Design Your Own Dress.

Design Your Own Dress.

Rebecca Mayhew  is an extremely gifted medium on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and not only did I have the pleasure of designing a couple dresses for her recently but she also agreed to be my model for this blog. She echoes what quite a number of curvy ladies lament, there are not enough beautiful floaty dresses for the plus size gals. These gorgeous ladies have breasts and hips and want to show their waist suppression, not hide it under sacks or muumuus!

Further to my last blog about bespoke garments, I want show just a small part of the process via my photos of Rebecca in the initial basic dress block, then a final finished dress design. The first dress block toile is always made up in calico or a fabric of a similar weight to the actual dress fabric to be used. In this case, I toiled in a cheap rayon because her final dresses were in print rayon, which is a heavy, drapey fabric. It is a lovely absorbent and very comfortable fabric to wear and swings around the body.

As you can see from the photos, toiles are not attractive, they are just meant to test the pattern before cutting in the actual dress, pant or whatever the garment will be. This is the most labour-intensive part of garment construction, especially for bespoke work, the patternmaker’s job is to make sure the toile fits the client, then ensure every piece of the pattern fits together perfectly so that it makes the machinist’s work easier.

Rebecca in the intial basic dress block toile
The toile for a new dress design
Olive and red long floaty sleeve rayon dress
Maroon/navy print rayon dress

One of the enjoyments of working with a bespoke clientele is going shopping with them to help buy the fabric for their wedding or evening gown or, a new dress to completely change their look. It is so exciting as we drape different colours and fabrics against her and take photos so that she can see what she likes and dislikes.

This, actually is a very important point! Always take a photo of yourself in the dress or when you drape fabric against you, then look at the photo. You will look at yourself objectively, something you do not do when you look in a mirror. Another lovely thing to do is have your partner with you, if they are willing as in Rebecca’s case, but not, of course if it is your wedding gown.

Rebecca with Saigon Fabrics owner, Jenny.
Rebecca with her partner helping her choose.
The cerise silk georgette is the one.
Sketch for Rebecca’s silk dress
The final look-very glam.
Designer, Victoria with Rebecca.

Two of my favourite fabric salons where I love to browse in Sydney are Saigon Fabrics in Wynyard, where owner Jenny is very perceptive with what suits her clientele, and Tessuti Fabrics in Surry Hills. who have an absolutely divine selection of bridal laces and trims. Both of these shops have an equally beautiful range of printed silks and rayons. If you are looking for bridal fabrics it will be in your interest to make an appointment before you go. because you will not be out of either these two salons any time soon and it is better to get one of the staff to help guide you with their extensive knowledge, the selection of fabrics is all consuming.

Victoria with Saigon Fabrics owner, Jenny, in the bridal salon upstairs.
Tessuti assistant, Julia, with some of the beautiful laces.
The beautiful collection of bridal fabrics in Tessuti Fabrics in Surry Hills

If you need any guidance or further information, please contact me.

The Importance of Beautiful, Well-Fitted Lingerie.

The Importance of Beautiful, Well-Fitted Lingerie.

Lingerie. Just saying the word is sensual in itself and the French terminology is so much nicer than saying bra and knickers, don’t you agree?

Rather than trying to explain more about the origins of this necessary undergarment, this site gives a much better description here:

One of the stipulations I make when a new client comes to see me for her bridal gown or a tailored suit consultation, is that she must be prepared to invest in well-fitted lingerie for her figure type! It is an extremely important piece of apparel. A common misconception among women of any age or size is that because it is hidden, anything will do.

Not so!

Well-fitted lingerie helps shape and balance what we wear on top, and since we spend a lot of money on our exterior pieces, especially for special occasions, why wouldn’t we spend money on beautiful, well-fitted lingerie, especially if you are a plus-size? It is extremely important and changes the way a garment falls, plus it makes us feel very sexy and quite divine. The same applies to a pair of heels, it changes the leg shape and defines a pant silhouette or a skirt length.

I know quite a few women with a full bust do not want to wear a well-fitting bra because they feel it just pushes everything out and up front too much, so they prefer to try and flatten their bust with a softer bra. No good! Ladies, not only is it detrimental to your bust and the ligaments, it creates a much wider silhouette overall and the waist completely disappears. Wearing well-fitting lingerie will create waist suppression, giving your silhouette a much more flattering shape.

