Introduction: How to Make a Date Night Outfit
It's been a while since I've made anything for myself, so I decided to make a cute date nightdress and document it. Normally my free time is spent making clothing and accessories for my 2-year-old son. He was my cute little assistant for this project, so he makes some guest appearances in some of the steps.
Since I've collected different fabrics and other random goodies over the years, I decided to use what I could find in my sewing room. The only items I purchased were additional velvet ribbon for the skirt and horsehair ribbon. I found a circle skirt tutorial online that mentioned using a horsehair ribbon in the hem so I wanted to give it a try. I figured it'd be good at giving the chiffon skirt some structural volume. It worked out somewhat... :)
The quantity of fabric needed is dependent on your height and body circumference. This varies from person to person.
Leather (regular and suede)
Stiff felt interfacing
Black fabric interfacing
Pair of metal buckles
Velvet ribbon (5/8" and 3/8")
Pattern making tools (notcher, awl, tracing wheel, pencil, eraser, fabric markers, chalk, etc.)
Rulers (armhole and seam allowance)
Pressing ham cushion
Sleeve ironing board
Walking foot, rolled hem foot, piping foot, and a zigzag foot
Leather hole punch
Pins and quilter clamps
Step 1: Concept Art
Put your ideas down on paper or digitally. If you're going to design with versioning, doing it digitally is easier because you can make changes quickly. I generally do my comps in Photoshop, but this time around I wanted to do some traditional doodling.
First, I did my quick sketches in pencil, then went back in to refine the illustrations with a ballpoint pen.
Step 2: Draping
Transfer your design onto the dress form with tape or string ( Photo 1-3 ). In my case, I'm using 1/16" black masking tape. Reference your concept art to make sure you have the correct proportions down before you start pinning the fabric to the form.
There are different ways of pinning the fabric onto the dress form. In school, they teach you to use separate rectangular sheets for fabric for the front and the back. I personally like to keep it on one sheet if possible, because it's fewer things to manage and possibly lose.
Pin the muslin as tightly around the dress form as possible. There will be excess fabric in areas like the waist and chest. In those spots, choose an area where a seam will be to shift the excess fabric. If you're making the dress to fit someone, in particular, double-check the person's measurements with the dress forms and adjust accordingly, by either adding padding to the form or taking away parts once the pattern is transferred to paper.
Once you have the muslin snug around the dress form, trace your design onto the fabric with a water-soluble marker ( Photo 3-6 ). They sell them at your local fabric stores. They're usually blue and the purple ones have disappearing ink. This way you can reuse your marked muslin by throwing it in the washing machine after you're done. The ink will come off when it touches water.
Finally, have your little assistant double-check your work ( Photo 7 & 8 ). He'll let you know if you can move one to the next step.
Step 3: The Transfer
Take your marked fabric off the form and use a tracing wheel to transfer the lines onto paper ( Photo 1 ). Clean up your line with a ruler when possible ( Photo 2 ).
Step 4: Pattern Splitting & Seam Allowance
In this section, you'll trace the pattern pieces onto a separate sheet of paper and add on the seam allowance. You may also want to combine or break pieces apart in this process. In my design, I had to combine the side seam pieces together and attach the back shoulder piece to the front bodice strap. You'll also need to draft patterns for the lining and foam pieces. For the lining, I tried to simplify the number of pieces that needed to be sewed together and for the foam pieces, they were the same size but minus the seam allowance.
A general rule is 1/2" all around and 1/4" on inclosed seams like necklines and cuffs. Those guidelines can change based on your design or if you're from a different country.
True up Your Patterns & Cut Them Out
Truing up your patterns or walking them is the process of aligning pieces that will be sewn together to check if they will sew together correctly. It allows you to see if you have an excess length on one pattern piece or not. If you do, then you're going to have to correct it, either by increasing the length on the opposing pattern piece or by finding the difference between the two. During this part, you also want to notch your pattern pieces. Notching is the act of putting visual registration marks on your pattern piece, so when you go to sewing it, you have indicators to align the seams. When you're done walking your pieces, cut them out and very importantly DON'T FORGET TO LABEL YOUR PATTERN PIECES.
Step 5: Pleating Your Fabric
This step is very tedious and requires a lot of patience, but adds a level of texture and interest to the end product. Cut a strip of card stock to your desired pleat width (mine was 5/8"). If your paper strip isn't long enough, attach it to another piece with paper tape. Don't use plastic tape. It will melt when you iron over it.
