My first introduction to Erté was the year after leaving fashion college
when my Dad gave me a copy of this book for christmas. Such a pattern
making novice at the time, I had no idea how I would ever achieve such
Irresistible and confounding. These elegant illustrations are so
tempting on the one hand then so misleading in the way they represent
the behaviour of the garment. The illusion created by the pen is not
always matched by the reality of engineering fabric.
Rediscovering this book recently, I was able to look
at these great designs with a more experienced eye. I can see where my
early exposure to Erte has influenced my design work. And I must say at
the outset, that although these designs fascinate me endlessly as a
pattern maker, I find them far too theatrical to be applied directly to
everyday wear. So I hope to rework these ideas and see if there is
anyway this design might fit in a modern fashion wardrobe.
The first order of business is the production sketch. When I look at a
new idea for pattern making the first thing I consider is which of my
blocks would be most suitable for the job. With the Erte jacket we are
certainly looking at a the kimono block (woven not knit) as a starting
point for this design. Then we need to decide how to achieve the
built-up collar and shawl like lapel. Erte's sketch has no indication
of seams for the collar or the usual overarm seam from the kimono block.
So your guess is as good as mine.
Set out below are a couple of different ways to achieve the pattern for
this design. All start with the kimono block
and offer variations on
collar style and seam placement. The first pattern plan below features
the grown-on shawl collar.
The planning for the body of the jacket went like this:
- Add a 2cm button stand to the Centre Front (CF) line.
- Mark in the front length of your jacket and curve the hem line up toward the side seam.
- Extend beyond the side seam for the wrap allowance for the buttoning at the side seam.
- The slit between the body and the sleeve starts in the underarm in the same location as the gusset.
- The sleeve shape follows a similar line to the hem of the jacket, maybe a little shorter as indicated in the sketch.
- The wrap around and buttoning at the wrist
is achieved by placing the front and back shoulder line together and
drawing a clean line from front to back. The back sleeve will need to
be longer to provide the wrap. All of this is slightly informed guess
work with the knowledge that I will get a chance to refine this feature
in the first toile.
- The back has very similar styling to the front with the exception of the shaping on the CB seam.
Please note I have adjusted the end of sleeve shape (dashed line) so the cuff buttons up more easily.
The first set of pattern pieces are those featured in the
#PatternPuzzle, where the back and front patterns are joined along the
overarm seam. In this version the shawl collar is separated from the
main garment so we can eliminate the overarm seam. Erte's illustration
suggests there is no seam here but only a toile will prove whether that
is actually possible. The grain has been left in the conventional
place, parallel to the CF. This then places the Centre Back (CB) seam
on the bias which may be a bonus if the jacket is cut in stripe or
The second version of the shawl collar style has the front and back
pattern separate and the shawl collar grown-on to the front. The grain
line is also in the conventional place (parallel to CF and CB) for the
front and back jacket.
The alternative method for achieving this design is offered in the
pattern plan below. In this version the collar is drafted as a built-up
neckline. This is where the front and back collars are grown-on to
each pattern as a shaped extension of the neckline and the overarm seam.
This particular style of collar is rarely successful from first draft
and often requires a lot of finessing to succeed. Sampling and
adjusting the collar is about balancing the shape of the shoulder/collar
seam between the front and the back. The body of the garment is the
same as above.
The pattern pieces for the Built-up Neckline are set out below with the
grain line conventionally placed. The fit of this garment will depend
on the side seam buttoning and the shaped CB seam. You may get more
flexibility in fit if the garment is cut on the bias. In the
#PatternPuzzle on Saturday, Mioara Cretu noted that there were no darts
featured in the original sketch yet the garment looks very fitted. So
our first toile will reveal any additional fitting required to achieve
I have had so much fun this week working through an Erte design that I
think you may see them come up again in the #PatternPuzzles of the
future. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments action
below. I am very happy to help you through your pattern making step by