Parlour Debut: The Todrick Dress

Edited 05-21-19 for clarification and word tweaking.

Hey folks! I’m coming back at you again with another look from the fashion show.

Today’s look is the Todrick Dress, named after Todrick Hall- and if you don’t know who Todrick Hall is, your life is about to be changed. I love Todrick’s sense of style and the way he plays with our idea of gendered clothing; he takes the hypermasculine and hyperfeminine and smooshes them together, rather than leaning into the middle ground of gender neutrality.

I always had my eyes set on a dress pattern for people who don't need chest contouring; it was something that came up a lot in my survey.

When I say “chest contouring”, I'm referring to shaping techniques when sewing a bodice that accomodate a chest measurement that’s larger than its waist measurement. Not all garment styles need this contouring, but for ones that do, it can cordon off a lot of feminine choices in apparel for people who don’t have that kind of chest-waist difference that’s associated with Womens RTW. There’s ways that you can alter that larger chest measurement out of garments, but that is in itself a barrier. Ergo, this design!

I was focused on creating something with simple lines and colour blocking without being too ostentatious, but I also wanted it to push editorial. The cut is more of a sundress, but the peekaboo panels at the midriff give it a bit of edge. I wanted downtown on a friday summer evening with neon signs in the windows, heading out with your friends to see a show at a club. To reintroduce more masculine touches, my model Ringo accessorized this look with a gold watch, and these black and white high tops. It was everything!!

Caption: Ringo Ranoco, a Philipino drag queen from Calgary, mid-spin in a shot taken at the fashion show. Ringo is wearing black and white studded high tops with tassles on the back, and an above-the-knee black dress with bright pink and light blue panels at the centre back and side-front. Ringo is also wearing bright pink lipstick and eyeshadow, with winged eyeliner.

Caption: Ringo Ranoco, a Philipino drag queen from Calgary, mid-spin in a shot taken at the fashion show. Ringo is wearing black and white studded high tops with tassles on the back, and an above-the-knee black dress with bright pink and light blue panels at the centre back and side-front. Ringo is also wearing bright pink lipstick and eyeshadow, with winged eyeliner.

What changed for the show

There isn’t really anything about the design of this dress that had to change due to time constraints, except for things that didn’t get executed the way I expected them to be- and in that case, it was more about not having the time to go back and fix what I wanted to fix, which I’ll talk about in “moving forward”.

What worked well

I wanted some simple details that would make this more than a little black dress, and I’m always a slut for an inverted box pleat. This contrast-panelled pleat thing? I’ve wanted to do it for YEARS. AND IT LOOKED SO GOOD. I’M SO HAPPY WITH THIS PIECE.

For the pleats, I ended up backing some lightweight rayon challis with the same fabric as the skirt body, because I wanted the shape of this to move in unison. Like, if the pleat fabric was lighter, the heavier body fabric would keep it shut more when you moved. Which is kind of a look in itself! Just not what I wanted. When you back a fabric, you want to consider where it’s sitting on the body and do what’s called “roll pinning”- it’s a basting technique that’s used when backing a fabric in some way, and finds its origins in tailoring. This is an excellent tutorial that explains it well.

The inside of the skirt of the todrick dress, on the contrast pleat section. The insides are all the same dark suiting as the rest of the skirt, but the right side of the seam allowances are the bright pink and light blue contrast fabrics. The right side has been flipped up to expose the light blue half of the pleat, revealing that the light blue fabric was layered onto a piece of the dark suiting before its assembly.

The inside of the skirt of the todrick dress, on the contrast pleat section. The insides are all the same dark suiting as the rest of the skirt, but the right side of the seam allowances are the bright pink and light blue contrast fabrics. The right side has been flipped up to expose the light blue half of the pleat, revealing that the light blue fabric was layered onto a piece of the dark suiting before its assembly.

I got some help with the bodice from Kenzie, but the rest was me. I’m really satisfied with the overall look, the fabrics used, and the new techniques I’ve picked up as a result those choices. Putting an invisible zipper into this dress wasn’t something I could envision how to do when I started drafting it, for example, but once I got there, it made total sense.

You gotta start with an inverted box pleat that has a seam at its centre underlay, but after that, it’s cake. You just assemble the inverted box pleat to the finished centre back (meaning, make sure the fold of the pleat is flush with where the seam allowance starts, not overlapping on top of it), staystitch the pleats in place, and attach the invisible zipper as normal when the bodice and skirt are attached.

Caption: a close-up shot of the back of the Todrick dress, which has an inverted box pleat at the centre back. There is an invisible zipper that extends into the box pleat, which is split down the middle in two colours: bright pink and light blue. The bodice is separated by a black satin ‘belt’, with the lower bodice made of black mesh and the upper made of the same heather black herringbone suiting as the rest of the dress.

Caption: a close-up shot of the back of the Todrick dress, which has an inverted box pleat at the centre back. There is an invisible zipper that extends into the box pleat, which is split down the middle in two colours: bright pink and light blue. The bodice is separated by a black satin ‘belt’, with the lower bodice made of black mesh and the upper made of the same heather black herringbone suiting as the rest of the dress.

I’m also really pleased with the sheer peekaboos! It’s just a real interesting garment to look at, I think, as well as wear. But idk- this is my project, of course I’m gonna think that.

Moving forward

So most of what needs to change has more to do with minor fit and proportion than anything else. One of the sticking points about this dress is that the armholes are kinda high. It could benefit from being lowered a centimetre or two at the side seam; one of the complaints I received about RTW womens clothing is that the armholes don’t have a lot of ease for people with broader shoulders/arms, so that’s something I need to keep in mind.

I also would have made the waist seam maybe a cm or two lower, and the hem longer to match the proportions of my sketch. I was going for legs- and I did get legs!- but it toes the line of looking too small on Ringo, I think.

The rest of what I would want to change has more to do with construction technique than anything else. I opted to self-line the whole bodice rather than fuss with facings because I thought it would address a lot of things at once: not needing to finish seam allowances, not showing an outward topstitch on any of the finished edges, and not having to go through the steps that using facings would require.

A close up of the inside of the todrick dress bodice. which has been lined up to the satin waist belt with the same dark herringbone suiting as the rest of the main dress fabric.

A close up of the inside of the todrick dress bodice. which has been lined up to the satin waist belt with the same dark herringbone suiting as the rest of the main dress fabric.

I do still think that this is a viable choice, but facings would certainly be easier- the problem with a lining is that it needs to fit. Exactly. If a facing is a little bit broader than you meant it to be, you can just chop it off. If a lining has the same problem, you need to address it at the pattern stage and that can mean redoing the whole thing depending on what needs to change.

But I’m a stickler for the thing that’s more effective, not faster, so I think I’m still going to go ahead with lining the bodice in this pattern’s iteration. We’ll have to see what that looks like down the road, but I’m optimistic. This is one of my favourite looks by far, and it was a joy to share it with y’all. Ringo did this so much justice- he’s a drag queen who works in Calgary! Check out his work here!

Take care, stay safe, and know that you are loved.

Jason