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Originally published at RavenDreams - Confessions. You can comment here or there.

As you will have guessed from my many other rants articles, I am passionate about redesigning shapewear to fit real needs not thought of by men. Like:

  • How do you get in and out of it when you need to pee?
  • The same goes for inconvenient times of the month.
  • How it fastens and where. Can you reach the closures? Are they in a comfortable location or does it shove a load of hooks in the most ridiculous of places?
  • Does it sit smoothly under your clothes and not roll down, ride up?
  • How to make this sexy – because currently it is a choice between unsexy sausage tubes which totally ruins the illusion that this is the real you.

I have been playing with the concept of playsuits and body shapewear for a while. I started out with soft supportive cups in the Kate line of babydolls and progressed with redesigning knickers with the Jane panties. So part way there!

I have always felt that the best way to learn good design was to look at bad design. Hooboy! Not currently at a loss for choice with the offerings in the general market! Ok. So keeping in mind the above list, I sat down and looked at the engineering stresses of conventional shapewear and asked what part of these contraptions were necessary and which were psychological.

Shapewear is there to give you a smoother profile, take out all the lumps and bumps. In some aspects slim waist and flatten abdomen. Some also lift and shape your bum. The lovely Matilda above shows how I started with the most problem areas. I was looking at how to use the grain of fabrics and cut in the first image to flatten, in the second to lift the bum and flatten the upper back and in the final image sooth the hips to create a waist and support the bust. What I noticed was that unless you are intentionally cinching the waist, any excess material in the back and you get uncomfortable bunching and worse it makes whatever you are wearing look really amateurishly made and cheap (but not in a good way). This is one of the main reason to avoid dresses with zippers down the back.

The next stage was to drape. But Matilda is a cold herd hearted woman with no softness in her and is unforgiving. Off to the phone tree to friends and clients who volunteer as fitting models. They are a courageous group of women who will happily (or with a little grumbling) will stand in weird positions near naked in my workroom gossiping while I stick pins in them. The result of that first attempt was a powermesh playsuit called the Elizabet (after the Countess of Bathroy because of the deep red colour chosen. Almost decided to do the photo shoot in the bath…;) The fit is lovely, but it is a playsuit as opposed to shapewear.

The Elizabet

With what I had learned from the Elizabet, I began to draft what I hoped would be something you could wear under a business suit – The Melanie, for the working girl in all of us.

The basis for any pattern when working with stretch materials is the fabric choice. So long before I even started drawing I had been trawling the world for excellent lycra and elasticine based Chantilly and levers lace in black. It had to stretch, be strong and durable and gorgeous. Lace on its own isn’t strong enough to shape your body and and be uncomfortable having a pattern imprinted on your skin! So mounting the lace onto a super soft, super strong powermesh is an ideal solution.

For this iteration a lot of consideration and experimentation went into the details. I wanted it to be sexy, but more than that I want to be able to wear it under a dress OR a pair of trousers and not have to get undressed whenever I needed the loo. Traditional bodies will have hooks or spans in the centre of the crotch.

WHY?!!!!! Who the hell ever thought that would be a good idea?!! The gymnastics to grab both ends alone are just unbelievable! And then put it WHERE?

Again, taking a page from Victorian lingerie, my thought was to create an overlapping open gusset to provide modesty and comfort. The back sections of the pantie  hook together in the centre providing lift and smoothing the hips. To go to the loo, simply unhook the back and open the gusset. The added benefit is the ability to take this from the office to playsuit… not necessarily changing location.



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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Yes, I did finish the piece in the time limit. No, I haven’t posted until now… Life got in the way.

overt french knickers front
overt french knickers back

pj top front
pj top back


The Pros

Extraordinarily comfortable! Doesn’t get tangled when  constantly toss and turn in my sleep. It is pretty, sexy and sexy. Did I say sexy? And yet, as long as I didn’t turn around, I would be happy to answer the door in them. Very modest from the front ;) The fabric is the right kind of weight and texture. I upgraded the lace for something softer tot the touch and classier to the look and more robust to wash.

The Cons

Designing a really posh hospital gown… It’s not exactly warm.

What will I do differently?

For the next version I want to add some of the ideas that can be found in this gold lame/silk evening dress from the 1920′s.

1920s gold lame evening dress via Stockholms Auktionsverk


The sleeves were too long and a bit too voluminous so I nee to take them in. I don’t like the hospital-ness of the back but do like the openness so I will look to angle the back towards the front and not have a straight drop. It definitely needs MORE LACE! At the neck, at the sides – I want to emphasise the angles ala Deco. Also not entirely entranced with the waistband on the knickers so that will need to be refined.

I will be using a ballet pink silk satin and ivory lace for the next one! So stay tuned!


