Garment Support and Structure - Introduction
With your completed garment in hand, you are now well on your way to launching your designs and seeing your unique creations on a live model in no time. One thing that is important to consider at this stage is the garment support and structure.
Thus far, you have created a shell, with fabric that usually hangs downwards depending on the thickness, weight, and stretch. However, if you want to create a structured look that supports and aligns to the body’s shape, there are a few things you need to add.
Adding structure to a garment is one of the more challenging aspects of garment construction. One of the best ways to learn this technique is to look to history.
The History of Supported and Structured Garments
Tailors and dressmakers have been working hard throughout history to achieve a particular body shape.
Since humans began wearing clothing, structured and supportive garments have been utilised and modified.
Initially, these were used for shelter and protection, but over time, interest in formal garments grew to accentuate certain parts of the body.
Near the end of the 19th century, fashion evolved and women started wearing tight corsets and abandoned the heavily draped bustle.
It was during this time that the Edwardian corset was introduced and women were characterised with an s-bend figure and a larger bosom.
The signature Edwardian silhouette was changed by one Paul Poiret, who was the first designer to build a fashion empire.
Poiret replaced the strong boned corset with a softer version and created empire lines.
Later in the 1930s, women preferred softly sculpted clothing with more feminine contours, which is something that was heavily influenced by Hollywood films.
Another change that happened in that year is the introduction of corseted crinolines and modified bustles, which put royal dressmaker Norman Hartnell on the map.
By the 1970s, the corset was only used in bras or underskirts for evening wear, and the same holds true today. However, there are several different ways in which you can support a garment.
There are a wide variety of supportive materials that you can use when preparing to add shape to your garments.
The most commonly used technique is boning, which supports underskirts and corsetry.
You can also create thickness and add bulk to a garment through a process known as wadding. This technique adds an extra layer of fabric to the apparel.
You can also add different netting or weights under a garment to add lift or bulk. An example of this might be a wedding dress with layers of tulle. Another way to add shape and volume, while emphasising parts of the body, is through a process called padding. This technique adds definition to a garment and can be used to create insulation and structure.
Net is a transparent, open mesh fabric and is one of the oldest materials around.
You can find netting in a variety of man-made and natural fibres, textures, and colours including silk, rayon, polyester, and nylon.
There are also finer versions of netting, which feature a hexagon pattern, and are called tulle.
Netting is used primarily for support, but you can also use it to make an underskirt or a petticoat.
The amount of net applied to a garment depends on the volume that you want to add. When working with netting, keep in mind that the fabric has no grain line so that it will have more give in the width and length.
If you are looking to emphasise parts of the body and add support and shape, you can apply a padding technique.
Padding is also ideal for creating hemlines, shape, and to add weight.
The process involves creating a tunnel, which is then stuffed with polyester fleece, lamb’s wool, ammo wool, or cotton batting.
Shoulder pads are added to accentuate the shoulder area and were very popular in the eighties. Although they are less popular now, they are still used in some garments to create a smooth appearance over the collarbone and shoulder.
Pads are added between the garment fabric and the lining, or you can add covered pads, which can be used inside the clothing and on the shoulder. There are also pads available for raglan sleeves, which have a much smoother appearance, and an oval shape.
If you would like to add body or stability to certain areas of your garment, you can interline/fuse at certain parts of the fabric.
There are some critical points of a garment that sometimes need reinforcement. For example, a waistband on a skirt needs to be strong to withhold the movement experienced around this area.
Another example includes cuffs, collars, buttons, and buttonholes, which also need to stand up and look the same after several washings. Fusing will ensure that these key points will remain intact.
Keep the following points in mind when you are fusing/interlining:
The heat of your fusing machine or iron needs to be compatible with the adhesive of the interlining and the fabric.
If the pressure is too low, the fusing might not attach.
The time has to be set correctly. If too little time is set, the adhesive might not melt to the fabric.
Non-fusible, sewn in interlining achieves similar effects to the fusible variety, but should be interlaced with organza or muslin.
A corset is a close-fitting bodice that is stiffened with boning and is made to shape the body in a fashionable silhouette.
Corsets have been used in the fashion industry since the 17th century, but have become more common in the 19th century and have been replaced with the word ‘corps’.
