Dress Construction

I have finished my dress for the Tessuti online awards, except for the waist stay. I haven't taken pictures of the final dress yet, but here are some of the construction details...

The fabric
- the outer fabric is Tessuti's Green Rapture, cotton
- the lining is Tessuti's White Option, cotton and silk blend
- the foundation layer is a cheery cotton print, with lemons on it, instead of the traditional calico layer
- the tulle is from a local bridal shop, not sure of the composition

The pattern
I generated a dress pattern using Wild Ginger software. The strapless bodice is boned, with princess seaming. The skirt is gored and flared. The dress is lined to mid-thigh. Three layers of tulle are gathered onto the bottom of the lining. I will put more details of the pattern in my pattern review. This dress would be so easy for anybody who sews formal or bridal wear, but it took a lot of research for me...the last strapless dress I made needed straps to stay up! The simple design showcases the fabulous fabric.
The boning

I used rigalene boning. This is only the second time that I have used it. The first time I made organza casings. This time I sewed the rigalene directly to the foundation layer. In future, I think I will make casings again, as this allows you to remove the boning during construction, or alter the lengths of the bones easily. The photo below shows how the boning is attached for straight and curved seams. On straight seams (side seams), the boning is sewn on both sides through the seam allowances and body of the foundation layer. On curved seams (princess seams), one side of the boning is sewn to the seam allowances only. The seam allowances are then trimmed before the other side of the boning is sewn to the foundation fabric.

The seams

The skirt was sewn with normal seams, overlocked and pressed open. I thought overlocking was best, because the fabric frays easily and is quite bulky. I overlocked the hem and used the blind stitch foot on my sewing machine to turn up a 5 cm hem. This was okay because the stitches don't really show on the print fabric. I did pick up a new trick in my latest Australian Stitches...use the free motion foot on your machine for basting up hems before blind-hemming them. Much faster than hand basting!

The skirt lining was sewn with french seams. Tulle was attached to the skirt lining, so no lining hem. I left the bottom edge of the tulle raw. I sewed the seams of the tulle with the overcasting foot on my machine and a narrow zig-zag, as shown in the photo below (I stuck the finished seam back under the foot, so I could remember why I was photographing the foot). The overcasting foot is designed for a wide zig-zag, over the 2 metal "pins" on the foot, but I found that a narrow zig-zag between the "pins" gave a neat seam.

After 3 muslins (still getting familiar with PMB4), the lining and foundations layers, I still wasn't happy with my princess seams. Taking on the adage "if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got", I decided that it was time to look for a better way. Enter Roberta Carr and "Couture. The Art of Fine Sewing". This is her method for doing princess seams.

1. Working over a ham, fold under the seam allowance along the marked stitching line on the side piece, and poisition it at the marked stitching line of the centre front piece.

2. Pin from shoulder to 3.8 cm from bust point.

3. Pin from hem up to 3.8 cm from bust point.

4. Shift ham for a strong curve under the bust area and place pins close together over the bust point. Ease if necessary by gently stretching the stitching line of the centre front piece.

5. Slipstich baste along seamline, with fabric shaped over a ham. Space stitches more closely together over the bust point.

6. Fold fabric right sides together and machine stitch, with the side piece on top.

7. Remove all basting.

8. Meld stitches from both sides with the edge of the iron. Press seam open over a ham.

9. Clip only as needed so seam lies flat. Clip at an angle.

Worked like a charm....


I chose a lapped zipper application. I like the method given by Rosebud, in Threads Dec 07 / Jan 08, except that this article doesn't explain how to apply the facings. In one photograph, it looks like the facings are attached before the zipper??

Anyway, before I attached the zipper, I followed an article by Angie Zimmermann in an old edition of Australian Stitches (don't know which issue as I rip out the articles I want to keep). Her method prepares the top edge, so that a facing or lining can be attached after the zipper. Below is a photo of my completed zipper, before the lining is attached.

I decided not to put a hook and eye above the zipper, because I never do them up, and dress zips tend to be self-locking and don't open themselves...but there is a lot of stress in that area, so maybe I made the wrong choice. There is no room to add a hook and eye now and I am also wondering if the hook and eye would just pull the threads out of this loose weave fabric.

Waist stay

I am planning on using non-roll elastic for my waist stay (though the dress is very snug...I may not need one). I wasn't sure whether to sew the elastic to the seams or put in belt carriers. I have put in belt carriers for now, and will see how they go.

I looked at Kenneth D King's method for making a thread chain in Threads April / May 2008. He says a thread chain is a basic crochet chain, but you don't use a crochet hook to make it...instead it looks like finger crocheting. I tried this for about 10 seconds, and then thought, why not break out the crochet hook?

Well done to anybody who is still reading, this far down the page! Hopefullly I will get photos of the completed dress up shortly.


  1. This looks fabulous in the teaser glimpses. Thanks for the detailed construction photos. I am really looking forward to seeing the completed dress.

  2. oooh! Gorgeous frock, love the tulle - love it all, actually! More pics, please!

  3. this is so informative and useful! :D