I'm a sewing enthusiast in Beacon, New York, with a love of all things retro. This site is all about tutorials, tips, inspiration, and lots of spirited discussion about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. My first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is now out from STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books! Also look for my line "Patterns by Gertie" from Butterick.
So, as you probably gathered from my post yesterday, I am quite pleased with the results of my first draping project. However, there were a couple, ahem, bumps in the road on the way to success. Can you spot the problems in the above picture? Because, seriously, they're about to poke your eyes out.
Please allow me to share the entire story.
French darts, as you may know, are diagonal darts side seam darts that start a couple inches above the waist and end near the apex of the bust. (Update: as some commenters have pointed out, my darts probably end too close to my apex, causing part of the problem. You can also shorten yours to a couple inches away if you're busty.) I chose them for this dress because they're very 50s, and they provided an interesting challenge as a beginning draper. Well, I had the darndest time trying to get the tip of the dart - at the apex of the bust - to lay smooth. My teacher Sharon eventually suggested that I do two French darts, one on top of each other to divide the dart excess. Did I listen, readers? Well, I did at first. But then when I was sewing the muslin up, I decided to go with just one dart. I tested it, and it seemed to be a-okay.
Fast forward to last Friday evening. I finished sewing the dress, pressed it neatly, and hung it up in anticipation to wearing it on a date with Jeff on Saturday. We had made plans to go to the delicious, fancy new burger joint in the neighborhood, and I thought I would kill two birds with one stone by wearing my new dress and asking Jeff to photograph me in it on the way out to dinner. Sounds like a plan, right?
Well. I got all dolled up, and we headed outside, where Jeff prepared to take a few shots of me. But he paused ominously, stared at my chest, and got a distinctly confused expression on his face.
"What is it?" I asked.
Jeff paused once again, as though weighing his words carefully.
"What?!" I shrieked, sweetly.
"Well, it's your dress. It looks . . . a bit . . .um," he lowered his voice to a stage whisper," . . . nipple-y."
Oh the horror! I felt so exposed out on the street! Jeff took the above shot and showed it to me on the screen. My French darts were, indeed, decidedly nipple-y.
It is at this point that I must explain my state of mind on this particular day. You see, there were (how shall I put it delicately?) certain monthly hormonal challenges I was facing. I did the only rational thing: I burst into tears and ran back upstairs to change my dress. You see, I was afraid that I'd ruined the dress completely by using one French dart instead of two. I did not really regain my composure until I was mid-chow through the most fantastic burger ever and realized I could at least try to fix the situation with some serious steam pressing.
And then, later, the real solution hit me: I had pressed the darts down. But the best way to press a bulky dart like a French dart is to slash it, trim the seam allowances, and press it open. I took this one step further and pressed the apex of the dart flat over one side of my tailor's ham with a lot of steam.
Hallelujah, the nipple-y dart problem was fixed. Here's a test shot from the next morning. (Seriously, I had just rolled out of bed. Hence, the whole . . . look.) But no dart-nipples! Yay!
So, the moral of the story is thus: French darts can be tricky. Always slash and trim them, press the bejesus out of them on a ham, and take some test shots to gauge your bosom situation.
Go forth, dear friends. And may your French darts always behave.