Refine My Line: Asymmetrical Wrap Dress

jm3_smToday’s submission for Refine My Line is a designer who wishes to remain anonymous so I’ll call her Stephanie. She’s been a member for a long time (four years?). While not perfect, this piece is pretty solid. The designer states:

Asymmetrical Wrap Dress: I’ve made a few small changes to this already, but I keep having a problem with the neckline drooping a bit where the bodice attaches to the waistband. I’m not sure if it’s my pattern work or the fabric stretching. This is kind of hard to see in the photo.

And indeed it is hard to see what Stephanie is talking about unless you see the larger view. Having worked on a few similar styles, I’ve got some ideas as to how to repair the problem. Unfortunately, to get the desired result, it can mean a variety of things ranging from pattern corrections to stabilizing it. However, one can’t apply prescriptives willy-nilly. They have to be in character with the dress and this isn’t a style that would lend itself to facings or a lot of structure.

I can’t speak for you but I’ve tended to avoid asymmetrical closures like this because they can be such bugaboos depending on structure, materials and bust size of the wearer. I’m not suggesting it can’t be done just that it takes more iteration than I like. And no matter what I do, I always have to use a pin or something right there at the bust.

Now that I’ve shown more of my hand than I really should have, what advice would you suggest to reduce the fullness or length of line or even, stabilize the asymmetrical close? And while we have our designer on the hot seat, please make note of any other details you think could stand a bit of improvement. Again, please limit the discussion to structural stuff as opposed to styling.

And yes, if interested you can submit entries for RML inclusion to me via kathleenATfashion-incubatorDOTcom.

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  1. rayna says:

    It’s hard to tell whether there is a shoulder seam or not from the photo, but maybe setting the shoulder seam more further back could pull the neck and bodice back up to where you want it? The other thing, which might help is to take a look at or consider adjusting the neck width opening from edge to edge – I could be talking just from an aesthetic point of view, but it could either be reduced in for more coverage ( most women would love this) or go wider for a more attractive mor femenine neck opening…this all depends on your customer of course.

  2. Ok, I’m really excessively literal, but I don’t know what it means for a neckline to droop at the waistband. Obviously we are to be looking with our own critical eyes to identify issues, but an arrow or two would help with the original question.

    (I really wish I weren’t so dense.)

  3. I agree with Kathleen that it is inherent in the cut of tops like this to gape open. I sew hook and eye closures on them because the “safety” pin ends up popping open and stabbing me.

    So, what I see happening here is:

    1. Slippery fabric slides apart (sexy! and NSFW)
    2. Light, soft fabric billows apart (totally sexy! and NSFW)
    3. “Beautiful Drape” (pretty and sexy!) has a tendency to turn into “droopy” :(

    Another way to describe the “drooping” is the pretty word: “blousing.” If she really likes the blousing (but it sounds like she sees it as drooping), then the only option I am seeing is some sort of very small closures on the part of the “neckline” that is at tummy level.

    The entire neckline could be tightened up and or stabilized at the time of finishing the edge, but the problem is it will look like it is puckering and that could be bad.

    I know that we aren’t supposed to talk styling, but a wider or higher waistband would annihilate the area were the blousing/drooping is occurring.

    That’s all I got.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I have done a few wrap dresses/tops myself, I don’t know if I’m breaking pattern rules, but I usually put the front neckline (the one that’s going diagonal/on the bias) on the straight grain. So the bust area would fall on the bias therefore draping much better and also preventing the neckline to droop and the fabric to stretch, especially when you do it on thin fabrics like chifffon, so can be finished better.

    I also think that the gather under the bust needs to go in towards the centre a little bit. The gather above the band and the gather below the band are not symmetrical. Is that on purpose?

  5. Jennifer says:

    Oh, and the neckline pattern going down the front shouldn’t be straight but curved. Sorry, can’t elaborate unless I’m actually drawing it…

  6. dosfashionistas says:

    There are several things to try. What Jennifer said, for sure. Probably the best way. Another thing to do is undercut the pattern (make it shorter than it would seem it should be) there at the waist.

    Another thing that can be done is hem the edge with swimsuit elastic (the thin rubber stuff). Do not stretch the elastic. It will stretch very slightly just going under the presser foot, and if you do it right it will support the neckline without making it pucker. This is a trick used in evening wear to make a low neckline cling to the body.

    But definitely curve the neckline.

  7. gabrielle says:

    Seconding dosfashionistas on shortening the neckline and/or the elastic.

    Also, it looks like the skirt hems and finished front edge of the skirt are rippling a bit. Probably pretty tough to manage with fabric like this, but to me, that’s a “won’t wear it”.

