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Sewing is therapy for me. I hoard fabric, patterns, notions, and spend more time shopping for fabric than I care to admit...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Holiday dress in lace

I love the holidays, and even more, I love wearing something I've made. Well, this year, I decided to make a beautiful lace dress.  I've never tackled a project like this, so grab a coffee or your favorite beverage, and I will walk you though my journey.  

Fabulous V-neck dress with slip (pattern included)I choose this lovely pattern from my favorite company, StyleArc.  I've had my eye on this dress for a very long time but wondered where on earth I would wear it and could I create it in a way that I would be proud of?  

Here is the pattern description from StyleArc's site: 
A wonderful party dress complete with a slip. Use scalloped lace to create beautiful and interesting neckline. The lace edge can also be used on the hem and sleeves. This pattern can be made many ways - all lace, lace yokes & sleeves with plain body, or completely plain. The choice is yours!

Those design lines are so pretty!  I love the separate slip cut on the bias since bias cut garments just glide over your skin and feel wonderful!  

I also really like the elbow length sleeves with the zipper back and opening at the shoulder blades to the neckline where it closes with a hook and eye.  

Since I've not made a dress such as this, I choose to make not one but two muslins and I am very happy I did so!  While I typically don't hardly alter a StyleArc pattern, since this was made in lace a more delicate to handle, I knew I would get a better feel of how the garment went together through the practice-fit.  I just used a lightweight gabardine to test this for my first and second muslin. 

The first time through, I made the pattern as is with my usual 1/2" swayback adjustment and also a sort of new alteration for me and that is a slight (3/8") sloping shoulder adjustment.   And, constructed the dress as the pattern was written.  Honestly, if you think about the look of the dress and read carefully, this dress will make sense.  

After the initial fitting, I decided I wanted to have more room in the torso so I took out the optional darts and felt so much better about how the dress felt and how it looked on me!  I knew I could always add the darts at a later time if needed.  I also raised the back seam that runs along the shoulder blades by an inch at the center back, as I didn't want my bra to show and yes, I will wear a bra.  I am 52 years old and wear a C-cup, I am assuming if you were me, you would too.  :)  I also had to take in the armscye from the shoulder seam to the underarm on the back of the dress.  Maybe I have a narrow back as well?  

The second muslin fit so much  better and I held my breath as I cut into the lace.  Let's talk about the lace for a minute.  It was so lovely to work with and I like the design that has geometric patterns in it rather than a usual floral work.  I love florals, but sometimes I think I need to mix things up a bit.  

I was very leery as to how to finish off the seams so they wouldn't pull apart as some of the lace has some open places.  And, since this dress is so lovely, I am considering wearing it to my son's wedding in January.  
I plan on dancing and can you imagine if the seams popped while I was doing the hustle on the dance floor?  I researched quite a bit and came up with using silk organza cut into 1/2" strips and stitching those strips along the seams.  See how nicely the seams finished off after serging?  

  The organza is black, just like the lace and is barely visible.   I used the organza to reinforce the zipper insertion as well but instead of the silk on one side of the seam, I put it on both.  I also used the lace pattern itself to create the hems on the skirt and sleeves.  I practiced a bit by cutting different parts of the lace to see what I liked and I settled on this fringe base which I created by cutting off a portion of the lace pattern.

Another concern I had was due to the construction process.  The instructions tell you that when you are attaching the front and back bodice, you stitch to a dot, raise your presser foot, clip to the notch, pivot the fabric and carry on.  I didn't want to risk cutting too far, so I staystitched the neckline and sewed a small piece of the organza to the pivot point to reinforce it and make me feel better about constructing this dress in lace.  I must admit, it worked beautifully.  

` Everything was going really well but I wasn't sure how to finish off the front and back neckline and I was a little worried about inserting a zipper in the lace.  Again, I looked to the lace for the answer and I cut a portion of the design off and used a very narrow zigzag to attach it to the bodice.  I simply stitched slowly and followed the edge of the design.  After applying the edging, I used my applique scissors to trim the excess away. 
I normally wouldn't post a picture of my chest like this, but it does show the neckline really well.  As you can imaging, dear husband took this photo when I wasn't looking.  

The last headache I had with this dress was the zipper.  As I was working with the lace, I knew a regular invisible zipper from JoAnn's or Hancock's probably wouldn't cut it due to the weight of the zip and the lightness of the dress.  I predicted a big puddle at the bottom of the zip and sadly my estimation was correct.  I had no idea what to do and reached out to the sewing community.  An angel in disguise led me to a site that sells lightweight invisible zippers.  Shipping was fast and I had the new zipper inserted in a matter of minutes and whew, no more puddles!  In case you are wondering about the weight difference in a regular and lightweight zipper here it is: 

Lightweight zipper--four grams

Regular zipper--six grams.  Those two grams make a difference!  Trust me!  

While it sounds like this dress was a ton of work, it really wasn't.  The lace was lovely to work with and it behaved just beautifully.  It presses well and I am so happy with the end result.  

I almost forgot that I also made the slip as well!  This is included in the pattern and I ordered this black charmeuse that was heavenly to work with.  Luckily the pattern has a c-cup bodice for the slip and I made it as is.  You don't need any special tools but I do have a recommendation for a bias-cut garment.  Let the slip hang for at least 24 hours before hemming.  It you have wonder clips, attach those every three or four inches to help the garment hand properly.  If you don't have wonder clips, you could also use safety pins every few inches just a few threads up from the hemline.

I can't wait to wear my new lace dress!  I know, it is pretty fancy, but I think it will be perfect for my son's wedding!

Thanks for reading!



  1. Your hard work paid off-- big time! The dress is stunning. And what a find in that geometric lace! It worked beautifully for you. Lightweight invisible zips, huh? Who knew! I shall definitely have to remember that. And thank you for your detailed walkthrough on the making. :)

    1. Thank you Robin! I love this lace, it isn't too (forgive me for saying this) old ladyish. It is funky and modern and I love it! Yes, if you do sew lace and need a zip, find a lightweight one, it makes all the difference.

  2. Your dress is absolutely beautiful!! What terrific work you did. I appreciate all of the details. I have not yet sewn with lace but you are inspiring me.
    Enjoy wearing the dress to your son's wedding and for many other occasions. You look stunning.

    1. Thank you Bernice! I so appreciate your kind words! Happy sewing!

  3. That neckline! You used the scallops to great effect in both the front and the back! I haven't worked with lace yet, so I appreciate your helpful notes.

  4. Thank you Sara! I hop you will try lace, it is fun!

  5. Beautiful dress! I too have thought this is an excellent dress to wear to a wedding, so I think it would be great on the MOG. May I make one suggestion? The dress looks so nice on the form without the slip. Maybe consider wearing it with a flesh colored slip, so the lace would be showcased throughout?
    I envy you your figure--you look great in this dress!

  6. Hi Wendy,
    Thanks for your kind words and the idea of a flesh colored slip, genius! I will make one and see how it looks, which IMO will be awesome!

  7. I don't normally comment but had to this time. Stunning dress, looks like it was made just for your body. Oh, that's right, it WAS! It fits perfectly and is absolutely beautiful. wonderful use of that lace and placement of the motifs. Thanks for sharing all your construction details.

  8. Hi Greyann, thanks so much for your kind words! I do love making clothes that fit! So fun! Happy seeing!

  9. Sue, this dress is absolutely superb! I really adore it, and the alterations that you have made really add up to WOW! I am now putting this pattern onto my wishlist - I didn't think I'd be able to make it work, but you have shown me that I definitely can.