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Another project accomplished – a beautiful ‘optical illusion’ dress from the May issue of burda style magazine. This makes it the third garment for my couture wardrobe challenge that I started back in March.

The May challenge: Create a couture version of the Panel Dress, 107C. This Brazilian-inspired dress was love at the first sight. The curved yellow panel that runs through the dress front slims and elongates the body creating a very flattering silhouette.

The couture mentor: Susan Khalje, founder of the Couture Sewing School, author of Bridal Couture, and contributing editor of the Threads Magazine.

Susan Khalje

In this post featuring the finished garment, I will focus on the ‘where’ and ‘why’ of making of a couture version of this dress.

While the style is pretty simple, the yellow curved panel not only creates an optical illusion, but it also integrates some shaping in the bust area. The lines start curving below the bust point, where there is no shaping. With most of the shaping limited to the area above the bust, it is a perfect beginner’s project with only one challenging part – sewing curves. And you can master it – just check out Susan’s tips that I included in the previous post

Seam allowances on curved seams are trimmed, clipped, carefully rounded, and, finally, catch stitched to the underlining layer. Everything lies perfectly flat.

Jack-of-all-trades: underlining

When I was reading the comments on the teaser post for this dress here on BurdaStyle and on my Facebook page, I realized that many people are reluctant to work with linen because it wrinkles. No fear, friends, you can reduce wrinkling by using underlining and lining. These two layers will reduce the effect of the heat and moisture on the fabric (the main reason for wrinkling). Check out this article from Threads magazine if you are new to the underlining concept.

I chose silk organza to underline the dress because I like its crispness, and how it tends to straighten out and return to the original shape. I feel that, when it comes to wrinkling, organza is a better choice than cotton batiste, which lends linen a much softer hand.

Yet this is not all. Underlining conceals quite a lot of inner construction. Have a look at the seam allowances on the picture below.

Underlined front

I catch stitched seam allowances to the underlining to keep them flat and to reduce raveling. All the stitches are caught in the underlining, not the fashion fabric – no stitches can be seen on the outside! Finally, underlining reduced the transparency of the white linen – a common problem with white or pastel colored fabrics. All in all, underlining makes a big difference!


To make the things easier, I cut lining in one piece eliminating curved seams below the bust points. All I had to do was align the front pattern pieces and tape those curved seams together, leaving only two curvy darts above the bust point.

Lining has only two curved darts; all the curves below the bust point have been eliminated.

What you have to remember though, is that you need to cut the lining as a mirror image of your fashion fabric pieces. Many of us have slightly asymmetrical figures (one shoulder is higher than the other, for example), and after going into trouble of fitting your dress to a T you want the lining to behave properly. The same applies for dresses with asymmetrical design. Seems to be obvious, right? but I myself learned it the hard way.

Let’s have a look how the lining is attached to the shell. In couture dresses, I learned, the lining is attached edge-to-edge, eliminating bulky facings.

The neckline and arm openings on the lining are stay-stitched before sewing, to prevent stretching and distortion.

Seam allowances on the neckline (and the arm openings) are then trimmed, clipped, turned and pressed before joining the lining using small fell stitches.

A small row of prick stitches, approximately 1/2” away from the edge – called understitching – holds the lining in place. The prick stitches catch all but the outermost layer.

A small ease pleat joins the lining to the shell at the hem. This finishing detail is also done by hand using a slip stitch.


Once the lining was in place I added bra carriers and hook and eye at the top of the zipper.

That’s it – one more couture dress to wear this summer! This week, the mailman delivered the June issue of burda style magazine and I am loving The Secret Garden feature… But wait, have you made any styles from the May issue? If you tried this curved dress and, maybe, even used couture techniques – upload images of your garment to the site and share the link here.

Marina von Koenig shares her couture learning experience on her blog Frabjous Couture (also available in German).


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    Jun 15, 2012, 08.39 AMby Joe Chen

    Je suis une fashionista avec une connaissance approfondie des polos. Pour plus de ressources et d’information, consultez pirate t-shirts.

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    Jun 12, 2012, 10.17 PMby Alix Day

    What a great dress! I am about to embark on my first underlined project so reading your post was really informative. For the more lazy among us (i.e. those who dread hand-stitching), Sherry over at Pattern Scissors Cloth has written a useful post on machine underlining.

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    May 29, 2012, 08.38 AMby georgemaclean

    Very well done

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    May 29, 2012, 05.55 AMby Milena Bella

    Hi Marina. I was looking at the photo of the seam allowances catch-stitched to the underlining, trying to understand why I get those little ditches sometimes. Then I realized that I don’t see your underlining seam allowances.. Aren’t they treated as one fabric with the fashion fabric? I usually clip and notch them together (hence the problem, I figure). In your dress the underlining seems very neat, where is the edge hiding?

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    May 28, 2012, 07.27 AMby Milena Bella

    I love Susan, such a great teacher she is. This is a wonderful post, thank you for the detailed photographs and great explanations. I was wondering about the “scalloped” seam allowances. Why is that important?

