Refine My Line: Claudine’s cranberry silk blouse

claudines_silk_blouse_smToday we have another victim volunteer for our Refine My Line series, Claudine Celebuski. Yay for Claudine!

Claudine doesn’t have a line per se (although she sells a few pieces on Etsy) but as a forum member, she’s entitled to the same benefits and privileges as everyone else. There is no “level” you have to be at to qualify. The only requirement is to have an item that could use some tweaking and are willing to share the journey with others. You can be anonymous if you prefer. Claudine has two items I’m interested in but I will have to put them in separate entries.

Again I’d like to reiterate the parameters and criteria to use when participating in a product review:

Style critiques (color, line, styling etc) are strictly forbidden. I started this series because most “reviews” on other sites amount to back patting sessions that do little to improve skills and execution. So, if we intend to improve skills and execution that is the only thing we should discuss. On the job, volunteering style critiques can get you fired. Designers have a hard enough job without everyone second guessing what they should do.

Material: is the material selected appropriate for the project?

Fit: is difficult to assess because most products are not shown on the body for which they were intended. Do your best (a light hand please).

Pattern engineering: Related to elements of the pattern’s design that create conflict with optimal construction and execution. An example could be separate armhole and neckline facings for a sleeveless top.

Construction: Are the sewing methods appropriate to the material, product class and price points of the item?

Finishing: Are the buttons, hems, pressing etc congruent with the product’s value?

Again, the way this works is that I post a photo of the product. Then you have the chance to critique it. In the follow up entry, I post my comments along with a summary of your suggestions. To ensure I’m not cribbing from visitors, I post my review in the forum before any comments have been posted. You can see mine at the private discussion of Claudine’s blouse. Also, I don’t get any information from our victim volunteer ahead of time because I like to prove that it is very possible to deconstruct a product from photographs. It is then up to the person to confirm or deny anything I’ve said. It is no fun (for me) to cheat by asking the participant anything about the product. It is more fun to dissect what the photo tells me. While this ability may not be common, I’m not the only one who can forensically analyze pattern and construction details from a photograph.

The only public comment I have on this style right now is that this style is an ambitious project and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if it required a few iterations to perfect it. That’s what we’re going to do now.

Lengthy preamble dispensed with, today’s style is Claudine’s cranberry silk blouse. Follow the link for larger images but should the item be sold and you’re reading this after the fact, I’ve cached a back up file. The blouse is made of a lovely stretch silk charmeuse. The price is $140 USD.

Okay, the floor is all yours.  What is your analysis and or suggestions and techniques you would use to improve this style? Thanks everybody.

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  1. Lesley says:

    Alright, I’ll give it a go.
    The first thing that jumps out at me is that I don’t think this garment has been given a final pressing. The hem and sleeve hems are ballooning, and I think a good pressing would make it sit that much better. It would probably disguise the blind hem, too.
    There’s something going on with one sleeve, too – I can’t work out if it’s longer, or if the hem has fallen?
    The front neck, where the gathered side is sewn into the other side, there is a “bump” that looks like the fabric hasn’t quite been pushed to the top when it was sewn. That might be a sewing production line problem (it looks as though the facings has been joined to the top neckline, and then that front seam sewn) rather than a patternmaking problem.
    I would also like to see the gathers more even at the front – it looks like there are some deeper tucks there.

  2. Lesley says:

    Oh, I meant to add – I don’t understand why you would show the inside on etsy?
    But it is a very lovely top, and I love the colour. The fabric looks very soft and comfortable to wear.

  3. Lisa Blank says:

    This is a lovely blouse. My two thoughts:

    1) My eye first went to the hem. It seems like it could use a soft interfacing to control the foldline.

    2) On the picture of the inside front it looks like the left facing is too large as evidenced by the “dart” or bubble (correct term?) near the armscye.

  4. becky says:

    I think the style is very cool.

    The gathers seem a little uneven, but I think the fabric might be too stiff because the gathered part seems to be too puffy. I wonder if there’s enough of a “dart” there.

  5. Clarisse says:

    My thoughts:
    (1) The wide hem at the sleeve and bottom of the blouse doesn’t work for this kind of fabric (stretch silk charmeuse)–pressing it to get a crisp edge will make the fabric shiny, as you can see where the non-gathered front side was pressed near the curved seam. I would suggest a narrow rolled hem instead.

