Vietnamese Ao Dai robe top

This one is a straight replacement for an authentic Vietnamese Ao Dai robe that a friend gave me when it no longer fitted her.

The original is made of a silk-rayon mix and is absolutely heavenly to the touch. Originally I was a bit disappointed to learn that it wasn’t 100% silk. But then I learnt that rayon is not only more comfortable for hot humid weather, it may also be partly responsible for the superb softness of the Vietnamese jacquard, which none of the other Asian silks have. Sadly it’s impossible to find this variety of jacquard in the Western fabric shops. I would have just kept wearing this original, except the moths loved it as much as I did. And now it’s shredded in places.

The fabric I end up using I got by chance. It doesn’t have the same softness & drape, but is the closest I can get in the West.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1-2 high-rise Ginger Jeans 2018;

The Pattern

Block Used: Fitted Top Block

Design Changes Made

  • Change to raglan sleeve by loosely following the instruction in Designing Apparel Through The Flat Pattern. My personalised Block is too irregular to follow these standard drafting instructions to the T.
  • Disregard front waist dart
  • Marked side splits to end 1″ above waistline
  • For lengths & bodice hem widths, follow the rough measurements of the shifty original
  • For neck opening under-flap draw styleline on front neckline as guide & copy with side bust dart closed.
  • For mandarin collar, started with a rectangle the length of the jewel neckline circumference, then slashed & lapped the top edge to make it fit closer to Q my custom dressform’s neck.

Fabric & Notions Used

  • Fabric: Cotton/Rayon ? Jacquard from Minerva Crafts UK
  • Notions: Linen interfacing from the stash for madarin collar. So Sheer interfacing for neck opening binding/facing. 7-mm snaps x 10. Size-2 hook x 1.

Construction Notes

  • I mostly followed the original’s approach to seaming & hemming. So seams pressed open with overlock finishing. Double folded hand blind stitched hems.

The Verdict

Not bad. But the stiffer fabric does make it look more boxy. Next time I think I’ll start the side splits at the waistline instead to for a bit more shaping if I can’t get hold of a softer jacquard.

It’s not a top with many styling option, but oh the romance of the panels flapping in the wind – it’s a sensual pleasure I can’t resist. So there definitely will be a next time!

Nakkashi Euphoria 11042 anarkali & co

And now for a change of pace, let’s finally catch up with a project finished last year, but was waiting for the matching slim trousers which I just finished… This is the Indian anarkali tunic outfit kit I bought last year:

Nakkashi Euphoria 11042

fabric for Churidar trousers + part-stitched Anarkali tunic + RTW Dupatta shawl

1. Anarkali Tunic ⇒ Shirt Dress / Light Flared Coat ✔

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 Self-drafted slim pants + Nakkashi dupatta shawl 2 Self-drafted tent dress;


  • Loose weave Khadi shell fabric – this looks really similar to the raw silk gauze I used for Burda 2014-02-117 top (another one waiting to be blogged)
  • Poplin / Batiste lining


Originally I was going to leave this quite loose & robey as it vaguely reminds me of dreamy Pre-Rarobes. But Ms Practicality vetoed that idea. And I went back to something more like the original intended design. Ms Practicality also insisted that I make this tunic open front to maximise wearing opportunities. (Though in retrospect, the flared shape doesn’t really lend itself to being worn with front opened.)


  • Examining the marketing photo I saw that armhole bust darts were added to give the tunic a fitted silhouette. I followed suit & modified my Fitted Top Block to shift some of the bust shaping into a new armhole bust dart.
  • The bodice did not quite fit into the panels neatly. To minimize the number of vertical seams, I ended up removed the equivalent of one panel – front outer panel – at the side seam & kept the corresponding back outer panel for the underarm area – ie no proper side seams… kind of like in some tailored jackets.
  • Additional dart shaping (bust, waist, shoulder blade) were done at the existing panel seams with varied seam allowance widths.
  • For sleeves I used my more mobile Tunic Sleeve Block.
  • Hem were shorten for my less than modelesque stature (yielding scraps to squeeze out #2 Peplum Top below).


