sale; $90 off the original price.

So friends, tell me what is wrong with this dress, how it happened and how one might go about making the correction. If you need an additional hint [of what I think is wrong] see the inset photo above. Good luck!

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  1. It looks like they used a light woven for the contrast when the rest of the garment appears to be knit
    The woven fabric “drapes” causing for the contrast panel to form a “pouch” when it’s stitched ON TOP of the knit or lining (rather than leaving it as a separate panel)
    The puckering seems to be caused by the knit fabric recovering and therefore pulling the woven fabric

  2. bente says:

    I see the same thing as unlimiteddesign! Not sure how to recover, but maybe a bit heavier woven would fit better and also if it was stitched on differently, not giving any stretch to the knit. Also bias cut could solve the problem, maybe?

  3. Lisa Blank says:

    The “pouf” of blue and the eased seamlines are what I’d say is wrong. I agree with Rocio that the gray fabric looks like a knit, but I wasn’t sure if the blue was knit or woven. Besides handling issues, I wonder if the two fabrics shrank at different rates.

    At first I thought that perhaps a mistake was made in walking the seam lines but find it hard to believe that would get through to production. I’m going to fall back on shrinkage issues!

  4. Andrea says:

    To me it looks like the turquoise fabric is lighter in weight than the grey and browns, but I see puckering there as well. The slight pouching of the wide turquoise band is odd — a fabric grain issue ? My suspicion is that too tight thread tension is creating the puckering, but there may also be a pattern issue with how inexactly pattern sections are fitting together that create a demand for easing, as well.

  5. Sarra Bess says:

    There appears to be puckering between the dark grey and light grey, too (in the bust region), so I’m going to say the seaming is a problem across the board. As to whether it is a shrinkage problem, a draping problem, or really bad patternmaking, I’m not experienced enough to guess.

    And is the hem supposed to be arced like that? I think it looks nice, actually, but if the hem is supposed to be flat across, then that is evidence for sloppy patternmaking.

  6. Tiffany H. says:

    It looks like the blue poochie section is cut on the wrong grain, causing the fabric to stretch in the center. They probably should have stabilized the seams.

  7. Mary in FL says:

    My first impression is that the blue piece was cut backwards and installed up-side down. My second impression is that the lower curves are not the same amount of curve.

  8. Caryn Ann says:

    Well, call me the rube, but while I see the puckers, I think this is knit picking, pun intended. The dress is cute, and I would wear it proudly.

  9. Sarah_H. says:

    The piecing is off on the skirt and the top as well. I think this is showing up even more because the fabrics are not the same weight/stretch, but it is more that the fabrics are not quite the same grain, drape, and maybe even fullness. I would redraft the large pieces and make sure the goods were compatable.

  10. Babette says:

    Wow! Some very dedicated staring at the photos you guys. Each time I read another contribution, I’d have to click back to see what you meant, and there it was. I got stuck at what appears to be a female model wearing a cod piece. Talk about an unflattering patternmaking/technique/materials problem (see how I covered all bases there).

    What stikes me is that the waist seam is beautiful, smooth staight and where it should be. So the handling for the dark grey fabric when sewn to self looks very good. Thinking that either the colours are also different materials which would require pattern adjustments and potentially different seam techniques or some interfacing to get them to behave well or, sometimes different colours of the same fabrics just behave wildly differently. I’ve known situations where different patterns have been required for each different colour garment to account for the changes that dyeing can make. Black fabric can commonly behave differently – something about the amount of dye per pound of fabric and temperature that might be required in the process.

  11. Amelia Ayewan says:

    Well, always a problem when mixing woven with non-woven. Sometimes lots of notches can help, but not totally solve the problem. Looks like the grey and black seam is knit-to-knit but possibly has been dragged through the over-locker quickly.. or even flat-stitch with not enough notches.

  12. It looks like the lines in the blue piece are cut straighter than the brown. That explains the bubbling at the front, why it seems better on the right side than the left, and the short hem in the front where the curve in the blue has been straightened out.

    For the why:

    Theory 1) The pattern piece for the blue is deliberately wider than the brown because it’s a woven and the brown is a knit, so requires more wearing ease than the knit that is the body of the piece. The stitchers handled this by easing the blue onto the brown, but also by shortening the sewing line of the blue by using a wider seam allowance on the convex curves.

    Theory 2) The brown isn’t a knit at all, it’s a light ultrasuede. (There’s a nice neat waistline seam that I wouldn’t expect to see on a knit.) The pieces were drafted with wide seam allowances that make a concave curve hard to sew on a fabric with no give. The stitchers partly compensated by straightening the convex curve on the blue. There’s no weirdness at the waistline seam because both pieces are concave curves.

    In both cases I can see the stitchers getting blamed for poor design and patternmaking.