If my model Rebecca did not wear well-fitted lingerie below, the dress would not look anywhere as good.


I do agree that there is a desperate lack of fabulous lingerie in Sydney for the plus-size market, but here are a few established lingerie companies you might like to peruse in Sydney: in Balmain, and are both in central Sydney City.

You do not have to be going to a wedding to wear beautiful lingerie, just do it for yourself, it is worth spending time to get yourself fitted correctly and you will feel so much happier with the overall feel and effect.

Two of my favourite websites are:

  • New York and Columbus, OH based company:, which has fabulous innovative lingerie and garment designs for plus-size.
  • Georgina Horne’s UK based company: is another of my favourites for gorgeous curvy ladies. This beautiful plus-size model has done a lot of research and her blogs give a load of information about clothes, colours, and lingerie, along with her own personal insights.

I love corsetry and two of my favourite sites Georgina recommends are: and

Below are a couple of designs I pulled from the web showing how beautifully designed and fitted corsetry and lingerie enhances a beautiful, voluptuous figure.


Don’t they look fabulous!

Bespoke vs Off-The-Rail.

What do Jacqueline Kennedy, Amal & George Clooney, Michelle & Barack Obama, Robert Downey Jnr, Princess Diana, Jennifer Aniston, Christine Lagarde to name just a few, all have in common?

Answer: Immaculate style and beautifully tailored clothes.

Oh yes, it does take rather a few more notes out of the wallet to support such elegance, but they’re worth every dollar. Actors and politicians are on show regularly and are expected to dress well. But that doesn’t mean you too can’t have a few well-cut garments made to wear on special occasions, especially plus-size women for whom I predominantly design.

When someone walks into a room or even along the street in a well-tailored suit or dress you notice them, they stand out. Not only are their clothes superbly cut and designed, but they feel empowered by their clothes, it shows in their stance, the way they move.

Off-the-rail is what most of us buy, even designers such as myself. We don’t have the time or money to have our wardrobes completely made for us. Mass-produced clothes are cheaper because of the high volume cut and made. My casual wear is mostly off-the-rail and I put up with the tight bicep section of the sleeves that are also always too short on me, or the short bodice lengths, though I do get a touch cranky when I see friends paying out high prices for ‘designer’ off-the-rail garments that still do not fit properly.

This is not so with bespoke garments, it is a very different operation, which is why I personally have some special garments ready to wear when I want to make an impression, going to the symphony or a classy restaurant.

Bespoke, or Made-to-Measure, does take a lot of time of course, though it is an immensely enjoyable process. A Senior Patternmaker is a craftsperson and it takes years of training and working in various studios or industry to become proficient in this very demanding career. I have worked in corporate and high fashion, both are exciting although I do have a preference for couture, especially in plus sizes, an area I spent a lot of time in during my London years in the late 80s and early 90s. Yes, I have been around for a while!

How to Get Made-to-Measure Clothes

When you make an appointment with me, I ask you to bring a few clothes that you love, as well as magazine references or we will search your Pinterest or Instagram account. After chatting, I will start to get a feel for what you like and, more importantly, dislike. We also play around draping different coloured fabrics around you to see what enhances your own colouring and silhouette. I also ask you to bring some heels and wear well-fitted lingerie. This is so important because not only does it help enhance a woman’s figure, beautiful lingerie also helps the garment sit correctly and produce the correct measurements. Badly fitting lingerie does not do justice to the female form, particularly a voluptuous one, or the clothes, and it shows. Plus ladies, don’t we feel delicious and sexy in gorgeous underwear next to our skin? Just as beautifully fitted garments empower a woman, so does gorgeous lingerie. I will write more about this for the fuller figure in another blog.

Research is Your Friend!

If you are not sure of what type of silhouette or colour looks good on you, when you are next out shopping for a new garment take a photograph of yourself or better still, get a friend to take one if she is with you, then look at your photo. You will see yourself objectively and can usually tell straight away if you like what you have tried on. Don’t think about it, make that decision immediately, it is a much more informed decision and usually the right one. Sometimes your friends might not say what they truly think, because they love you and don’t want to upset you, but there is nothing wrong with asking someone who is near the fitting room, though preferably not the salesperson!

