Refine My Line: Rockabilly Cowgirl

rockabilly_cowgirl_bodice_smI can’t tell if people are excited or even interested in our new series since yesterday’s entry only got one comment. Hmm. Rockabilly Cowgirl’s thread in the forum has gotten a lot of traffic though. I’ve already posted Monday’s entry there and we have lots of feedback so I hope it’s just as productive out here.

Preamble dispensed with, RC wrote:

I am definitely one of those people who thinks my product is put together very well, but I know there is improvement to be made – just not sure exactly what to tackle first. This style is unlined, but I’ve been tossing around the idea of lining it after talking with a few customers at shows this summer. It’s a heavier stretch cotton, so I hesitate to line it due to the possibility of the lining restricting movement – unless of course I use stretchy lining.

I’ve thought of some guidelines for discussion for the series. It would be great if you could organize your comments in different categories. The ones I used were Fit, Pattern, Construction and Styling. I would prefer you limit any styling suggestions. If you must do it at all, use a very light hand -although you can say if you like it. Generally, it is frowned upon if a pattern maker or sample maker critiques style decisions of the designer and since that is your role here, I hope you will consider following suit. Unless of course the designer has asked for styling feedback.

Important: Critiquing fit will be difficult because many samples are worn by models who were not fitted to the garment because most styles won’t be one of a kind and cut to fit. Try to stick to fit elements that won’t vary for a suitable body range for the given size.

At upper right you can see the profile shot of the bodice. Below are more photos. Clicking on any photo will take you to a larger image. Have fun!

rockabilly_cowgirl_full_sm rockabilly_cowgirl_back_sm

rockabilly_cowgirl_side_sm rockabilly_cowgirl_sleeve_sm

Edit: I reiterate, I would prefer you limit your styling change suggestions. If you feel absolutely compelled, use a very light hand -although you can say if you like it. It is nearly always inappropriate for a pattern maker or sample maker to critique style decisions of the designer and since that is your role here, it is better to follow suit. It would be another matter if this dress were untried and intended to appeal to a broader spectrum of women but it is neither. This style is selling well to RC’s target market; they are much younger than our average visitor and don’t have the same figure perseverations that we do. Thanks.

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  1. ken simmons says:

    This hybrid design is fabulous, cowboy styling crossed with sexy femme fatale fit. Just slightly odd and new enough to grab ones attention. Unless it were done in dressier stretch satin say, I think unlined is right for a cotton dress making it easier to launder if the client wanted. I give 2 thumbs up!

  2. Lara says:

    Are we supposed to pick these pieces apart? I can see how people would be reluctant to do that.

    This isn’t my style but I can appreciate it so, I won’t go into things about taste, color palette, etc.

    I would like to see the snaps start a wee bit lower and I also don’t see the point in the snaps added to the sleeves.

    The seams looks really clean and as mentioned before, careful ironing makes a world of difference.

    The tight turns in the blue piping on the bodice could be cleaned up a bit.
    Is this easy to walk in? The side vent works but when side vents get too long the fabric tends to flop around when you walk. Would a longer back center slit work?

    Okay, that’s it!
    This is kinda hard to do!

  3. Xochil says:

    I’ll give it a go.

    I’m guessing there is at least a facing for the neckline/armhole area, but if customers or potential customers are looking for a lining, I might consider doing a “full facing” or lining for the entire top front above the waist. Maybe (and this is speculation since I can’t see the inside of the garment) there are seams that look funny to them even though they are on the inside, and they prefer it cleaner. I think lining just the top would add some value to the overall product. I would do it in the same fabric or in a lighter weight cotton with same amount of stretch (if you can find it).

    As far as the pattern and construction go outside of that, I would clean up the invisible zipper a little, I can see the tape of the zipper a little bit. And I would personally change the front to be a princess seam which would be partially hidden under the white appliqué and piping. I just personally like that better than the side bust dart. But I don’t think it looks bad the way it is either. The placket and piped seams look beautiful.

    I do like the design, I can definitely see the appeal to customers.

