couture sewing, Evening Wear

Chanel Runway Dress; Easier Than You Think

Chanel gownI noticed this dress from a recent Chanel runway show and set out to copy it. Two photos showing the original dress.Chanel gown detail
I started with a simple sheath dress such as this McCalls pattern but you could use anything similar.012
If you aren’t sure how it will fit make a test dress in muslin. It needs to be slim fitting but not skin tight. Make sure to peg the skirt. That means taper the side seams below the hip line. You want the hem narrower than the hips; that makes for a more slimming line.
Cut the dress from a sheer, flexible fabric. I used cotton tulle in a nude color. You could also use silk organza but I find the tulle works best. Nylon tulle is NOT the same thing. Cotton tulle can be difficult to find locally but most better shops in cities carry it. I use Mood, B & J and others and they do mail order.
Sew the darts and the right side seam with the wrong side out. That means your darts and seam will be facing out like a lining. Leave the shoulders and left seam open for now. It will make placing the trim strips much easier.
Now for the fringed strips. I bought 2 yards each of light, medium and dark gray silk organza. I also got 2.5 yards of both medium and dark sparkle POLYESTER organza. You will be cutting some of the trim with a soldering iron and silk can’t be cut with a heat tool; it will just burn. Very important to get 100% polyester.
Working with one color of silk at a time, cut 4 to 5 inch wide BIAS strips from the yardage. You will wind up with yards and yards of bias strips. I recommend cutting some test strips from a corner before you cut the entire yardage to test the width. Make the strips wider or narrower if you need.
Press your bias strips in half the long way so now you have narrow double layer strips. Take a stiff brush and fray the cut edges. I placed a piece of canvas on my pressing surface and brushed away. The brush will damage your ironing board cover, so please use something to protect it. I found canvas better than a smooth, slippery surface as the silk didn’t slip around. I used a brass scrub brush.006

Next work on the polyester trim. Cut several bias strips from each color of the poly organza. I made mine about 3 inches wide. Don’t cut the entire yardage as you will need some for the large strip at the hem and also for the top of the dress.
You will need a heat tool to cut the wavy edge so it doesn’t fray. Cutting with scissors will leave a raw edge and that won’t last long. The heat tool will sear the edges and prevent fraying. I used an inexpensive soldering iron from Radio Shack. Make sure yours has a pointed tip.
You will also need a piece of plate glass. I used a scrap from an old window and wrapped the edges with duct tape to prevent injury. Draw some wavy lines on a piece of paper. When you are happy with the design place the paper under the glass so you can see your design. You can also cut freehand, but having the pattern to follow was easier for me.
Heat up your tool and place a strip of organza with one edge along your drawn line. The fabric is on top of the glass and can now be cut with the soldering iron. Make sure you work with one layer at a time as multiple layers will be melted together. Practice this a few times on scraps before starting. You need to cut slow enough to allow the heat to cut through the fabric but fast enough to prevent melting and holes.009010
Last is the fringed strips. I used lightweight charcoal Ultrasuede and cut 1.5 to 2.5 inch wide strips on the crossgrain. Ultrasuede is most flexible that direction and you also will need only about 1/2 yard; nice since it’s not inexpensive.
Chalk a line about 1/2 inch in from one long edge, turn on a movie and get comfortable. Arm yourself with the sharpest scissors you can find and cut fringe. The chalk line is a guide of how deep to cut and I just eyeballed about 1/8 inch for the width.
Next post will be how to start putting everything together. Let me know if anything is unclear. This is not a quick and easy project but do-able if you take it slow and focus on one step at a time. No wonder the price tag is astronomical at Chanel!

4 thoughts on “Chanel Runway Dress; Easier Than You Think”

  1. I love this dress and want to try to make it. I am a very very basic sewer, but your clear prose gives me the assurance that I could try something high-end like this. Thank you!

    1. Happy you found this helpful. Most sewing can be broken down into very manageable steps. Good luck with your dress and please send a comment if you hit a stumbling block and I’ll try and help.

  2. You are pure genius! I would never be able to find these fabrics in the UK, so envious how people get to have all the fun over the pond. 🙂

    1. I’ve shopped for fabrics in London and most are available with a little searching. There is always mail order. Glad you enjoyed and I hope are inspired to try your own. Thank you.

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