Learn How SIMPLE
Digital Patterns Really Are!

Sign Up to Receive
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sewing Patterns eBook + a FREE Skirt Pattern!


For the month of September we’re hosting a Sew Along with our good friends at Coats & Clark, FreeSpirit Fabrics and Tula Pink. Each week we’ll be posting steps for our Halter Dress Pattern courtesy of Peter Lappin! Click through for Peter’s instructions for getting started on this sassy project and stay tuned for more steps and info throughout September!

Peter Lappin’s Step 1:

Hello, sew-alongers (and others) and welcome to my first sew-along post for the Burda Halter Dress #116. Whether you’re sewing this dress pattern or another of your choice, I think you’ll find everything I share today to be relevant to your project.

If you’ve ever glanced through my BurdaStyle studio, you know this isn’t the first dress I’ve ever made, but it is my first halter dress, so we may be making some discoveries together.

I’m very excited to be sewing this dress for my friend Leah, a real New York actress! We’ll be seeing much more of Leah in the weeks ahead.


I’m thrilled to be leading a sew-along here on BurdaStyle, and will do my best to be clear. If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer.

With no further delay, let’s get started.


The first thing we want to do when we’re starting any sewing project is to make sure we select the proper fabric. This project calls for batiste or other lightweight dress fabrics, with piqué as the contrasting fabric. Since Leah is likely going to want to wear this dress into the early fall, I decided to choose a somewhat heavier cotton, which I selected from the “Tea Cakes” line by Verna Mosquera, available through Westminster Fabrics.

Since the dress features a full skirt with an underlay, I have decided to use two different, complementary prints: “Enchanted Rose” (in Cornflower), and “Floral Paisley” (in Vanilla). The dress will be primarily done in the cornflower fabric, with a peek of paisley when the skirt underlay shows. The trim will be done in the same cornflower blue.


This may seem obvious, but pay close attention to the yardage needed. I misjudged and had to order more, as my bolt was 44" and the necessary yardage was based on a 55" bolt. Remember, too, that if your fabric’s design is directional (can only be cut in one direction, like flowers that need to be petals-up and stem-down) or the design elements repeat infrequently, you may need more fabric.

Fabric Prep

Nearly all fabric needs to be pretreated, especially cotton, which has a tendency to shrink and sometimes has a coating on it called sizing. The first thing I did when I received my fabric was to launder and dry it completely. I then ironed it flat.


Now the fabric is ready to be cut — but before we do that, we must prepare the pattern.

Preparing the Pattern

The beauty of BurdaStyle patterns is that they can be downloaded and printed at home. It’s not difficult to prepare a pattern, but it does take some time. Make sure you have a large, uncluttered space in which to work. I generally trim off two sides of each four-sided sheet, line the pattern edge up with the previous sheet, and tape them together (within the body of the pattern piece itself, so the tape doesn’t get cut away when I cut out my pattern pieces). Needless to say, I don’t use my fabric scissors to cut my paper pattern and neither should you!


Little by little, the pattern comes together…


Now I’m ready to cut out my pattern pieces. I follow the printed instructions and make sure I clearly identify each pattern piece and the number of times each piece will be used.


Although I have Leah’s measurements, I’m not exactly sure which size I’ll be cutting. I cut the pattern pieces at their largest, and trace the size I think I am most likely to need. This takes a little more time, but it’s worth it.

I label all my pattern pieces carefully.


Using yellow tracing paper, I trace the four pattern pieces for the bodice, which will require a precise fit. I trace Burda size 36, and leave a wide 1" seam allowance to allow for adjustments,. Remember that the original pattern pieces DO NOT include seam allowances. YOU must add them.


I label all my pattern pieces with its number, the size cut, the width of the seam allowance, and the number of times each pattern piece needs to be cut.


Making a Muslin

Making a muslin isn’t always necessary, but since I’ve never sewn for Leah before, and the bodice needs to fit Leah snugly, I decide it’s worth the extra time. Since I’m not muslining the entire dress, it’s less time-consuming than you may think, and it also familiarizes me with the pattern.

I use part of an old cotton sheet and I mark my seam allowances on it. Voila!


It’s now ready for Leah to try on.

So, did it fit?

The bodice fit Leah well in front, but it was tight at the sides and back, leaving me no seam allowance where the zipper will be inserted on the left side. I’ll have to add approximately 1.5" to the width of the bodice, which I’ll distribute evenly by narrowing the side and back seam allowances. The bodice also needs to be lengthened by approximately half an inch. You can make these adjustments to your muslin and use your muslin as your pattern moving forward, or record the changes on your traced paper pattern pieces. Use the method that makes most sense to you.

Readers, that’s all for this first installment! Next time we’ll be cutting our fashion fabric and then begin to assemble the dress.

Have you gotten started yet?

How’s it going so far?



  • Missing

    Sep 9, 2011, 05.21 PMby asrflys

    Please help! I can’t find size reference anywhere. I know from Burda’s sizing chart that I’m a size 40. Which marking on pattern corresponds to that? Also where do they list which sizes are included in a pattern?

  • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

    Sep 7, 2011, 03.47 PMby turtlegirl00

    i, by accident marked Peter’s reply to my question as inappropriate!!! so sorry! I was wanting to reply! eek!!

  • Dsc02028_large

    Sep 2, 2011, 08.40 PMby shavlin

    Looks fantastic, I love the dress. I am not able to make it at the moment but will follow along in the hope I get time before my niece’s wedding to make it! Just a little tip on pattern tracing you might be interested in Peter, instead of tracing the pattern pieces to paper, adding seem allowance, cutting paper pieces and then cutting out your muslin, it is easier and saves time if you trace the pieces (in the size you want) directly on to your muslin fabric with dressmakers carbon paper then cut an inch or further out from the marked lines for your seam allowance. The added bonus is that you can then use the trace lines as stitch lines and get a very precise fit :) I hope that makes sense!

