Noir Kei Ninomiya, SS16, Paris.
At times, words are used interchangeably to describe certain fabric details. In a fashion journalism context this is generally ok because if someone talks about the “ruffled” or “frilly” dress in the collection then it’s usually pretty clear which one they mean. When a designer is talking to a pattern maker, however, communication is key and using certain terminology may mean that you think you’re asking for one thing, when what you actually want is something else entirely.
Flounces and ruffles are one type of detail where terms are sometimes used interchangeably and while the general effect can appear similar, they are actually shaped in very different ways from a pattern and construction perspective. For example, in general, a ruffle is created using a rectangle of fabric that is gathered up into a smaller area. When this is sewn into a seam line, such as on the waistline of a skirt, the excess fabric fullness will actually be visibly gathered on the seam line creating small pleats of fabric.
In contrast, a flounce is generally based on a more circular pattern. Or actually more like a donut shaped pattern. The inner edge of the “donut” is the edge that is sewn into the seam while the outside edge of the donut creates fullness at the hem since it is a longer line. If we go back to the example of a skirt shape, then this is similar to what happens in the patterns for circle skirts; the fabric sits smoothly along the waist seam but flares out at the hem. Confusingly, these shapes aren’t always called flounces though; sometimes they are just called “circular ruffles”.
However, this is not a reason to get paranoid about using the correct term with your pattern maker, it’s just a matter of mitigating the chance that you’ll misunderstand each other.The first thing is to check how you’ve sketched a detail onto a garment technical drawing. Have you drawn the detail so it is gathered at the seam line, or did you draw it so it seams smoothly into place?
Also, how much volume does your sketch indicate that you want? The more gathered you draw the ruffle, the longer your pattern maker will make the rectangle. The more flared you make your flounce, the tighter the circle will need to be for your flounce pattern.
If you find it difficult to draw the effect of what you want, consider using photographic references to indicate the detail instead. This will help the pattern maker to see what you are visualising and will reduce the chance that you’ll be disappointed with your sample.
All these same ideas apply even if you are pattern making a detail for yourself. Analysing your own sketch before you jump into the pattern making process can help you to work out what you actually need to make patterns for. If it’s a detail that you intend to use on a few garments in a collection, it’s also worth taking the time to get the measurement ratios right from the beginning, before you adapt it to other garment patterns. For example, this could be a good time to drape on the stand with real fabric to see how the fabric will react when gathered into a ruffle, or cut into a flounce.