  4. christina says:

    What is going on at the hip in the last full-length photo? It looks like there is too much fabric there. It could be a pattern or a fit or a sewing problem, or maybe the model is twisting in a weird way. I agree with Lara that the piping on the chest could look better. Personally, I would have second thoughts about wearing a dress that had decorations pointing right to my nipples. I also think the pearl snap on the sleeve would be form following function if the sleeve had actual rolled up cuffs; the sleeve shape is a nice retro touch. And I also agree with Lara’s point that the skirt looks like it would be hard to walk in. If the slit goes too much higher, than it starts to enter the skanky girl territory, which some rockabilly types like and some don’t. If there were some overlap making it look more like a wrap at the slit, then the slit could go higher and I wouldn’t be worrying about the skirt ripping right up the seam when I step over a puddle or trip and try to catch myself–I am quite uncoordinated like that.

    After seeing this dress, I would really like to see the rest of your line, because I would love to buy something like this. Not in brown or turquoise, because those colors make me look ill; and I don’t like jewelnecks because I feel choked. This would be perfect for occasions that call for Western wear and has that twist that says that it didn’t come from Sheplers or the local farm store. Yes, I am a Kansan. :)

  5. Naomi R. says:

    I love the design concept. The only pattern detail I’d change (other than what’s already been commented upon) is the cap sleeves. The length looks awkward/uncomfortable. I say either skip them, or make them long enough to cover the underarm and snap-able (as Christina suggested). That, and I think continuing a bit of the chest and the back hem motifs around to the opposite side would add “consistent value” from back to front. No “coffin clothes” please. :) After that, I’d snap this dress/style up for my own collection, no doubt about it.

  6. Birgitte says:

    I think the fit overall looks quite good, but yes- there seems to be something slightly strange going on with the wrinkles in the hip-area. I’m wondering if the narrowest point of the skirt, at the knees, is hitting too low, and forcing fabric to move upwards..?

    Also, where the top of the side seam hits, under the armpit, seems a little high too me, but that is probably better to get feedback from the fit-model, rather than looking at pictures.

    I’m also thinking that a flat-felled seam at the cap sleeve could look nice and add some definition or crispness, but I’m unsure if that would work out, construction wise.

  7. oliviacw says:

    The front neckline seems awfully close to touching the vertical of the neck – in a heavy stretch cotton, I think this might become very uncomfortable if you were leaning forward. In the bodice closeup, it also looks like there is a bit of extra fabic making it float up a bit – unless the model has REALLY prominent collarbones. I would open the neckline up just a little bit – cut the center front down another half to 3/4 inch, perhaps, and smooth out the excess fabric. And I agree that moving that first snap down so it’s not right on the edge would be a good thing.

    I’m of two minds about the lining question. I have a sundress in a heavy stretch cotton that is unlined and is just fine, but it’s quite different from this dress. It has a plain bodice and the skirt is full. With a closely fitting skirt like this, I think a lining to help the skirt ride more easily with movement could be very useful.

  8. dosfashionistas says:

    Fit: It looks slightly overfitted. This tight will not be flattering to most women. And definitely more room to walk and move. This is a dress meant to be danced in! The front neck does look too high.

    Construction: The front snaps start too high. Also the front yoke area could be simplified slightly without changing the design impact. In ways that would be a cost savings in making the garment. I do not want to suggest changes, as it is partly a design decision. But I will say that in my opinion having 2 colors of piping takes away from the design rather than adding to it. And it does add to the cost. I am another that thinks the sleeves should be longer, or take them off altogether. I think the dress would look great sleeveless.

    With the dress being stretch fabric, I do not think lining it would add value.

    Way cool design. I love it!

  9. Catherine McQ says:

    Use a hem treatment that continues around the dress, so the dress will look harmonious from any angle. The white band on the back hem is so striking that stopping it at the side seam makes the front hem look incomplete. The white band also emphasizes the “fishtail” look of the rear. I’d suggest eliminating it. Add some white to the back bodice instead, continuing from where the white now stops at the shoulder seam.