Ms OCD demanded that I redo the collar, chest appliqué, hem border, and lining “properly” the Western way. So…

  • Collar & front opening were properly interfaced.
  • Chest appliqué reapplied incorporating bust shaping.
  • Hem border reapplied after everything else was done (saving me a chunk to squeeze out #3 Bustier Top below).
  • Lining flipped to hide the seam allowance the Western way. (So far I find that the Asian garments seems to favour exposed seam allowances even when the garment is lined. Someone told me it’s to facilitate alteration in case one gains weight. It’s less pretty in side, but certainly quicker to let out or take in. I guess I better not grow sideway any further now that I’ve hidden all the seams!)
  • Hooks & thread bars were used for front closure to minimize visual disruption to the design whether worn open or closed.

Now can I just moan about hooks a bit? I thought all hooks are equal. Apparently not. I bought a bunch of Hemline hook & eye fasteners that you’d find in all the sewing shops here in the UK. Trusted brand right? Nope. Total fail. They won’t stay closed, because the bump at the base of the hook is too shallow to properly do its job of stopping the thread bar or eye from slipping off. Maybe if the garment has negative ease – eg in a bra band or bustier – then this won’t be a problem as the busting tension would stop the hook & bar/eye from moving about. But given the positive ease in my tunic, it’s wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. Actually the hooks I recycled from old Victoria Secrets bras for my choli blouses also have the same problem of wanting to come undone. I only properly understood the problem when I examined a couple of custom made choli blouses I ordered from India: These have hooks with prominent bumps & are properly secure once done up. Annoyingly online shops don’t show profile photos of hooks they sell, so it’s impossible to tell which brand has the secure hook design with a proper gate-keeper bump.

1a. Anarkali Tunic scraps ⇒ Peplum Top

I wish I had scraps bigged enough to make Burda 2014-03-118 Square Neck Peasant Top. I didn’t. So I tried draping the scraps on Q to see if there’s even enough to cover Q’s modesty. Thankfully I did. This peplum top design is the result. The front, peplum, & back for each (L/R) half is one continuous piece of the excess length panelled hem from the tunic. The bodice sides & straps are from the tunic’s two excess front outer panels (minus length used for the shirt dress front opening facing).

As the fabric is loose woven & seemingly delicate, I will need to line the top. The lining scraps are not big enough, so a batiste from the Stash will have to be pressed into service.

While the neck opening is big enough to slip over my head, I want the waist to remain trim, so some sort of opening must be incorporated to make it possible to put on/take off the top. Back overlap with buttons perhaps?

Now I just need to figure out the construction… one day some day!

1b. Anarkali Tunic scraps ⇒ Bustier Top

The scrap hem border from the tunic just barely goes around my torso. As the embellishment is so lovely, it seems a shame to throw it away. Taking inspiration from a Dolce & Gabbana editorial & a Alexander McQueen F/W 2008 designs, I think I will turn this into a bustier. To bridge the gap in girth I’m going for a contrasting deconstructed aesthetic of exposed zipper, braided elastic, or hook & eye tape. To maximize wearability, I may add sleeves & peplum – or maybe make this a separate top to be worn under the bustier. I have nothing as fancy as McQueen’s silk tulle, so instead I’m going to use a plentiful cheap gauze from the Stash (formerly window drapes). Haven’t quite work out the pattern yet let alone construction. So yet another project joining the long queue.

2. Churidar Trousers ⇒ Slim Pants

Since the fabric is a stiff Jacquard, the usual Asian instructions for a drapier Churidar Trousers won’t work. So as you already know I turned this into a Western style slim trousers, doubling as wearable muslin for my new Slim Pants / Trousers Block to statisfy Ms Two-Bird-One-Stone.

2a. Churidar Trousers scraps ⇒ TBD

There’s enough fabric for something else… Something I haven’t yet decided, but probably a dress or a-line skirt because this stiff fabrc with no give needs plenty of ventilation.

