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Laced It

Debbie Christensen dress Fabric finished project lace organza

Twice a year we place huge fabric orders, and stagger them throughout the coming months. Typically we forget what we've ordered and it's a fun surprise when the fabric comes in. The lace for this dress, however, was something I couldn't forget because I was so excited about it.

I fell in love with this lace fabric and was so looking forward to it coming in. I had big plans for it, because I have 3 weddings to go to this year (which seemed like a lot to me until my friend said that she has 6). I'd love to link to this lace in our shop, but I got the very last yard in the warehouse. So, yes, I made this dress out of one yard of lace. Laying out the bodice pieces was difficult because I wanted some continuity and pattern flow (and symmetry, obviously) in the various pieces, and I'm extremely happy with the finished result.

black lace princess seam dress

Waldo haunts me constantly.

In this case, the fabric came before the pattern. I'd been kicking around this idea of a swing dress, like the Sway Dress by Papercut Patterns. But I would never get that dress out of a yard. So then I thought maybe a swingier Colette Laurel, which I have squeezed out of a yard of fabric. I was putzing around on the Anthropologie website, and I found the perfect model dress. It has a similar lace motif and the exact bodice shape I've been drawing for months. This is one of those instances where sewing is waaaaaay less expensive than buying retail.

black lace princess seam dress

Incredibly, we have just four sewing patterns with princess seams, and half are for knit fabric. But this wonderful book, Sew Many Dresses, has just about every bodice style you could need, plus tips for altering them. I appreciate how classic the styles are. It's difficult to find a basic dress pattern, I think, and these can be used as blocks. One snag I ran into is that the bodices are all designed to be used with sleeves. Sleeveless bodices fit differently than bodices with sleeves.

I made a bodice muslin and did a lot of letting out and taking in, then cut it apart to trace onto pattern paper, made a new muslin, and had only a few changes on that. You can see the difference between the original pattern and the new one. I want this dress to fit perfectly.

Then I moved on to my wearable muslin.

dear stella wild orchid dress

Do you like my heavy metal door?

This fabric is Wild Orchid by Dear Stella, and I am in love with all of their prints. The quality of fabric is so nice, and a few of them are shirting weight, so I guess I know what I'm making with those...

By now I had made all of my fitting adjustments, but I wanted to figure out my finishing plan. Also I really like this fabric and wanted a dress from it. For the skirt I just gathered some rectangles and added pockets.

dear stella wild orchid dress

And I got the shape of the back just right.

dear stella wild orchid dress

I'd like to lower the neckline on this one because it chokes me a little.

dear stella wild orchid dress

Okay, back to my lace dress.

black lace princess seam dress

I made a big to-do on Instagram about which fabric to line this dress with, even though I kind of already knew the answer. The dilemma was between this black cupro or this pink satin polyester. And then after I made that Instagram post I thought I should just disregard everyone's opinion and use this evergreen silk / viscose. I loved the way the black layered over the dusty pink, and in the end what drove my final decision was that the other fabrics would be too hot on the dance floor. Even though I knew all along that the pink was the right choice. I didn't love how close it is to my skin tone, but I got over it.

black lace princess seam dress

The belt is made from this beaded trim with the edges stitched under. I definitely ordered this for the shop just to make a belt for my dress.

The skirt is a slightly gathered A-line made with black silk organza. Both edges of the lace were scalloped with the viney medallion motif in the middle, so I had a decent amount of edging to work with. I hand-stitched the scallops to the skirt, then used pinking shears to cut off the extra organza at the bottom.

black lace princess seam dress

I spent many, many hours hand-stitching things onto this dress. The viney thing encircling the back opening is all hand-sewn on, and closes with a hook and eye at the neckline. I sewed the invisible zipper using a regular zipper foot!

black lace princess seam dress

Lately I've been trying to get myself into making more involved pieces, like this dress and my jean jacket. But now that it's heating up, I'll probably just start knocking out summer dresses.

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  • jane doe on

    I’ve trying to find feedback for awhile now, but honestly, Debbie, I am just awed! I keep thinking of those designer ateliers with seamstresses spending hours and days “hand-stitching things onto [a] dress.” And you know, this dress is really on a haute couture level. Anyway, I hope the weddings went well and that you got many, many well-deserved compliments on this exquisite dress. Although I’m just a beginner sewist, you continue to inspire me with both your ingenuity and your tenacity.

  • emily on

    this is so beautiful!!!!!! the back is spectacular. I love the viney part.

    I always use a regular zipper foot to sew invisible zips!

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