Kitty Designs a Steampunk Jacket

(In which Kitty photo-documents the process by which a sketch becomes a wearable garment, with many hiccups and downfalls along the way, and refers to herself in the third person)

We apologise for the lighting for the photos.  We really do make all this in the basement, and nasty fluorescent lighting is what we need to get enough brightness.

Step 1: Kitty makes a wish

Kitty wished she had a waist.  And hips, which you rather need if you want to have a waist.

Kitty is a rectangle somewhat over-burdened by a generous bosom.  Her hips and waist measure the same.  This is a major handicap for someone who designs Victorian-inspired clothes (the hips, not the bosom).  Lots of people have this problem, or at least also lack the requisite small-waist-and-smoothly-curved-hip thing a Victorian/Steampunk lady is supposed to possess.

She therefore wanted to come up with a garment that would create that lovely wasp-waisted, curvaceous Streampunk silhouette on ANY figure, by force if necessary.  She made a drawing of what she thought would be a good shape, rejected it, and made a few more drawings and corrections.

Step 2: Kitty makes a muslin

Meet Amelia, Kitty’s friend on a stand.  Obviously, Amelia is not Kitty’s body double.  Amelia’s bust is twelve inches larger than her waist, and she has a completely unrealistically tapered rib cage and no lumps, bumps, or fluff anywhere.  But Kitty will drape her new design on Amelia for several reasons: a) Kitty lives in the middle of nowhere with a donkey and senior citizens as neighbours and b) Amelia doesn’t complain when Kitty sticks here full of pins.

You might think that a design fitted on Amelia might just not work on a normal human body, and that’s a valid concern, which is why the first few events where Felix & Kitty take a new item, you get the drastically reduced prototype pricing – it’s how we test new ideas on lots of different body types.

But Kitty has learned over the years that with clever underpinnings and hidden engineering, she can create some really amazing visual illusions.  Her purpose with this jacket in progress is to make YOU look like you have Amelia’s proportions, whether you’re a flat-chested size 0 or a Rubenesque 28.  This is just the test pattern, though, so it looks sort of raggedy and suspiciously flopsy.  But Kitty is just checking basic girth and length and the proportions of detail.

Step 3: Fitting the Muslin

The test pattern was too big on Amelia’s waist, which is pretty normal.  It’s also too wide on her shoulders, which isn’t.  Kitty nips and tucks the muslin until it more or less fits.  She fiddles with the collar until the shape and size seems harmonious.

She also decides she needs to add loops or rings in the back later to make the waist size adjustable, so you could wear this by itself or over a corset (which could reduce your waist by up to 8 or so inches). She marks where they will go, but you won’t see them until the actual jacket is being assembled.

Step 4: Making the First Version

We’ll be using this electric-blue material with black flocking for the body of the jacket, and black satin for the collar.  The collar will be lined with something with enough stiffness so it shouldn’t require interfacing.  Kitty generally hisses at interfacing, unless it can’t be avoided (not that there’s anything wring with interfacing; she’s just lazy).

This is where Kitty tries to figure out which bits need lining, whether it’s the whole garment, or just the front, or something in between.  She tries lining only the center front panel and part of the center back for the first iteration

Step 5: A Sleeve Innovation

The sleeves on jackets always seem to short or too long.  Kitty tried to get around this in the hooded jackets from last season by making the sleeve hems pointed, but she has a different idea this time – maybe make them actually adjustable!  The same idea from the adjustable-length Victorian skirts should work here.

 

Look! Adjustable-length sleeves!

Step 6: Closures

Hmm.  Buttons, buckles, clasps, ties…. Which goes best with the design?  Kitty decides clasps would be too medieval and ties too fussy for the streamlined Victorian lines of this jacket.  She chooses buttonholes for this version, because buckles would mean Felix has to cut and rivet the leather strapping for them, and Kitty doesn’t want to pry him away from the hunk of plywood he’s hewing in the shop (he’s making fabric storage shelving).

Silver buttons would go best with the electric blue.

Step 7: Amelia gets a New Jacket

Finally, the jacket is finished!  Actually, it looks pretty darn good for the first version.  Quite often, at this stage, Kitty wads up the newborn item and hurls it into a corner and spends the next ten minutes banging her head against her cutting table.  But this time, she is cautiously pleased at what she sees.

Look at the back waist adjustment detail.  It needed to be pulled in a bit, because, as mentioned before, Amelia has an inhumanly small waist in proportion to the rest of her.

Step 8: Corrections

No, we won’t walk you through every last correction that needs to get made before Kitty decides this pattern is ready for mass production (don’t you love that?  Saying “mass production” for stuff turned out by one woman?).

But Kitty wants to make some changes for sure.  First, the partial lining will have to go.  Even though it will mean more time and materials and therefore a higher final price for you, she thinks a full lining is the way to go for this particular design.

The lining will hide the infrastructure that will cinch in your waist and support the beautiful flare of the skirt of the jacket, thus creating that perfect hourglass for all shapes and sizes.  Kitty is also determined to add a pocket this time, and in order not to spoil the lines, it will have to be attached to the lining.

Other than that, it’s just going to be cleaning up little issues that come up with later versions, and with different fabrics.  Kitty will also be making patterns for larger cup sizes for each dress size.  If all goes well, we’ll have this jacket ready at our next event.

Hope you enjoyed your inside look into our design process!

Next time, the TARDIS corset…

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