3. Dupatta Shawl ⇒ TBD

This was readymade. But the rose coloured fabric is rather scratchy. So I initially added a dual-tone chiffon lining. But then it doesn’t drape as well anymore. So off the lining comes.

I think I will have to make this into something I may wear more often. I have way too many dupatta shawls for my Western lifestyle!

Burda 2015-11-106C Sailor Trousers wannabe

Mixing up a little bit for the 2nd pair derived from my new Slim Pants Block… a flared version with higher waist and in a totally different type of fabric.

The Design Inspiration

This one was actually supposed to be a Burda alter-to-fit. But I gave up when it seemed like numerous non-standard adjustments would be needed. Plus the Burda version is designed for stretch woven and I’m using a bog standard woven suiting. And their sailor button front is an imposter bolstered by a side zip whereas I wanted to try out a functioning one. So my Block with Burda stylelines it is then.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 Self-drafted fitted T; 2 Zara blouse;

The Pattern

Block Used: Slim Pants/Trouser Block

Changes Made

  • Design: High-rise, F centred dart, B centred dart > princess seam, capri length, flared below knees, cuffed, sailor pants front flap (buttoned along princess seams – instead of Burda version’s faux front with side zip), no pocket, hem cuff.
  • Fitting: To accommodate lining bulk & my middle age spread, added ease by sewing a smaller SA instead of the 3/4″ SA added to the pattern for side seams & inseams (5/8″ inseams, 3/8″-5/8″ side seams).  This gave me approx 1-1/2″ extra ease at the waist tapering to 1/2″ extra ease at the bottom of the legs, almost 1/2″ extra crotch length.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • Facings were cut from lining except for the top front overlap. Lining pieces were cut from the same pattern as the shell, so there’s actually double layer of lining at the waist (facing + top of lining).
  • Interfaced waist facing & front overlaps. Extra interfacing for buttons & buttonholes.
  • Although the wool suiting doesn’t fray as much as the jacquard of the last pair, I still overlocked the pieces as soon as they were cut, including the lining which does fray a bit.
  • Stretched bias edges – inseams, leg side seams, back crotch fork. Much easier with the wool suiting than the jacquard of the last pair.
  • Because of the angles of my crotch points, it’s easier to sew the inseams first, then crotch seam. This does mean it’s not possible to fit the inseam as I sew (like suggested by Pants for Real People), though adjusting the fit at the side seam is still possible.
  • Sewed side seams & inseams with a smaller seam allowance instead fo 3/4″ added to the pattern. Originally tried even 5/8″ (1/2″ extra ease), but maybe because of the higher waistline, it felt a bit too tight when I fit as I sew. So I ended up with 3/8″ (1-1/2″ extra ease) at the waist. In retrospect this was overkill. I didn’t factor in that button closure has a bit more give than zipper closure. The pants ended up hanging lower than intended. I tried adding a hook at CF, but it doesn’t really help much. Since the problem didn’t manifest fully until everything’s pretty much done it’s now too much trouble to go in & alter the side seams. So this will have to be my post-Xmas-feasting pants!
  • Because the pants ended up hanging lower, I had to increase the height of the hem cuff to keep this capri length (just), and tweak the inseam & side seam to preserve the flare design (just). I ended up with 1-1/2″ extra ease at waist, tapering to nothing at knee, then widen back to same hem width as original design.
  • You can tell from all the wrinkles that Pressing is my least favourite part of sewing. Yeap, won’t be applying for a spot on the Great British Sewing Bee anytime soon. I mean can you just imagine Patrick Grant’s reaction to this pair? Shock horror. I do wonder though whether men’s trousers are easier to press than women’s, especially slim trousers given that women’s may have more curves than men’s. Mine definitely doesn’t lay flat.

The Verdict

Good thing I don’t really like the colour of this fabric. So no tears over the less than stellar fit.

But isn’t interesting (& maddening) how the same Block fits differently in different fabircs? A bit like Goldilock: Last pair was a bit too tight. This one a bit too loose. Hopefully the next one would be just right!

