Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Meet Julianne Bramson, Master Mind of the Magic Bias Dress Pattern

In 2009 I was asked to help judge the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals/Threads Challenge. The challenge that year was all about seams. Judging was blind, meaning that the names of the contestants were removed from the final garments, only numbers were attached. For the judging, we were supposed to have a dressform, but none was available, so guess what!!!, I became the dressform! It was such a great experience and I loved seeing the creativity and ingenuity of the garments. The garment that stood out to me was a bias cut garment with mesh inserts. I was amazed by how beautifully the garment fell over my body and the precise execution of the seams, and especially the mesh inserts. There were a number of garments that made it to the final cut, but I fought hard for the bias dress. The mesh inserts and the precise execution, I felt, deserved the Best Overall distinction. A picture of the dress is included below. 
I was not able to stay for the evening fashion show, so I had no idea who the bias dress belonged to. It wasn't until a few years later when I attended a workshop in San Francisco hosted by Sandra Ericson that I met Julianne Bramson of Fashion In Harmony. I still had no idea that she created the bias dress. At some point during the workshop, something was said about bias garments and Sandra brought up Julianne's dress. It was then that I was able to put a face to this beautiful design. What a pleasure it was to finally meet her.
I was all the more excited when Sew News accepted my recommendation to include the Magic Bias Dress in this year's line up of sew along patterns. I think you too are going to enjoy the simplicity and elegance of this dress.
I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to introduce you to Julianne and let you take a peek into how her mind works.

From Julianne,
My primary source of inspiration for all of my designs is the pioneering work of Madeleine Vionnet.  Her designs, most especially those that utilize geometric shapes placed on the bias, have been a constant source of inspiration for me since I was first introduced to them by Sandra Ericson at the 2006 Association of Sewing and Design Professionals conference in San Francisco, CA. Below is the garment that started my obsession with bias cut garments.

Ironically, I studied Vionnet in college and even based my senior project on a Vionnet inspired design, but it was the math, the geometry that drew me into Sandra's class.   

The 2009 Association of Sewing and Design Professionals Threads Challenge was all about seams. I wanted to make a dress that would have mesh seams so it would look as if it was held together by air, by nothing.  I wanted seams that were sturdy, but in no way hindered the amazing drape of the velvet fabric.  I knew that making the dress on the bias would put the seams in interesting places.  My first dress was of a cream print silk charmeuse with ivory mesh for the seams.  I had planned to use nude mesh, but thought it looked a bit too "lingerie" for my taste.  The ivory was better, but the way I attached the mesh did not result in the professional look that I desired.  And, the whole dress ended up looking more boudoir and less evening. By the time I decided it was a dud, and I needed a new approach, I was running out of time.  That is why the velvet dress is constructed of several different fabrics, I simply did not have time to purchase more fabric.  As a result, I think it is much more interesting.  I love how it looks with the bright orange slip. Necessity truly is the mother of invention!
Below is the dress, featured in thread's Magazine.

The seaming in detail. 

As to the design of the velvet dress, it is all geometry.  I was inspired by two different patterns I found in my obsessive hunt for all things bias-cut and geometric.  One is a page from a vintage magazine about making a bias-cut slip using squares and quarter circles.

I used that for the inspiration for the squares at the waist and also for the skirt, although I instead used half-circles.  The upper portion of the dress was inspired by a pinwheel top pattern I found in a weaving magazine. 
I omitted the triangles at the wrist and turned the triangles at the waist into full squares to create seams to attach the skirt pieces.  It is an amazingly simple design.  What I love about it is how it fits so many different shapes and sizes of people. Bias cut garments truly are amazing and magical!

Thank you so much Julianne for sharing your design process with us.
Remember, I will be giving away a Magic Bias Dress pattern tomorrow, March 31, 2016. You have until tonight at midnight to get your name in for the drawing, so don't delay! If you would like a chance to win the pattern, leave a message HERE.

One last treat, if you are making the Magic Bias Dress, but would rather a different sleeve, you can find a free downloadable pattern for a Flitter Sleeve on the Fashion In Harmony website. Just click HERE.  

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  1. Beautiful tribute to an amazing creative artist!

  2. Oh, thanks for sharing. Wonderful dress and inspiration!

  3. I so admired that dress when I saw it in the magazine. Beautiful work!

  4. Hi Rhonda, I have been following your blog posts via email for a few months now and really enjoy it. Thank-you. I am very taken with the Magic Bias dress pattern and a few days ago I ordered it, not even dreaming of winning it from you. I live in Australia and hopefully the pattern won't take too long to arrive so I can join in the sewalong. Do I need to join anything other than follow your blog for this sewalong? Many thanks, Marjorie Trundle

    1. I will check with Sew News and see what they have planned. I'll let you know as soon as I know :)

  5. Wonderful dress - if I don't win the pattern I will have to buy it!