Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tulle Time - party dress for Lia

Lia is my fantastic hairstylist and one of my biggest fans.  She wanted a party dress and gave me a clipping out of a magazine with a dress that caught her eye.   After some on-line research, I found this photo to show you.  It is by designer Oscar de la Renta who I have always admired - gorgeous dresses and lots of color in his clothes.

We are using it for inspiration - the features she wanted are;  a bold print, very fitted bodice, and a full skirt with a petticoat underneath.  Lia is very petite yet curvy so she is just right for this style.

I started with making a muslin of the bodice.  The bodice in the photo is in pieces, it looks like about 6 or 8 pieces across the front.  That looked pretty difficult without a pattern, however I wanted something of that effect, so I took a standard princess seam bodice that I have used for other dresses and worked on modifying it.   (New Look 6587)   Cutting the center on the fold,  I added about 4 inches across the center front, and then took 1/4" and 1/8" tucks symmetrically across the front to create a very form fitting bodice.  I also lengthened the bodice by about 5 inches, as I want the skirt to attach just above the hipbones.  For the back I dropped the neckline about 4 inches, creating a square neckline similar to the front.

Here is the bodice, sewn up and on the dress form.  
It does not look like much yet.  I did a quick fit check 
on Lia and figured out where to put the zipper and 
attach the skirt.  Once the zipper is in then we are 
committed to the placement of the skirt, etc.  so I 
really wanted to get that right.  I had cut out skirt panels using 2 lengths of the fabric which is 50" 
wide, but that did not seem full enough, so I am 
adding another length and making the skirt a total of
150" circumference.

After the fitting, I took in the seams along the sides and under the bust, plus did an adjustment on the front tucks.  Not sure if you can see it in the photo, but each tuck is sewn deeper starting at about 2" from the top. 

This serves to tighten up the front bodice and keep it from standing away fromthe body across the bust.  Since this photo was taken I have added the bodice lining, so I am interested to see how it fits on her.

Under this very full skirt Lia has requested an attached petticoat of tulle in various colors coordinating with the dress.  Sewing things on in even rows is tedious so I was trying to think how to make it as simple and foolproof as possible.  To that end I cut one width of lining fabric and drew chalk lines 3" apart so I could sew the tulle on evenly, choosing where to place it as I went along.  This worked really well and I can add more tulle/net between the rows once the dress is basted together and we see how it looks.

I have not worked with net or tulle in a really long time.  Recently I was playing with my sewing machine attachments, as I have this new book that is a great reference.

The Sewing Machine Attachment Book by Charlene Phillips
She has a website, The Sew Box,  for the book as well as a shop to order all these attachments for various machines and downloadable instructions on usage and lots of techniques.  I highly recommend, especially if you have an older machine and a box of mystery attachments.  Looking at her website and on Ebay, I know know I have quite a few valuable treasures on my shelf.  

Inspired by this book and my dread of gathering many inches of tulle, I pulled out the gathering foot and gave 
it a try.  Worked line a dream !
First I cut the tulle and net into strips about 10" wide.  

Then I gave it a try on the machine with the gathering foot.  Quite amazing.   I will definitely be using this one again.

There are other gems in my attachment kit, the foot hemmer seems to useful but I have not made a satisfactory hem yet.  The author says practice, practice, practice.
So when I finish this dress . . . 

And today's SunnyGal Garden photo.  
A little blurry on a rainy day - but the color of these camellias is so nice.


  1. I just bought that book a few months back too. It has already been useful.