Complicated Evening Gown Made Easy and Less Than 30 Dollars

So this gown is for a school project that I am doing.

Here are the things you'll need:

  • Sewing Machine (Mine is a Brother Project Runway Limited Edition)
  • 7.5 yards of good fabric
  • 6 yards of lining
  • Closure of your choice
  • Lined paper
  • Sketch paper (optional)
  • Pattern paper (Didn't have any so I used a Post-It 25"x30" paper pad as well as some newspaper)
  • Tape
  • Scissors (paper scissors and fabric scissors. Make sure you don't confuse the two)
  • A big ole table
  • Tape measure
  • Pen
  • Pencil
  • Various different colored markers
  • Calculator
  • Inspiration
  • Needle

Step 1: the Design

Stuffs you need for this step:

  • Tangible inspiration (magazines, pictures, etc.)
  • Pencil/ stylus
  • Paper/ draw pad app

Let's jump right in.

We'll start with the design. A design will not come without inspiration. Since this will be the first evening gown I have made and finished, I took inspiration from some of my favorite Barbie dolls. My inspirations were The Barbie Look City Shine and Barbie Fashion Model Collection Delphine. When I don't have a clear inspiration, I look at magazines and Instagram. I cut out or print out design elements (color, fabric, techniques, etc.) and literally pin them to my wall. It's good to make an inspiration board, but if it's only one dress, I don't want to waist a good board, I would only do that for a whole collection of looks.

Once I have inspiration, I go to draw a few of the things that I definitely want my gown to have (top of the picture above). After that, I look at them and see how and if they can fit in a dress together.

It's important to remember: In fashion, 50% of what's designed on paper will never make it onto the runway. 90% of that will never make it into stores. Compromise is a good thing. If the Idea doesn't fit, you can use it for another design.

It doesn't need to look good. Just draw what you see. If you can't draw worth a pint of spit but someone else is making the design, give your sketch and inspiration to someone you know who can draw it better or include a fully completed dress in your tech pack. If you are making it, it doesn't matter as you know what you want.

Once you have your inspiration, draw a final design. I drew two variations because I couldn't decide which would look better. If you have subtle variations, It's okay. I usually debate things like this up until it is time for me to cut the fabric.

This dress is sure to be a classic (bottom of picture above). I'll teach you how to make this one.

Step 2: Measurements

For this step you will need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Calculator
  • Model
  • Heels(optional)
  • Body
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler/yard stick

Have your model provide his or her measurements.

All my measurements are in inches, but you can use whatever measurements you're comfortable with.

If they can not provide them, here's how you can measure your model.

!This is also a list of measurements you will need for this project!

Have your model where either their intimates or very tight fitting clothing. Most models don't mind being measured in their undies being as though that's their job, however, tight clothing is better for this project because we don't want the dress to be too tight to walk and of course she can't model your creation if she suffocates to death.

  1. Bust:

If the design is to be worn with a bra, tell the model what type of bra to bring. Measure around the back keeping the measuring tape around the fullest part of his/her breast (typically this is where the nipples are).

2. Waist:

If the design calls for a corset, have them wear it while doing this measurement. The natural waist is just below your rib cage and has the least circumference out of all the torso. To find exactly where your waist is, suck in your stomach (or have the model do such) and the smallest part is were your measuring tape should be cradled.

3. Hip:

Wrap the tape around the fullest part of the models butt.

You will need to know half, third, fourth, and eighth of each measurement above.

4. Waist to bust:

Measure from the waist and go up to the middle of the chest where you put the measuring tape when you where measuring the bust circumference.

5. Waist to hip:

Measure from the waist and go down to the middle of the hip where you put the measuring tape when you where measuring the hip circumference.

The two previous measurements are typically around eight(8) inches.

6. Waist to floor:

If you intend for the look to be worn with heels, have the model wear the heals when taking this measurement. Measure from where the middle of where you measured the natural waist and go down to the floor.

I learned the hard way to add an inch or two so you can't see the toes.

