Designing and creating a dress is remarkably simple, and can be done by anyone. As long as you have an idea, some paper, some fabric, something to mark it with, something to cut it with, and something with which to sew it together, you can too!
The dress featured in this instructable took about 6 hours total to complete (and I made plenty of mistakes that had to be corrected). Considering this is my first dress, I am happy with how long it took.
Since this instructable features the little black dress that I made, I will tell you exactly what I did and what I learned. If you are applying this information to make a dress of your own size and design, obviously you need to alter the techniques and supplies accordingly to suit your own dress design.
I will assume that for the duration of this instructable that you keep the above paragraph in mind, and I will not be reminding you to employ a technique differently depending on your design.
Okay, let's get started!
Step 1: Supplies You Will Need
You will need the following:
- Paper (to draw on)
- Butcher's Paper (to adapt a stencil, can be found inexpensively at hobby stores in rolls)
- Chalk Wheel Marker
- Measuring Tape
- Sewing Machine (can be done by hand, if you're daring)
- Fabric (and dress liner fabric)
- Needle (for hand sewn touchups)
- Dress Zipper
- Seam Ripper (if you make as many mistakes as I do)
Step 2: Draft a Design, Measurements, and Stencils
This may be the hardest part of your dressmaking journey, coming up with the dress you want to create. My first dress was crafted with the help of my girlfriend. She wanted a little black dress, so we sat down and I drew something that she liked.
Then I measured my model, following a helpful dressmaker's measurement guide. I recorded the measurements with my drawing and imagined an unfolding of the dress into flat planes. Graph paper is helpful here to insure symmetry.
I drew each of these flat planes and made note of where the seams would be, and how they would attach to the other planes of the dress.
Here's an example, If my model's waist measurement is 30 inches (circumference), then that means the top of the front part covering her waist will measure about 15 inches. The dress was not meant to be skin tight, so it was drawn to flare outwards slightly from the waist.
These drawings will allow you to estimate the amount of fabric you need to buy. I bought two yards of polyester and two yards of dress lining material.
Once these planes were drawn, I transferred them to butcher's paper scaled up to actual size. I didn't include pictures of this because they all looked the same and offered little in the way of usefulness.
Butcher's paper is great because it is very hard to tear and bend.
Here are some tips for transferring your small drawing to butcher's paper and keeping it symmetrical and to scale:
- Make stencils slightly larger than actual measurements. This leaves room for the seams!
- Check measurements with a ruler or tape measure constantly
- Use edges of paper to keep straight edges straight
- Use a compass if you are geometrically savvy
- Work on a hard surface
- Use a pencil, erasers are your friend
- Fold the stencils in half bilaterally to insure symmetry
- One stencil can work for more than one part of the dress! (If you notice in my photos, my dress could have been made with fewer stencils. I made extra so I could tape them to my model!)
Step 3: Cut the Fabric
After the stencils are cut, lay them onto your fabric and trace them with a chalk wheel. Be careful that the stencil doesn't creep whilst you mark the fabric (it happened to me constantly). Use this opportunity to check your fabric to make sure there are no holes or defects!
if your fabric is badly wrinkled, iron it before this step.
Essentially you will be marking and cutting out two dresses, one in the fabric you have chosen for the dress and one for the liner.
Step 4: Sew the Liner Planes to the Outer Planes
Now you have to sew the liner planes to the actual dress planes. Make sure to pin around the edges before you start sewing to keep everything aligned. These planes will be turned inside out so make sure you leave the bottom edge (the edge closest to the floor).
Step 5: Flip Inside Out and Iron
You could have ironed the fabric before this step, but I found it unnecessary. But after the dress pieces are flipped inside out, they must be ironed. Make sure you get the edges really well and coax out any hidden materials from the corners.
- Test your iron on a scrap of your fabric! It could be far too hot and melt it!
Step 6: Start Sewing Planes Together!
This is where things can get a little complicated. But don't worry, as long as you pin things together before you start sewing, you'll be fine!
The order in which the planes are sewn together can make things easier or more difficult. Here is exactly what I did with my dress:
I started by sewing the top part of the dress together (Planes A, B, and C) as shown in picture 1. [You may notice that I failed to leave the bottom edges of planes B and C open, but I can hide that crime later. Fortunately, I could still turn them inside out from the small hole at the top of the strap.]
The next thing you may notice is that the top of plane D does not match the bottom of plane A very well. This was unexpected, but can be fixed easily. Simply pinch some of the fabric from plane D when pinning. When you do this, measure where you want these pinches and how much fabric to "pinch out". This will work in my favor and give the skirt bottom a pleated look (see photos 4-6).
At this point, planes A, B, C, and D should be joined. Before we join plane E, we have to add the zipper.
Step 7: Adding the Zipper (Part One)
This part will be difficult to explain, so if you have never sewn a zipper into something before and you are having trouble following me, it may be wise to watch an instructional video online before attempting.
Step 1: Lay out plane E next to plane D and under plane B. Look at picture 1 for reference
Step 2: Mark exactly where the zipper ends up on plane E with chalk. It should be in the middle.
Step 3: Cut the chalk line on plane E
Step 4: Turn plane E inside out and sew around the cut. Pin first!
Step 5: Turn plane E back rightside out
Step 6: With the liner side facing you, pin the zipper to the left side of the cut you made SEE PICTURE 5
Step 7: Sew along that line of pins
Step 8: Sew the other side of the cut to the other side of the zipper SEE PICTURE 6
Step 8: Adding the Zipper (Part Two)
Okay, that wasn't too bad, right?
Now you just need to connect planes C and E together (pin first) see pictures 1 and 2. When you are connecting these planes, you may need to employ the pinch technique that I mentioned earlier!
Then simply sew the edge of the zipper to plane C, allowing the same overlap of fabric as when you connected the zipper to plane E.
Now join plane B to plane E and the remaining edge of the zipper! Pictures 3-4 may help here.
It should look like pictures 5-6 if done correctly.
Step 9: Sew the Bottom Planes Together and Connect Tops
This step is cake!
Turn the dress inside out and sew planes E and D together.
Next, turn the dress inside out and connect the top straps. If they don't match perfectly, it's okay. Simply pinch some fabric out. The small pleat will go unnoticed.
Then simply hem the bottom of the dress.
YOU ARE DONE!
ENJOY YOUR HOMEMADE DRESS!
Step 10: Optional Steps
Add some lace lining by hand sewing it into the liner from the inside (pictures 1 and 2). You may also hand sew a dress hook into the top of the zipper if you have trouble with the dress staying zipped.
You can also make a cut out at the bottom of the dress if you like the style!