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Nitty Gritty Dress Details

Clockwise from top left: Gathering the skirt, detail of hand sewing the lining around the invisible zipper, the hook and waist stay near the zipper, waist stay attached to bodice

Clockwise from top left: Pinning gathered skirt to waist, detail of hand sewing the lining around the invisible zipper, the hook and waist stay near the zipper, waist stay attached to bodice

Yesterday I wrote a post about adjusting the neckline and lining the dress I was making from the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern. I also mentioned that I would be writing more about the dress details. So here’s the nitty gritty.

After I sewed the lining and the fashion fabric together, I turned the pieces inside out (wrong sides together). See this tutorial on Blithe Stitches for step-by-step directions on how to line a sleeveless dress.

Three-quarter view - turning in dressI sewed a couple inches down the left side seam below the armhole to leave room to insert the side invisible zipper. My next step was to prepare the skirt so I could attach it to the bodice. I sewed the right side of the back and front skirt pieces together so I had one long rectangular piece of fabric.

Then I sewed yards of seam tape to the bottom edge. The book instructs you to finish the hem edge by serging or using a zig-zag stitch. I don’t have a serger and I don’t really like the look of a zigzag stitch so I used seam tape.

[Side note: Britex Fabrics is only a couple blocks from my office so I went there on my lunch break to get seam tape but they didn't have any in the off-white color I needed! Next I called Discount Fabrics and asked them if they had any in the color I needed - nope. My last hope was Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, which is about a 15-minute walk from where I live. I called and they checked to see if they had off-white seam tape and they did! Yay - but that meant I needed to leave work early enough to get there before it closed at 6:30 pm. I got there about 10 minutes before closing. Thank you Stonemountain & Daughter!]

After that was done, I machine basted two rows of stitches at the top of the skirt, which would then be pulled to gather the fabric at the waistline. The book had a great tip — break up the gathering into four sections, which makes it easier to manage. You just take the front and back pieces, divide them in half, and baste each section separately.

After I pinned and sewed the gathered skirt piece to the bodice, I sewed up the left side of the skirt, leaving open several inches for the side invisible zipper. I pinned and sewed the invisible zipper to the bodice and skirt sections, carefully keeping the lining of the bodice out of the way. I found the  tutorial “Installing an Invisible Zipper” on Coletterie to be very helpful.

Once the zipper was in place, I realized the bodice lining might be a tad short to fold over the waist seam so I attached seam tape to the hem of the bodice lining. Then I ironed a crease in the lining so it lined up with the waist seamline and hand sewed the lining to the waist just over the seam and around the invisible zipper. When I hand sewed the lining to the zipper tape, I made sure that it wouldn’t get caught on the zipper teeth when the zipper was going up or down.

Bra strap holder and snap

Bra strap holder and snap

Next I hand sewed the hem in place — by this time I was getting really tired of hand sewing. And then I had two final details I wanted to add — bra strap holders and a waist stay. My mom first showed me how to make a bra strap holder many years ago. She grew up in Thailand, which has hot and humid weather so sleeveless outfits are the norm. Thus she was an old hand at adding bra strap holders to her clothes. She made them by crocheting a thread carrier and attaching a snap at the end. (See this post on Design & Style for how to make a thread carrier.)

But I didn’t have a crochet hook, it was after midnight and the photo shoot for the dress was on the following morning. I was out of time so I improvised. I looked through my stash of ribbons, bias tape and twill tape and found some off white twill tape that I could use in place of thread carriers. I sewed one end to the shoulder and sewed a snap to the other side.

I got the idea of adding a waist stay from a reissued 1957 Vogue dress pattern I bought a few years ago. I made the dress (it used four yards of fabric!), which got me really interested in construction details that I don’t usually see in modern patterns. A waist stay helps the dress keep its shape and also take away some stress from the zipper. You hook the waist stay before you zip up. The waist stay (I used Petersham ribbon for mine) has little ease in it so it brings the fabric edges of the zipper opening close together.

I attached the waist stay in seven places – near the front and back of t he zipper, at the two front and back darts and at the right side seam. I hand sewed it in place with small stitches at the top of the ribbon at the waistline. And then I was done with the dress.

On Friday, I’ll write about the photo shoot for the dress, how I found a photographer, and what it was like to be a model for an hour.

If you want to see more photos on the dress, see my BurdaStyle project page. My dress is a finalist in the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern Sewing Contest! To see the 20 finalists, go to this page. My dress is on slide 13. You have until Sun., Feb. 24, 5 pm ET to vote.

 

 

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Author:Chuleenan

Chuleenan Svetvilas is a writer who sews and collects hats and shoes. She is a fabric addict and loves classic films and vintage clothes.

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