Nakkashi Euphoria 11042 slim trousers

Putting my new Slim Pants Block straight to work now. First up is Slim Capri in the pants fabric from the Nakkashi Euphoria 11042 Anarkali outfit I ordered from India a while ago.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1-2 Self-drafted Nakkashi 5036 choli top + Agnès b. Hommes shirt; 3 Burda 2016-08-125 stripe front tie T; 4 Self-drafted Nakkashi 11042 anarkali tunic & dupatta shawl;

The Design & Pattern

Design Inspiration:

You can’t see much under the tunic in the photo. So apart from a slim silhouette & capri length I had to make up the rest. I decided on fly front with button closure for a more yin-yan look. Would have added pockets and belt loop as well, but the fabric doesn’t have much give and frays badly. So I omitted this to keep the silhoutte slim and avoid tears during construction.

Block Used: Slim Pants/Trouser Block


Changes Made

  • Design: Mid-rise, F side dart, B 2 darts, capri length, Fly front, no pocket.
  • Fitting: To accommodate lining bulk & my middle age spread, added ease by sewing approx 1/2″ SA instead of the 3/4″ SA added to the pattern for side seams & inseams. This gave me approx 7/8″ extra ease at the waist tapering to no extra ease at the bottom of the legs, almost 1/2″ extra crotch length.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • Interfaced waistband, front fly extensions
  • The Jacquard & lining both fray badly, so had to overlock as soon as the pieces were cut.
  • Stretched bias edges – inseams, leg side seams, back crotch fork – as much as possible, which is not much in this fabric with no give.
  • Because of the angles of my crotch points, it’s easier to sew the inseams first, then crotch seam. This does mean it’s not possible to fit the inseam as I sew (like suggested by Pants for Real People).
  • Sewed side seams & inseams with 1/2″ seam allowance instead fo 3/4″ tapering back to 3/4″ at hem.

The Verdict

Not the most comfortable slim trousers thanks to the fabric. I reckon it’s synthetic. There’s also not much give. So despite being almost the same pattern as my Slim Pants Wearable Muslin 5 (apart from waistline), this pair feel more restrictive. Of course I would finish something a bit thicker & not so breathable just in time for a heat wave. I still have a fair bit of the fabric left. I think a skirt or dress with more ventilation may be a happier match.

On to the next pair!

Slim Pants/Trousers Block

I wish I could tell you that turning a 0-ease Pants Block into a Slim Pants Block is as simple as adding ease to the side seams & inseams. It was not. At least not for me. I did eventually get a block that I’m OK with. But it took many many muslins & I’ve lost count of the tweaks.

So no tutorial. Just some mug shots demonstrating the effect of key alterations I tried. You be the judge of what you would be happy with if you try to do the same. Keep in mind that variable natural lighting may have affected how the muslin looked in the mug shots. And of course the same alterations may have different effect on different body shapes. Hopefully you will get to your happy point more quickly than I did.

Since this is a long & tedious road, let’s start with the destination – then you can skip the journey if details send you to zzzz…..

Slim Pants Block (for non-stretch wovens)

the road from 0-ease Pants Block

Apology for not giving step-by-step rationale for why I tried certain tweaks. The road was too windy & the journey too long ago. Plus I’ve threw away the WIP patterns in a fit of tidying up. In general, I was trying to get rid of wrinkles and add enough wearing ease. I’ve listed all the steps I noted down. The one crossed out were tweaks abandoned, mostly because they didn’t seem to make any difference.

