One Shoulder Dress a Proper Hanging and Trial Fit

To start this project out right, the hides are first hung, (head down as Siouan tradition dictates), on the form as you would for a two hide dress. This means you do not just hang one shoulder and sling under the arm and attach. This would cause the hides to hang crooked once they are on the person who is going to wear it. (I see this mistake made with this type of garment constantly!) The hides are folded over about four inches at the shoulder so the hides hang nicely and provide a stabilization by doubling the thickness at the shoulder, neckline area.

We left the hides full length at this time, trimming just so it did not drag on the ground, (having adjusted the form to the actual height of the wearer). This is done so that length can be determined when the dress if done and fully fitted.

Hang the hide with both shoulders attached and let hang overnight to see if they are hanging straight, with no unsightly bulges or sways.

Then pin sides by smoothing the hide down and across the form and securing to the form at the dividing line. (Pinning to the form first keeps the front hide from pulling the back hide and vice-versa, preventing the garment from twisting on the form).

Then you can pin sides to each other, (keeping the form pins in place in case you have to adjust the flow of the hides later), up to about six inches under the under arm, or where you want the top of the bust line to fall. (this dress was worn with the breast exposed originally, but modern times dictate we cover).

This dress should fit the form quite tightly, just enough to be able to slide it off without removing pins. By doing so, you create a sort of fit that helps support the bust without undergarments. (One can try to wear a type of bra or girdle underneath, but it will be difficult and will most likely show).

Then carefully unpin the top right shoulder and let it fall down as in the picture on the right.

The dress will now be true and square at the hem when worn instead of swaying off to the side as it would if you did not secure the garment by pinning the sides before you drop the shoulder.
After this you can remove the pins tuck in the form, keeping the seam down the dividing line of the form, (the median). Pin very securely, especially at the armpit and shoulder, you are about to slide the dress of the form for a trial fit.

Summon the future wearer of the garment and have them wear a fitting, thin cover-up that does not change or bind their natural shape. if they will not be wearing a bra, have them remove it at this time.

Before trying on, secure the shoulder and armpit with industrial strength safety pins. After the garment has been slipped on, use a second set to safety pins to readjust the fit around the bust so nothing is revealed or spilling out, leaving the original safety pins in place so you have a median starting point as you adjust.

Have your subject go outside and wander around, walking, bending and lifting the arms as you observe how the garment moves, making note of corrections where the dress is binding or bulging.

First and foremost, this is supposed to be a comfortable garment, it should not pinch or twist at any point. It should flow from top to bottom smoothly and gracefully.

The wearer should feel at ease and comfortable, as this photo shows, Sheila is really enjoying her trial fit, even though it is bristling with pins!
This photo shows a potential problem, the hides are thinner at the bottom being hung head down, so we will have to place a gusset on the side to allow the skirt to flow without binding, this is easily accomplished as welts to be cut into fringe will be inserted in the seam anyway and the gusset can be added at this time.

If we were to leave the sides open, as some younger women did, it would not be an issue, but our garment must cover, as it will be worn in teaching situations.

Also, this garment must reflect Siouan ways of assemblage, which was a longer, more flowing skirt and a gusset would allow more freedom of movement, as was often done by Siouan Peoples.
Have your model sit and move around in a chair. Again, this insures a comfortable fit and shows potential bulges and sways that will impact the overall look.

Remember, our theory from the beginning, (and has been borne out through research), was that women did not just throw a garment on the ground, cut it and sew up the sides, (as has been suggested by otherwise well researched literature), clothes were made to fit the potential wearer by fitting the garment on the actual person to whom it would belong.

We use a dress form, but in actuality women stood as models and had the garment tediously fitted to them. This is a fact that I have seen in museum garments.
So far so good as far as this dress goes, doing a proper setup on the form and carefully fitting the garment properly has paid off in a good fit, which will save much agony and regret further down the road.

Also seeing your subject happy and comfortable in her future dress is the greatest reward a seamstress can have!

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