French Chantilly Lace/ Layout and Pattern Matching

This strapless cocktail dress presented some interesting construction and layout techniques unique to lace. The hem is lower in the back and so the usual way of laying out a skirt with the hem following the finished lace edge doesn’t work here. Also the neckline is edged with a scalloped border. The right and left sides are mirror imaged. Picky details but never seen outside of couture workmanship.

I start a project like this by studying the lace pattern carefully and noting where and how the motifs repeat. This lace is a fine French Chantilly with a double galloon edge, meaning there are scallops on both edges.
The lace is laid out with a scalloped edge running the length of my long cutting table. This shows the pattern repeating vertically every 11 inches. Note the top of the swirl at the end of the ruler and again at the 11 inch mark. Also notice that the same swirl is reversed at 5.5 inches. If you’ve ever worked with upholstery/drapery fabrics you’re familiar with the term “half drop match.” The pattern repeats in some form halfway between the full match.

Probably the easiest way to illustrate the entire dress layout is this:

Starting with the corrected toile, position the front piece at the far right hand edge with the hem along the scalloped edge. You will have already determined the finished length. I also trimmed the scalloped edge along the entire length, cutting around the motifs. Since back hem was longer than the front, the other pattern sections were moved upwards a full pattern repeat. The waistline was used as a reference point and was also positioned parallel to the lower edge. Now for the interesting part.

At the half drop line (halfway between pattern repeats) the pattern mirror imaged. On this diagram I’ve illustrated this with red C’s. Notice how the C’s flip. The easiest way to get perfect matching is to cut the left (or right side) first, flip the lace piece and lay it down matching the pattern motifs.
Perfectly mirrored back sections.
My muslin toile is folded or cut along the seam line, so matching is easy. I fold the seam allowances under and check that the seam doesn’t fall along an unwanted pattern placement. Here I will shift the piece over to avoid a prominent double “fern leaf like pattern” along the seam line.
The dress is constructed of silk crepe de chine with silk organza underlining. The lace is backed with a layer of silk tulle. That means the dress has four layers: Chantilly lace, silk tulle, crepe de chine and silk organza. They are basted together, seams lines thread traced, and then treated as one layer. I frequently use silk tulle as backing for lace. It’s wonderful to work with and almost adheres itself to the lace. I think it softens the contrast between the lace and silk underlayers.
Silk tulle comes in black, white and ivory but I’ve successfully dyed it when needed. Nylon tulle is NOT the same. Unlike silk tulle, the nylon version fights you all the way. It doesn’t behave and insists on doing its own thing.
Some advocate using silk organza as backing for lace, but I find it too opaque and doesn’t produce the effect I want. Here is the Chantilly lace with no underlay, silk tulle, and organza.
Try different materials under your lace and see which produces the effect you like.

Sew major seams through all layers. I hem the crepe de chine/organza layer before finishing the seams. Working with only the lace layer, hand applique the hem border following the motifs. I found silk thread blended in best.

Lace for hem edge trimmed along motifs:


Trim away the excess lace underneath the appliqued edge and tack it to the silk tulle.
The neckline trim is done the same way except trim closer to the scallops so the trim is narrower and follows the shaped edge easier.
The lining is the same crepe de chine. I fused a high quality weft interfacing to the hip line and added boning for support. This will be worn over a foundation garment, so heavy boning wasn’t needed. A ribbon waistband keeps the dress in place and prevents it from slipping down.

Perfectly matched seam with invisible zip.
If you noticed at the beginning of this post, the photo of the front neck shows the center front as about 3/8 inch off center. This was done to correct for one hip being lower than the other. The toile had a definite right and left side. The pattern pieces are shaped differently but the garment looks symmetrical when worn. The dress form was wearing bust pads and a spandex tank; explains the strange undergarments.

37 thoughts on “French Chantilly Lace/ Layout and Pattern Matching”

  1. Mary. You’re amazing! Thank you so much for sharing all of this incredible workmanship. I love your layout diagram! The result shown below, “Perfectly matched seam with an invisible zip” is extraordinary! You do such lovely work. I recognize your tremendous skill and this gown should be worn with incredible pride. Well done.