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      May 28, 2012, 07.39 AMby Milena Bella

      Oh, I just read one of your comments on that, thanks! I wonder if this rounding the seam edges can help me with a problem I have. Sometimes when making a close fitting garment, after clipping and notching the round seams, I get a little ditch on the other side. And it drives me crazy. I can steam it all I want, It won’t change it’s shape.

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    May 26, 2012, 01.20 PMby lemmonsc

    Beautiful! Your handwork is exquisite. I’m getting ready to start Susan’s Couture Dress Class on Craftsy using a champagne-colored silk and wool (vintage fabric my mother bought in the 60’s to make a Jackie O dress). Your work inspires me. I will definitely be rounding the clipped seams in the curves! I, too, am curious about what fabric you used for the lining.

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    May 25, 2012, 10.35 PMby tinynicethings

    Very cute!! Nice Job! I love the mix of colours!

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    May 25, 2012, 07.17 PMby janul

    I love this dress! The colours and the shapes. I would like to make a non-couture kind of this dress :).

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    May 25, 2012, 07.17 PMby Vanessa Leigh

    I love it! Great colors and the wavy panel in that sunny yellow is so summer. Lovely job! I am inspired!

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    May 25, 2012, 03.27 PMby Courtney Ostaff

    I don’t know much about couture sewing, but I’m curious: what do you mean when you said, “All I had to do was align the front pattern pieces and tape those curved seams together, leaving only two curvy darts above the bust point.” What kind of tape are you talking about?

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      May 25, 2012, 09.08 PMby Marina von Koenig

      scotch tape – I taped the paper pattern pieces together with a scotch tape.

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    May 25, 2012, 11.21 AMby Angela Kane

    A beautiful dress Marina. I love linen.

    Linen may crease but look at it another way. It presses up so beautifully. There is nothing like freshly pressed linen.

    Choose your patterns carefully. I have just made two versions of my Classic Summer Coat both in linen – roll collar, maximum ease in the sleeve and a line that flows to the hem. The pattern is coming to my website shortly – I am currently grading it for the usual 9 sizes. I shall be posting pictures soon.

    I agree, you must line. A coat or jacket is ideal. Make sure you unbutton when you sit and smooth the garment as you sit down so you are not creating creases.


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    May 24, 2012, 05.14 PMby mariso

    Marina – I love seeing the details of your beautiful work. Thank you so much for sharing!

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    May 24, 2012, 12.58 PMby BellaJade79

    Oh gosh, the cut, the stitching, the precision-truly magnificent!

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    May 24, 2012, 08.20 AMby JPGagnon

    You just blew my mind in this post. I learned so many techniques and I’m ready to try them out! Thank you so much for sharing!


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    May 24, 2012, 01.10 AMby jennifersteele

    Great dress! When you clip the seam allowances to allow for curves, do you always round them? I love all the handworked details! Is this dry-clean only due to the organza?

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      May 24, 2012, 01.51 PMby Marina von Koenig

      Thank you! I do round seam allowances most of the time, because otherwise those sharp corners would get in the way when I catch stitch – it’s not only neat but also practical.

      As for dry-cleaning, you can wash this dress – I pre-washed everything. With the whit linen I wanted to have a more functional garment. I’d go for hand-washing, or very delicate setting in a laundry bag for the machine.

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    May 23, 2012, 03.30 PMby libertyprint

    Marina, I love following your couture adventure – I’m learning so much! I can’t believe I’ve never thought to slip stich the hem to the lining before; I always hand stich my hems, but with two free hems in catch stitch. You’ve opened my eyes to new ways with my existing techniques, and just in time for heming my latest project! Thank you!

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      May 24, 2012, 01.53 PMby Marina von Koenig

      Great! By the way, I do not finish the hem on the lining when I make an ease pleat, there is no real need, and it would not add bulk. Only the linen hem is catchstitched in place. I just leave a relatively wide allowance to be on a safe side.

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    May 23, 2012, 01.37 PMby Karen Hinson

    Beautiful. Thank you for this information. I wish I had the patience to make something so tedious, but it is on my to do list!

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      May 24, 2012, 01.55 PMby Marina von Koenig

      Try a skirt! It is an easy project for someone who wants to try out techniques without too much time investment. You can turn even this pattern into a skirt and it will work just fine.

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    May 23, 2012, 12.19 PMby Linda74Sews

    Fabulous dress. Susan Khalje’s couture techniques are superb and featured as a class on Craftsy.com. Worth buying. Great teaching class for anyone who loves sewing and wants their projects to look artfully crafted rather than just homemade.

    1 Reply
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    May 23, 2012, 11.57 AMby Timea Schmidt

    This looks fantastic! The executions is beyond perfect! I used to make alterations on very well tailored, costume made clothes and have some idea about couture. You are such an inspiration, I want to go and remove everything from my closet and start all over again:)

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      May 24, 2012, 01.58 PMby Marina von Koenig

      I started sewing again because I was inspired by other people’s projects! And so I removed quite a few pieces from my closet – it is a very small closet now, but I love every piece I have! ) I can relate to what you say!

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    May 23, 2012, 10.41 AMby zosews

    Beautiful job and it looks gorgeous on you!

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