the prep before the journey

Comparing old RTWs & pants made so far…

  • Best fit seems to be the high street wide leg pants in drapy wool crepe. Torso & crotch was still quite fitted, but the legs were loose. There was hardly any puddling. Interestingly the back crotch fork area is stretched. Not sure if this was stretched during wears or if it was part of the design.
  • The designer fitted pants in stretch wool doesn’t fit so well. I got the usual draglines in the crotch & thigh area front & back. Even with stretch fabric, the thigh is still larger than my wearable muslins. But the drapy fabric helps make the legs look slimmer. BTW pardon my hot cross bum. Gotta sort out new undies now my behind has gotten more droopy & squishy }:-)
  • Both RTW pants have shorter crotch height, crotch length, shallower back crotch curve (not so scooped) than my wrap. Yet they still feel comfortable enough. Actually they’re closer to my crotch height measurement. For some reason the wrap derived 0-ease pants block ended up about 1″ longer in crotch height than by measurement.
  • My previous Burda 2015-11-107 fits better than the designer pants, but this was achieved through over-tight waist-to-hip + back princess shaping. Even then slight wrinkling in back thigh, not to mention weird pooling at front crotch – thigh inseam.

Research trouser fitting on Cutter & Tailor…

Granted, most discussion are about men’s trousers. But some of the basic fitting principles probably still apply. These influenced my decision to shift the knee match-points in most of my muslins & subsequent makes based on this Block. In my wrap, the front knee level is lower than the back knee level. I don’t actually manage to match the wrap knee levels precisely, I just try to reduce the difference as much as possible with iron work stretching-shrinking the side seam & inseam lines.

Pattern 1

Don’t ask. This was a stillborn. Didn’t even made it into muslining.

Pattern 2

0) 0-ease Pants Block
1) Add ease at side seam (1/2″ total at waist, widened to 1-1/2″ total at hip)
2) Add ease at darts / princess line instead, with bigger darts (same amounts)
3) Lowered crotch 1/4″
4a) Back hip tilt – pivot at side seam at hip level 1/2″
4b) Curvier & lower back crotch (dotted line)
5a) Back hip tilt – pivot at side seam at bum crease level 1/2″
5b) Add crotch inseam ease 1/8″
6a) Back hip tilt – pivot at side seam at bum crease level 1″
6b) Curvier & higher back crotch + Add leg ease at inseam (1/4″ with extra from thigh up)
6c) Right leg no shifting of match point / ironwork
7a) Straighten legs + Add more ease at inseam from knee up + Curvier Back crotch
7b) Right front add 1/2″ more ease above mid thigh with deeper dart

Pattern 3

8a) Add more ease at inseams (1/4″ – 1/ 2″) + Split darts into 2 per quarter + Increase Back dart width (1/4″ & shift side seam above hip to compensate) + Add more Front waist ease (1/8″ at side seam & decrease inner dart width by 1/8″)
8b) Right side raise waist 1/2″ at side seam
9a) Tried fitting book prominent calf adjustment (effectively deeper back crotch curve + lowered CB waist). No improvement.
9b) Legs straightened even more + Right side pivot at crotch at high hip level to increase side seam length
9c) Testing lengths & high-low waistline
9d) Final lengths for Wearable Muslin 1

⇒ Wearable Muslin 1

Gingham Capri with belt loop – Design Changes:

  • Lower F waist (1″ difference between CF & CB)
  • Contoured waistband 1-1/4″
  • Capri length
  • Fly front
  • Slant-front pockets
  • Belt loops

Assessment after days’ wear:

  • bum-thigh become saggy, waist seem to tilt front up & back down
  • knees baggy & twisted in front & excess pool in back just above knee – excess fabric from drooped back + angle of thigh vs calf too great & stacking of my upper over lower legs too wonky for slim but not skin tight fit to drape smoothly

Pattern 4

10a) More Back Hip Tilt pivoting at side seam bum crease additional 5/8″ (1-5/8″ total) + deeper curve (CB back to curved)
10b) Straighter CB above hipline
10c) Right raise waist 1/4″ at side seam
10d) Shift back thigh ease to inseam, increasing crotch length slightly + more ease from knee down, redistributed between F/B so both F/B knee down are straigher

⇒ Wearable Muslin 2

Gingham Capri without belt loop – Design Changes:

  • Lower F waist (1″ difference between CF & CB)
  • Contoured waistband 1-1/4″
  • Capri length
  • Fly front
  • Slant-front pockets

