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Most successful sewing projects depend on choosing a suitable fabric.  A clingy bias skirt pattern, for instance, will look completely different in a quilting cotton than it will in a silk charmeuse. 

Many people avoid using quilting cottons and upholstery fabric for apparel because they are supposedly unsuitable materials.  However, I have had quite a bit of success with them, understanding that neither is going to drape very much at all!

And some of the prints and colors are so very pretty, they are impossible to resist!

Step 1: Fabric Re-Imagined

This upholstery fabric was originally intended as a slip cover for a chair.  Well, that project never happened, although I have used some of the yardage as small home décor and craft projects, here and there.  It sat in the corner, on its roll.

Step 2: Inspiration

I recently came across this image of Dita von Teese, and immediately knew that a dress was going to be the perfect thing to use up some of that upholstery fabric.  Turns out, I just scraped by with the yardage.

I was debating whether or not to add sleeves to my first Butterick 5882.  In the end, the question was moot because I did not have enough fabric.  Oh well, I will save that for the next one!

Step 3: The Muslin

One thing to keep in mind with upholstery fabric is its loose weave.  Unfinished or cut edges will fray like nobody’s business, so a muslin is a really good idea!  Ripping out seams and handling pattern pieces over and over will only lead to frustration.

Step 4: Lining

All of those cotton prints that I pulled out to match back to the upholstery fabric gave me an idea – quilting cotton would make the perfect lining fabric.  And when adding boning to a lining, it is so much easier to work with a stable fabric.  This is especially true when the lining is going to work back with a heavy weight fashion fabric.

I did not have any matching green thread for the cotton print, so I decided to go with a contrasting pink.  This is not a detail that anyone else will ever see, but it makes me happy.

Step 5: The Skirt and Zipper

The pattern also calls for a skirt lining.  I decided to finish my seams with seam binding and omit the skirt lining since I did not have anything suitable on hand.  Because this dress is worn with a petticoat, it is not really necessary. 

Of course, I added a strip of silk organza to the back opening, and used a lapped application for the zipper. 

Step 6: Finished!

It was a bit chilly to wear a sleeveless dress the day I finished this project, so I added one of my favorite cardigans

The moral of the story is, go ahead and use any fabric you desire – just remember the benefits and limitations of the particular fabric to avoid disappointment.

And to prove this project was not just a fluke - here is another example of upholstery fabric apparel, and one made entirely of quilting cotton!
Love the fact that you upcycled upholstery fabric to make a dress. And awesome tutorial! I tried making a tutorial like this and it turned out horrible. I hope you don't mind but I will be taking some tips from you as to how to go about the next one. Lovely dress!
This is a great dress. I also use quilting cotton and upholstery fabrics for clothes. You are right, the colors and prints can be irresistible, and there are only so many chairs you need to reupholster. Deb
lovely..how was the pleated bodice part done?
The bodice under cups are darted and fit the body; a larger piece is pleated, sewn to the upper edge of the under cup and the raw edges are stitched to the piece that fits the body. This is difficult to describe in words, but basically there are two pieces - one pleated for the design, and the other fitted to keep everything in place. Those two pieces are then treated as one when attached to the bodice. <br> <br>This is actually a current pattern, Butterick 5882, if you are interested in making your own!
So cute!!!
Lovely work! I love your fabric choice and I love the flared skirt.

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Bio: I adore sewing and knitting, mostly vintage or vintage-inspired patterns. I hope to inspire others to create lovely and lasting garments that speak of a ... More »
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