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Miniature scale garments for the haute couture collection

Designers often work in small scale when designing garments that require expensive fabrics or a lot of fabric. Working in full scale can be daunting and more complex and requires meticulous painstaking precision throughout the construction process. Dior’s most recent collection was crafted in small scale by hand on the garment stand by accomplished designer pattern cutters.

For the Dior Autumn-Winter 2020-2021, Haute Couture collection Marie Grazia unveiled the exquisite scaled-down fairy-tale fantasy miniature version of the 37-piece collection to fit a mannequin standing 55cm tall, approximately 1/3 scale as well as full-sized versions which showcased the craftsmanship of each ensemble.

The creation of miniature haute couture designs pays homage to Le Théâtre de la Mode exhibited in the mid-1940s with small-scale fashion mannequins by French couturiers that travelled between Europe and America. The detail and craftsmanship are truly amazing.

These ensembles are quarter scale miniature couture samples from 1940 and 50.

At college we were taught pattern cutting using full-size garment stands. After I graduated from college I continued at evening classes working on 1/2 and 3/4 scale garment stand. I made women’s and men's wear garments for my fashion portfolio.

After that, I became hooked on working in half-scale for teaching demonstrations, because any scale smaller than 1/2 is difficult to manoeuvre the fabric pieces under the sewing machine foot.

The half-scale is mainly used for educational purposes, it’s also great for getting practice with draping, proportions and predicting the behaviour of fabric before creating the garment/pattern in full-size. My students found using a half-scale which is equivalent to a standard size 12 stand less intimidating when first starting out in pattern cutting.

Draping a simple or complex design in full scale can take up yards of fabric, by scaling down to half-scale this reduces the amount of fabric and time it takes to drape your 3D design. Very useful if you’re working to a deadline.

Madeleine Vionnet who became one of the leading designers in Paris between 1919-1939 draped simple styles in full size using chiffon, silk or Moroccan on life-size models and small scale on miniature dolls. I'm still fascinated by her craftsmanship today

Not only is a half-scale garment stand ideal for saving on fabric, time and budget it’s also ideal when you’ve got limited workspace. The scaled stands vary in price with each company; some have the vertical guidelines incorporated in the cover, detachable arms, head, pin-able with a wooden or metal stand.

When exploring your options for a scaled or full-size garment stand look at all the options available i.e. half-scale with the vertical guidelines incorporated in the cover that way all you need to do is use sticky styling tape or cotton stay tape to mark on the horizontal line for the bust and hipline. You can also use the styling tape to mark out your style lines on the garment stand once you get going with fashion draping.

A metal-based stand is usually heavy and will keep the stand firm to a certain extent, a wooden based stand is much lighter and tends to move around when you’re draping. I like to use an F-clamp to attach the flat base of the stand to my pattern cutting table on the edge. That way I have greater control to drape freely with both hands.

Garment stands are essential for draping and pattern cutting especially after you’ve made a toile or garment. If your purchasing a garment stand buy a slightly smaller size stand and make a padded torso shell to the next size up. Place the new torso on top of the stand and start draping.

Your garment stand purchase is a good investment, cover them after use. They will eventually get worn and need recovering which I have done in the past. If you have a garment stand that’s worn Kenneth & Lindsell/K&L offer a service to recondition your stand.

One of my fashion students final collection, where I made all the patterns and garments first in half scale then in full-size.

My recovered garment stand and draping with calico and cotton stay tape.

What size garment stand do you work on? Tell us in the comments...

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