I needed to make some country/western dresses for a show that we are making. I thought I'd show the step by step process in how I created them.
Step 1: Cutting Out Pattern
I had found these materials about 4 years ago and they were on sale, so i bought about 10 yards of each color, but wasn't sure what I'd do with them or even when. Now I finally had a purpose to use it up. :)
I tend to use a few different patterns in my costumes. Since we dance a lot, most of our skirts need to be circle skirts so they flare out in the spins..so I didn't use a specific pattern. I just hand picked things from different patterns that I already owned or just made my own by laying interfacing on the dress form and either cut it out by eye or drew on it with a marker exactly what I wanted the shapes to be. You'll see the circle skirt in the photo and the hand made pattern for the white section on the bodice area in the photos.
Step 2: Begin Sewing
I'm assuming if you're reading this, you know the basics to sewing, so i won't go into details on how to actually sew, but in case you don't, you can just follow the instructions located inside each pattern that you buy in the store to put your garment together.
I begin with the front of the bodice and make the darts to form fit each dress to the general size of the dancer. I'd make it more custom fit, except that our performers change throughout the year, so each of our costumes have to fit a variety of body shapes/sizes. In order to solve this problem, I started adding elastic strips in the back to gather it and it can then stretch to fit whomever is wearing it, or pull it in tighter for the skinnier dancers. (You'll see the elastic strips in the photos.) I just sew while pulling the elastic bands and it will gather the fabric as it goes. The machine does most of the work for you.
Next I sew the back to the front attach the skirt to the bottom so I have the basic finished base of the costume. Next is to add interfacing and a zipper in the back.
For this costume, I wanted puffy sleeves so I the pattern I used was a gathered sleeve pattern, but to keep the "puff" I gathered some interfacing and sewed it into the top (inside) of the sleeve to poof out the shoulders even more than the body would normally. By doing so, it'll keep the poof even when the dancer is moving around and hold its shape.
At the bottom of each sleeve, I wanted a detail of some sort. So I added lace (on some) and colored trim on others depending on the color of each dress...and then gathered it again with elastic on the inside. I decided to make each dress just slightly different from each other so it would give each one some character and something different to look at.
Step 3: Ruffle Time
Next, I was going to add a ruffle along the bottom of the skirt. I cut out an enormously long strip of fabric (I don't usually measure exact amounts..I judge it by eye and just cut off the excess if it's too much..hence why I buy a lot of material at first) and surged the edges so it didn't fray. Then I started gathering one edge and covered the raw edges in a darker satin material. Once this is done, it's ready to be sewn onto the bottom edge of the skirt.
With that finished, I went on to the under skirt/petticoat portion. The skirts needed to flare out, so i bought a similar color of satin in each color for each dress. I had no idea how many yards I'd need, so I bought 10 yards again of each color bc it was pretty cheap. I ended up only using about 7-8 yards though. I began cutting a LONG strip about 7 inches wide and surging the edges. To make the gathers easier, I used elastic with my overlock machine and just stretched the elastic as I surged the edges and it made a very nice ruffle. When you're done with all the ruffles, cut a waistband - (layer A) (non-gathered but just slighting bigger than the waist measurement) and place the gathered ruffle layer (B) onto the bottom of it. Once that was done, I went back to the bottom of layer B and added another gathered layer (C). Then after C was done, I went back and added layer D....so each layer was gathered onto the bottom of the previous layer. By doing so you're adding volume to the under skirt. Once that was done, I double the skirt and repeated it all then sewed the 2nd skirt also to the waistband.
Enclose the waistband (fold it in half and sew it closed) and use a safety pin to drive some elastic through the loop and then sew the elastic shut...make sure it's slightly less than the dancer's waist measurement, so it holds the skirt on. This underskirt can be attached to the main costume or you can leave it as a separate to wear under the skirt.
(For the purple skirt, I had enough ruffles left over for one more layer, so I just added it on top of one of the middle rows to help add more volume and not waste the ruffle/fabric, but it does make the middle a bit bigger so I wouldn't suggest it unless you don't care. I might just make more and add to the third level to even it out.)
Step 4: Top Details
I added the white panel on the bodice area at different times on each costume. There's no set order as to when to add this feature because it's directly on top of the costume and doesn't interfere with anything else in the creation of this. This is the part I did not have a pattern for, so I had to create my own from scratch. It turned out okay, but I made the neck a bit too wide, so luckily the material was stretchy and will fill in the gap to the neck. I made each one slightly different with laces, and ribbon and bows and sewed them directly to the top of the bodice. I didn't like the lace that I had in stock, so i trimmed the edges to give it better shape and then sewed it on. The first dress I made, I had lined this part of costume, but then I realized I didn't really need to do that, so on the purple one, I just surged the edges and sewed trim right over it to hide the edge.
Step 5: Almost Done!!
After that, I decided to make a belt to help divide the costume visually and add more contrast to it. Again, I did not have a pattern, so I laid interfacing on the form and cut out a pattern to the exact shape that I wanted that I though would be flattering to the female form. I then cut it out of satin, interfacing, and lining. Sew them all together. It was a bit small to sew inside out and flip it, so instead, I surged it all together (can you tell I like my overlock machine?!?! haha) and then made a small strip of fabric to cover the edge and top stitch it. I did not have velcro of each color, so I decided to make my own. I bought white velcro and spray painted it to each shade that I needed. If you get the Krylon type, it is made for plastic and holds up very well on velcro. I've used this technique many times in the past in various costumes.
Step 6: And You're Done!
After all these steps are finished, make sure there are no raw edges open anywhere and clip all loose threads and you're finished. Oh, you might want to steam or press it with an iron just to crisp the edges and make it look finished. :)
I made three, but have the material to make a fourth if I need to. I hope this is helpful in some way to you. If you'd like to see more of the costumes I make for the shows we do, please write me and let me know and I'll post more. Thanks! :)