August 08, 2006

A dress analysis

I finally found some time to analyze a dress from another manufacturer. I do this from time to time to see some of the innovative engineering that others have built into their infant clothing. (Infant clothing requires a lot of engineering, btw). This is the best way to learn how to put things together. This dress is a department store dress from Baby Togs. It would retail for about $20. There are some things that make this a department-store quality dress, with some interesting observations. The dress is a three piece set, made from a cotton/poly gingham. The dress is very cute and a good value. BTW, this dress was made in China.

Good Quality Points

1. The fabric is not a regular gingham. It is more like a dobby fabric. It is a better quality check fabric than I usually see. The content is 55% cotton 45% poly.

2. Embroidery. Anytime embroidery is added to a dress, the cost goes up, especially if made in the USA. This style has embroidered daisies only on the front bodice and embroidered flowers on the pockets. There is a minimum charge to run both pieces. They get bonus points for the amount on the dress.

3. The flower on the dress is not tacked on with a tacker. Instead the flower center is actually embroidered through to the hat band. This ensures the flower does not fall off!

4. The diaper cover is rather ordinary, but it has wider elastic at the waist - 1/2". Normally, budget clothing will have 1/4". The elastic is fully encased for a smooth finish and is not stitched through. They also probably saved money by doing a 4-piece diaper. This allows the cutter to move the pieces around to save money on fabric. Of course, it adds additional labor - but so far that is not an issue in China. In China, fabric is more expensive then labor.

Some interesting observations

1. The first thing I noticed about this dress was the skirt gather ratio - it is rather skimpy. Looking closer, you can tell the skirt is actually A-line. Even more amazing, they were able to put a straight grain band on the skirt. This kind of application would frustrate most people. The skirt hem could easily stretch out of shape, and yet I could only find minor stretching on one side seam. I did find evidence of basting, perhaps that helped. Personally, I would have cut the skirt straight and use the width of the fabric. The a-line skirt sweep is about 45". If you are using a 45" fabric, then there would be no difference in making the skirt straight. Plus it would have been easier to sew.

2. I have only seen one way of gathering skirts in China. This is because most Chinese manufacturers do not have shirring arms on their overlock machines. As incredible as this may seem, it is true. (And believe me, I have tried to show them this labor saving device, but labor is very cheap in China and they are not motivated to change). Instead of gathering and attaching the skirt in one operation, it is done in 3-4 steps. They will use a straight stitch machine with a gathering foot to create the gathers. Then they will baste the skirt to the bodice, and finally overedge the seam. This dress also has topstitching along the waist seam (a fourth step). It is hard to see in this picture, but here it is. You can see two rows of straight stitching. Another problem with this method is the gathers do not look neat and even. From the face side, it looks fine, but the inside is another story.

3. The final interesting point is where the manufacturer attempted to save fabric. The front bodice is fully lined, but the back is only partial. I am not sure this would have saved any fabric. Chances are the fabric saved was actually tossed out.

This was a fun dress to inspect. I don't quite understand some of the things they did, but despite that, it still turned out cute. It is right on for a department store dress and hits the right price point. This dress is available for sale if anyone is interested at Tiny Packages.

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