Evening Wear, Lace

Three Gowns; One Pattern

Don’t we all love a pattern that fits perfectly and can be modified in multiple ways. I created this gown for a client last year. The dress worked so well she requested more variations. This one was done with French ribbon lace and a full circle skirt of silk tulle.


For the second version I fashioned the bodice from an Oscar de la Renta guipure lace and paired it with silk velvet A-line skirt. The black fox collar and cuffs are vintage and were restyled to fit the gown.
complete gown 2complete gown 1



The bodice lace (from Mood Fabrics) worked better cut crossgrain as the pattern could be cut attractively at the waist seam. I’ve shown it here running lengthwise. By rotating the bodice pattern 90 degrees, I was able to use the leaf pattern as an edging.

Oscar Lace

The lace was backed with black silk organza and black silk crepe de chine formed a built in strapless slip. The lace edge was flipped up out of the way, waistline seam sewn and then the edge tacked down to the velvet skirt.

Lace Overlayfront bodice

The lace was positioned as not to interfere with the side seam. Silk velvet is tricky to sew and will shift all over the place if you don’t baste. I find diagonal basting holds it firm.

invisible zipSide Seam

Vintage fox collar and cuffs were trimmed to size, backed with grosgrain ribbon, and attached with snaps. I found holding the fur out of the way by placing it at the edge of my work surface saved many frustrating thread tangles.

fur snaps

The third version required extending the bodice a few inches below the waist. For this I used a wonderful Armani stretch satin from B&J Fabrics. The lace is from Mood. If you happen to shop for lace in Mood, Carman is wonderful to work with and knows every piece of lace in her department. The skirt is a simple flared shape cut from 4 ply silk crepe.

white bodice layoutthread tracing

The bodice needed some sort of interfacing and I found Pro Tricot from Fashion Sewing Supply a wonderful product. I was skeptical about fusing a stretch fabric but the interfacing stretches and worked beautifully. I’ve thread traced the seam lines with silk thread. The armhole was cut wider at the shoulder as we were considering an extended shoulder line like a small cap sleeve, but would up just trimming the armhole at the natural shoulder line.

The heavy guipure lace had a shiny finish on the right side. I reminded me of patent leather. I planned to cut out motifs and arrange them in mirrored pairs on the bodice. Rather than cut and try to match individual pieces, I arranged the lace right sides together and shifted it around until the pattern on both layers matched. Pin together and then cut out the motifs as matched pairs.

lace pairs

I cut varying size and shaped motifs to form the pattern I had in mind. Now for hours of hand sewing as every motif was stitched in place. I made a wonderful pressing tool which is a bag of heavy muslin filled with sand. Press the appliqued sections wrong side up and the lace will sink into the sand and prevent you from pressing the lace flat and damaging the effect.

b&w gown armholessandbag

The bottom edge of the bodice faced with silk organza. The first fitting on the dress form showed the bodice hem flared out a bit to much; easily corrected at this stage.

b&w gown bodice hemb&w gown 1

An invisible zip closed the back. How to insert a white zip into black fabric? I hand sew the zippers as I have much more control that way. Press the coils of the zipper open and sew with a backstitch just inside the zipper coil. Hand stitching allows you to vary the stitch distance from the zipper coil. If you’ve ever sewn a zipper into a garment where the thickness if one section is substantially different from another, you know that the zipper often refuses to jump over the hump. I’ve stitched just slightly further away from the coil at this point to allow the zipper to close smoothly. Notice also I switch from black to white thread. A tiny bit of zipper tape shows but it’s preferable to the zip not closing or breaking. Some might prefer a lapped zipper application, but I like the clean line of an invisible zipper. A ribbon waist stay is added.

zip black to whiteb&w waist stay



The white zipper is well concealed. I waited until the zipper was installed before sewing the last bits of lace motifs in place so they would match perfectly at the back.

b&w gown back

b&w gown finished

48 thoughts on “Three Gowns; One Pattern”

  1. Mary! Such inspiration! I love the idea of the muslin sandbag. How clever! Beautiful work. Thank you so much.

  2. They are all gorgeous! The one with the black fox trim is stunning, absolutely stunning! I had never thought of putting an invisible zipper in by hand, but that makes so much sense, especially in an application such as you describe and show. You have a very lucky client to be blessed with your dressmaking skills.

