Thursday, 30 October 2014

::Sewing::FO:: Special Dress for a Special Day

This dress is the climax to my year of sewing dresses for weddings. I was asked to be a bridesmaid by one of my closest friends early this year. Her only request, clothing-wise, was her bridesmaids wear black all the other details were up the bridesmaids. What an awesome bride!

I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted to wear. I just knew that I wanted to make my dress because then it would fit just the way I wanted and so I could be comfortable on the day and enjoy myself. I really like the bodice shape of the peony dress I made but I wanted a better fit through the shoulders and a slightly narrower neckline. So I thought I’d try drafting a bodice with a wide neckline using the blocks I made in pattern drafting class (yet to be blogged about).

In my usual fashion, I didn’t get started on my final dress until pretty late. I even bought a backup dress just in case I didn’t finish my me-made dress. I finished my me-made dress way ahead of time (ahem less than 24 hours) and even added a few handy details too.

This dress has a bateau neckline, front waist and side bust darts and waist darts in the back. The bodice is the only part that is lined and the flared skirt has side seam pockets. Love me some pocket action! They were really useful on the day; somewhere to store written down ceremony readings and bridesmaid speeches :)

Didn’t need the backup dress in end, I’m glad too, coz that thing does not have pockets ;)

The fashion fabric is black stretch cotton sateen from Spotlight. I have other dresses made of the same fabric and I like the hand and drape of the fabric so I thought it would be ideal for a dress for a special occasion. The dress needed to be comfortable and breathable so I used a black cotton lawn to line the bodice and make the pockets, also from Spotlight.
I also used a 20” (51cm) black invisible zipper, some black snaps and of course some black thread :) – probably all from Spotlight

Pattern & View
Self-drafted pattern using my block as a base – made in my size :)

Were the instructions easy to follow?
They sure were. I made them up myself and just followed the basic construction of a dress with a lined bodice

How was the pattern fit?
Using a block drafted to my measurements made it very simple to make this dress. However, I did have some large seam allowances when I cut the fashion fabric just in case I hit any snags while I was making it. You just never know how fabric is going to change the way a garment fits.

Would you recommend it?
I would totally recommend people making block patterns. Even if it was just to check the way commercial patterns are going to fit.

Would you make it again?
This patter is going to get used again. However, I think I’ll use a nice print to make a more casual dress :)

~Pattern Adjustments~
I started to write about the whole process I went through to make this dress and it was turning into an epic tale. So for this post I’ll just do a quick run of the style changes I made to my bodice block.

I widened the neckline, but made sure that my bra straps wouldn’t peek out.
I removed the back bodice shoulder dart.
The sleeves on my block were shortened to about elbow length.
A flared skirt was drafted from my 2 dart skirt block.

I’d like to record the whole process of making this dress; so I think I’m going to have to do another behind the seams post like I did for my S2444 - here and here.
More details to come :)

I made quite a few toiles in the two weeks leading up to the wedding. The final construction was very straight forward after all those toiles. I just followed the usual steps someone takes for sewing a dress with a lined bodice. Although I was a little cheeky and cut the back skirt pieces, bodice fashion fabric and lining fabric so the seam allowance was on the selvage, so need to finish those seam allowances.

Like the pattern adjustments, I’ll do a quick list of the construction steps in a behind the seams post.

~Changes I made this time~
  • As this was the first time I’ve made this dress pretty the whole dress was a change :P
~What I Like~
  • My absolute most favourite part of this dress are the bra strap carriers I sewed into the lining shoulder seams. I didn’t have to fiddle with my bra once! So great! (I used this method, it seemed the simplest and didn’t need any special equipment.)
  • The fabric is great, it looks good
  • Snap tab at the top of the zipper makes it easier for me to zip up on my own. Great alternative if you find sewing in hooks and loops too fiddly.

~What I Don't Like~
  • The pockets aren’t quite deep enough so things can fall out when I sit down. 
  • The zipper I used was a bit too short so there isn’t enough room for my caboose when stepping into the dress. I get into the dress from underneath.
  • There’s just a titch more ease in the waist than necessary. 
  • The fabric is definitely a fluff magnet, but I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of using dark a solid colour. Oh well, such is life. 

~Changes for Next Time~
  • Redraft the pockets so there are little deeper by raising the bottom of the pocket opening.
  • Use a longer zip
  • Nip the waist in little bit. Next time I might try constructing the garment with fronts and backs attached only at the shoulder and then sew up the side seam to adjust fit.
  • Perhaps make it in a patterned cotton sateen
There was a lot of tweaking on this dress because of all the style changes that were made and had to be tested. So that time does add up…

PatternNA - Self Drafted-
Fabricblack cotton sateen $12.99 x 2.5m
black cotton lawn x 1m-ish – from stash
  • Thread - 1000m – added to stash
  • 51cm (20”) Zip
  • Snaps – from stash
TimeTotal 30.5 hours (x $17-ish Australian min wage)
0.5 hours - fabric prep
5 hours - pattern adjustments
12.5 hours - sewing muslin
2 hours - cutting final garment
10.5 hours - sewing final garment

That’s pretty expensive, but when you think about it. It’s a bespoke dress for a special occasion and really people have been known to spend HEAPS more. A lot of that time was spent perfecting the fit and the style changes so that time does add up; especially because I’m not a speed demon, I like to take my time :)

The eagle-eyed among you may note that I’ve changed the minimum wage from $16 to $17 that’s because the actual minimum wage is $16.87, so really I was cheating myself out of nearly a dollar an hour. We gotta give our time proper value, it’s finite.

~Final Comment~
I’m very pleased with the dress I made. The final result was a very plain black dress. Something I can dress up or down (mostly up). It got heaps of complements on the day and it was very comfortable on the day. I think this pattern draft is a keeper; I might even make a digital copy for keeps, maybe.

Have you made something special recently? What’s your favourite fancy fabric to use? How do you avoid bra straps peeking out? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you :)

Until next time,

Let's connect


  1. Wonderful dress! and you look so good in it! Congratulations!

  2. Your dress is beautiful! I love the fact that you can wear it all the time and it wasn't a one time wear outfit :) You can't go wrong with a black dress!

    I can't remember if I posted this already or just thought it, but my favorite part of your posts are the calculations at the bottom. So cool!
    aAnd thank you for posting the link to the bra strap tutorial, I'm going to have to check that out.

    1. Thanks Erin :)
      I'm pretty glad the bride was very practical in that sense.
      I'm glad you like the calculations. I find them handy to keep track of what I'm doing with my sewing time.
      It is a pretty fantastic bra strap tutorial. Such a simple and quick fix for sneaky bra straps :)

  3. Fabulous dress, what a nice fit.

    Thanks for the bra strap holder tutorial, i have terrible trouble with mine falling off my shoulders. I'm so putting these in my next dress. Hurrah for bridesmaids dresses that you'll get a tonne of wear out of once the wedding has been and gone!

    1. Thanks Jo,
      I'm pretty pleased with the fit.
      My bra straps are always slipping off my shoulders too. This is the first time I've ever put a bra strap carrier in anything I've made and it made a world of difference.
      Hurrah for black dresses and awesome brides who don't make their bridesmaids where dresses they are never going to wear again :)


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