Sneaky Peek: Model T Draft

In the 20’s, Chanel launched the phenomenon that we now know by three letters: LBD or Little Black Dress.  She made use of a fabric previously overlooked in the world of women’s wear: machine knitted wool.  Her supplier thought she must have lost her mind and refused to make more of it unless the first lot of dresses sold.

Plenty of others thought she must be mad too, as individuality marked quality at the time.  She foresaw the age of mass-fashion with her simple “uniform.”

Chanel’s Rules (creator of the “first” LBD in 1926):

• Dress should cover the knees
• No décor is acceptable: no pleats, frills or embroidery
• Clear silhouette
• No sleeves; if there are ones, they should be narrow and without any décor
• Sheer black stockings
• Pumps (no open-toed shoes are appropriate)
• No massive jewelry
• A little clutch

Givenchy’s Rules (creator of THAT black dress):

• Dress should be of knee-length or a bit shorter
• No sleeves; if there are ones they should be short
• Clear silhouette with accented waist
• Sheer black or flesh-tone stockings
• Massive jewelry (one piece only)
• Gloves made of elastic material can be a nice addition
• A small clutch or a handbag
• Pumps

Inspired by Chanel’s biography, I want to make a Chanel Model T type dress.  At the time, the Model T was Ford’s Little Black Car- cheap to produce (due to ground-breaking assembly-line production techniques), cheap to buy.  He made automobiles accessible to the masses, for better or worse.  Chanel did the same for chic simplicity, also called “elegance.”

I have a bit of hemp/cotton jersey; I’d like to make good use of a “strange” fabric, as wool jerseys and doubleknits have become a staple these days.

I’m playing around with my drafting again, although this time it is a hybrid project- a little light drafting, a little draping.  I can’t quit get the darts to rotate to yield the lines I want.  No matter; I’ll cut the lines straight and then pin them to hug me.

I’m working on a v-shaped princess line.  I need a way to create shape, I think the v-princess will work well.  The line will start in the middle of each shoulder, and meet in the middle just below my hip.  Same in back.   I’ll have a knee-length circle skirt and narrow sleeves (or maybe sleeveless) and a bateau neckline because I love them.

I’m trying to work through a methodology for anyone to make this from their basic t-shirt pattern. It’s quite fun, I’m having a great time and can’t wait to marshal my thoughts for you.  The construction should move very quickly- it’s a simple knit dress after all.

All in time for the LBD contest on Pattern Review… No rules posted yet, but I’m sure they’ll appear.

Check out this in-depth history of the LBD.


  1. Oh, I thought that was the back of the dress, with a dramatic plunge to the waist. Took me a second to see it as the front. I think it'll be really pretty, and neat if you can work out a simple pattern based on a t-shirt pattern. I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with!

  2. I like this dress. What a great shape. You'll be able to dress this up or down and get a lot of use from it. Also, you could use the pattern as a fun day dress and make the panels in different colours or fabrics. I look forward to seeing your method as I will definitely be stealing this idea!

  3. Well, she couldn't have been right about everything. Oragami pleats sound fantastic. Must… stick to… original plan…Sewing knits is really easy. Shockingly so. Since most of my sewing experience up to about two years ago lay in historical/theatrical costuming, I was a bit wary too… But honestly, I'm finding them really hard to mess up.

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