Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grain lines and gussets

I've finally started working on the G-63 for the DH, after a great deal of deliberation.  So far so good.  I got everything cut out yesterday and put the body of the gown together, only to discover after going back to Woven into the Earth that I had put the grain lines on the body of the gown in the wrong places.  If you look at the diagram to the right (a marked up version of Marc Carlson's pattern illustration) the reddish lines indicate where the straight grain or selvedge edges should be.  Arranged this way, the original has two straight edges down the front and two biased edges down the back, all other seams being the convention straight-to-bias. I got as far as getting two straight grain edges down the front, but ended up my bias-to-bais seams under the arm.  I'm chalking this up to a modern sense of the symmetrical, we tend to want to hide the odd seam out someplace we would view as unobtrusive, even if that does not make structural sense, as in this case. The whole thing would hang better arranged as the original was.  At least the gores are not terribly wide so the problem isn't very obvious, and I have learned something for next time.

In the process of putting this together I also realized it's basically a scaled down version of the Zhorelecky houppeland I posted about awhile back.  The similarity in drape is quite remarkable, and probably not something I would have picked up on right away if I had not just been talking about the houppeland this weekend and if I did not have it pulled out and handy for comparison.  The business with grain lines is really what gives both garments the beautiful rippled edges at the hem line, not a huge volume of fabric.

The other (and major) weirdness of the G-63 is the sleeve. It's very similar to the way the sleeve on the Charles du Blois cotte, at least in so far as there is a vertical seam cutting in two at the elbow.  The funky little gusset at the elbow was giving me fits, I understand why they used gussets at the armscye, but why the elbow?  Maybe whoever made this just ran out of fabric and this is the only way they could cut the sleeves? It wouldn't be unheard of, and it's not like we have a whole heap of sleeves from which to make well-grounded conclusions about tailoring at the time.  Well, I ran across this really great article article explaining the elbow hinge on the Charles du Blois cotte, and had a long conversation with Mathilde, and decided to do the sleeves with all it's gussets intact before I attempted to draft anything out.

Oh boy am I glad I did, and am I glad I went back to the book to check on the grain lines!  For a baggy sleeve, that little gusset makes a huge difference in how the whole thing hangs and how it will ultimately fit.  Because the armscye is so deep, the little tricks used to allow the arm to move in a very tight sleeve are actually needed to keep the whole garment hanging correctly, hence the hinged sleeve construction.  That little extra bit of bias stretch gives just enough movement in the elbow that, along with the added curve from the gusset, the whole sleeve stays in place when you move around even with a great big 25 inch (the same size at the original, the DH fits those measurements almost perfectly) arm opening.  So yay!  It's a very clever bit of shaping, the same sort of thing we do around bust lines today really, only applied to sleeves.  One wonders where all this sleeve fitting brilliance got lost, the way this sleeve is constructed is much more three-dimensional than a modern sleeve pattern, and this much better fitting and more functional.


  1. I'm having the same ideas about sleeves... I guess it got lost with ready-to-wear, but I don't know why.

  2. cool. I wish I'd had this when I was making dresses for performing in the orchestra. violinists have so many restrictions and demands placed on their arms in performance. I always did gussets under the arm but eventually gave up and went with knit for sleeves.