In this century, corsets are used to control and shape the bust, waist, and hips.
The thick material inside of the corset is known as boning and was originally made of whalebone.
Today, corsets are constructed from plastic like Ridgeline O or metal. Metal boning requires a special casing process and plastic boning can be stitched onto the foundation.
Boning can be placed from the hip to the waist and around the bust, or it can be stitched on the wrong side of the outer fabric to create a design effect.
The placement of boning on a corset depends on the style and function of the garment you are creating.
Adding Volume to a Garment
There are several different ways to add volume to a garment, which includes gathers, darts, drapes, and pleats.
You may want to add volume to your garments to create a larger silhouette or change the dimensions. Whatever your reasons, you can create volume using one of these techniques.
Adding volume with drapes
Different draping techniques can be employed to achieve a softer look with added volume.
A drape is simply added fabric with draping, or excess fabric falling from one or more anchor points.
One of the more popular drapes that works well in creating volume is the cowl drape, which works well on tops, skirts, and sleeves. You can also create irregular and uncontrolled drapes on a mannequin.
Adding volume with flare
A flared garment is usually fitted at one point, for example, the waist, and will gradually widen to another point in the garment like the skirt or hemline.
Flare is a loose swinging element that is not controlled through gathers or pleats.
You can use a simple slash and spread technique to add flare to your garment.
Adding volume with fabric
Selecting the right fabric for your garment is crucial, as it should be designed to come off the body shape.
If your garment achieves more volume through pleats or gathers, then more fabric needs to be added.
Alternatively, if you can add volume with your cut and construction, then selecting fabric for its texture, density, and weight is more important.
Finishes, Buttons and Trimmings
Your garment is well on its way to completion, and you can now prepare yourself for the production phases.
Of course, if you prefer you can enter custom fashion design, in which case, you would work one-on-one with clients.
Regardless of your career choice, you should be familiar with each phase so that every option is available to you.
You now have a completed garment with support and structure, which you designed from a sketch. Now you need to apply the finishing touches that will take your apparel to the next level.
As a designer, you can always trademark your own finishing touches, or you can use what is standard in the industry. One example is Levi’s who uses back pocket stitching as a signature.
If you do choose to stick with the standard finishes, buttons, and trims, here are some of the most common finishing touches you might want to apply.
You can add lining to a garment for several reasons.
Linings can add to the overall design, retain warmth, and help hide any internal construction.
You can work lining into your whole garment or use a partial lining.
Usually, coats, jackets, trousers, and skirts are lined.
A facing is typically added to the armholes and necklines of sleeveless garments to finish any raw edges on the garment.
A fastening is a functional item that you will need to add to most of your garments because it will keep your garment closed. If you prefer, you can keep them hidden or make them a focal point.
There are several types of fastenings, which include zippers, hook and eye enclosures, magnets, buttons, and Velcro.
Finding a Clothing Manufacturer for Your Line
As a budding fashion entrepreneur, it is probably both exciting and overwhelming to have a completed garment in hand.
Many times, designers are unsure where to go next after completing their design, but it is important not to reach a stalemate during the production process.
If you want to thrive in the fashion industry, it is important to focus on getting your designs through the production process and to do that, you need to find a clothing manufacturer.
Whether you are hand making custom designs or starting an entire line of accessories, selecting the right factory can make or break you in this business.
Up until this point, your mind has been occupied with mood boards, designs, colours, and fabrics.
However, now is the time when you need to switch gears and put your business hat on, which means that you have to think logistically.
If you want to nail your production process down, there are a few tips that will help you find the right factory for you:
Work out beforehand what you want out of a factory- Compile a checklist of what you expect out of your manufacturer. For example, would you like your manufacturer to create a pattern, source materials, and assemble a garment using your sketch as a guide? If so, then you should select a manufacturer that specialises in cut-measure-trim garments.
Do thorough research – Before committing to any manufacturer, make sure you shop around and do your research. Ask other designers, shop around, search the internet.
You can also visit manufacturing websites, which allow you to search by location, keyword, and category.
Visit the factories first– After you have found a few promising factories and narrowed down the list, the next step is to visit the locations. This is a vital step that you should not skip. When you visit the manufacturer in person, you will get a better idea of how they operate. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a visit, almost all designers request a tour of the facility.