Waist Darts or No Waist Darts?

Here's another one of those rambling fashion history posts ... only this one leaves me with mixed feelings.

As most know, I started out in stretch even before there were rules for stretch pattern making. Those were the days of swimwear with high cut leg lines, aerobic wear and fluorescent colours ... Oh what wondrous days (insert eye roll here). At the end of the 80s/start of the 90s there was a change in aerobic wear to even higher leg lines that peaked right on the side seam (bad idea) and also thong backs. There were a few things going on at that time: technology had changed and stretch fabrics were starting to get even stretch in all directions and they were much softer ... how many people remember how stiff and non-stretchy the first stretch knits were?. Finer prints on nylon Lycra were also possible with greater success than before as the ribs between knit lines were now closer, and pastels colours were reliable (previously they faded in just a few months). So there was this desire for soft pastel leggings and light small floral print bodices for aerobics around 1992-94.

But they had two problems in pushing the limits ... Firstly the high leg line right on the side seam caused a bulk problem with a 4 way intersection of sorts (the leggings had a side seam) and it looked terrible if they didn't line up perfectly ... secondly the entire garment failed because it wasn't stable unless a thong back was used (which not everyone liked) ... the high cut bottoms just didn't stay in place.

One of my manufacturing customers in Australia asked my opinion on how to solve these issues ... keep in mind this was all new tech back then. My suggestion was to firstly lose the seam on the leggings (not the bodice) and literally stitch the legs into the bodice as a catsuit ... remember, this was in the early 90s. They told me I was crazy and it was a fetishy type of weird ... it was an idea that just wouldn't work and they wouldn't even consider letting me try making samples. Oooo Kkkkkk scratch that.

I still thought it was a good idea so I did it anyway. I created a different leg line that I overlaid on the bodice block and made the specially shaped leggings in the same way I would do sleeve heads. Obviously that worked and you can see exactly that on my women's 8% blocks now .... except they aren't so high cut anymore.

I removed the side seam from those leggings ... that bit was easy. But I wasn't happy with the body having a side seam when the legs didn't ... so I joined the front and back bodice together with straight front and back center seams and used a front and back waist dart to get the shaping down (I was thinking corsets and fitted bodices from wovens days) ... It worked really really well, was incredibly stable and very importantly it didn't mess with the print directions that were new to stretch fabrics and oh so important at the time ... but my customers didn't like it and thought it was indeed fetishy .... so it flopped. I will admit here to not wanting to give up so I actually did try to sell it to adult clothing suppliers and they, of course, loved it

Then in 1996 I tried to revive it by using it in a live demonstration at a fashion school in London ... the demo was supposed to be about controlling these "so called tension lines" that I had invented (note my cynical tone because of all the doubters back then). The catsuit was really good because I could show each and every distorted line ... I introduced for the first time a 5cm square grid that we'd drawn on the fabric, with pen, before sewing in order to demonstrate exactly where the distortion had taken place ... it was my proof of concept and it was a huge hit. There were lots of teachers and commercial pattern makers at that lecture so it was probably that moment that people stopped doubting negative ease and tension as a working theory and started teaching it as fact. And this was also the point that I started getting lots of commercial customers ... but the weird fetishy catsuit was left as nothing more than a memory for which I was supposed to be ashamed of .... apparently.

Fast forward 25 years and now people are asking me to make leggings and catsuits without side seams ... AND without center front seams .... now a common place thing. The problem with removing side seams on leggings is easy because you can distort the pattern a little bit and live with a tiny bit of rippling if you increase the negative ease ... I'm not a fan of excessive ease and (as I mentioned in a previous post) I prefer to go the route of decreasing ease when solving problems. But when you ALSO remove the center front seam as well you create huge issues with tension and distorted angles. I really don't like this idea, but I've been working away at it.

My moderators mentioned that Travis Halsey had demonstrated how to solve this problem but no one could show me what he did until today (thank you Robin). And you know how he did it??? The very same straight, vertical center front and back lines and waist darting that I did 25 years ago! The very same thing that people told me to abandon because it was "fetishy". Here was a respected costumer doing what people laughed at me for 25 years earlier. Do you know how that feels to find that out only now?

So my question now becomes ... continue to make the catsuit with no seams (except a center back seam) and just accept all the distortion and uneven tension (as people have asked) and never use a printed fabric .... OR ... return to my straight center front and back design from 25 years ago and use waist darts front and back mid panel? The concept of using waist darting is exactly what you think it is ... it's the same theory as wovens or corsetry ... it's pretty much why I prefer bust darts. To create shape in stretch fabric you still need to use darting ... there's no getting away from that if you want to avoid fabric distortion, ripples, uneven tension ... or to use directional prints.

My last comment would be to say that digital printing on fine ribbed knit bases is now so good that you can literally twist up the print such that it's perfect when stretched out on the wearer ... I submit examples like cirque du soleil for proof of that!

So ... do people want a distorted catsuit with only a back seam (and something inside leg) ... or do they want to try something that will fit better but has waist darting? Come and join the Facebook group and tell us! Join our Facebook Group | Follow me on Instagram or Pinterest


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