Behind the Design: The Odette Top
by Emily DeLong
05 December 2017
The Odette Top is perhaps my favorite piece from our FW17 collection. (If not my favorite, it's certainly the piece I've worn the most so far.) With a pleated front, high neck, drapey split sleeves, and a button-up back, it's a top that has a lot of details — more details than I've ever included in a piece of mine, actually.
My whole goal with FW17 was to push myself to do things I wouldn't ordinarily do when designing, and as FW17 planning progressed the collection got more and more ornate and fancy. (All the little details I incorporated made sample production take a lot longer than expected, but that's a whole different story.)
Most of the time when I design, I begin with the dresses in the collection, and then design the tops as "remixes" of the dresses. Not with the Odette — it came to me first, and the Greta Dress fell into place after the design of the Odette was complete.
Before I even began designing, too, I had already decided on the top's name —a subtle nod to Swan Lake — and I knew from the beginning that, in swan-like fashion, I wanted the top to be defined by a long, graceful neck.
In the beginning, I was just planning on the Odette being a simple boxy top with a high neck and flutter sleeves, as you can see in the early sketch above. It was pretty late in the design process, when I began to add more details to everything, that I realized that the top (and the corresponding Greta Dress) needed something extra, and I started looking into 1930s/1940s era tops and got the idea for pleats.
As far as the sleeves go, I was, weirdly enough, inspired to change the design from flutter sleeves to split (yet still fluttery) sleeves after spotting a woman I didn't know in a parking lot wearing a dress with really cool drapey split sleeves. I don't even remember exactly what her dress looked like anymore, but I do remember the aftermath. There I was one moment, about to buy groceries, and the next moment all I could think about were sleeves. Inspiration truly does strike in the oddest of places.
I don't always make a full prototype of every design in every collection, but when the piece is challenging, or when I'm having to make a lot of new patterns that I haven't before, I do. For the Odette, I was most concerned about the neck band and the sleeves, as both were elements I had never created patterns for.
Above is the prototype I made of the Odette. (Those who've been following Margu for a while will recognize the Black Grid fabric from FW16! I had a little bit left over and thought it would make a fun top.) That prototype was strange in that there were both so many perfect and completely idiotic things about it.
1) The sleeves, somehow! I used the fluttery sleeve pattern I had created for the Ellen Dress (from this summer's Building Blocks collection) and simply added a slit throughout the entire shoulder. I was so concerned it wouldn't work but ... it somehow did, on the first try. (That doesn't happen to me often, I promise.)
2) The boxy bodice and split hem, mainly because I've designed a lot of boxy bodices and split hems in my lifetime.
3) The placing and size of the front pleats: I kind of just went with my intuition on this one, and they inexplicably turned out exactly the way I wanted them to.
Completely idiotic things:
1) The neck band. I had it in my head that the neckband needed to be curved, but as you may be able to see in the picture, the curved neckband ended up not laying flat and bunched out in the weirdest places. The moment I finished sewing it, I couldn't figure out why I didn't go with a flat neckband (which I did end up doing for the final version).
2) The bust darts. Somehow I drafted them to be a good 2 inches too low. Perfect for someone with a very, very low bust, or very, very long upper torso. I still can't figure out how I managed to do that!
3) The back closure ... or lack thereof. Somehow it didn't cross my mind that a woven top with a high-neck would not be a "throw it on over your head" kind of deal. When I first created the prototype, it, uh, wouldn't fit over my head. I sliced it open and created a little loop button closure for the prototype, and for the final Odette I ended up doing a split back seam with three mother of pearl buttons.
I ended up keeping that prototype for myself — as weird as it is, it's still wearable, and I love the fabric I made it in makes for a mega-dramatic statement.
The biggest headache overall with the Odette, once I had the pattern complete, was figuring out how to make the neckband stiff enough. Putting a layer of lightweight organic cotton inside the collar, like I do for ordinary collars, was not enough. I wanted something thick but not puffy, stiff but not too stiff, and I couldn't find anything in my studio that would work — that is, until I had the idea of sticking a strip of our heavyweight Eggplant Denim fabric inside the collar. Sturdy yet soft, that denim ended up being the perfect interlining fabric for the collar.
The Odette is one of my favorite pieces to sew from this collection. There are a lot of fun seams and hems, and the pleats are challenging but fun in small doses. The most time-consuming part, honestly, is marking all the sewing lines for the pleats.
The chalk is brushed off before the top is finished, promise!