    (2) The curved seam at the front is pulling a little, possibly because the front neck facing is sewn into that seam, as you can see from the inside-out photo. I would join the front neck facing separately and tack it to seam instead (since your etsy site indicates you finish by hand, right?). That might also clean up the “v” neckline, where there appears to be a small notch where the left and right fronts join.

    (3) I don’t work with silk charmeuse a lot, but I’m wondering if the non-gathered right (as worn) front was lightly interfaced at the curve, if that would make the sewn curve line less wiggly.

    Thanks, Claudine for agreeing to share your work for the purpose of review. It takes guts to put yourself and your work out there, so take heart in knowing that these posts help us DEs and DE service providers immensely!

  6. Theresa in Tucson says:

    I have to agree with the comments on the hems. They would look better with a narrow stitched hem so “hand” finish isn’t a selling point. as it doesn’t add but detracts from the garment. The stitches are telegraphing through.

    A bit of puckering in the sleeve. Hem on the gathered side doesn’t look even which may mean you need more length on that side due to the front gathers.

  7. Fran says:

    I haven’t read the other comments yet. My initial reaction is that I would have preferred a drapier fabric, such as a jersey or knit for the project. The fabric, though beautiful, seems to resist the draping and seems to pucker and appear stiff which may not be flattering across the bust when worn. The other thing that struck me the most was the hem on both the bottom of the blouse and sleeve. While it may be the shadowing from the photograph, the hemming appeared too obvious for my taste. I would actually have preferred to see a machine stitched hem, done well, than the blind or hand-stitched hem which appeared to pull away from the blouse a bit.

  8. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for a stretch fabric, but when I look at this blouse I keep thinking of faced hems. A little weight added to keep things smooth and a place on the sleeve to add a button closure. It would give you freedom to shape the hem if you wanted, as well.

    There also seems to be extra fabric in the centre below the waist. On the gathered side it looks like part of the gathers, but on the smooth side there’s a wrinkle. Would it be possible to pinch it out at centre front and add it back somewhere under the bust dart, at the side?

  9. Quincunx says:

    Finally dawned on me why the hems look so pointy at parts. Those points line up with the points on the mannequin where the weight of the shirt hangs and stresses the hem–bust points, shoulder points, etc.–and not so much with where the garment is intended to hang off of a regular body. It could just be that the hem points won’t form when the blouse is on a proper body with shoulders and a bra and such.

    I want to move the French dart horizontally towards the side and not have it point towards a bust apex so narrow and close to the center, but that may be just because the mannequin’s bust points are set wider than the shirt’s. Another reason to want to see it on a live body and not the form. (Given recent wrestling with a notorious Big 4 pattern with bust apexes far too far apart for non-Amazonians, I am giving the shirt lots of benefit of the doubt.)

  10. Barb Taylorr says:

    Cool design Claudine.
    1- The first thing that jumped out was the uneven hem. This hem does not look straight (nor does it look intentionally assymetrical).
    2- The hem also does not lay flat. Maybe pressing will solve it, but if the body pieces are very flaired then there may be too much fabric to distribute for a hem this deep. Changing to a facing or a tiny rolled hem could be more successful.
    3- Ditto for neck facing. It looks like it may be too large for the body in the way it is falling in pleats near the shoulders. Be sure it is the same shape and size as the body pattern & does not extend beyond the armseye. I wonder if there is a softer thinner fabric you could use for facing… stretch mesh? Another fabric may also be less expensive as well as give you better results, of course dyeing to match might be an issue. One last thought on facing is that it could help the edges to disappear if you actually made it longer, so that it falls just below the fullest point of the bust. If you do that catch it into the armseye & side seams. Would you consider lining the entire body in mesh? (That would solve the hem problem too.)
    4- I hope this last comment does not stray into design critique, but it is the sort of feedback the designer I work with wants me to speak up about, so I hope it is also appropriate here. If you move the gathers a bit higher, so that they are centered on the apex of the bust it will give a better fit and be more flattering to a woman’s figure. You may also want to play around with the amount of gathering to see what is most pleasing to you. Subltle changes can make big differences.

