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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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    May 23, 2012, 10.05 AMby metropolitanfrock

    Well done and yes, very flattering.

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    May 23, 2012, 09.41 AMby mudinfedi

    I am in awe.Thank you so much for this inspiration.

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    May 23, 2012, 07.50 AMby yorgunbahar

    perfect !!!

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    May 23, 2012, 02.00 AMby pterion

    Lovely work, Marina! Beautiful dress inside and out. Thanks for all the tips and link about underlining – they will come in very handy.

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    May 23, 2012, 01.23 AMby Timmithea Leeds


  • Me_and_my_trina_dress_large

    May 23, 2012, 01.23 AMby Timmithea Leeds


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    May 23, 2012, 12.29 AMby renatap

    I was excited to see you finally posted about the execution. I love the finishing on the neckline and armholes, I am definitely gonna try that! Congratulations! I’ll be waiting for the next one!

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    May 22, 2012, 11.20 PMby Suellen Tomkins

    Beautiful dress and the finishes are lovely. Also terrific tip on the lining. What fabric did you use for the lining?

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    May 22, 2012, 10.33 PMby dborecky

    The dress makes me thirsty for a Coke. Nice job!

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    May 22, 2012, 10.20 PMby Sewing And Style

    Why am I not surprised this is THE dress from Burda’s May issue? ( I remember you requested it on my Facebook magazine preview! ;))))) This post is fantastic- please continue sharing these amazing couture techniques with us! Inspirational is definitely the word to describe it!

    1 Reply
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    May 22, 2012, 09.50 PMby djam

    This dress is amazingI love it!Thanks for tips!

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    May 22, 2012, 09.00 PMby carmencitab

    Marina, beautiful hand work as usual! I am in awe!

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    May 22, 2012, 09.00 PMby Susan Arnold

    I love this dress! I am confused about turning the downloaded pattern into a useable pattern. Where can I find help with that?

    1 Reply
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    May 22, 2012, 08.48 PMby rosarini

    Thank you ..for years never been happy with my lining at the neck line but after seeing this see the solution .I just loved this as it is well demonstrated, illustrated & inspirational.thank you again

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    May 22, 2012, 08.30 PMby dreamfast

    Great post. I’ve been eyeing this dress for a while, even traced it, so it’s about time I started making it ;) Besides, thanks for the tip about linen&organza combination.

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