Little Black Dress

Scheherezade is easy; a little black dress is difficult. – Coco Chanel

So this past December, while shopping with my mom and my sister-in-law, I found the most expensive fabulous dress ever! It was absolutely beautiful and fit like a dream! The only problem was that it was a little bit out of my budget range. Of course, when used here, the phrase “a little bit” translates to a couple of hundred dollars. *gasp* Well I don’t give up easily and I found a dress I wanted so I was determined to get it. How do you ask? Overtime at work maybe? Ha! Don’t be so silly, I’d make it of course!

Now this can sound like a very daunting task, I will grant you that for sure. It really is a lot simpler than you would think though. However there are a few things that I wouldn’t attempt this without.

  1. A sewing machine. I don’t know how handy you are with a needle and thread and your own two hands, but I don’t have the patience for that kind of sewing.
  2. A pattern of some kind. You can find them pretty cheaply at a craft store, or if you want a pattern as well as some inspiration I highly recommend The Party Dress Book: How to Sew the Best Dress in the Room by Mary Adams. My sister got it for me a couple of years ago for Christmas and I absolutely love it! She has great ideas and tips and her pattern is really basic yet classy. A phrase when translated here means “easy to alter and a great starter cause it will look great!”.
  3. A clear idea of what you are going for. Before I left the store where I found my ‘inspiration dress’ I took about a million pictures of it. What it looked like on me AND on the hanger? What did the seams look like? How about the edges? Did it have a zipper? What about elastic? Did it have boning (those little wire/stick things in fancy clothes that help hold them ‘stiff’)? Without a clear idea of what you are going for, its easy to get lost in someone else’s pattern and when you’re finished, you’re less likely to have the dress you really wanted.

With these tools in hand, I set to work. The same day that we saw the dress, we went to the fabric store and purchased any supplies I thought I might need for it. This included lace, satin, a light-weight and a mid-weight tulle, some boning, and the widest elastic I could find.

After purchasing the supplies, life happened and two months passed before I got the chance to work on the dress again. 🙂 This is just a note from me giving you permission to NOT feel guilty if it takes you a little while to finish a project. Projects can be big and scary and kind of extremely overwhelming at times. So please don’t feel like I whipped this up in an afternoon cause I certainly didn’t.

I then decided to give myself a deadline (I work better with a deadline, although sometimes I’ll admit I just like to sit back and watch the whoosh by me) of the third Saturday in February, cause that was the day that Ric had promised to take me out for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

First thing I did was cut out ALL of my pieces. Yes, this took some time, and it made quite a bit of a mess. I just wanted to make sure that I had all of my pieces though before I got too involved and then had to stop my ‘groove’ just so I could cut some more fabric. Important note here: If you are cutting any slippery fabric (like satin) or something that can come unraveled easily (like lace or tulle) it is important to use pinking shears. This will help to prevent the edges of your fabric from fraying.

After that I just followed the instructions in the book for putting my dress together. There were a few steps though, that were a little different so I’ll explain them here.

My Skirt:

I wanted to have a skirt that was 3 different kinds of fabric, however the pattern was a little different. So what I ended up doing was gathering the fabric I did have, to make it match the edge of the fabric that did match the pattern. Basically, my skirt had more fabric/is fuller than the pattern originally shows. As you can see from this picture it can be a little time consuming, but it is totally worth it.

My Bodice:

The original ‘inspiration’ dress had a panel insert of elastic which allowed it to be strapless. With mine, I was able to insert some elastic between the lining of the dress, and the bodice (i.e. you can’t see the elastic from the outside of the dress, and I can’t feel it on my back either) which this picture shows here. However, even with that, I had cut the pattern a little too large (better too large than too small right?) and so just to give myself a little more ‘confidence’ while wearing the dress, I did add a

halter strap to it.


I realize that this isn’t a complete tutorial but if you have any questions please ask! I felt like this was a huge undertaking but was really surprised at how smoothly it went. I think one of the reasons why is because I didn’t try to tackle it all at once. I only worked on it a couple of hours each day, then I’d put it away and think about the next step for at least 24 hours. I think this really helped to keep me from quenching my creativity and helped me get through some of the tougher spots. What about you though? Does anyone else have any great craft secrets and tips? What helps you make it through a big project? Do you string it out or tackle it all at once?


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