  11. Doris W. in TN says:

    The pointy hem is what bothers my eye and I have no experience with the particular fabric. The inside view looks (to me) like the hem is buckling, as if the edge is longer than the surface it is being sewn to. Might a faced hem with self-fabric lay flatter? (but then there would be the seam allowances at the bottom….)

    I also agree with Quincunx about moving the French dart placement.

  12. dosfashionistas says:

    I am not going to comment on construction, etc. as others have well covered the subject before me. However, since the subject is “Refine my Line”, I looked over the other items she has up on Etsy and was very impressed at how professional they looked taken individually. I am in love with the striped dress!

    Is the red blouse perhaps a garment still in the development stage?

  13. oliviacw says:

    I think there have been enough comments on the hem, so I won’t address there directly. My next issue is with the fabric fold on the left side – coming down from the front underarm, there seems to be a natural fold that curves in at the waist and meets up on the mid-left front hem with a gather falling down from the center. This ends up framing all of the gathers on the front of the bodice, sort of ending over the chest, when I think I’d like to see the gathers continue their line all the way around to the side seam.

    I’m not sure if this is a fabric issue or a pattern issue. The fabric may be too heavy and soft to maintain the horizontal gathers across the entire body, so it sags downward. Or it could be that the pattern piece needs to be wider/longer near the bottom of the bodice so that it doesn’t create as much tension towards the hem. Fixing this one way or another would also help with the hem hiking up on the left side.

    I do love the fabric and color!

  14. oriole says:

    I notice that the V of the neck and the seam at the hem are off center. This may be styling, but looks more like a mistake to me. I didn’t get that the seam was suppose to be curved until I read the other comments. The gathered side looks as if it was missing gathers near the neckline, or had to many under the bust. The whole hem seems to be shorter on one side, I also agree the large hems take away from the over all look.

  15. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    How are the seams finished on the inside? Some of them appear to be serged, but I can’t tell for sure about the sleeve and body hems. I would like to see nicer seam finishes on the inside, possibly french or faux-french seams, maybe bound with some very light habutai. The facings are visible from the outside of the garment; this is probably just something that’s going to happen with charmeuse, but it would be nice if there was a way to alter that. Additionally, the front left side facing has a bubble near the armhole (most apparent when the garment is inside out); I think that the excess can safely be slashed out of the pattern. From some of the bubbling on the seams (center back in particular) I would guess that either the pieces were slightly off-grain or there was some uneven feeding while sewing. My experience with charmeuse is that it’s not very forgiving of either sewing or cutting errors, so I’m not sure if this is an ideal material for this style.. …But I’m not sure what would give the same drape and luster without being such a bastard to work with.

    Finally, $140 seems a little low for something that you have to make yourself outside of a factory. Unless you have a an inexpensive source for charmeuse or are buying in large quantities, I’m guessing that you are spending around $40 on fabric, and probably putting a minimum of three hours of labor into this. If you haven’t already examined all your direct costs and labor time, you might want to do that so you aren’t underpricing yourself.

  16. Marie-Christine says:

    Lesley, I think the point of showing something inside-out on Etsy would be to show the quality of construction. Which is a good idea, as Etsy is becoming kind of known for shoddy construction.. Someone who’s doing work far above the average does well to show it off, it’s a clever marketing strategy.
    I’m a very late comer, so I won’t really comment otherwise, I agree that the hems should be narrow and pressed, and that the bottom one looks uneven, that the facing needs a bit of tweaking.
    Finally, I second Seth’s comment about under-pricing. If anything, a unique silk shirt should be -more- expensive than RTW..

  17. Kathleen says:

    I’m not sure I agree about the pricing being too low. I really believe –no, I know– that there are a lot of excellent choices in the marketplace. There really are. We must be honest with ourselves and be wary of valuing something more just because we made it or someone with whom we feel an affinity made it.

    Another designer I know had this problem. Her friends and associates told her she could charge more because it was such a great product but it didn’t move until she priced it as she’d originally thought. Her brand was totally unknown then. Today, she IS getting what her friends said because her product is so hot but it didn’t get hot because the price was “too” high at the outset that nobody bought it.

    Which is not to say that Claudine couldn’t increase the value of the blouse and perhaps get more for it dollar wise but it is more likely that these changes will actually save her money and increase her margins so she would win anyway.

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