7. Hip to knee:

Measure from the Hip to just above the knee cap.

For the two previous measurements, you will need help if you are measuring yourself otherwise the measurement may be warped.


Cut a rectangle of newspaper and ruche the up one side. Place it four(4) inches below the waist. When it's the size you want, write down the measurement of each side. I made mine as big as possible so I chose 20x20. The second loop should be just as tall but should not stick out as far. My second loop is 16x20.

Things look best in threes so the second bow should probably be three inches less than the first, but I don't like the number three so I went with four. It still looks good since they're so large.

8. Train

Take your measurement #6 and subtract 4. Figure out how far you want your train to trail from the model. I chose three(3) feet. Now for the Pythagorean theorem.


Waist to floor: 47

Trail: 3ft = 36in

Theorem: 47^2+36^2=3,505 Square root of 3,505 is 59

The final train length for my example would be 59 inches.

9. Back:

How far up the back you want the dress to go from the waist. (Mine is six(6))

10. Side:

How far up the side you want the dress to go from the waist. (Mine is eight(8))

11. Bodice:

How far above the bust should the dress stop. (Mine is just below the collar bone which means four(4) inches above my bust measurement)

12. Chest width:

Nipple to nipple. This should be the same measurement between sizes. For a small the measurement is typically 8-9 inches.

13. Knee

Have the model wear the heals that will be paired with the dress and take a normal step forward. Measure around her knees like a hug. You want the flare to start just above the knee cap. (I decided mine will be 30.)

Step 3: a Tech Pack

Materials you will need for this step:

  • pen
  • paper
  • brain

A tech pack is what any sort of designer, whether it's a garment, a video game, or furniture. A tech pack tells the manufacturers and pattern makers how it specifically is made and typically include a sketch of each different layer of the dress or even a completed version of the garment for the sewers and cutters at the factory to look at if they get stuck.

You want to include each and every little detail whether it's you or someone else putting this together.

A tech pack should include:

  1. A list of what measurements are needed to make the pattern (Specify whether the measurements have been done in inches or centimeters)
  2. Train length
  3. Train fullness ( I made mine a fourth circle)
  4. Size of each bow on the back
  5. Size of pleats (how far between each one and how far to fold back)
  6. How far above the bust line it will sit
  7. How far up the back it will go
  8. Exact length of sleeves
  9. How far up the side
  10. The circumference of the knee
  11. How full the skirt will be ( I made mine a fourth circle)
  12. A sketch of the connection point between the train and the gown
  13. If there are any special types of stitches and where they should be used
  14. How much fabric should be used.

Keep in mind fabric rolls are usually around 56 inches wide.

Step 4: Shopping!!!!

The design will typically take about a day to a week to finish. This one took me a few days because I knew what I wanted.

The measurements and tech pack should be finished in a day.

From your tech pack you should know how much fabric to buy. Keep in mind although we need lining in order for such an architectural and sculpted look to work, we don't need as many yards of lining fabric as the final fabric, so I went to Jomar and purchased 7.5 yards of fabric and 5 yards of lining. A lot of the lining fabrics are just one(1) ducket (dollar) and the others range range from 2-9 dollars a yard.

This dress calls for a stiff but heavy weight fabric for the train to sit correctly. Chiffon or jersey wont cut it. The gown's fabric should be heavy as denim, yet thick as jersey(t-shirt), yet as stiff as satin. The train can made of a taffeta or something similar.

If you have a color in mind, you can definitely b-line for that section, but I still encourage you to look around more. I originally intended mine to be a pale gray for more of an early evening look. Above are some of the things I saw.

I went with the dark blue. The picture doesn't do the fabric justice, but I used it for the entirety of the dress. For the lining, I pondered a yellow, red, or black, but I chose a dark milky purple to fit the midnight telenovela I am telling with the blue.

The lining color matters because you will be able to see it from inside the bow loops and the bottom of the train.

Step 5: Pattern Making- the Basic Sloper~The Skirt

A sloper is a simple shape that designers refer to whenever making a new pattern. They are so general, you can take a copy of the same one and manipulate it millions of times.

