Mary Quant Minidress: The Toile

Project 4, part 2 – Second Wave Feminism and Testing Fit (Part 1 here)

Who needs pattern weights when you have Wonder Clips? (Me, maybe eventually…but for now the clips work great!)

Welcome back to the Mary Quant Minidress project! After slightly altering and cutting out the patterns, it was time to make my toile and find out if the alterations were enough or if I would need to make further changes for a good fit. My muslin was on the narrow side, so I cut out the front and back on the fold rather than mirroring the pieces side by side.

It’s a good thing I have a long sewing table, haha!

Even though it’s only cheap unbleached cotton, I was still kind of nervous cutting into it! I’m really glad I tested it out first rather than cutting into my Hawaiian fabric so that I could properly see where to cut on the patterns and how everything should lie. I didn’t feel like I needed to test out the facings or belt, so I only cut the front and back of the dress to determine fit.

Some people use basting stitches to hold toiles together, but this dress is so simple I decided to just pin it.

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, since this is quite a simple pattern, but…it looks like a real dress! 😀 I did pin the bust darts as well as the top and sides since I wanted to see if I needed to adjust any fit there as well. So here is the initial fit from the front:

Sorry about the weird headless photo…it was easier to take these in the mirror than set up the tripod or ask my husband for assistance!

…and from the side:

Is having a camera head better or worse than having a timehead?

Brilliant! I prefer my waist to be more defined, but that will be accomplished with the waist belt that’s part of the pattern. It’s better to use that in this case than to take the waist in further since this one-piece dress has to slip on over my shoulders which are broad compared to my hips and waist.

One of the reason I chose a 1960s pattern to use for this fabric is the way that fashion and feminism intersected in that era. Obviously, I love fashion and style, and I am acutely grateful to the women of that era for the improved sexual and social condition that women enjoy today. (I would like to note that I use “women” to include any person who identifies as such, regardless of assigned gender at birth or physical characteristics. And I know there are still many advancements to be made…but things are a lot better than they were 60 years ago!) Sexuality and women’s reproductive rights were at the center of this revolution, and became expressed in the daring and playful fashions of the time. Jenny Lister, who curated a Mary Quant retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum, says that Mary Quant “expressed the way in which women’s lives were parting from traditional stereotypes. Her clothes provided a language to express the empowerment of women at a time when words like sexism had barely been invented.” Quant was “…synonymous with some of the era-defining styles of the 60s – namely the miniskirt. Emerging alongside second-wave feminism, Quant revelled in rule-breaking fashion design and her higher-than-high hemlines are still very much associated with the sexual revolution and women’s liberation movement.” (Leah Harper, writing about the museum exhibition.)

Pictured: women’s liberation.

With that history in mind – plus the fact that I don’t care for the way knee-length dresses look on me – I made the decision to raise the hemline by about 4″ on the pattern. I will likely raise it by another 2-3″ on the final dress, but I had to consider the fact that the seam allowances may end up shifting it slightly upward as I sew the dress. It’s quite easy to just make the hem wider to raise the hemline when I get to that point, so my plan is to get the dress close to the finish line and then pin the hem at a few different heights to find the one that looks best. I’ll also have to do some tests while sitting, bending over, and walking, since I’m not a London go-go dancer! 😀

Cutting 4″ off the bottom of each pattern piece.

Once I cut down the pattern pieces, I was ready to go! So join me next time I as I dive into cutting out all the final fabric pieces, and start sewing them together!

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6 thoughts on “Mary Quant Minidress: The Toile

  1. Your precision and care will lead to a dress that will work for you. It will be fun to see what you choose for a final hemline.


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