Quite often a number of retail boutiques will not let you take photos of garments, in which case perhaps you could suggest to the salesperson that they take a photo of you with their own phone and then they can delete? I mean, they want that sale, don’t they?


If you’re happy to proceed, whether it’s your bridal/evening gown or tailored daywear, I then take your measurements ready for the initial pattern. A toile (calico) is constructed after the pattern is made in a fabric similar to the final garment, to test the pattern, design and fit it before I cut it in your expensive fabric. For example, if the gown is lace or a drapey fabric, I will test the pattern in a similar weight, but much cheaper fabric.

Next: Toile

During your first toile fitting, we may decide to change the design, a little or a lot, and also tweak the fit if needed. If all goes well, I will proceed with the make of the garment; if not, I will make another toile. You can now see that we are actually making the garment up once or twice before actually cutting it out to hand over to my wonderfully talented machinist who will do her magic. The hours are adding up!

Once you and I are both happy with the fit and design, we do something exciting – we go shopping for your fabric, if you don’t already have an amazing piece you’ve  bought from overseas. In that case, we have to design something that will fit into that particular metreage, not always easy! This is the final step before actually cutting the garment because we don’t know how much fabric you need until the pattern is made. I then I lay it out on different widths. For example: 90cm, 110cm, 130cm, 140cm 150cm widths, to calculate the correct metreage for each width fabric. If the fabric has a particular design or pattern on it that we want to utilise within the dress silhouette this will most likely increase the metreage again, especially if it is a scolloped edge lace!

These calculations are all extremely important, especially working with bridal gown fabrics and lace from Europe, they can be quite costly.

Absolutely Fabulous!

Finally there is nothing more exciting for both client and designer, and of course my machinist if she is nearby since she has done the amazing work of sewing quite often very difficult fabric, to see the garment finished and on you. When you see how a woman holds herself wearing a beautiful new bespoke garment, it is magic. I absolutely love what I do and I adore my clientele.

Join me! Send me a message to get started.

Learning to Screen Print

Learning to Screen Print

I destroyed so much fabric when I was young trying to either design a wonderful dress, before I became a patternmaker, or attempting to paint some fabulous creation whenever I got a plain piece. This was fabric that my Mum bought for me from the local travelling salesman and since we were not a wealthy family you can imagine what she thought of my wastage. Dad, being the artistic one, never worried about it.

Most of my career has been focussed on my bespoke bridal/evening wear business and patternmaking for companies, both here in Australia, England where I lived during the 1980s and of course in Auckland, where I was born and studied.
It bought in the funds for me to do exciting things such as travel and photography but the beginning of 2017 saw a new love emerge for me, water colour sketching via a lovely Instagram sketching community #momentsketchers

It is now February 2018 and I have just completed an amazing 4 day screen printing course at in Petersham, Sydney owned and run by the very talented, and patient, Laura Walsh. I chose a viscose/spandex and also a silk voile to print on. This has definitely set me on another path to develop proficiency in Photoshop and Illustrator, in an attempt to become more conversant with the digital format and produce my own screen printing. It is frustrating and makes me want to tear my hair out, but immensely enjoyable at the same time.


 1974- Hand painted Rupert Bear on a dress I wore for the Miss Auckland Contest, which my sister  entered me into. I was lucky to win Miss Friendship and a trip to Tahiti.


1998-Hand painted angel on a T-shirt for my niece, Lauren.
2012- My first attempt at screen printing


2017- Original sketches for Seraphina (above) and Sophronia (below)


February 2018-First layout in Photoshop
February 2018-Screen printing course, lining up the 2 layers of film

Washing the exposed screen in readiness for printing

Very exciting watching it come alive on the actual fabric

My niece, Lauren’s beautiful Burmese, Gypsy helped me cut out!


The finished top in viscose spandex-front


Silk/voile skirt lined with a grey rayon





The beautiful plaited kangaroo leather belt was made for me by
in Berrima in the beautiful Southern Highlands.