Soft cowl swirl - design process for a cowl neck dress

Soft cowl swirl - design process for a cowl neck dress

Basic shift dress

So, in my previous post I showed the latte and ice cream designs on basic patterns: scarves and the shift dress. The shift dress is a popular pattern used for Sindy over the decades. It has that simplicity required by doll fashion designers who work with mass production in mind. It uses little fabric, and has very few seams (less labour) which makes it cheap to produce.

Interested to read on Wikipedia that the shift dress is associated with the Roaring Twenties and the Swinging Sixties - being a physically freer design that the more constricted hour-glass-figure, fitted dress shape.

Here are Sindy shift style dress designs over three decades: 1963 "Dream Date", 1977 "Funtime Sindy" and 1983 "Casuals - Pattern Print".

Sindy Dream Date 1963Funtime Sindy 1977Sindy Casuals Palm Tree Dress 1983

The plain shift was a good starting place but I felt curious to try out something more fluid and create something softer with light folds to compliment the creamy ripples in the creamy latte pattern.

I thought perhaps a cowl neck could work. 

Jersey version

I made a couple of versions using some polyester jersey fabric in pink. You can see the clear evolution from the Sindy Palm Tree dress. In the first version I made a left and right section for the back, with the intention of having a closure with a popper. But I realised that because of the extra fabric in the cowl (at the neck) the dress would pull on over the hips without an open fastening. So in the second version, I used just one section and gave it an hour glass shape.

Jersey cowl version one with short sleevesJersey cowl version one - back


Jersey cowl version two with 3/4 length sleeves - frontJersey cowl version two - back

Silk version

The light weight jersey fabric was soft enough to create a cowl neck at 1:6 scale, but I needed to create something that would work with silk or satin, because the latte pattern printed beautifully on those fabrics. This was a challenge and I struggled with the first version. It was interesting but I wanted to achieve something as simple as the classic shift, only with more pazzazz.

Silk cowl neck dress with long sleeves.

Inside out silk cowl neck dressHem on silk cowl neck dress

I used interface backing to achieve an invisible hem.

Mix it up solution

There's usually a good few days before I get a chance to get back to designing and making. Which gives my brain a chance to mull things over in the background. It was a really nice feeling when the idea to merge the jersey with the silk popped into my mind - one of those magical pings when you know you're onto something. 

I used some spare pink satin for the front and a blue jersey at the back for the next prototype and felt I was nearly there!

Jersey silk mix prototype - frontJersey satin mix prototype - back

I also made a version with some butterfly print chiffon.

Butterfly chiffon dress - modelled

Butterfly print dress gathered at neckButterfly chiffon dress back

I realised the cowl drape will only work if the dress neck is narrow enough at the back.

Raspberry Ripple cowl

Finally I was confident and ready to cut the last piece of raspberry ripple satin I had printed. Really pleased with the result, although there are still a few details that need resolving. The neck has stretched too wide at the back, where I've machine stitched it - perhaps some elastic here would be a solution. Although a bit of a shame to add any complexity to such a simple pattern. And the hem line needs to flow better where the two different fabrics join.

Raspberry Ripple cowl neckRaspberry Ripple cowl neck dress frontRaspberry Ripple cowl neck dress - back

Interested to hear your thoughts on this shape and it's great to see your responses in the comments 😀

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