    It would be brilliant if you could shape the sleeve so that the turquoise trim on the bodice would appear to be continuous with the turquoise trim above the blue on the sleeve. That would mean lengthening the brown part of the sleeve, which might also help the overall sleeve and shoulder proportions. Seen from the front, the shoulders look somewhat cut-in, but seen from the back, the shoulders look extended. Perhaps that’s an optical illusion because only the front has the white “straps”, but I think having more fabric at the front would make the cap sleeves look perfect.

    Make the dress washable, and be sure that the dark colors will not run and stain the white.

  10. Jane says:

    I absolutely love the colors and the sophisticated way they work together. I love the cap sleeves but I know from experience that women generally don’t like them unless the customer is very young and fit. Women just have so many arm issues. I also think this would be great as a top to wear with jeans.

  11. Doris W. says:

    From an amateur who only sews for herself….. ITA about the hip wrinkles in the fabric. I suggest lining the skirt if you don’t line the bodice. Not many young women own slips anymore. Is that bust dart pointing where it should? Looks a little high to me; perhaps a princess seam would hide a lot of fit issues on different bodies. Depending on price point, I also agree that the upper bodice should be brought around to the back. I’m not a fan of coffin dresses, either.

  12. Again I would remind everyone to avoid style critiques; it is considered untoward unless the designer has asked for it. As a practical matter, this style sells very well and nails the styling attributes RC’s market prefers. Her market is much younger and thinner than most of us. I suspect very few are concerned about the sleeves, they like them short. Some like to show off their tattoos.

    This is not to say that styling changes may ensue but a bit of discretion is in order. I don’t know that examples of how to do that indirectly will be evident in public discussion but the forum thread is a good sample of how to handle it. Technical and support staff who are involved in product reviews -as this one is- have a repertoire of strategies they use if they really feel strongly about something. In real life tho, few of us would do so in this case because the style is selling respectably and it’s not our place to question the design choices of a product we would never buy for ourselves. Trying to please the gamut would dilute its appeal.

  13. Penny says:

    Ditto on Ken Simmons comments! This is a fabulous look and agreed the choice of fabric could be pushed for a more contemporary look. Stretch satin or velvet, (maybe some burnout blocking w/stretch lace)? Could eliminate the waist seam and the hip darts all together, move the bust dart into the yoke/armhole seam and just go for a very sexy smooth sleek sheath. Very nice concept!

  14. Barb Taylorr says:

    I agree about moving the top snap down a bit. There’s not much margin for error. If the production line misses the placement by 1/8″ it would stick out over the edge.

    Kathleen, I’d like these posts to include an inside photo of the garment. That can be very telling about quality and in this case would have helped with the question of lining.

  15. Eric H says:

    Maybe it would help to explicitly outline what is off the table:

    1) Color
    2) Sleeves
    3) Fit

    That being said, I wish I had a straight-on shot of the front. Is it asymmetrical, or is it parallax? I can’t tell.

    Otherwise, I also echo ken simmons’ enthusiasm.

  16. Lesley says:

    As a non-patternmaker, but a manufacturer, I say leave it as it is. Sometimes customers have lots of “helpful” suggestions that just end up costing more to make but they are not willing to pay more for the end product. Unless your price points have that much wiggle room, I would suggest customers wear a slip, although in our casual, non-panty-hose wearing society, I don’t think anybody really cares too much as long as the fabric is weighty enough. In my experience, lining has NEVER helped my sales and I have backed away from it recently. Maybe if you are doing something very dressy. The fit is flattering. I happen to love the cap sleeves even though I am not a “cowgirl” by any means. It is probably the cutest thing in this style I’ve seen. It is unique. Most of this style of dresses I’ve seen are sleeveless and not everyone feels they have the arms to pull it off.

  17. Irma says:

    I know that the Rockabilly crowd likes to dance… swing and some jitterbug styles. Can a girl dance in this dress? It looks a bit snug for swing dance moves. The side slits could go up higher. It’s a darling style of dress!

  18. Jess says:

    I’m not very experienced so I don’t have much insight, but I just had to say how much I love this design/idea! I’m probably squarely in RC’s market so that’s not surprising, but she has a great point of difference to all the repro stuff around like ‘Stop Staring’ etc.
    The only things I would experiment with are pivoting the side bust dart into the princess seam, and I think it would be too hot with a lining, but I am a chronic over-heater especially in fitted dresses.

