If I had a dollar for every time over the past 4 years that I’ve been asked to copy the dress from this ultra-popular Pinterest photo….well let’s just say I’d be financially comfortable:
From barn weddings to beach weddings…..this has been the “It” dress for years. Trouble is, I don’t copy other designer’s work…I advise customers to purchase the original “Chloe” dress from Tea Princess.
But then last spring (2016), Made for Mermaids published the Isla pattern for this exact design, line for fine, including the pleated lace detail on the shoulder-straps. So this adds a twist: Now that anybody can make the Chloe, do I keep turning down orders for it? After all, the original is still carried in the Tea Princess range. I decided to hold off for a year, still advising customers to buy the original.
Fast-forward to Spring 2017, Chloe is still being manufactured by Tea Princess, but now the Isla is everywhere so my resistance is worn down. My American clients who aren’t going to pay to have the original shipped from Australia, are just going to go to another dressmaker in the U.S.. Besides, I never make a design exactly as the original (for example I would never copy those Tea Princess signature pleated shoulder-straps). So today I printed out M4M “Isla”.
First impression of the paper pattern: the bodice grading is jumpy (the grade rule “jumps up and down” between sizes, is inconsistent throughout the range):
See the tiny grade of only 1/8″ (total chest circumference 1/2″) between sizes 2 and 3? A garment manufacturer (except for bras) would never use a 1/8″ grade between sizes….1/8 is less than industry tolerance (the size specification amount over/under that is acceptable for manufacturing approval)….the finished garments in size 2 and 3 would be essentially identical in fit at the yoke. Why would a pdf pattern be graded to such a small amount?
Here’s how this happens: instead of establishing a consistent grade between sizes, the grades were point-plotted from the size chart (graded on an all-purpose computer program). So since the size chart has a 1 1/2″ jump from size 1 to size 2, but then only a half-inch jump from size 2 to size 3, that’s how the grade was plotted directly on a computer (a half-inch divided by 4 for left/right/front/back = 1/8″). I prefer the consistency of traditional industry grading so I adjust the size 2.
The strap length grading is even more jumpy:
The grades between strap lengths range from 1/4″ to 3/4″. I adjusted the strap pattern piece with a smooth grade.
The skirt pattern is self-drafted from a cutting chart, and again the length grades jump up and down from 3/4″ to 2 1/4″. This would make a strange rack of dresses. I checked the finished garment charts and they too are jumpy. I decided to grade my own skirt pattern piece.
Note: the reason that I care so strongly about correct grading is that I sew to sell. Customers often purchase matching outfits for sisters, or a bridal party, and the garments must appear proportionate between sizes. For anyone sewing just for one client, or for a family member, the grading isn’t nearly as important. Clearly this pattern is geared not towards the business dressmaker, but rather towards moms: there are multiple references to “your child” and “your daughter”.
Onto the instructions. This was my first M4M pattern and there were some things I had to get accustomed to (and yes you can call me picky!):
- The directions are chatty, which is what many people love about pdfs….however the cute font is difficult to read (looks somewhat like Broken Typewriter…yes that is a real font). When I’m trying to concentrate on technical details, I prefer a sans serif font.
- The writing shifts pronouns between plural and singular (“We‘ll start at the right side of the slit you cut”) (“We are gathering the center of the front skirt you cut…”)
- The writing shifts tenses between future perfect progressive, and present (“We will be creating a bias casing…Open up your single fold bias tape”). I much prefer directions all written in present tense.
It’s like a recipe book: it’s easier for me to follow cooking directions if the font is clean, and the steps are direct. “Add this”, or “Bring to a boil”. Not “now we are going to add” or “now we are going to bring to a boil”.
Construction: essentially this is simply a front yoke stitched to a gathered skirt, with elastic running across the back. Pretty straightforward, right? And yet 2 things didn’t make sense to me:
- Sequence of stitching: the yoke is stitched to the yoke lining, turned inside out and edge-stitched before the skirt is attached. This makes it impossible for the skirt to reach the ends of the yoke:
2. Attaching the skirt to the yoke: although the flat sketch shows a skirt shape curving up at the sides seams to meet the yoke:
…the pattern itself is cut straight across along the top edge without any curve. The curve shape is created by maneuvering the fabric: the way to attach the skirt to yoke involves cutting a 1/2″ slit, threading elastic across the back top edge through a bias-tape casing:
and then shifting the ends of the elastic casing at a 90-degree angle when stitched into the yoke:
…creating a small fabric pleat:
To the designer’s credit, she does include a link to a YouTube video explaining how to manage this, however why not draft the skirt pattern with a curve as shown in the “flats” so that the corner is trued to the bodice?
Then it becomes simple to enclose the elastic across the back without any fabric slit:
…so that when the front top skirt edge is gathered:
…it’s easy to enclose into the yoke:
…without the pleat:
In the end, I made these revisions:
- Regraded the yoke pattern and strap pattern
- Re-graded the skirt pattern to industry-standard lengths
- Trued the skirt top edge to create a natural curve going up to the front yoke
- Revised the top-stitching sequence on the yoke
- Eliminated the Tea Princess signature pleated trim (I enclosed gathered lace into straps)
Here is my first sample for this pattern:
I’m still torn about whether or not to make this for customers. On the plus side I love the design, always have. On the negative side, it’s an obvious copy. What would you do?