  13. Amelia Ayewan says:

    Basically on the lower seam there is too much blue fabric giving an eased-in look.. sometimes a bit of bias ( here not a true bias ) on woven-to-knit seams helps with the stretch, agreed; but it isn’t consistent on the curve, the stretch varies from one place on it to another. Looking forward to the answer! :)

  14. Mandy Cox says:

    There is further seam puckering on the models right shoulder and all the way along the seam line where light gray meets dark gray so I am going with inaccurate seam line walking and insufficient notching to guide the seamstress.
    Also, the hemline dips down a bit towards the side seams – is this intentional, I wonder?

  15. Maripat says:

    I’m going with a grain line issue. Either it was cut on the wrong grain line or cut off grain entirely. Alison’s point about the stitchers straightening the curve is interesting, though.

  16. Gretchen Hines-Ward says:

    My first assumption was that the seam line of the convexly curved blue piece is naturally longer than the curve line of the concavely curved gray piece, so the length of the seam on the blue piece needed to be tweaked by contouring the pattern (I slash and overlap the edges of my patterns when I do it) to shorten that seam line. It seems it should be possible to sew a flat, clean seam regardless of the fabric types.

  17. The first thing I’d do right out of the gate before I started making any radical changes to the pattern is just shave the top curve of the blue piece down, above where that big lump appears. There’s also some puckering on that bottom seam of the blue, so the width of the bottom of the blue piece may also need to be shortened. Looks like the bottom grey piece could use some reshaping, too.

    I don’t know if I got it right, but I like this game!

  18. Stephanie Green says:

    I understand where we’re going with the knit vs woven theory, but the teal panel at the upper bodice seems to be working out fine. Some slight puckering, but not as offensive as the skirt section.

    Without seeing a pattern, it’s just a guess, of course,— but I think that on the lower skirt, the knit/woven join seams are not of the same length, the woven panel seams being longer, which is evident in the puckering we see in that panel. Perhaps this was deliberate, to compensate for the stretch of the knit fabric. Either way, the “package” effect isn’t attractive– It’s a lovely design, and the execution just needs some dialing in.

    There’s my guess!

  19. Judith says:

    My first thought was that the blue piece was of a silky type and should have been stay-stitched before sewing to the other sections. Since the same puckering appears on the curved seam on the bodice, stay stitching all the convex pieces might have solved the problem.

    I’ve never worked in the garment industry, so I’m not even sure if stay-stitching is an option in production work. Having sewn for over 60 years, I am only speaking from my own experience.

  20. Karen Richardson says:

    For my 2 cents, after a day’s worth of contemplation on the above responses, I think the problem is in the bottom-darker brown/gray piece of the dress, not necessarily in the blue. It seems to me this piece is upside down, backwards or both. As to how it happened, my guess is that the problem happened in one of two places: It occurred either with the patternmaker (got in a hurry at some point); or in production, somehow the piece got turned upside down…

  21. Caryn Ann,

    This isn’t about tearing down someone else’s work so that we can feel superior. This is about learning to identify the mistake and how it happened so that we can avoid making it ourselves.

    This designer’s customers obviously didn’t feel it was nit-picking because they wouldn’t buy the dress at full price. Now the designer is paying a lot of money for the mistake. Many of the folks commenting here are manufacturers whose livlilhood depends on not making this kind of mistake, so this is a completely legitimate discussion.

    Yes, there are internet sites out there where people who stay at home and don’ t try, like to ridicule other people who do try and end up making public mistakes. This isn’t one of them.

  22. Caryn Ann says:

    Whoa cool your jets sister. I am just as entitled to say it is nitpicking. I didn’t say anything more than that. I love this blog so your defense of it was unneeded. You don’t know why it was discounted, there could be many reasons, one being that a $90 discount meant it was more than that to start with, which in my pocketbook, is freakin’ ridiculous.

    I would wear the dress. No need to flame my opinion.

  23. Christina says:

    I am a home seamstress & if I had this problem, I would first walk the pattern & make sure all the seams are the same length & the grain is properly marked. Then I would make sure the curves match correctly, because this dress looks like some of the curves don’t match, causing a slightly curved hem that doesn’t look intentional. Assuming this is not a knit, I then would fuse a narrow strip of interfacing to all the off-grain seam allowances before moving my cut pieces, so they don’t stretch out of whack on the bias & off grain. I am sure that in production you wouldn’t be fusing little strips of interfacing, because it is much too fussy. You might fuse the whole bolt of fabric if the fabric is too unstable.

    Is the way the model standing the least flattering to the fabric bulge, or the most flattering? If she was standing completely straight, would the bulge be a lot bigger? I think the photographer dropped the ball as far as making the photo look as good as possible, but I am grateful for the truth in advertising, because I would be *so* disappointed if I bought a cute dress & only then found out that it apparently gave me the world’s largest package.

  24. Nicole D. says:

    I once sewed a prom dress made out of a shiny, stretch, satiny material. When I sewed the center back, it puckered all the way down one side of the seam and not the other :( I realized it was my handling of the fabric while I was sewing it. Took it apart, re-sewed SUPER slow (even slower than I already did), and problem was solved. There’s my 2 cents :) BUT I AM BY NO MEANS BLAMING THE STITCHERS. I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL. I LOVE ALL STITCHERS

  25. Cathy says:

    I can’t tell by the photo whether it’s a non-woven or simply a different weight of knit but my suggestion would be that it’s a tension problem.

