Choli two ways

I’ve been cutting patterns.

It’s been many, many years since I really applied the pattern-cutting I learned in my 20s. But some things never leave you. My friend Chippy gave me a choli as well as a sari when I visited her in Melbourne recently. It didn’t fit, since she’d had it since her own 20s, but it wasn’t totally unwearable (we both have more, ahem, front than we used to, and I could put it on but not do it up). Also, I am no longer a young woman, and I’d want the garment to reflect that fact, with a more covered midriff. Choli design varies enormously, and this adjustment is perfectly authentic and appropriate. So I got modifying.

I started by taking the original choli apart and making a paper pattern from the pieces. I then added extra in the areas where I thought I needed it, based on multiple measurements. After that, I cut a ‘muslin’ (or mock-up) from the new pattern, basted it together and put it on. Well, it still needed a lot of adjustments, and it’s a fairly complicated pattern for such a small garment: there are 8 darts on the bodice front alone! So, I made the changes… and then put it aside for a while. I was feeling a bit over it, at that point.

I thought maybe I needed a simpler solution, so I decided to cut a pattern from scratch. Because, yeah, of course that was simpler. Not. But the resulting pattern is, actually, much simpler.

It has princess-line seams on the front that give shaping, rather than multiple darts, it has a simple V-neck instead of a rounded scoop that needs a facing, a higher back than the other one, and a rear zipper instead of front hook-and-eye fastening. For a fully-fitted shape I also added a couple of back darts and fitted the zipper on a curved centre back seam.

You need a load of measurements. A load…But it has worked pretty well. The photos are pretty crappy selfies, but you can see that it fits snugly. And because of the fabric design, you can’t really see the seams. So it looks like a stretch-fit, but isn’t. It’s a little more conservative than the original, but I do feel that’s more appropriate for a person of my, er, mature years and less-than optimal mid-section.

So that one’s done, and I know it works and is comfortable. Now to get back to the original one and all its multiplicity of darts and facings. We shall see how nicely that one fits when it’s all done. I may end up preferring the more authentic shaping, the slightly lower cut of the back neckline and the easier front-entry, but, maybe not.

Ultimately the plan is to have a couple of pattern options from which I can cut cholis to go with the beautiful orange/cream paisley sari Chippy gave me. It definitely needs a better blouse than a long-sleeved black t-shirt. A gift like that deserves time and effort to achieve a suitable pairing, which I propose to give it.

I’ll keep you posted!

29 thoughts on “Choli two ways

  1. claire93 says:

    wow, looks stunning!

    • katechiconi says:

      Gosh, thanks! I was afraid I’d look bulgy and mutton-dressed-as-lamb, but it’s actually really quite flattering!

      • claire93 says:

        no it looks really “you” and I forgot to say, love the cockatoos ^^

      • katechiconi says:

        The fabric’s lovely, isn’t it? We’ve got an Australian designer called Jocelyn Proust who does fabric designs that really appeal to me, with Australian native flora and fauna. This was a fabric offcut in the remnants bin, and I couldn’t resist it!

  2. I love it! Well fitting and pretty…and so great that you are figuring out the pattern to suit the current you…gravity being what it is.

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes… sadly, everything is heading south! I really do like this princess line bodice, which keeps everything nice and smooth. I think it’s going to need experimentation with a variety of fabrics to see how well it performs with something more densely-woven, for example. I do fancy a nice gold brocade job!

  3. craftycreeky says:

    I’d never heard of a choli, every day is a school day 🙂 The fit looks pretty perfect, your choli is amazing!

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s literally just the equivalent of ‘blouse’, but it has so many possibilities. There’s the version you wear with a sari, or the version you wear with a lehenga, the formal pleated, highly decorated skirt worn as a wedding outfit together with a dupatta, or veil/scarf. Sorry, Indian dress buff going off here!

  4. Sharon says:

    Love your material choice for this and the necklace is gorgeous and perfect with it.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s fun, isn’t it, but it wasn’t a serious decision, the fabric was just what I had available in my fabric storage, Turned out pretty well, eh? And the necklace is a favourite, 20 years old but still comes out regularly…

  5. nanacathy2 says:

    Really impressed with your skills, lovely top too.

    • katechiconi says:

      The pattern cutting skills have lain dormant for years except when I wanted to adjust things on a commercial one, but it’s good to know I can still do it.

  6. It’s lovely, Kate.

  7. That looks excellent… the myriad of darts on the original is because the choli is a lot like a fancy bra …. I love your adaptation and it looks awesome.
    There will be a sari coming back for you from my India trip next year for sure. 💝

    • katechiconi says:

      Oooooh! And I do get why all the darts, it’s very sensible, but it does mean the thing has to absolutely be fitted individually. Which is why the original version is taking so long! The princess seam is slightly less snug, but also means that any pattern is less disrupted, which may be an issue in the future with another fabric.

      • Yes each choli is made with each sari … that’s why there’s always added material to let out … but I know from experience letting it out always disrupts the fit in the front .

      • katechiconi says:

        Yes! All the darts had to be repositioned and their apexes moved, plus I have a broad back and a slightly deeper arm-scye. I’m planning to sew the traditional-style choli over the next couple of days, so I’ll see how well I’ve done with the adjustments then. I do feel much more appropriate with a longer length, as I’m sure no-one would want to look at my fish-belly-white middle!

      • And I’ve changed my outfit for Saturday now 🤩
        Still Indian but now a Churidaar instead of sari. Made the change as I’m going to have a lot of stuff to do on the day so don’t want to feel encumbered or cold as it’s very frosty here and any bare skin is causing me a lot of pain 🥲

      • katechiconi says:

        Oh, I get that. Churidaar and kameez would be much cosier than sari, and you could even wear thermals if you needed to!

      • Absolutely… it’s more the moving around that will be easier

  8. I knew you would do something wonderful with it and you have. It will be interesting to see which you like better in the long run. I could not do a back zip on anything anymore. It’s front hook or button. I describe myself as “ample” Always have been so fit is always an issue. Sometimes you do need to step away from what you are working on to get a better perspective. I think it looks very nice on you and could see no issue with it.

    • katechiconi says:

      I have attached a long narrow ribbon to the zipper in the back to make shifting it possible! Also, it opens upwards to allow entry through the narrow waist, and the zipper is at the bottom when closed so the ribbon can be tucked away 😉 I’ve never been ample or anything approaching it, but things have, um, ‘broadened’ as I got older, and are no longer geographically where they used to be! It’s good to be able to adjust so I don’t look strange…

  9. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I am really impressed that you can draft a pattern from scratch. I can adapt bought ones or make simple ones using rectangles and such but have never learned to make a more complex one. I love the result of your work. Those crop top type things look good on a svelt 20 something but less so os us mature types. Do you rmember when the pattern books had a sections for digfferent ages of woman one of which I think was called ‘Matron’ for ladies with more need for support and camouflage?

    • katechiconi says:

      There are some very good books around that can help you with the basics, if you’re interested. I did several years of study, but that was more than 40 yeears ago, and things have changed… It’s fun rediscovering things I thought I’d forgotten.

      • Going Batty in Wales says:

        I haven’t made any clothes for ages but it is another item on my (very long) list of things to do one day and learning to make my own patterns will be part of it.

      • katechiconi says:

        The fun thing about cutting your own patterns is that you can customise everything, and no-one else has anything like it.

  10. You make me laugh! You look absolutely great 🙂

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