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Basics for Sewing a Prom Dress


For those young girls nearing the end of their high school junior and senior years, thoughts turn to attending Prom. This of course brings to mind the dress. Never mind finding the dream date to attend Prom with, it’s the dreaming about the dress, talking about the dress, searching for the perfect dress, trying on dozens of dresses in mall and bridal stores, agonizing over color choices, fit, fashion, cost, endless peer-consultation sessions, studying the latest magazines - Seventeen, Teen Vogue and Justine to name a few, and of course the scrutiny of Mom, Dad, or those who act lovingly in the capacity of, can occupy the sense and sensibility of all caught up in the Search. With a capital S.

Whether made of fairy-tale frothy tulle, shiny shantung, elegant grown-up lamé, flirty taffeta, silk dupioni, satin charmeuse, crepe backed satin, classic chiffons, georgettes, or organzas, the dress must evoke that certain cachet, that elusive sense of élan that is really part of the Search. Linens, lycras, and winter velvets are for other seasons, other times. Problem is, prom dresses are anything but style-on-the-cheap. What with prom tickets, pre-prom dinner, hair, makeup, shoes, jewelry, tiny handbag, photos, flowers, and for the lucky few - limo rentals, prom and after-prom events can become a huge expense for families of prom-goers. The prom dress itself can top the list, often costing between a very conservative $100 to ‘I-cant-believe-a-dress-can-cost-that-much’ price. However, the adventurous may consider sewing the prom dress! Yes, from pattern and fabric, with trepidation or bold fearlessness, trusty sewing machine at the ready, you can sew the dress, often surprisingly easily, and for far less money than store-bought. Glitter and all.

Here are a few basics for sewing the prom dress for those willing to abandon the search for the dream dress and take charge to make the dream dress happen.

Pattern - Find the dress pattern first, and sized to the bustline. Look for clean, simple, classic design lines in the pattern. Tackling fussy or complicated patterns are for other mortals during this time. Be realistic in choosing a design that will fit and flatter, one easy to make adjustments on rather than what is all the rage. You will be glad you did. Remember, sense and sensibility.

Fabric - Purchase the most gorgeous fabric you can afford, one suggested in the pattern instructions. Suggested fabrics will always work best.

Pattern Layout - Use the instructions for the pattern layout for Without Nap as most of the fabrics suitable for prom are fabrics that do not have a particular one-way texture or design. If unsure defer to the With Nap layout. Pin frequently within the seam allowance.

Cutting – Have your fabric scissors professionally sharpened or splurge and buy new. You will not regret this extra effort. New scissors or newly sharpened ones help greatly to reduce the fabric’s tendency from slipping against itself and edge fraying. For those fond of rotary cutters, they do work well too.

Fitting - Although it is not always necessary nor time-efficient to make a muslin copy of the dress as in couture sewing, it is wise to machine or hand baste darts and seams and have the starry-eyed prom-goer try the dress-in-progress on and make any adjustments as necessary. Fitting is as important as sewing. The bodices of prom dresses are usually closely-fit to the body so paying particular attention in this area will show marvelously in your finished results.

Seams – Seaming on sheers, or other fine fabrics lends itself to many techniques such as double-stitching (if fraying is not a problem), classic French seaming, serging (over wraps the raw edges nicely) or overcasting (overedging) each seam edge with a zigzag like edge. Using new machine needles is a must to minimize fabric pulls.

Sewing the special dress is not quite as daunting as it may initially seem if the few suggestions presented are given consideration. As a satisfying plus, the prom dress will be in exactly the style, fabric and color wanted with all the panache of the springtime event forever captured in its uniqueness hand crafted with care in the making of the formal gown.

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Cheryl Ellex. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.

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