Love, Abi

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Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

Ok onto pattern cutting.

So I am using non-stretch fabric in the main bodies of both the top and knickers. This means I have to think about ease. What is ease? Ease is the space between you and your clothes that allows for “ease of movement”.  When you move your clothes to pull, cut, bind or rip (when you bend over…). Mostly in lingerie you work with negative ease – stretch fabric needs to be stretched to fit and this requires a lot of Maths! So I will recheck a standard UK20 measurements and add 4 inches/6cm tothe overall meaurements as waist, hip and bust. I will also add a couple of inches to crotch and the rise.

first draft parrternsThese are my first drafts. They will change at each stage. When I cut out the draft pieces I will redraw the shapes with my scissors. When I cut out the fabric I will redraw. When I sew I’ll redraw with the sewing machine. Changes will be made along the way and when I am finished those changes will be transferred to the original drafts and then redrawn again. This is a process and being flexible is key.

At some point when cutting out the French knickers I decided to make them ouvert.

And here’s my first fabric choices from stock fabrics:

stock fabrics

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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Ok – so life has been overly busy  and in the tradition of having a gazillion projects half finished… Great design comes from necessity.

The heat is driving me potty and I need sexysexy pajamas that are comfy in this heat!

Pet peeves:

  • I hate bunching around my legs
  • I turn over a lot and hate non-flexible straps that then cut off the circulation in my arms
  • …also get twisted around my body so that I have to stand up to re-sort everything

Problem solving:

So French knicker shorts sorts the bunching problem. On open backed T-shirt design will hopefully stop the twisting and strap problem. The brevity and looseness of both will help with the heat.

Now how to make it sexy? A very light weight black satin with side lace see though detailing…

Here’s my quick sketch

Quick sketch for pjs

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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Still battling the, “its a lot of money for what it is…” notion, I thought I would use the concept of the Dress Diary to show you the design process from research and conception to finished product. Along the way there will be opportunities to help me make choices and influence the final design.

What is a Dress Diary? Its a series of blog articles most often written by amateur tailors and costumers (some times professionals but not very often because the fashion industry is so secretive) to show other amateur costumers their experiments, ask advice and to teach others about their techniques. Here is an example of a completed diary by a truly inspirational seamstress and innovator: Mode Historique – Striped Anglaise Diary.  While the fashion industry hides away it’s designs until revealing them with great publicity at a catwalk show – the world of media is changing. What better way to show you the quality and care that goes into every garment than by taking you along for the ride?


I began researching designs for baby dolls and nighties about 18 months ago (Wow! that long ago? Yep. Boundary disputes can be very distracting. But that’s another story…). I looking through the collections at The Metropolitan Museum of Art website. I get my best inspiration from history and then I like to put my own spin and modern tailoring techniques onto the redesigns for a modernly retro feel.

I found this charming Amazonian baby doll and wrap by Iris made in 1964 and from the collection of Mrs. Sylvia Pedlar. I fell in love immediately with this sexy peekaboo number. If you look at the image of the back, it ties like a halter but at one time I believe the straps were sewn more conventionally into the back. That kind of long, non-adjustable strap would have meant that it would have been very difficult to keep the straps from slipping off the shoulders – hence the change to tying it at the neck. I also liked the combinations of fabric finishes with plain weave silk, satin and georgette.

When starting to sketch, I had to keep in mind a plus size figure’s needs. The bows on the origional would look unbalanced, making almost a clowninsh feature of one breast. I wanted a softer, more alluring feel with a Grecian gathering at the shoulders. I wanted to maintain the very naughty side opening matching slits in both the nightie and the wrap. At first I thought to keep it very simple and use a seethrough georgette for the main part of the nightie have a wide strip of satin ribbon highlighting the nightie’s side slit opening and make the wrap fully in a matching satin. As I began to work out modesty issues of exposing one nipple to the world I began to envision different laces; Chantilly eyelash edged, 3D layered lace, guipure… Comments about my current robe/wrap selections is that the women who wear them don’t just wear them in the bedroom but out on the town as well. The impact there in fabric choices becomes more flexible with satins, brocades and full fabric laces to make it a transitional wardrobe choice.

Remember, I began with these sketches over a year ago and the images I were using as inspirational are free in the interwebs. In the meantime, others found the same inspiration. Here’s LaPerla’s version in white georgette and pink satin edging and white lace details. Made from 100% silk and retailing at £435.00.

Its a sexy little one piece – so no separate wrap. As a one piece it uses less fabric which makes it easier and more cost effective to mass manufacture. Its a cleverly thought homage to the original which solves the halter vs back strap issues with the integrated wrap shoulder and a spaghetti strap on the other side.

So this was the first part of the Dress Diary. In the next part I will dive head first into fabrics and begin to create the toille (draped pattern).


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