This is from Parellele, Ungaro‘s pret-a-porter line. A caveat, his website is pink (!) and annoying. The style number is 11350; it’s a navy and white silk (lined in poly) polka dot dress, size 12. I’m guessing this thing dates from the 1980’s because the shoulders are huge. I thought it’d be interesting to do a product review of this style because people always assume that the products from big name designers are always impeccable. While this style has some nice features (necessities really) it’s not perfect either. The most important topics to cover in a style review are the design, the pattern and the construction -including process quality and quality control. Below is a photo of the style on a hanger.
The strength of this style is that it is designed to hide figure flaws and lengthen the body -being monochromatic with a very long neckline. The blouson body conceals a less than perfect tummy while catering to a full hip. Unfortunately, because it has zero hanger appeal, you need to see it on a body to show the details and I’m a poor fit model for this style (below).
It’d look better on someone two or three inches taller than me (I’m 5′ 5″). It sags on me and gives me a gut so rather than concealing my worst features, it conceals my best ones. The hip and skirt portion is designed to fit snugly and since it’s too big for butt-less me, I had to hike the hip higher, making me look even dumpier. Still, it was either me or just the hanger view. Since it has poor hanger appeal, it wouldn’t give you a feel for how it’s supposed to hang. Plus on the hanger, you’ll never see how those hip pleats really look. On the hanger, the pleats look like this. Compare the pleats below to the ones in the photo above.
Speaking of side pleats, there’s several things to bring up about the pattern. Look at the deep folds on the skirt in both photos. I can tell you those folds weren’t drafted, or it’s doubtful that they were. Contrary to popular myth, it’s more likely that styles -even in designer ready to wear- are drafted rather than draped (from the outset). This skirt was most likely draped first. As a matter of fact, the body was probably draped too, then the pattern made and iterated from there. You go to paper and stay there after a good draping result.
Speaking of the skirt, it has a double layer of the polyester underlining as opposed to the rest of the garment that only has one. At first glance the double layer is unnecessary considering all of the folds of fabric but the second layer of underlining is applied as a stabilizing feature, also called a stay. Speaking of underlining, these days it’s more likely that underlining more accurately describes a product -not a process- so it’s nice to see a departure from that in this style. The dress was underlined by treating the two layers (silk shell and white polyester) as one. Each piece was individually basted together before it was constructed. The difference between a lining and an underlining being just that. An underlined garment is basted with the two layers together prior to construction and a lining means that the shell and lining are in essence, constructed separately and then joined together in finishing. An underlining is sturdier than a lining but a lining gives a cleaner finish. Few garments other than coats or sportcoats are underlined and lined.
However, the pattern did have one very grave problem, that being the zipper (below).
It really annoys me when I see an expensive style that doesn’t get the functional features right. Everybody -from designer to enthusiast- should get the basics right; there’s no excuse for the zipper head to be sticking out like that. The zipper of this Ungaro is not much better than the zippers I found in those Avanti styles and Avanti is a push manufacturer.
This style had larger seam allowances which contributed to the sturdiness of it. I mean, you couldn’t justify the larger seam allowances as being necessary for alterations because it’d be impossible to make the skirt larger because there’s a fabric knot bringing all those folds together at the side seam (below).
Another thing I liked was that the armholes were bound.
Surprisingly, this garment didn’t have very good quality control. There were threads hanging off of it in several places. It was bizarre. Technically, in lean manufacturing, you don’t need quality control because you’ve built that into your processes, meaning you don’t pass an inferior product onto the next person in the process. If you’re lean, you shouldn’t need to have a quality control department. In the making of this garment, the sewing machines should have been equipped with an automatic thread trimmer. I do know they had a QC department because there’s a poor repair on the inside of one sleeve; the seam came undone and it was re-stitched by hand. I doubt this repair was generated by a previous owner because it’s not in an area that is likely to be rent. Other than the sleeve repair and dangling threads, these were the only construction problems I found. The zipper is technically a pattern problem, not a construction problem.
By the way, I’m not suggesting Ungaro is lean. I know he’s not (in addition) because the shoulder pads were sewn in two different steps and frankly, I can’t think of a reason why. I know they were tacked in two separate processes because the shoulders were tacked to the pad in white thread and later, the armholes were tacked to the pads in navy thread. Not to suggest this was poorly made but I have seen a lot of other designer garments that were surprisingly poorly made.
Anybody want to buy this dress? Now that I’ve done this post, I don’t need it anymore. I wouldn’t describe it as being in perfect shape. The pad needs to be reattached on one side, it has some pulled threads which aren’t very noticeable. I’d also say it’s a small 12, closer to a size 10 or an 8 of today. For $50, I’d throw in dry cleaning (it needs it) and shipping. If that’s overpricing it, tell me when you email me about it.
In a weird sort of way, I kind of like shoulder pads. I have big shoulders, so if I rip out the pads, it usually hangs pretty well… :)
What is a push manufacturer??? love polka dots its a cute dress but I think it would make me look extremely chubby, not good.
I love this blog, first of all. Secondly, The inside of the dress looks like I could have made it. I am a very good seamstress but my clothing always looks so different from manufactured clothing. It’s something I worry about when selling b/c people actually think the mass produced garments are quality. Sometimes they are but…
Anyway, I’m not saying the inside of this dress looked like quality. My point is that I feel better after seeing that Ungaro piece – comparable to my pieces and not the other way around!
Push manufacturing is something I’ve written a lot about. You can also peruse the lean manufacturing category for a whole lot more.
Yuk! Why would anyone line perfectly good silk with POLY???? Even if I could afford it, I would have rejected the dress because of that alone.
Kathleen, would you comment further on the issue of the zipper? Most commercial patterns (the “BIG FOUR”) don’t deal well with zipper applications either. I know that my patternmaking training gave me no great ways of dealing with this.
Kathleen, would you comment further on the issue of the zipper?
I’ve posted at great length on zippers. There’s a whole series of tutorials too. Check the tutorials index– and leave a donation if you find it helpful. Thanks
That zipper issue is why I almost always default to an invisible zipper. I remember my design teachers explain that issue was solved by having two separate back pattern pieces. But they never elaborated. Thus, I avoid it like the plague. An invisible zipper would have been better for this dress too.