The messy map of making this dress

I made this dress this afternoon. The lace began life as my living room curtain about twenty years ago. The curtain was a really early sewing project for me. It was one of a pair.

I was always fond of the fabric. I have been noticing lots of lace dresses made with brightly contrasting linings. OK so that was the genesis of the idea. I also have a huge fabric stash. Sometimes it feels good just to use some of it up.


I started by copying a basic dress.


The shape  of the dress was this.

what I started with

The lace had a finished selvedge edge. it would be silly to not use such a pretty hem as the dress hem. That finished hem meant that it made more sense to cut the dress with a straighter shape. more like this:

what I started with


I cut the lace to the dress shape and a piece of hot pink Swiss dot cotton for the lining to the right shape. I sewed the lining to the lace.The starting dress was a knit. Everyone who knows anything about sewing knows that a dress with no stretch has to be cut bigger or with more ease than a knit dress with stretch. Even I know that.

Most people who sew by the rules would figure out some sort of a mathematical algorithm that would let them know exactly how much larger to cut a woven dress than it’s knit counterpart. Doing that sort of pencil and paper figuring hurts my head.

Usually I can just sort of guess how much bigger to cut a woven than a knit. My guess is pretty good about 75- 85% of the time. Even with the bad guesses, the whole process  of dress making is quicker for me by eyeballing than sitting with a pencil and paper.


Today was one of the times when my guess was off. The dress fit nicely from my ribcage down. The top of the bodice was entirely too tight.

I thought that if I slashed the neckline open it would solve my problem.

what I started with

I cut the neck and turned and hemmed it.


That almost worked. The dress was still too tight.


I have sometimes found that my scooping a neckline lower, either in front, or in back I can fix problems with fit. I couldn’t cut the front any lower so I cut the back neckline down a bit. I cut the back on the dotted line, and then did the appropriate hemming.

what I started with

Here it is with the lowered back. The dress is still wearable with a bra. This bought slightly better fit, but the dress was still not wearable,


I then decided to add sort of reverse darts or godets to the side seams. ( for you non sewers who are still reading this sewing geeky post  I added  triangles) The arrow shows you where I added them.

what I started with

This third attempt at a fix actually worked.


I can wear the dress and actually breathe.



For all of the insanity in the process of making this dress it shows none of the torment.


When I started this dress I thought I was making a casual summer dress. It has turned out to be much more of a fancy event sort of a dress. I even have an event for the dress to attend. We are attending a wedding reception in a couple of weeks. It’s outside of Boston. This dress has just the right sort of garden party vibe that is just right for a Boston afternoon wedding.


This dress feels like a child that survived trauma with grace


  1. I am truly in awe of your problem solving abilities as well as your designing skills. Looks great!

  2. Mostly it is problem solving. The dress is a simple darts. Problem solving is a learned skill that you can improve at. The alternative was wrecked fabric and completely wasted time.

  3. I love this! This is a great example of a "mistake" resulting in a truly one-of-a-kind design! Congrats!

  4. Wonderful, Sarah. Really smashing little dress! I especially relate to the "it is easier to just go ahead and cut than do all that figuring." Of course, the pencil has an eraser. More than a few times, I've cut. And said, OH, NO! ten seconds later.

    1. Most of the time the hack and sew method works pretty well for me. I have more tools in my tool box now for when that does not work.

  5. ok - I want to run back to the thrift store and find some old lace curtains! Actually I have had as part of my stash different curtain panels some of which I've used to make a short sleeved lace jacket for my mother's day outfit, and an off-white sheer that I fashioned into a long vest to wear with a dark red silk shell and dark red crepe-y skirt for special church service. (On my way home a few weeks ago I saw a woman with a sheer long vest over a short sleeved dress that really appealed to me as something I wanted to make for myself with my own unique touch. The panel had a deep hem which I undid, and along the stitching line of where the hem had been, I restitched using one of the decorative stitches on my sewing machine in the same off-white color. Then I took a skinny length of the sheer fabric, used some large purchased beads and made a necklace that perfectly matched my outfit. I really felt put together!)

  6. I always say that sewists are problem solvers! You just proved it. ;)


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