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A lot of dresses coming down the runway for Spring '16 is using chiffon and draped dresses - inspired by the Jane Austin era to create a romantic/feminine dress.I thought this would be a great way to wear a dress that you can wear out regularly and be able to wear for a wedding. I wanted to create a similar dress that would cost more than $150+ due to brand names and type of material. I went down to the fashion/fabric district and was able to snag a great deal on silk chiffon.

Let's get started!

Materials (all these are estimate):

  • 4 yards of chiffon/silk
  • 2 yards of polyester lining
  • pin needles (lots of them)
  • iron
  • invisible zipper
  • sewing machine
  • serger
  • dress form

Step 1: Draping the Lining (forming the Basic Shape)

  1. Place the lining on the dressform. Make sure that the grain is going up and down. This will ensure that the fabric will not stretch.
  2. Pin down the needles to make sure it lines and fits the dressform
  3. Pull on the fabric so that it is taught and pin down the needles.

*This would probably been easier if you layed it down on the floor and cut out a simple dress shape.

Step 2: Draping the Lining (making the Neckline)

  1. Using your scissors, cut a small slit around the neckline.
    • make sure to make enough room for the hem (approximately 1/8 inch).
  2. After making the slits, cut off the extra fabric around the neckline.

Step 3: Draping (cutting the Basic Shape)

  1. After you got it pinned down, cut along the side of the dressform to remove the extra fabric.
    • Add about 1 inch for room to make a hem and serge the edges in the future.
  2. Then, cut around the shoulders to make a hole for the arms (added 1/8 inch hem line)

Step 4: Draping the Lining (added Darts)

To make a nice fitted dress, I decided to add darts. This will add shape to the lining so that it doesn't just "hang" on the body.

  1. When making the darts, make it approximately 1/2 inch thick, around the baseline of the waist. You will fold it and make a triangle - making the end just below the bottom of the bust.
  2. Repeat to make another dart on the other side.
  3. Remove it off the dressform and iron down the pleats to create a crisp and clean lines.
  4. Then bring it to your sewing machine to sew in the darts.
  5. After sewing, bring it back to the dressform and pin.

Step 5: Draping the Lining (adding the Back)

  1. Just like the first step, you're going to place the lining fabric on the back of the dressform having the gain of the fabric going vertical.
  2. Pin down on the side of the dressform and neckline. (making sure it fits nicely along the form).
  3. After you got it nice and fitted, you will cut along the side of the dressform to remove any extra fabric.
  4. This will also be a good time to cut any fabric at the bottom and determine the length of your dress.

Step 6: Draping the Lining (adding More Darts!)

  1. After you got the basic shape of the lining, we'll be adding two more darts - you will only need two of them. Place them approximately in line of the shoulders, about 1 inch width. Similar to the front side of the dress.
  2. Pin the needles down and sew the darts down.
  3. You can now sew both the front and back of the lining together after hemming the edges (keep the right side open for the zipper in the future).

Step 7: Draping the Dress (creating the Basic Shape)

  1. Just like before, you're going to place the fabric on the dress - this time with the silk chiffon.
    • Normally, you would get a separate fabric (typically muslin that is similar in weight of the final fabric) to make your pattern and THEN cut it on the real fabric. If you do this step, it will create a more clear and clean line. I tend to be more of a freestyle sewing type of girl, so I skipped this step.
  2. Pin down your fabric, but making sure there is enough to make pleats. Do NOT cut the fabric yet. We will do this after we draped the fabric to our liking.

Step 8: Draping the Dress (front Side)

  1. Pin at the center of the waist to make sure the fabric is aligned with the grain vertically. This will also ensure the fabric doesn't move as much.
  2. Right below the left bust, create 5 pleats approximately 1/2 inch in width, on the waistline. The fold of the pleats need to be facing the left side. This will make it more flattering creating a slimming look.
  3. Repeat on the right side, adding another 5 pleats facing to the right.
  4. Cut along the side of the dressform, length of the dress (to match the lining), create an armhole, and neckline
  5. After you got your basic shape, remove it off the dressform.
  6. Iron the pleats down.
  7. Sew a straight stitch across the waistline to make sure the pleats are in place.
  8. Place it back on the dressform.

Step 9: Draping the Dress (back Side)

  1. Add 1/2 yard of silk chiffon and place it on the back, making the grain of the fabric vertical.
  2. Pin down the back and cut along the waist, armhole and neck (similar to draping the lining).
    1. Don't forget to add 1/2 inch room to serge the edges, and zipper for the end.
  3. Now, let's add the bottom half of the dress. We'll be adding pleats to add more flow to the dress.
  4. Pin the center on the waist.
  5. Just like the lining, we'll add two pleats right below the shoulder on the waistline.
  6. Cut so that the length of the dress will match.
  7. Remove the bottom half of the dress, iron the pleats, and sew a straight stitch to hold down the pleats.
  8. Sew the top and bottom of the backside together.

Step 10: Draping the Dress (draped Pleats)

Here comes the fun part! Draping!

  1. Take about 1/4 yard. Create 5 accordian pleats approximately 1 inch thick.
  2. Iron and sew along the side to keep hold the pleats.
  3. Add on the dressform on the left side of the dress (hitting just below the left armhold).
  4. Drape the pleats across the dressform and pin it to the right side of the dress near the hips. (You can adjust to however you like your drapes).
  5. Pin it down.
  6. With another 1/4 yard, repeat, this time along the right side going across the dressform to the left side of the dressform.
    • I started with the left side of the pleats and pinned it right on the hip and moved it diagonally across towards the right side below the armhole. Then pinned.

Step 11: Draping the Dress (cut the Pleats)

  1. Make adjustments to the dress, making sure that the pleats are taught and tight.
  2. Pin it down along the side of the dress and cut off the extra fabric.
  3. Remove off the dressform, and sew the left side of the dress using a basic straight stitch. This will be difficult because the weight of the chiffon fabric is uneven and will move a LOT.
  4. Repeat to the right side of the dress.

Step 12: Finishing Up

  1. Align the left front side of the lining and dress. Folding the hem line, sew together using a straight stitch.

  2. Repeat for on all sides of the dress: right front side, left back side, right back side.

  3. After you made a basic straight stitch, use your serger to cut off the extra fabric and create a hem on both the left and right side of the dress.

  4. Serge on the neckline, armhole. Fold the edges approximately 1/8 inch to create a hemline and sew.

  5. Sew all the pieces together (except the right side).

  6. Install the zipper on the right side, aligning the hem, and sew.

And you're all done! Phew!! Now you can take it out and wear it to a wedding or on a day out. This is my first time draping and I wasn't trained since I am self-taught seamstress. Thanks for looking!

I can't believe you are self taught! I am envious! This is lovely...the shape & color! Thank you for explaining so thoroughly!
<p>Thank you, @parisusa! I hope it was a good enough explanation. I only watched from youtube videos and took one basic sewing class. Everything else is from the handy-dandy internet. :)</p>

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Bio: Graduated from UCLA, B.A. in Fine Art and Film & TV minor. I am a self-taught seamstress and who loves to cook and sew. I ... More »
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