  8. Sorry if I speak tailor’s gibberish (understand who can), but I would say the neckpoint needs to be straighten, so as to reduce the length on the diagonal from neck to fastening, and throw the ease to the gather area.
    I would also cut the bias in a way to have this diagonal on the grain, so that fabric does not stretch. A nice topstitching could help stabilize the dimension. On hand-made, I would even “pull” a little on this topstitch (think negative ease), but I don’t think this is possible in RTW context.

  9. Kay Y says:

    To correct the droopy neckline, if there is a narrow binding there (not clear in the photo) it could be cut shorter and the bodice pieces eased into it. Whether or not this is not possible I think it is necessary to shorten the bodice from the bottom i.e. the lower edge needs to be curved up towards the cross-over end to eliminate the length in that area.

    I also wondered if the gathers in the skirt and bodice are intentionally off-set. The bodice gathers look a lot tighter than those in the skirt (similar fullness in the pattern?). If the neckline was shortened as I suggest, it may be possible to relax the gathers under the bust i.e. spread them over the same horizontal width as the skirt gathers (is this making any sense?).

    Another couple of things I noticed: It looks like there are a couple of lines of stitching at the lower edge of the bodice, above the waistband. Perhaps these were the basting for the gathers? And there is a little droop in the waistband/skirt between the buttons or snaps. I guess this could be a fit issue but it could also be that the button placement isn’t quite right.

  10. Harper says:

    The way I prevent the bias cut edges from ever pulling is 1/4″ twill tape or tailors tape inside the edge seam. Boob gap-osis is impossible to fix with cutting since different bra cup sizing will change how it fits on everyone even if it’s a knit. My DVF wrap needed front safetypins every time.

  11. Deanna says:

    I agree with Jennifer that changing the grain direction will keep it from stretching. But I think the problem is that a v-neck wrap sits closer to the body, touching the breastbone, than a CF closure top. It is not bridging up over the bustline, but making a shortcut between. Tough to fix without adding a dart or two. I would say adjust the front so that the gathering is creating a bit more dart room, and shorten the bodice length from cf to the point of the wrap. (I hope that is clearish) boy do I wish there was a little sketch pad instead of a text box!
    Also, I think the model is a bit hippy for the size of the dress. I think that may be riding the waist up 1/2″ or so creating even more blousing. And I would shorten/angle the hem of the sleeves so that it is not a straight line across the waist but more of a v shape. I think it makes the waist look smaller and more flattering to the bust.

  12. (Thanks, Kathleen!)

    It looks as though one of the attractive qualities of this dress is that it can fit women with different cup sizes without being a shapeless sack. (Great for online selling!)* If that is a deliberate design feature I would hesitate to remove much length from the bodice, but use the bias cut that several people above have suggested to soften the drape and make the gathers less puffy.

    Deep and gaping surplice necklines are why I have really nice sports bras that I don’t mind displaying like a camisole.

    * In a previous RML I expressed concern that a neckline was very high and that some potential buyers might hesitate to buy it for fear of choking on it. The designer responded that it fit well, but that wasn’t my point: if you are selling online, the dress must *look* as though it will fit well because the buyer can’t try it on. (On the other hand, my concern wasn’t relevant because the target market for that dress was young, fit women with straight backs who have not yet started to be strangled by collars.) In the current RML, the dress *looks* as though it will fit a variety of figures which will make it easier to sell online.

  13. Marie-Christine says:

    You can indeed find ways to stablize a drooping neckline with twill tape, fusible tape etc.
    But the best method I’ve found so far is in a pattern from Loes Hinse: you cut the top so that the closure edge is on the straight of the grain. The slight bias of the whole piece makes it drape better on the chest anyway, but the closure doesn’t droop, not even after stitching, not even in silk velvet. No stabilizing needed.
    Now that is Vionnet-level design..

  14. Paul says:

    Vionnet did a similar wrap front in the 1930’s and when you look at the resulting pattern laid out flat, the gathering under the bust gives a curved line while the diagonal line between the breast mounds is much shorter. Considering that the center of the chest does not usually grow out compared to the breast mounds, the gathered/released fabric would fit a wider range of bust sizes. I do not have the Vionnet pattern in front of me but I think she would have placed the grain of the fabric on the diagonal neck line or parallel to it, even if the actual opening is slightly curved. Comments on the model – the waist band appears to be higher on her body than where I would expect her waist to be.

  15. Myrrhia says:

    I thought of this thread and the lovely garment it analyzes today because I saw another cross body top that I think is the most rack-securing solution possible. Okay, it requires straps and grommets (!) –but it still looks so sexy. It was designed and sewn by Tiina Anttila (one of my favorites):

    Here’s a larger image:

    The placement of the gromets and straps highlight the “trouble points” that like to slide apart but, you realize that the movement of those points on each different shape is what makes this cut so lovely. I wonder if sufficient overlap of the fabric with and attached underlayer of some elastic, soft, thin material like lyrca might be a creative solution.

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