Fold your chiffon over the paper template and pin in place ( Photo 2 ). Put a muslin press cloth over your pleat and iron with full heat ( Photo 3 ). The pressing cloth will keep the polyester fabric from melting. Once you've ironed the width of your pleat, remove the pins and bring it to your sewing machine. Make a 3/8" stitch down the length of the pleat ( Photo 4 ). Repeat this process until you have enough pleating to cut your pattern pieces out of.
Cutting Out Pleated Pieces
Since chiffon is a tricky fabric to work with, due to its unpredictable wiggly nature, I cut out black fabric interfacing pattern pieces first, then fused them onto the pleated fabric with an iron ( Photo 5). Use a muslin press cloth. Once the items are bonded, cut them out (Photo 6). This process helps to mitigate the amount of fabric shifting chiffon has.
Sew Along the Edges
Sewa 1/16" line across the edge of the pattern pieces to ensure the pleat and interfacing stay together throughout the process.
If this sounds like too much work, you can always send it out to your local fabric pleating service, but it's expensive and usually take a couple of days. Some pleaters don't offer sewn pleats, so you'd have to go back in and sew it yourself. You can use the pleats as is, but once the garment is cleaned, sometimes the pleats will come undone and you'll have frumpy bubbly fabric, if it's not sewn in place.
Step 6: Prep and Cut Out Your Pieces
Fuse your chiffon onto black fabric interfacing and then cut them out. This makes the fabric more opaque and mitigates fabric shifting when you're cutting. *Always use a muslin press cloth if you're ironing on high heat.
Cutting Leather and Foam
Trace your pattern piece onto the leather with a marker or tailor's chalk. Cut it out with sharp shears or rotary cutter.
Step 7: Attaching the Bodice
Here's a rough chronological step by step photo sequence of attaching the bodice. Note* in between each step, I iron whatever I have just sewed.
Attach the pleated piece to the main bodice piece.
Photo 2 & 3:
Once you've nicely pressed the pieces, pin the 3/8" velvet ribbon on along the seam and sew it to the bodice.
Photo 4 & 5:
Attach the bottom breast cup to the bodice. You'll have to make several small cuts into the seam allowance around the curvature of the cup to release the fabric tension. This will allow your pattern piece to lay flat when you iron it.
Attach the top pleated pattern piece to the bodice. Then mark where the cup line should extend on the pleated piece with tailor's chalk.
Pin the velvet ribbon along the cup seam and sew.
Gently glide the underwire into the newly sewn casing.
Photo 9 & 10:
Attach the black bodice piece to the front via the shoulder strap. Once they're connected, sew the side seam of the back bodice to the front bodice side seam.
Photo 11 & 12:
Pin the velvet ribbon onto the side seam and sew on. REPEAT THESE STEPS FOR THE OTHER SIDE.
Attach the left side to the right side of the bodice at the center front.
Photo 14 & 15:
Pin the velvet ribbon along the center front seam and sew.
Step 8: Making Your Bra Cup
The bodice lacks form around the chest area, so you'll have to make padded inserts to give it a better shape. I used a 1/4" foam and stiff felted interfacing to make the cups. Trace your pattern on the foam with a marker and cut it out ( Photo1 & 2 ). Then attach the top half to the bottom half. Topstitch the excess seam allowance down ( Photo 3 ). Do the same with the stiff interfacing and fuse it on each other with an iron. Make sure to iron the pieces on a pressing ham cushion or rounded padded surface so you don't lose the shape of the bra cup. Lastly, pin the cups in place and hand baste them in ( Photo 4 & 5 ). When you baste the stitches in, make sure to only sew through the black fabric interfacing and not through the chiffon top layer.
Step 9: Leather Ribbing
Glue your foam pieces to your leather pieces using a barge ( Photo 1 &3 ). Let it dry. Then sew rows and rows along the shape of your pattern piece ( Photo 2 ).
Piping and Lining:
Unfortunately, I forgot to document this part but it's fairly simple. To make the piping cut strips of leather that are the circumference of the cording + double the seam allowance, apply some glue on the strips and place the cording in the center of the strip and fold in half.
The lining is similar to sewing lining on most things. Sandwich your piping in between the top layer and the lining layerand sew along the top and bottom of the peplums leaving an opening on both ends. Then turn it out, press, and topstitch if desired ( Photo 4 ).