  19. Marie-Christine says:

    I like that it’s not coffin clothes :-). Nice detail at the back hem, and good to see interesting sleeve contrast from the back.

    One drawback though – I know it’s fitted, that fine, but I’m shocked to see a horizontal bust dart -with- a princess seam. Besides, if you need additional darts, why can’t they be incorporated into the shaping of the yoke pieces?

    Also, I know Americans are feeling very proud of themselves for discovering some standards in clothing quality, and it’s good they are, really. But this blanket insistence on lining is really tiresome. As ridiculous as the hanger loops on $20 sweaters. You’d not only have to get lining at least as stretchy as the outside fabric, you’d also have to size everything slightly larger to make room for the lining (trust me, my last jacket was too small because I added a lining..). So meh, if I were you I’d stand by my work as is and no fret about it.

  20. Judy says:

    I don’t have anything to really offer except to say I think your construction techniques are great. To put the piping on I think would be a pain. This would take me forever and a day to construct. I love things that look neat and crisp as I call it and I think you did a great job with that. I think people don’t realize how hard it is for everything to line up. Like I mentioned I don’t have anything to offer with this comment but I think you did a great job and I hope you get paid for all the hours it takes. How long does it take you to construct this dress. I am sure you have it down to a fine art. Great job.

  21. Catherine McQ says:

    This has been a very enlightening exercise. I commented before I had researched Rockabilly. My idea of a what you get when you mix Rockabilly and cowgirl was more along the lines of Rose Maddox or the Jo Mora poster from the 1930’s that the Byrds used on the cover of Sweetheart of the Rodeo. I didn’t know that Rockabilly was a present-day way of life, with costumey sexy clothes. I should have realized that Kathleen’s comment about the tattoos was a big hint. Now that I’ve seen some Rockabilly web sites, I can appreciate the genius of this dress.

  22. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    As someone who has sewn tons of darts and tons of princess seam bodices, the only thing I’d say, other than I think it’s such a sexy, darling dress, is if I were sewing it, I would find it easier to use princess seams. They could be just for the bodice, since I see there is a seam at the waistline, unless the princess seams will help in the fitted look of the skirt. The bodice darts seem like they would have been hard to sew with all the other stuff on the bodice.

  23. Chris V says:

    I will limit myself to this: depending on what style undergarments your target audience tends to wear, I would take a good look at where the interior bodice seams fall. In a fairly fitted top like this, and to a lesser extent in the fitted top of the skirt, complex detail seams can feel weird, or cause odd chafing to the wearer when they’re across the skin; I’d strongly consider a lining of some sort if this were the case. Not all of us are full slip kinds of people :) and I know I at least have a couple well-fit, beautiful blouses that I won’t wear until I can fix how the yoke seams were treated.

  24. Connie says:

    Why is there a waistline seam? Does that make it easier/harder or cheaper/more expensive to cut and sew this style? Could it be dispensed with?

  25. Kathleen says:

    Why is there a waistline seam? Does that make it easier/harder or cheaper/more expensive to cut and sew this style? Could it be dispensed with?

    It is in keeping with the style -retro vintage. Considering the cut is for bustier girls, eliminating the waist seam would increase fabric costs.

  26. Jinjer says:

    I do think this style looks like something that should be lined. If you give the lining enough ease, it shouldn’t restrict movement, even if it’s not a stretchy lining fabric. I’ve noticed in my nice dresses that the lining is at least 2″ bigger around than the outside of the dress! One of those dresses that’s really too small for me, but the fabric is firm enough to squeeze me into a nice shape, so I wear t anyway, and I’ve never had problems with the lining: Just have a self facing, and ease the lining to the facing. Lining eases so prettily, I never even notice I’m doing it.

    In the pictures, it looks like the back hem flap hangs a little funny, and I’m wondering why that is?? It buckled and curls at the edges. It looks to me like it’s sewn without regard to turn of cloth at the hem slit corners.

    It also looks like the zipper pulls open. Is there a different zipper treatment more suited to a tight fitting garment like this?

    I LOVE the hybrid yoke/collar effect in the front. very cute.

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