By April F. Estrada, co-founder of The Undress.
When Dennis and I started working on The Undress over a year ago, we had one main goal in mind--create the most amazing dress in the world. That commitment took us through multiple variations and countless hours of designing, prototyping and testing until we finally arrived at the “First Edition” version of The Undress that we launched on Kickstarter on September 22, 2014.
We had no way of knowing that we would pre-sell over 10,000 dresses for our very first order--all while we were still in the middle of development of The Undress. As you can imagine, making such a big order of something that had never been produced before (or had ever existed, for that matter) was a bit of a risk.
We learned along the way that there were many changes needed in order to make The Undress “production-friendly.” I’ll outline some of the changes we made here so you can get a behind-the-scenes view of our development process.
Developing The “First Edition” Version of The Undress
When we initially designed The Undress we wanted to make it as easy to change in as possible--while still maintaining fashion appeal. So in our minds, we figured that having the dress be a little looser and have more material would ensure that you would be covered while changing. Plus, having a flowy skirt on the dress looked elegant and fun!
We also figured that having a full-length dress would be tricky in terms of length, so we were cautious and decided to make the dress a little longer. That way, our customers could have the option of hemming the dress to fit their ideal length. We did, however, want to give our women the option to shorten the dress temporarily if they did not want to hem it. Therefore, we added 3 elastic loops to the hem which could be looped on the fingers or attached to the “Hook and Handle” in order to shorten the dress.
Then came the challenge of figuring out how to add HOLES to a dress in a way that was functional and appealing at the same time. Having holes on the sides of The Undress was essential in order to easily and discretely remove bottoms and undergarments. We ended up inventing our own construction for our “side access opening” that was outlined in trim and opened at the seam of the dress. We also had to make sure you couldn’t see anything when using the opening, so we created a “view blocker panel” that is basically a strip of fabric that covers you from the inside. Then came the thought --“Hey, why not add a pocket in there?” So we added pockets :)
During our test fitting, we noticed that the top seemed a bit sheer (especially if you wanted to wear The Undress without a bra). To solve that, we added an additional lining to the dress to add some extra coverage. Then came another thought--“Hey, what if we add a pocket in there so we can make the dress self-packable?” So we added another pocket and made it packable :)
So at this point, we pretty much had the entire dress design handled. Then one day, I accidentally turned one of our prototype dresses inside out. The lining pieces draped in such a way that it resembled a loose-fitting top paired with a skirt. A light bulb went off in Dennis’ head--”Hey, why don’t we make the dress reversible?!” This addition was tougher for me to swallow. Though I wasn’t an expert in sewing, I did know that making a garment reversible required that all the seams look clean on BOTH sides. So basically, double the work, which sounded quite daunting. However, we took the sample to several local factories and they assured us that it could be done. So I decided “Hey, what not?”
Unfortunately, the answer to “Why not?” came AFTER we started production of over 10,000 reversible dresses. The factories were correct in stating that it could be done. However, the problem was that they severely underestimated how long it would take to do it. One of the biggest deciding factors on how time consuming a garment will be is based on how many “operations” are needed to construct it. An operation is every separate task that is necessary to construct a garment. For example, stitching the hem on the dress is considered one operation, sewing the seam that joins the top and bottom of a dress is another, and so on. An average maxi dress has anywhere from 6 to 8 operations total. The Undress ended up coming in at a whopping 45 operations--which is an incredible amount of work. Though having all these features was great and added a lot of utility to The Undress, it unfortunately led to serious delays in production. At the end of the day, we decided that it was necessary to make some major changes to our design--not only to streamline production but also to improve ease of use and fit for our customers.
Changing Things Up: Transitioning Into The Newest Version of The Undress
We definitely learned a lot about what changes needed to be made in order to improve production. However, what was even more important to us was learning what changes our women wanted. We really wanted to know how The Undress was working for them out in the world and what feedback they had to make it even better. We sent out thousands of surveys to our Kickstarter backers and received an amazing amount of responses. We used their feedback, more test fitting, and advice from our factories to make the newest edition of The Undress.
The first change we decided to make was to reduce the "flowiness" of the dress. We received responses that the extra width at the bottom felt a bit too heavy and that having a more streamlined fit may improve the changing functionality of the dress. Therefore, we reduced the width of the skirt 39% (known as the "sweep") from 42" to 26". This reduction also eliminated the need for three elastic loops at the bottom since now only one was needed to hold up and shorten the dress.
Following this adjustment, we also removed several inches of fabric from the bodice--not only to further streamline the design but to improve the fit as well. We received feedback that the looseness of the dress in this area was an issue, so we decided to make it more form-fitting in design. This also helped to keep the dress up during the changing process (instead of sagging in the back because of the extra material).
A big adjustment we decided to make was to eliminate the reversibility function of the dress. Though this was a great feature, it unfortunately did not work well in terms of efficiency in production. The special seams required to allow The Undress to be reversible were just too time consuming to sew during production. We decided that the risk of delaying production again was not worth it. On the upside, removing the reversibility of The Undress helped to streamline the fit since the inner lining no longer had to be loose (which could sometimes be visible from the front side).
Another important change we incorporated was to optimize the side-access opening, one of the most important features of The Undress. The previous version was very complex, especially because of the fabric trim that surrounded the opening. Therefore, we decided to remove the trim and simplify the opening so that it would lay flatter. The new side-access opening looks great and is 10x faster to sew in the factory (which we were super happy about!)
The last change we incorporated was to reduce the overall length of the dress by a few inches. In the hundreds of surveys that we received from our Kickstarter project, the overwhelming response was that the dress was too long. Though making the length long was intentional, we decided that reducing the length would be worth trying. That way, we could see how it works for our customers and adjust again if needed. Plus, having the length of The Undress be on the shorter side actually improves the functionality of changing. That way, you don’t have to worry about accidentally stepping on the fabric while you are trying to change clothes. So far our feedback for the new edition of the dress has been overwhelmingly positive. If you are an owner of our original dress, you'll notice it when you try it!
It has been an incredible journey developing The Undress with the support and feedback of all of the amazing women who are now part of our “Founder’s Family.” Our team is excited about all the new changes that we have made and we are looking forward to continue to develop The Undress to become the most amazing dress in the world, for some of the most amazing women in the world!