Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris.

Balenciaga, AW15, Paris.

Some time ago, we discussed some of the different ways you can position fabric on the body to create different sleeve shapes. In particular, there are many different design possibilities that open up to you when you give up on the typical bodice / sleeve arrangement and start to blur the positions of these garment parts to create more unusual silhouettes. In this post, we’ll look at the cocoon shaped coats and jackets from the Balenciaga collection for Autumn-Winter 2015 to look at how the fabric has been shaped in these garments.

In the collection, one of the dominant silhouettes was an oversized coat shape which hinged off the shoulders and extended up to create a wide, raised collar. By looking at the images of similar garments in the collection you can look at the fabric to get your grain line bearings and then find the positions of the dominant seams to find where the edges of the pattern pieces are.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 1. Built up collar hinges up from shoulder.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 2. Seam along front of arm.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 3. Check helps to show grain line position.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 4. Fabric pattern helps to show grain line position.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 5. Fabric pattern helps to show bias back.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 6.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 7. When seen side by side, you can see the different angles created across the shoulders.

After doing this research, you can then start to experiment with fabric, roughly manipulating it to get a sense of the general shape needed to create the garments. In the example below we have left out the main shaping around the neckline, but you can still see how the back of the collar begins to resemble the photographs of the collection. You can also imagine that by tilting the fold of the fabric as you experiment, you are changing the way the fabric will act which will impact the height of the collar and tension across the shoulders. This effect can also be seen in some of the garments above with the way they are created with different slopes on the shoulders. Our rough drawings also give you a sense of the angles that need to be achieved in order to make the checks interact nicely along each of the front arm seams.

Once you have the main fabric pieces in position the draping process can become more specific, outlining the position of the seams at the front and back of the arms, drawing in the neckline and centre front, tweaking the back grain with a centre back seam, etc.

Pattern Shaping at Balenciaga | The Cutting Class. Balenciaga, AW15, Paris, Image 8. Manipulating flat fabric to explore grain lines.

Of course, the point isn’t to copy these designs, but by mentally unfurling the fabric of an existing garment you develop that special skill that pattern makers have to be able to see garments as both 2D and 3D objects. It’s also important that when you sketch a design that looks impossible to construct, you have some different ways of working through the pattern. As we demonstrated here, sometimes you need to start with flat pieces of fabric, pick a grain line and start to fold and move the fabric until it begins to resemble the shape you had in mind. This is normally done on a mannequin, but even working with small pieces on a flatter plane will help you to get the bearings of how the main fabric shapes will need to interact. This will at least give you a starting point from which you can work out whether more seams are needed, whether seams can be eliminated, or if darts, tucks or other shaping devices are needed as well.

Catwalk images from Vogue.co.uk»

Technical diagrams by The Cutting Class»

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