    1. B&J Fabrics in the US carries it and I also order wholesale from the UK. I use a fairly crisp version. I’ve seen soft silk tulle netting and that’s not what you want. Let me know if you have difficulty locating a source. It can be scarce and is pricey.

  2. What a gorgeous dress. Expertly and beautifully executed also. I really like the silk tulle as an underlining, which I’ll try on my next lace dress.

  3. The layout diagram is very useful and confirms my suspicions! Also I imagine that shaped hem was really a challenge, but one you worked with to produce a superb outcome. I was also so interested to read about the silk tulle – definitely something to try. Thank you for such an interesting and detailed post Mary.

    1. Thank you. Do experiment with silk tulle. It’s expensive so I save every scrap. It is wonderful for seam binding, lightweight interfacing and a multitude of other uses.

  4. All I can say is WOW. What a beautifully executed dress. Lace is fun to work with, and presents challenges other fabrics do not. You handled this beautiful lace perfectly. I wish I had known more about cutting lace when I made my own wedding dress, but that was back in ” the dark ages” of my sewing skills. Everyone was impressed with it back then, but I have since learned so much more. Your post is so informative! I might have to invent some excuse to make a lace garment just to use the wonderful information you have presented.

    1. Every lace is different and often I find myself inventing techniques to solve a particular problem. Thank you and I hope my experiences help in your next lace project. Please post your pics.

  5. Mary – thanks again for sharing such wonderful & insightful knowledge. i have a lace that I can’t wait to try this technique on! Would you mind sharing the source of the lace you used – it is so delicate & stunning. Sharon

    1. Thank you Sharon. Let me know how yours turns out. The lace is from B&J Fabrics, #75146372. It is $62.95/ yd. and a wide 54″ with double scalloped edges so you’ll have loads of edging yardage. On B&J website, go to laces, then chantilly, then dyed, and it is on page 1. They also carry black silk tulle. It is about $155/yd but very wide and I use every scrap. Well worth it in my opinion.

  6. Magnificent. It belongs in a glass box on exhibition. It should come with white gloves just in case the husband has to zip her up.

    1. Funny you should comment on husband being in charge of the zipper. I actually gave her instructions for hubby to zip SLOWLY and gently spread lace while zipping. The lace doesn’t catch if you do it like this. Thanks for the compliment.

  7. People have no idea what really goes into a custom couture dress but reading through this set of directions can at least make a dent in their knowledge. What detail and planning and beautiful execution went into this dress and the photos of the inside as well…fabulous!

    1. Thank you. You are so right. What looks effortless requires a great deal of planning and careful construction. You must love it when clients tell you what a ” simple job” they are requesting and have no knowledge of what is actually involved.

    1. I may do something online in the future. Meanwhile I appreciate your following my blog. Hopefully the posts will be informative. If you ever have questions or want additional info just let me know. Thank you.

  8. What a fabulous dress! I love the idea of the silk tulle under the lace – what a great idea. Is this dress for you or for a client? Whoever wears it is going to have heads turning!

    1. This was for a long time client. She frequently asks me to create special occasion wear. We brainstorm ideas and try various fabrics until something materializes. She was delighted with this. I’m surprised there isn’t more mention of silk tulle as a backing for lace. I find it an almost miracle fabric and have a multitude of uses for it.

  9. Thank you for this post! I’ve only sewn Alencon lace and have been working on a muslin for a wedding dress bodice. When the bride brought me Chantilly lace I had no idea how to work with it since I can’t make applique seams and am terrified to cut into the delicate border. This gives me hope!

    1. Thanks and glad the information was useful. I’ve worked with many Chantilly laces. I find that backing the lace with silk tulle and sewing plain seams works best. If you have additional questions or need help sourcing materials let me know. Enjoy working with what sounds like beautiful fabric.

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