The Totally Unnecessary Cocktail Dress – Finished!

What started as a cute-dress-to-whip-up-quickly-on-a-whim-out-of-stash, turned into a time-consuming-extravaganza-of-couture-construction!  But it’s worth it don’t you think, just to have this in your wardrobe?

Even if you have absolutely no proper occasion to wear it – lol!

I’m really pleased with the outcome – no toile, a complex fitted bodice – and it fits perfectly!  (As opposed to three toiles, a simple loose fitting shift – and blah.)  I was worried about the length and the fact it shows my knees, but the full skirt is sufficiently doll-like to draw attention away from all that – I hope!

For sewing fanatics I have more construction details, following on from these earlier posts about this dress:

A handy cutting tip

When I laid up the fabric, the selvedge was tight and prevented the fabric from laying perfectly flat – see the wrinkles along the selvedge:

This can cause inaccuracy in marking and cutting, so if you clip the selvedge at intervals along the piece it releases the tension, and voila – flat fabric:

You only need to cut the selvedge, not into your useable width.  This fabric was quite distorted, so my clips are quite close together, usually you can space them further apart.

The hem

First I prickstitched the satin and organza together about 1cm below the hem fold.  Then I bound the raw edges of the hem with lining (normally I would cut these on the bias, but there were only scraps so I cut them straight).  I machined the lining to the right side, then folded it to the wrong side and prickstitched it in place by  hand:
Then I handsewed the hem to the organza using a catchstitch:
This is one of those hems that you never press, as they look best puffy and rounded!

Making the lining

There was no lining pattern with this dress but you can make it easily – here’s how:

Mark the edge of the neckline facings on the bodice patterns.  As this line is the cut line of the facing, we need to add two seam allowances to it to arrive at the cut line for the lining:

You’ll need to do the same for the sleeve hem and gusset panel too.  Then cut the excess away along the lining cut lines and you will end up with your lining pattern.

For the skirt lining, use the same pattern as the shell, but shorten it the hem width, ie 5cm.  And then you’ll need to shorten it a further inch.  Why?  Because I found out through personal experience, that’s why!  The skirt stands away from the body so much that the lining naturally hangs a bit lower.

In this picture you can see how much the underskirt fills out the upper layer, and consequently the lining looks too short.  But turned right side out with the netting over top, it is the correct length.  I didn’t quite have enough lining, so I added a border of lace to the lining hem.

Make up the lining the same way as the dress – yes, that means sewing all those gussets again!  The seam allowances of the gussets were edgestitched down this time:

Don’t look too close – I sewed them at night under poor lighting so they aren’t very neat!

Previously I had understitched the neck facings by machine, but then decided I needed to tape the neckline, so I unpicked the understitching, inserted tape to the pattern measurement, and redid the understitching by hand – using a pickstitch:

I had to handsew the lining in because the facings had all been catchstitched to the organza underlining.  I pressed under the sleeve and neck edges on the lining and fell stitched them to the facings.

I did all this handstitching out in the back garden one idyllic sunny afternoon, laying a picnic blanket out on the lawn, and the dress out on the blanket, and I sat there handsewing like a happy tailoress – it was fun!  The cat lay next to me for a while until she decided the net underskirt was just too tempting, and with one eye on me and one eye on the net she sneaked onto it and curled up into a happy purring ball.  When I tried to move her she growled, and let me tell you past history has proven it was best to leave her be.  A shake of her food-bowl a little later did the trick!

(Shall I tell you about the time I left a bolt of veil net partially unwound on the floor after a fitting, and went to make a coffee before tidying up?  I returned to find a guilty looking cat face peeking out from underneath the shredded net – in ten minutes she had successfully wrecked ten metres!)

The underskirt

I followed the Burda instructions – cut a rectangular yoke in lining and attached net to the bottom.  The net is considerably shorter than the skirt, giving the skirt it’s bell silhouette:

Two rows of gathering thread were used to gather up the tulle.  I quarter it, which makes it easier as you have thread ends marking your CF/CB/SS, and with the shorter threads you are less likely to have them snap on you!  Backstitch at the start of each quarter, and leave tails at the finish – so when you draw up the tails the backstitch holds one end fixed and you don’t pull a thread right through!

The underskirt yoke was then catchstitched to the waistline seam, placing the tucks at the same position as the skirt tucks.  Perhaps I should call this the Dress of Many Colours – I was a bit lazy about changing thread colour throughout this dress, and the white organza just adds to the rainbow effect don’t you think?!

The zip

I hand-picked the zip in this dress, partially because I happened to have a 60cm dress zip in my box from decades ago that was close in colour, but also because I thought this dress was crying out for such a vintage detail.  I was a bit concerned about the stitches being really obvious in the satin, but they sunk into the cloth quite well, although it was difficult to get them looking regular:

I wasn’t happy with gaping at the top and the waist seam, so I removed it and resewed leaving room for a hook and eye, and more overlap at the waist.  My verdict on the zip – it makes the dress look homemade, I should have used an invisible zip.

My verdict on the dress – I love it, and it was such fun to make!

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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

57 thoughts on “The Totally Unnecessary Cocktail Dress – Finished!

  1. Thank you so much for this blog and such amasing details. I found it through a link to the Rubi slip, and having read a few posts, am in love. This is so great to see the inner foundation, and to have such detailed explanations.. Thank you!


  2. Love this dress and have had the pattern in my to-do-box since 2011. And now thanks to you and your perfect instructions shall I start sew!! But I have to start with a toile. Many many thanks! LenaJ


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