In January I began a project with the intention of making for myself an evening gown for an event at the end of the month. I would like to share this project with you – my first piece of proper fashion sewing!
The pattern is taken from The Great British Sewing Bee’s companion book “Fashion with Fabric“, inspired by an article on overlaying fabric with gauze/lace from April 2015’s issue of the Seamwork magazine. The book “Fashion with Fabric” is my go to book on dealing with different materials and looking at the different names something can be called, or possible substitutions (particularly useful when trawling the haberdashery sections or perusing the bargains).
I have a fondness for lace dresses but wanted something new for a corporate event. After reading the article, I was struck with an idea of making a gown of a rich colour with a patterned black lace overlay. Over time I decided that a corset gown would work with the idea and set about this goal.
The materials used were: red duchesse satin (the same material used to make wedding dresses), black polyester lace, black satin ribbon, trim and bias binding, and black eyelets plus matching thread.
After photocopying the pattern pieces and cutting the correct size out, I followed the instructions in the book and made a mock up of the corset and skirt. I found I had to adjust the pattern slightly for the top at the back (so it was a good thing I cut out a mock up first!).
All the pattern pieces needed to be cut in both satin and lace. The skirt is made of the satin with the lace floating on top. The corset, however, is sewn together as one layer. I followed instructions for the lace pencil skirt contained within the book, piecing together the skirt and the overlayer before sewing them together with the zip and the waistband which is held closed with a button. It required some teamwork with my OH to cut the skirt to the right length, and involved trying on the satin skirt and applying pins at the correct height after letting the skirt hang on a hanger for several days. Hanging garments a few days before hemming allows the bias to stretch and warp, to be trimmed to the correct length.
I then used this as a guide to trimming the lace overlayer. Pinning the trim over the lace so that it would just brush the hem of the satin skirt, I sewed the edge of the lace in place with my sewing machine. Cutting the lace behind the trim tidied up the raw edges and added weight to the overlayer to help its drape when the skirt is whirling (which it is wont to do as it is a full circle skirt).
After the corset pieces were cut they were paired with their lace counterpart and sewn with a loose basting stitch, like the lace overlay collar on Colette’s blog. Once these were stitched they could be treated like a single piece, like some techniques used by Victorian corset makers, and the corset could be made following the book’s instructions. It took a bit of concentration to make sure everything sat together, but eventually the corset was sewn.
All the seams were sewn as welt-seams, which forms a casing for the boning. I used plastic featherlite boning because it can be washed in a washing machine (saves on dry cleaning which is an expensive pastime for clothes). The edges were bound with black bias binding (bought rather than home-made). I decided against adding straps (though there is a pattern variant that allows this to happen), and inserted the eyelets into the back with the help and skill of my OH – who was careful not to cut the lace as he hammered the eyelets together.
To finish the corset off I threaded a wide satin ribbon through the eyelets, and waltzed off to the ball.
Time: ~ 2.5 weeks worth of evenings and most of the day of the ball finishing up the trimming. Making the mock up took about a week, but was well worth the effort. The mock up skirt itself just needs to be hemmed and have a zip stitched in place to become a proper wearable skirt!