    If you notice, the horizontal seams are not puckered. This does imply it’s a bias factor. I considered turning the grain but given the dress is made with three different kinds of fabric, I doubt whether someone in production would be able to specify that. I also considered the fact that the horizontal seams would then pucker.

    I have to wonder if a sample was made up of this dress in this exact fabric. You might be able to fix it also by using the same fabric in different colors. These are all problems that should have been worked out pre-production.

  26. Caryn Ann,

    You might want to review this post:

    “a good design is a style that sells profitably”
    “If you don’t like it, it’s obviously not your thing, it wasn’t designed for you so if you are not the intended customer, why would your opinion matter?”

    This style was marked down from $139 to $49.
    1) It’s not selling profitably. Problem.
    2) If you do not buy $139 dresses, then your opinion that bagging in a $139 dress is nitpicking is irrelevant. You are not the customer, so it doesn’t matter what you think. If you buy $49 dresses and think that fussing over minor details like bagging is nitpicking, your opinion is relevant to people who make $49 dresses. Which this one was not supposed to be.

    The readers and commenters on this forum may be selling $259 dresses. They may know their customer and be aware that in that price range, bagging is not a nitpick. It’s valuable to them to know how to avoid the problem.

    Your opinion that you would be fine paying $30 (or whatever) for a dress with good colours and lines but minor problems is irrelevant to the discussion of how to avoid the problems. That’s not a comment on your taste or judgment.

    Compare this other post by Kathleen: the bottom section discussing the blue empire-line dress:

    “Eric later asked me why she bought it anyway even though it wasn’t right. I explained it could have been any number of factors, an informal score card of sorts. The size was right, the color was right, she wanted something sleeveless, comfort, price, you name it. It was the weight of all the factors combined that made it a choice for her. Any other possible combination could have weighed against it. But in the end, the reason it sold was not because it was designed properly. You guys have to watch that stuff and get everything aligned to create the maximum value for your customers.”

  27. Patternmaking apprentice says:

    What’s wrong with the top, as evidenced by the puckering along the diagonal seam:

    The light gray panel is smaller than the dark gray panel. Others have mentioned possible reasons (different shrinkage or knit/woven sewing problems). It appears to me that the light gray panel may have been stretched during cutting or sewing.

    The fix is to open the seam and the sides, cut off excess dark gray material and resew the diagonal seam with the dart material on the bottom, and with support that will prevent the seam itself from stretching.

    What’s wrong with the bottom, as evidenced by the distortions and bulge in the blue panel and the curved hemline.

    There appears to be stretching or excess fabric in the blue panel. The distortions appear large enough that it’s hard to imagine it made it past QA, so my guess is the misshapening happened while it was hanging in the store or after it had been tried on a few times.

    I would fix it by opening all 4 seams, spread out the blue piece and let it rest flat for a day before ironing it. I would then stabilize it with sheer weight fusible interfacing and cut the excess fabric off on or both sides depending where the vertical grainline should be.

    I’m not sure if the curved hem is a design feature. After lying the black piece flat, and locating the grainline on the left, right, and in the middle, it should become apparent whether it is intended from the cut, or whether in the picture, the curved hemline is a consequence of poor design.

    I would position the blue piece / trim / cut it to allow the finished hem to be straight. All the other lines in the color block are plenty and a curved hem doesn’t add anything to the design.

    Again, when sewing the pieces together, I would stabilize the seams such that they won’t stretch. Those seams in the seat take a lot of wear and tear and the life of the dress will be extended if the side seams are supported as well.

    I would also do what others have suggested, keeping seam allowance to 3/8 or even 1/4 inch.

    These approaches might not be the cheapest, but it it was my dress that is what I would do.

    PS I’ve bought various color block dresses over the years and many of the develop problems that could be solved by supporting the seams so the seams can not stretch.

  28. Patternmaking apprentice says:

    @ Karen Richardson,

    Intrigueing idea. Could it be as simple as the blue piece in the skirt needs to be flipped upside down? You are on to something but I’d have to take the pieces apart to see.

  29. Debe says:

    I think maybe that lower dark piece is flipped upside down. If it were turned, the arch at the bottom hem would disappear and the curve would work with the blue piece.

  30. GALE LOVEITT says:

    Well this is fun.

    I am thinking that the difficulty with this dress is that either
    1) the seams between turquoise and grey have not been trimmed or clipped and especially as the seams are curved this becomes a larger problem or
    2) the turquoise seems to be woven while the grey is knit. Either the knit was stretched in sewing the two together and the turq. has gathered
    or the different fabrics have shrunk at different rates in construction (Ironing etc.) so they no longer match.

    There seems to be a bit of distortion in the full picture between the light grey and the dark grey as well though the full picture is a bit small to see well.

    I look forward to reading others thoughts and hope mine is not too late to participate in the quiz.

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