In the movie “Working Girl”, account executive Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) and her secretary Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) both claim to have come up with the same idea for an acquisitions merger. When confronted by the owner of the conglomerate, Katharine has no answer as to where she got the idea . On the other hand, Tess can produce her notes plus the newspaper clippings that inspired her concept.
I thought of this when reading a blog post from Duchess and Hare. She sampled what would become her “Sweet as Pie” pattern last year* , inspired by this dress from Nelly Madison:
I say inspired by deliberately, because Duchess and Hare did not copy line-for-line, but rather studied the silhouette, changed the bodice to a new shape, then created multiple style options.
*You can scroll back to a year ago on her IG to see the first sample dress.
Honesty means everything to me, and so I was impressed with her candor. Fashion knock-offs can be irritating, however the process has been going on since my grandmother’s day, when department store buyers took steamships to Paris and attended the couture shows in order to bring back ideas for American production:
It’s important to note that “such copies were made legally: American designers paid French designers handsomely to reproduce their works.“ (Eric Wilson, “The Knockoff Won’t be Knocked Off” NYT September 7, 2007)
Technology has made it infinitely easier to knock off designs. Guests used to be exiled from the couture if they were caught sketching (to avoid paying copy fees). Nowadays everybody has a phone, and designers have given up banning photos. Instagram and fashion blogs make anybody just a click away from googling original designs. In the end, one thing remains constant and that is integrity. There is no point in pretending that a design is one’s own, when anybody can clearly see how close the knock-off is to the original.
In the apparel industry it is perfectly okay to say “We are having a Chanel moment this Spring….we’ll do a boxy jacket, no collar, braid trim on 2 small hip pockets, metallic buttons.” It would sound ridiculous to say “I was playing around with a jacket we did before, cropped it, took off the collar, added little pockets with braid trim and metallic buttons….it’s my own design.”
So, bravo to Duchess and Hare . Bonus points for integrity.
Putting all that aside, here is my technical review of “Sweet as Pie”.
- 2 pattern pieces (bodice and skirt), cut on fold, used for both front and back
- measurement chart for optional ruffles, and for bias binding (bodice trim & ties)
- bodice and skirt are beautifully graded and trued
- measurements are all correct to finished garment chart
- nicely flared A-line skirt, will allow “twirl” without excess bulk at bodice
- direct and simple
- found only 1 error: Step 10: (stitching bias tape to top edge of skirt) it doesn’t mention that you need to gather the skirt first. UPDATE: HAS BEEN CORRECTED, all who purchased the pattern already have been sent an email
WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING?
Yes, I always tweak something. Typically in pattern drafting, when you have a curved bodice stitched to a curved skirt, you use the same curve, just extended for the fuller width of the skirt. In this pattern, the skirt top edge has a deeper curve than the bodice. I was concerned that this would cause the skirt to hike up at the center-front and center-back, so I cut the muslin with an extra allowance on top in case I wanted to make a shallower curve (pencil mark is the top skirt edge as designed):
Here is my muslin stitched on the original line:
…and the skirt does seem to hike up a bit:
Here’s a look on the dressform:
I un-stitched the bodice seam and re-gathered along the shallower curve:
…then re-attached the bodice:
….and I’m happier with the hem now:
This is the revised muslin on the dressform:
On to the “real” fabric. The directions are clear, the pieces fall into the place with no maneuvering needed, the skirt gathers easily into the bodice since the grading is spot-on, the width of the bias-tape makes for easy stitching.
Oh I did make one other change: I prefer the bodice with interfacing. Here is how it looks without (left) and with (right):
Not a huge difference, however when you have all the layers of the seam allowance plus gathered skirt, a layer of interfacing helps create a smoother line.
And here is the finished dress:
Bottom line: this a wonderfully drafted pattern, perfectly graded, you can trust the measurements and use it confidently “straight out of the box”. Personally I tweaked it (like I do every pattern…sigh) for my own preferences. There are so many possibilities with this basic block: there are already included multiple cutting lines to make:
- a top (without ruffle)
- a top + ruffle = a tunic
- a tunic (without ruffle)
- a tunic + ruffle = a dress
Now multiply those 4 with the “no bodice” option and you have 8 different looks. Add to that the opportunity to use the no-bodice version for smocking. If you choose the bodice options, there is a blog link to add pintucks. Now think of adding length to make a maxi-dress. You could use this pattern over and over, and never be bored.