sewing classes in chicago: tchad: workroom: workshop: lehenga: choli: gagra: reshma: finished skirt

Reshma’s Modified/Contemporary Lehenga

Reshma, after her first project in royal blue taffeta, decided to tackle drafting a modern version of a traditional classic Indian skirt – the Lehenga.

We started off by deciding what the parameters were – we wanted a smooth line from the hip to the waist and then yards and yards of flare from the the hip down.  Usually, this style of skirt is draped by pleating out the excess into the waist, but as both a fitting and design experiment we modernized this by taking an 8 gore straight skirt pattern and turning it into an 8 panel flared dress.

We maintained the hipline up, then brought the flare out dramatically from the hip.  Here it is in miniature:

Sewing classes in chicago: tchad: patternmaking: lehenga: choli: gagra: modified miniature panel
One of 8 panels in miniature. We were playing around with a fitted skirt through the hip and a flared skirt from the mid-lower hip. This helps keep the skirt flat and flattering. It also helped us work out the yardage in scale rather than take up all of the workroom tables.

Once we had the basic shape and the lining was ready, we did a little reinforcing through the inside corners where the hip began at the flare and then started in on the border and waistline.  Reshma chose a royal blue silk 6 inch band embroidered in  brass and gilding.  This had to be applied by hand first, as the shape started to shift as the two layers without the same stretch coefficient just don’t want to play well together.

sewing classes in chicago: tchad: workroom: workshop: studio: reshma: Lehenga, gagra: pink mesh: 8 gore: 8 Panel
Finessing the fit of an 8 panel Indian skirt.

Sigh.  We tell people that they never really understand the meaning of the value of π (3.14) until they are working with a circle skirt – this was almost 8x a regular circle skirt.

Sewing classes in chicago: tchad: workroom: workshop: reshma: lehenga: choli: gagra: trim: hemming
Anchoring hem…

 

Sewing classes in chicago: tchad: workroom: workshop: reshma: lehenga: choli: gagra: trim: hemming 2
Trimming excess from hem panel to fit…

Probably one of the most difficult things about this project, besides just the volume of hemming, was getting the embroidered trim set evenly.  You have to account for the length of the skirt minus the height of the band and then account for the seam allowances on both pieces.  It isn’t hard, but if you get in a rush on these custom projects your hem will either be too high or drag the floor.  It helps to set these floor-length finished bands with a distinct reference point.  In this case, we set the dress form on the table at a specific height so that we could use the top of the table itself as the measurement/reference point when she was attaching the band.

Sewing classes in chicago: tchad: reshma: workroom: workshop: studio: lehenga: choli: hem: ghagra
Using the dress form height and the table top as measurement references.

Once we got the edging tidied up and the waistband finished, it was ready for business:

sewing classes in chicago: tchad: workroom: workshop: lehenga: choli: gagra: reshma: finished skirt
Honestly, the best part of all of this is when people take their things out into the world and we get pictures like this. So worth it.

Overall, this was a successful experiment in shape, even if the general shape is more streamlined and less traditional than you’d usually see.  We’ve used the idea of this pattern a couple of times since for people to experiment with since – it is a nice variation on a classic and Reshma did a great job here! If you’d like to experiment, let us know – it would work for any full skirt for any number of applications.

Since her class, Reshma has gone on to design for Romanee Conti – you can find them here on Facebook and Instagram.

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