    1. Thank you Karen. The fox trim was the perfect finish. It tied the dull finish of the organza backed lace to the lush texture of the velvet skirt. I hand sew zippers to control tricky fabrics and it occurred to me; why not try it with the invisible ones? Works great.

  3. Your work is simply stunning! Thank you for the detailed photos and inspiration. Could you please clarify how and why you used the little sandbag for the pressing of the lace?

    1. By placing the appliqued piece wrong side up the lace motif sinks into the sand and allows you to press the fabric background without flattening the right side. Some sewing books suggest ironing on a thick towel but I find the terrycloth loops sometimes imprint on the smooth satin fabric. Using a sandbag prevents this. Shake the sandbag a little after each press to make a new smooth surface.

  4. What gorgeous outfits you have created for your lucky client. I was hoping for a relief from the black and the final dress is stunning with its black lace on a white ground. And I love the fur too. I have previously sewn an invisible zip by hand, but just because I didn’t have the right foot. Super work and great detail as ever. Thank you Mary.

    1. Thank you. I know what you mean about black but many people use it as a wardrobe staple. I think you’ll enjoy the next version which is coming soon.

  5. Lordie, Mary, this post is a fabulous tutorial and description of why hand sewn couture is worth every penny…sand bag sewing…genius! Mirror imaging lace motifs, hand sewing invisible zippers…magic and more magic on the path to perfection! Thank you, thank you!

  6. You and I both find ourselves in the position of inventing techniques. The hand sewn invisible zipper and sandbag were solutions to sewing dilemmas.

  7. Hi Mary!
    I was looking for your contact info and can’t seem to find it anywhere. Do you have an email I can contact you through. I’m interested in having a gown made and I see you are in the NYC area as well.
    Thank you and I hope to hear from you!

  8. Wow! I’m lost for words, they are so beautiful! You are extremely skilled! Thanks so much for sharing your stunning creations! Can’t wait to read thorough all your blog posts!

  9. Saw your excellent boucle jacket in Threads and had to peek at your blog site. Finally, a blog with someone who knows what they’re doing. Sorry other sewing bloggers, sewing up a cute dress with free fabric from Mood, then modeling it with a dozen pictures of yourself with no explanation and pictures of construction techniques is not interesting. Ms. Funt, you not only can sew like a master, you also deliver a master tutorial with each blog post. I am a sewing professional, been doing my thing for over 30 years, and I learned more reading this post than I have since the Internet began. Thank you for your expertise and your desire to share with other sewing enthusiasts. Now I begin the happy process of reading as many of your blog posts as my weary eyes can handle.

    1. Thank you so much. Nice to know that there are other sewers out there who enjoy my posts. I am totally self taught and write about topics and techniques that I would have loved to have access to as I was learning to sew and pushing myself into the world of couture construction. The internet and blogging world is a wonderful tool to exchange our ideas and knowledge. I hope you continue to enjoy my blog.

    2. Hehe, you have read my mind. I find it very frustrating when no details of the construction is shared. I can look at pretty pictures in a magazine. 🙂

      1. Thank you. It’s nice to know all the effort to photo the construction process and write about details no one sees is appreciated. I hope you continue to find the posts helpful.

  10. Hello Mary,

    Excellent craftsmanship! You sew beautifully, I am so inspired to sew with tidier finishings.

    The dresses are simply exquisite, well done. 🙂

  11. Gorgeous gowns. Thank you for showing your process which was very illuminating. Thank you too for the sand bag tip. My tutor suggested hand sewing the wedding dress zipper but I moved its position to avoid that! Maybe I shouldn’t have been so scared. Looking forward to gown 4!

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