What you'll need for this step

  • Pattern paper
  • Pen
  • Markers
  • Ruler
  • Yard stick
  • Measurements

We will be working in fourths for most of the sloper making process.

First, fold the paper in half. Make sure there is enough space away from the center fold of the page to put half the front of a body on it plus the side and seam allowance.

1. Make a horizontal line an inch below the top of the paper. This will be the "waist." ( see the pink line in photo above)

2. Measure (whatever your waist to hip measurement) inches down from that line and make that it's own line. Label this as the "hip." For example, my hip to waist measurement is 8 so I went 8 inches so my hip line is 8 inches down from the waist. (see dark blue line above)

3. Measure (whatever your hip to knee measurement) inches down from the waist line and make that it's own line. Label this line with "knee." For example, my hip to knee measurement is 14 so I went 14 inches so my hip line is 14 inches down from the waist. (see light blue line above)

4. Go to your line marked "waist." Use the fourth of your waist circumference measurement. Mark this distance away from the center fold. Example: my waist is 25 so I divided 25 by 4 and got 6.25. I measured along the line until I hit 6.25.

5. Apply your 1/4 hip measurement to the dark blue line. Apply your 1/4 knee circumference measurement to the light blue line. This one can be tricky.If you plan on doing anything other than photograph in the gown, you will need to use the same measurement for the hip circumference and knee circumference to give more space for walking, though it will take slightly more fabric.

6. Add a line a half of an inch away from the pink line and the red lines. I did not highlight the seem allowance in the pictures so just zoom in if you need a better understanding.

Step 6: Pattern Making- the Basic Sloper~ the Bodice

What you'll need for this step

  • Pattern paper
  • Pen
  • Markers
  • Ruler
  • Measurements

Take a fresh piece of paper and fold it in half.

1.Make a line an inch from the bottom of the paper. label this as the waist. (see the orange line in the image above)

2.Take your back height measurement and measure this along the center fold (along the light green line) and mark this as the under-bust (purple line). My back height measurement is eight (8) so there are eight inches separating the line I drew for the waist and the new line.

3. Take the 1/4 waist measurement and apply it to the orange line. Take the 1/4 bust measurement and apply it to the purple line. Connect these marks to make the brown line.

4. Along the brown line, apply the side height measurement. The measurement should hang off a little. Write down how much of the side measurement is remaining.

5. Make a line parallel to the center fold (dark green line).


My side measurement is 8. My brown line is 6.5 inches. There was a remainder of 1.5. I will add the 1.5 to the dark green line and make a mark. Label this mark as the side.

6. Measure your bust to waist measurement along the center fold. Make that it's own horizontal line (red line).

Next add the bodice measurement and mark it. Label that mark as the bodice.


My bodice measurement is four(4) so I add this to the 8 which is my bust to waist measurement.

7. Make a curved line from the "Bodice" mark and the "Side" mark. This can have any velocity. Just tweak it until you are happy with the way it looks. I made a part of mine more flat for an asymmetrical look.

The front is finished for now.

Now on to the back...

1. Repeat steps 1-3 on a fresh sheet of paper. Except extending the pink line 3/4 of an inch to the right of the light green line. Subtract that 3/4 from the portion of the pink line that is to the left of the green line.

2. Extend the brown line all the way to the length of your side height measurement. Make a mark here and label it the top.

4. Make a curved line connecting the "top" mark with the point where the green line intersects with the pink line.

Finish each by adding 1/2 inch seam allowance on all perimeters.



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    3 Discussions


    16 days ago

    You are creative, I can tell by your drawings, and I really loved them. In order to get more people to look at your instructable it is important to show the finished product as your opening picture, or at the very least your drawing of what you plan to make. The finished project needs a picture somewhere to get people to try out the project so we can see it worked or we’ll be afraid to try sewing it for fear something is wrong.


    Reply 23 days ago

    Thanks so much! I'm glad it helps I am currently working on this so I should have the next step out by tomorrow.