Assessment after days’ wear:

  • back crotch curve scoop seems too low

Pattern 5

11) Shallower back crotch curve + Less ease at thigh inseam

⇒ Wearable Muslin 3

Brown High-waisted Capri – Design Changes:

  • Lower waist equal 1/2”
  • Contoured waistband 2″
  • Capri length
  • Side invisible zip
  • Side-seam pockets

⇒ Wearable Muslin 4

Brown Mid-rise with Hem Zips – Design Changes:

  • Lower waist equal 3”
  • Contoured waistband 1-1/4″
  • Extended length
  • Fly front
  • Slant-front pockets
  • Hem zippers

Assessment after days’ wear:

  • Weird pooling at front crotch
  • Waist still seem to tilt front up & back down.
    In high-waist version, this caused waist to stick out in the back
    In low-waist version, this caused more bagginess in bum-thigh area
    This problem made these 2 rather uncomfortable to wear.
    Possible causes…
  • waist to high hip ease + contoured waistline (low front high back) that enlarged waist further = waistline sits lower than intended
  • waist ease + full tummy + flat lower back = waistline level even out front-back or even tilt towards skinnier parts – higher in front & lower in back, resulting in back crotch not sitting as intended, drooping causing excess length further down

More hypothesis to test…

  • Not adding ease at waist-to-high-hip OR assume ease means pants will hang lower on waist evenly, so shorten evenly above hip
  • Try 0 ease back + front with pleat – ie all ease on front ???
  • Don’t do high-low waist unless waist-to-high-hip is skin tight & relies on fabric give for ease in this area.
  • Wider legs especially back thigh to calf so fabric doesn’t have to bend to conform to leg shape & ending up with fabric puddle instead above the knee & front twist at the knee – wide enough cone to skim over all curves
  • Reduce back crotch scooping, stretch back crotch fork if possible, raise crotch level a little

Pattern 6

12a) Reduce Back Hip Tilt at crease level by 3/8″ (1-1/4″ total)
+ Add Front Hip Tilt at hip level 1/4″
+ Shallower Back crotch curve
+ Reduce Back inseam thigh ease
12b) Front Hip Tilt at hip level 3/8″ more (5/8″ total)
+ Remove Back ease above high hip
12 c) Testing flared legs
12 d) Testing high-low waist & different rise…settled on:
CB 3/4″ higher than CF
mid-rise = 1″ — 1-1/2″ — 1-3/4″ lower than high-rise (waist)
low-rise = 1″ lower than mid-rise
ditch the extra-low-rise (1″ lower than low-rise)
+ Reduce Front ease above hip to 1/2″ at waist when lowering waist

Pattern 7 (final)

I thought I was done after Patter 6. Unfortunately shortly after I grew my donut waist. So a bit more adjustment was called for.

13) Shift crotch inseam 1/4″ to Back tapering to nothing at mid-thigh
+ shave 1/8″ off thigh side seam
+ increase Front flare 1/8″ below knee at inseam & side seam
+ straighten CF crotch adding 1/4″ ease at Front hip
+ straighten CB crotch adding 1/8″ ease at waist & deeper curve

Assessment after days’ wear:

  • Although there’s still slight bagging under the bum, I’m calling it done.
  • At least front crotch now looks normal.
  • It’s not as slim as I would have like, but can’t be helped if I want to be able to sit down.

Finishing up

  • Traced these onto card paper.
  • Broken the Front & Back pieces into components so I can mix & match style – eg different rises, dart options, leg styles below knee. This also make the Block easier to store in a small place. I don’t have the luxury of a rack of hanging full Block/Pattern pieces.
  • No seam allowance so that I can trace the combination I want to create fashion patterns.

Unfortunately I made a mistake when tracing. Instead of the high-low waistline of Wearable Muslin 5, I traced even level waistlines. No wonder the two pants/trousers I made using this Block came out less comfy than WM5. I only discover this as I prepared the illustrations for this post. Oops. Thankfully with the component approach I only need to redo the above hipline components.