    1 Reply
    • 11258216_10206641305901111_7249394459930650298_n_large

      Sep 3, 2011, 09.28 PMby nouvellegamine

      that’s exactly what i do :D


  • Thinker_large

    Sep 1, 2011, 03.50 PMby thinker

    I am sewing the burdastyle halter and made a size 40 bodice muslin with a full bust adjustment. My first sew along, first time making something fitted, and my first time doing a FBA. Lots of firsts! It’s a bit too narrow, i.e. like yours there’s not enough seam allowance left to put in a zipper on the side. So, I’ll be making some adjustments. Also, I think I will make shoulder straps instead of a halter because I really need to wear a bra and good halter-style bras are hard to find.

  • Pics_046_large

    Aug 31, 2011, 08.50 PMby katrena

    Also, I made my bodice last night with muslin and made the needed alterations as well. I am soooo excited about this Sew Along. This is my first time doing a sew along. I am documenting my progress on YouTube as an result.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Sep 1, 2011, 03.08 PMby Peter Lappin

      Excellent. If you add a link maybe we can follow along.

  • Pics_046_large

    Aug 31, 2011, 08.47 PMby katrena

    Hi Peter Lappin. I just read about the Waist Stay here on BurdaStyle. Will you be including one with the dress you are making Ms. Leah? If so will you show how you will attach the waist stay? Thanks in advance!!!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Sep 1, 2011, 03.07 PMby Peter Lappin

      I might — if so, I’ll definitely include it. It’s an easy addition, especially for a strapless dress. Since this is a halter top, the halter should keep the dress secure and in place.

  • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

    Aug 31, 2011, 02.47 PMby turtlegirl00

    I ordered two fabrics—I couldn’t decide which one to use—I ordered 5 yards of each—will this be enough or should i order/purchase more? it is 45 inches wide? I have not chosen the contrasting fabric yet… I will begin the muslin tonight—so very excited!

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 31, 2011, 08.25 PMby Peter Lappin

      I think that should do it, Turtlegirl. I’m guessing that you’re going to use the second fabric for the underlay, is that right?

    • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

      Sep 7, 2011, 03.48 PMby turtlegirl00

      i did not mean to mark the reply from peter as inappropriate!!!!! sorry!!!!!!

  • Pics_046_large

    Aug 31, 2011, 04.48 AMby katrena

    Thanks for the tips. I do the same thing when i am sewing for a client. I found 2 patterns that arent Burda Style. Simplicity 3823 or McCall’s 5580. I will decide tomorrow which one i will use. I think I am leaning more towards the McCalls 5580. So it is going to be the 5580. I am going to cut the pieces out tonight and make the bodice from muslin. I am so excite to do my 1st sew along.

  • 2004_toni_large

    Aug 31, 2011, 12.33 AMby ndimi

    Very clearly done, thanks Peter.

    It would not have occurred to me to do a muslin for this dress, as the bodice is not that fitted, so thank you for that warning.

    Unfortunately, my fabric hasn’t arrived yet. I’m going to try to find some tomorrow, but in I may just have to follow for a couple of weeks and then catch up.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 31, 2011, 08.27 PMby Peter Lappin

      Don’t worry — you’ll be able to access these posts in the future, I’m sure. It takes very little time (relatively speaking) to sew up a 7-panel bodice muslin — and it can save time down the line, I think.

  • Missing

    Aug 30, 2011, 08.52 PMby crinkle

    Great start – I’m following but using dress pattern 101 from 2/2011 burda magazine. This has some similarities as it has a lined and fitted bodice – the halter dress is a lovely style but not for me. I’ve spent my evening working on a muslin for the bodice and now ready to go. I’ve altered the neckline and had to fiddle around with the armhole and bust darts but well worth the time spent as I had my fingers burned on my last project! Can’t wait to get started on the dress – great clear instructions.

  • Missing

    Aug 30, 2011, 06.39 PMby tinuvielle13

    I’m very excited to get started. But.. I have yet to pick out a fabric. Does anyone know an online store that’s in or close to Belgium?

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Sep 1, 2011, 05.38 PMby isaline

      There is a great online store in Gent – it’s called Vermiljoen – definitely worth checking out!

  • Vatten_large

    Aug 30, 2011, 06.02 PMby ichigogirl

    Great instructions!

    Sharon, why don’t you look for a similar pattern in plus-sizes and follow the sew along using that pattern? You’d still learn a lot.

    I don’t have the time to participate myself, but I’ll follow the progress :-)

  • Missing

    Aug 30, 2011, 05.20 PMby lauraj-1

    The information is still good, even if the pattern only comes in small sizes. Though, it seems to me, sizes have taken a shift … what was once one size is now another.

    1 Reply
    • 11258216_10206641305901111_7249394459930650298_n_large

      Sep 3, 2011, 09.36 PMby nouvellegamine

      pattern sizes haven’t really shifted very much since the 1930s. my grandma & i have close measurements so i can make & wear her old patterns.

      however, ready to wear is another story :( it’s pretty much a nightmare. i’m a much different size as well as many different sizes bc there’s no standard.

    • This is a question
  1. Sign in to add a post


  • Editors' Pick
  • Pattern Collections
  • BurdaStyle Academy
  • Burda Challenge
  • Backstage Report
  • Fashion & Trends
  • DIY to Try
  • Tips & Techniques
  • Member Highlights
  • Sewing Projects
  • Outta Town
  • Contests & Competitions
  • Archive
  • Guest Columns
  • Videos
  • Meg's Magazine Mash Up
  • As Seen In
  • Podcast
  • Holiday