Step 10: Finishing Up the Bodice
Attach the top peplums to the waistband with a basting stitch. This just keeps it in place. You can also use glue if you want.
Photo 2 & 3:
Attach the waistband to the bodice.
Attach the bottom peplum to the waistband with a basting stitch.
Baste additional straps in place on the bodice. Make sure to fit your model and check strap placement before attaching the lining. Once you're happy with the strap placements and length, pin the lining on along the outer side of the bodice and sew in place.
Flip the bodice out of the lining and press. Armholes and bottom waistband will be sewn separately in a later step.
Make incisions for the belt buckle placement with a box cutter. Insert the buckles and topstitch in place.
Since it's impossible to flip the lining through with tiny shoulder straps, you're going to have to hand sew them in place. Iron the seam allowance fold and pin the lining to the bodice. Then hand stitch the items together, by making needle punctures in the crease of the seam folds.
Close the bottom waistband seam by folding it in and topstitching. Make sure your lining and outer shell are the same lengths when you close it or you'll have unflattering puckering. Note* I decided to switch the order of how I did things in the tutorial based on my mistakes while finishing this part, so the armholes aren't closed yet in the photo. I think closing the armholes before finishing the waistband will make it easier to align the lining and bodice lengths.
Photo 10 & 11:
Mark your buckle strap holes with tailor's chalk and punch them out by applying pressure to the hole puncher.
Photo 12 & 13:
Front and back views.
Step 11: Rectangle Skirt
Normally I would make this a circle skirt, but with the excessive waistband gathering and ribbon trim bottom, I decided to make it a rectangle skirt. The pattern for this skirt was so simple, that I didn't bother making one. Measure the length of where the bodice waistband ends on your torso to the length of your knees. Measure that length out on the fabric, cut a small incision in the fabric weft and rip the fabric into two. This part is very fun and strangely satisfying. So fun, in fact, my 2-year-old son did all my fabric ripping for me. I had him rip 2 chiffon pieces and 2 satin pieces ( Photo 1 & 2).
Make a Giant Infinity Loop
Sew French seams on both ends of the satin piece. To sew a French seam, place the right sides of the fabric on the outside, pin and sew( Photo 3). Then cut off the excess fabric on the edge of your stitch ( Photo 4). Encase the raw edge inside itself and stitch closed ( Photo 5 ). Your enclosed seam should now be on the inside of the fabric. Repeat the same process for the chiffon fabric ( photo 6 & 7).
Attaching the Horsehair
Place the horsehair ribbon on the wrong side of the fabric edge of the chiffon and sew 1/4" along the bottom ( Photo 8 & 9 ). Then flip the horsehair ribbon up and onto the front face of the fabric. You should have a nice rolled hem when you do this. Then topstitch on the rolled hem and the top of the horsehair ribbon ( Photo 10 ).
Adding the Velvet Trim
Align your velvet trim to the edge of your hem and sew the top edge of the ribbon down. You'll repeat this step until the horsehair ribbon is completely covered. I had the bottom of the ribbon coving the stitches of the previous row. ( Photos 11, 12, &13 )
Finish the Lining Hem
Use a rolled hem foot and sew the bottom of the lining skirt ( Photo 14 ).
Attach and Gather Fabric Waistband
Pin the chiffon to the satin lining layer on the waist and baste stitch without back tacking ( Photo 15 ). Once you've finished sewing the length of the waistband, pull the threads to gather the fabric up top ( Photo 16 ). Don't over gather the top, keep enough space for your hip to fit through without breaking the thread.
Cut the elastic band slightly smaller than the area it will rest on ( Photo 17 ). Sew the edges of the elastic to itself and topstitch ( Photo 18 ).
Attaching the Skirt to the Elastic Waistband
Divide the elastic band and gathered the skirt into four equal parts and mark with tailor's chalk. Align the markings of both the skirt and the elastic band together and pin in the areas you've marked. There will be extra gathered fabric in between the hash marks so you'll divide those areas in half as well and pin to the band. When you feel like you have enough pins in place to hold the pieces together, you'll stretch the elastic as you zigzag stitch to make up the difference. When you're done, your waistband should look like photo 19 & 20.
Step 12: Slap Some Makeup on and Go Be Fabulous
This little man kept asking me to hold him as we were shooting the dress, so it only felt right to include him in the final image. Thanks for reading and I hope this tutorial was informative and helpful. :)
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