Make it: Sew an Alexander McQueen Inspired Dress
Here is how I made my own version of an Alexander McQueen dress. The Fair Isle dress (pictured below) instantly attracted my attention whilst I was browsing Selfridges See It: Inspiration from Alexander McQueen, Balmain and Givenchy. I thought it suited my style perfectly but as I could never afford to buy it, I decided to make it myself.
I had no idea where to find the pattern for the dress I envisioned, so I decided to make it up myself. I wanted to create a close fitting dress with bishop sleeves and a flounce Design It: An Alexander McQueen Inspired Dress.
What you need:
- 2 m of fabric – I used a royal blue heather grey ethnic stripe hacci sweater from Girl Charlee ( http://www.girlcharlee.co.uk/ )
- 0.8 m of contrasting ribbing for the neckline and cuffs – I used royal blue Tula smooth ribbing from https://www.myfabrics.co.uk/
- Matching thread
- Ballpoint needles
- Tracing paper, french rule and ruler to make the pattern
- A cheap jersey fabric should you want to make a toile.
How to make the pattern
My first task for this project was to make the pattern. The starting point was to draft a dartless/knit sloper. Fortunately, I had this already as I made one when sewing my Balmain inspired dress Make it: Sew a Balmain Inspired Knit Dress. However, if you need to make one yourself then you could follow either of these blog posts.
For drawing your own pattern block from scratch: http://en.inthemoodforcouture.com/the-basic-pattern-for-a-stretch-bodice/
To convert a woven dress pattern to a dartless block: http://www.ikatbag.com/2013/05/dartless-sloper-version-22.html
Adapting the sloper:
The first amendment I made to my sloper was to draw the neckline. I used a French rule to sketch a curve from the shoulder to the centre fold. You can make this as deep or as shallow as you like. Just be aware that this is not the finished neckline depth as you will be adding ribbing which will be sewn on with a 1.5cm SA and will be 3 cm deep.
I chose to finish the straight portion of the dress just below my bum. Adding the flounce would take the final length to just above the knee.
I then drafted the pattern piece for the flounce. Draw a rectangle that is half the width of the hem of the dress by the length that you wish the peplum to be (be sure to include SA). To give the flounce a bit more of a natural shape when it hangs I made the top of the rectangle a bit shorter than the bottom so it tapers.
Next I turned my attention to the neckline ribbing. Measure the length of the neckline of the dress, then subtract 15% of that measurement (or multiply neckline length by 0.85) . This degree of stretch is required to make sure the ribbing sits flat and doesn’t gape. I wanted the final width to be 3 cm, so the width of the pattern piece was twice that plus 3 cm for the SA. See more at How to Finish a Neckline with a Neckband
For the ribbed cuffs, measure the width of your arm where you want the sleeve to sit. Draw a rectangle where the length is the width of your arm + 3 cm for the SA. I wanted the final width to be 3 cm, so the width of the pattern piece was twice that plus 3 cm for the SA.
Here is a tutorial on how to draft your own bishop sleeves: How to draft and sew a bishop sleeve
As usual I made myself a toile with cheap jersey fabric. Ultimately, I was glad that I did as there were quite a few amendments required. The dress was a bit too tight so I had to add a couple of cm to the tummy and hips. On the other hand, it was a bit too loose around the armholes so I needed to take off a cm there. I added 5 cm to the length of the dress. Additionally, I had a lot of fabric gathering up at the back so I needed to perform a sway back adjustment. I found this tutorial particularly useful https://patternscissorscloth.com/2010/12/05/sway-back-alterations-my-analysis/ .
After making the adjustments to the pattern I thought it would be wise to make a new toile to double check the fit. At this stage I practiced attaching the neckline ribbing. I found that it was a bit floppy and didn’t sit flat, therefore, I needed to take 1.5″ from the length.
Cutting the fabric:
Cut the following fabric pieces:
- 1 x dress front on the fold
- 1 x dress back on the fold
- 2 x sleeves
- 2 x flounce on the fold
- 1 x neckline ribbing
- 2 x cuff ribbing
As the fabric had a bold and distinct stripped pattern it was necessary to try and pattern match. I wanted the different stripes to match up down the side seam.Therefore I took my time when laying out the pattern pieces on the fabric.
Sewing the dress
As I was working with a stretch fabric I sewed with a ball point needle and a walking foot. I used the straight stretch stitch. For more advice on how to sew sweater knits see How to Sew with Sweater Knits.
Sew using a 1.5 cm SA.
1 – Pin the front of the dress to the back at the shoulders (RST) and sew. As I was using a sweater knit I decided to stabilise this seam using clear elastic, see How to Sew with Sweater Knits for more information.
2 – Pin the front of the dress to the back at the side seams (RST) and sew. I took my time during this step as I wanted to match the stripes.
3 – At this stage I marked the width of each flounce fabric piece into quarters. I also marked the hem of the front and the back of the dress into quarters. This will help you to evenly distribute the gathers of the flounce when sewing it to the dress. I just used a water soluble marker but you could also cut little notches.
4 – Pin the two flounce fabric pieces RST along the side seams and sew.
5 – Gather the flounce fabric. I have seen different ways to do this with knits for example by sewing zig-zag stitches over floss and then pulling the floss. However, I have never really had any problems gathering knits as I would woven fabrics, i.e. by sewing 2 parallel rows of straight stitches. Use a long stitch length and a low tension. Gather your fabric by pulling at the loose ends.
6- Pin the flounce to the skirt RST. Match up the side seams. To make sure the gathers are distributed evenly match the notches that you marked as part of step 3.
7 – Attach the ribbing to the neckline. Read more on how to do this at How to Finish a Neckline with a Neckband
8- Sew the bishop sleeve. Have a look at my tutorial for more guidance: How to draft and sew a bishop sleeve
9 – Insert the sleeve. Sew a parallel row of gathering stitches along the top of each sleeve. Sew one row 0.5 cm and one row 1 cm from the edge of the fabric. Use the gathering stitches to fit the sleeve into the armhole RST. Pin in place. Make sure the underarm seam matches up with the side seam. Try to keep the gathering even, you do not want areas of fullness. Sew.
10 – Hem the flounce. I did this by folding the fabric under twice by 2 cm.
Here is my finished Alexander McQueen dress and I absolutely love it. I love the colour and pattern of the fabric, the flounce in the skirt and the shape of the sleeves. I am so pleased how it turned out considering I made the pattern myself! It fits perfectly too!
I have also done a price comparison of how much the Alexander McQueen dress cost vs how much it cost for me to make my version.
- The Alexander McQueen dress from Net-a-Porter cost to £1,575.
- My dress came to £28.93. Which included the cost of the fabric, ribbing and thread.
What a bargain!!!
Come back next sewing project is a Givenchy inspired rugby dress