Friday, April 13, 2007

Saga of the Prom Dress - Chapter Two

This project was a labor of love. I love my daughter and I love to sew. I was so excited to make her prom dress. Even though the design was simple, this was the most labor-intensive project I’ve ever done. I used every tool at my disposal including my seldom-used walking foot, which I used to sew the underling to the fashion fabric. I used Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje and Claire Schaeffer’s books as references to augment the directions and include couture techniques. I did lots of basting in making this dress and it really did help. I usually pin baste, but I’m learning to love hand basting. Well, maybe I don't LOVE hand basting, but I certainly see it's advantages. Susan Khalje’s “Sew Much More” influence, I guess. I even basted the lining pieces together! Basting really helped control the slippery lining fabric.

I used many techniques to give the dress a “custom-made”, rather than a “home-made” look. The instructions did not call for underlining, but I included a broadcloth underlining to give the fabric a little more heft. According to Simplicity’s directions, the seam allowances were to serve as casing for the boning. To achieve a couture result, I used Rigilene boning and made casing from wide single fold bias tape that I pressed open, then pressed in half, and finally sewed into a tube.

I sewed the zippers in by hand using a handpicked stitch.

It’s not easy to find a tea length crinoline half-slip. So, to add fullness, I added a net ruffle between the lining and dress. I decided to pleat the net and not gather it. My daughter (who has a lean, athlete's build) is worried about looking fat. Pleats added less fullness than gathers. I placed the net at the bottom of the lining to keep the fullness away from her hips and waist.

I learned so much making this dress.
  1. Muslins are our friends. I could not have done this without one. I used to think they were a waste of time, but I certainly have changed my thinking about muslins.
  2. If I’m going to the trouble of making a muslin, I need to believe what I see. When DD tried on the muslin, it was big. I forgot how much ease is drafted into Big 4 patterns and ignored what I saw because her measurements matched the chart. I ended up having to make a second top because the first one was too big. (Good thing I always buy extra fabric.)
  3. Basting and hand sewing are also our friends. Hand sewn hems, hand-picked zippers, hand basting gave this dress a custom-made couture look.

Throughout my daughter’s life, I've looked forward to certain “Mommy Milestones”. One was getting my first “gift-made-from-macaroni” (in my case, a pencil cup). The most recent Mommy Milestone was making the dress for her first prom. It was an experience I will always remember.


  1. A beautiful dress and a beautiful daughter! Both labors of love. It's been great following your progress on this project. Kudos to you!

  2. The dress looks great! I bet you daughter was very excited to wear it and she looks great too!

  3. Wonderful! I used the Susan Khalje book, too when I made a wedding gown for a friend. I cam to all the same conclusions you did.
    Hand basting is relaxing. Muslins are helpful.
    Congratulations to you and your lovely daughter! She looks beautiful.