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This is it – the perfect theater or evening dress I was lacking in my wardrobe. Breezy and luxuriously soft, the dress is extremely light and comfortable. It is going to get a lot of wear this summer!

The June challenge: Make a couture version of the flapper-style layered lace dress from the June 2012 issue of burda style magazine. The dress is layered with a lace top, which can be worn separately.

The couture mentor: Susan Khalje, founder of the Couture Sewing School, author of Bridal Couture, and contributing editor to Threads magazine. For each project, Susan shares her tips related to fabric selection and couture engineering and construction.

Lining and Seam Finishes
Unlike the linen curved panel dress I made for the May challenge, this dress had no lining. If you remember from my planning post, I chose silk crepe-de-chine fashion fabric and charmeuse underlining for the underdress, and lining didn’t seem to have any advantage in this case. “I think the crepe-de-Chine and charmeuse would be enough,” Susan recommended, “unless for some reason you want things to be heavier, in which case you could always use the matte side of a heavy charmeuse instead of crepe-de-Chine, but I think that would be too much. It’s a light dress.”

The absence of lining required seam finishing on the underdress, and the only bulk-free solution was hand overcasting. It may seem like a lot of work, but it is the best way to avoid bulk.

I used to be anxious about hand overcastting – stitches pointed to all possible directions, the whole process took too long; but then I learned that I was placing the stitches too close to each other. There is no ready formula for the distance – it all depends on fabric quality. On this dress I went for slightly less than ¼” apart. It’s pretty loose, but if you think that crepe-de-Chine hardly frays (that’s the nature of crepe) – ¼” distance is quite enough. There is, of course, a layer of silk charmeuse as well, but it anchored to and hidden under crepe-de-Chine once seams are hand overcast and pressed open.

The next thing to take care of was the neckline and the armholes. Stays were necessary for both, Susan warned me, otherwise they would continue to stretch. A stay, which is essentially a strip of fabric or a tape, is used to stabilize seams and garment edges to prevent them from stretching or distortion.

I used bias stays made from silk organza cut on true bias (45º). Organza bias stays provide good support to lightweight fabrics without adding bulk.

Once cut (two strips on the bottom), stays need to be steamed and stretched while pressing to remove all the stretch. The strip becomes very narrow, losing almost 2/3 of its original width. It is then attached along the seamline using tiny running stitches very close to the stitching line in the seam allowance.

Alternatively, I could have used silk organza selvage for the neckline only, but because of the flexibility of the bias cut, I settled for the bias stay. If you want to learn more about stays and available options, read a brief overview I wrote this month on my blog.

Another feature that I haven’t used in my previous BurdaStyle projects was bias facing. Bias facings are great to finish any curved edges, such as armholes or scooped necklines. I used chiffon strips cut on true bias, approximately 1” wide. Facing edges are turned under on both sides and sewn to the armhole opening using fell stitches.

Deep hem on chiffon
Finally, I wanted to talk about the chiffon skirt hem. There are several choices for the hem on sheers, such as narrow machine hem, hand-rolled hem, or a double (or deep) hem. burda style magazine recommends double hem for this style, but I was not sure if I wanted a hand-rolled hem instead. Susan convinced me that the deep hem is the way to go:

“I like the idea of giving the skirt some swing, some weight, some integrity. Sometimes, with chiffon cut that way (with an absolutely straight, on-grain hem), I like a deep hem, doubled on itself (so that the first fold goes all the way to the second fold) – and the hem is held in place with a slip stitch. It gives kind of a nice swing to the skirt – it adds weight, but it keeps the movement. I think it’s better than a hand-rolled hem or even a narrow machine hem – it’s got more presence to it. And seeing those extra layers of chiffon in the hem allowance folds isn’t a bad thing – it’s really rather pretty, I think.”

That’s it, readers! I haven’t talked about some finishing details that I covered in my post on the linen dress last month. Rather, as promised I tried to talk about new techniques used in couture sewing. I hope you could discover something new again. Please comment and ask questions. I won’t be blogging about the July 2012 issue, even though I really love many pieces from it – it’s holiday time and I will be back on for the August challenge.

Marina von Koenig documents her couture learning experience on her blog Frabjous Couture.


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    Jul 18, 2012, 06.33 PMby MariaCastiere

    Very lovely dress! Questions: (2nd photo stays) I wonder whether one side of the organza bias stay is turned under and attached with fell stitches instead of running stitches? I assume the stay is attached in the seam allowance next to the stitching line of the wrong side of the charmeuse? Thanks in advance.

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    Jul 18, 2012, 11.05 AMby athenamarie

    Thanks, Marina, for continuing to inspire! Love your take on the dress (I too did not like the version shown in BurdaStyle). Keep the couture sewing coming.

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    Jul 18, 2012, 10.29 AMby daughterfish

    Beautiful dress, Marina. I’m finding the info on stays particularly helpful. I have a silk dress I should have done this to and now some of the seams are pulling apart:( Perhaps I’ll a have to take the dress apart and try this technique. Happy vacation!

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    Jul 17, 2012, 11.56 PMby Barbara Hewitt

    Love this copy of a ‘flapper’ dress. Would love to add elbow sleeves

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    Jul 17, 2012, 11.04 PMby maidenjane

    You look fantastic – such a great job!

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    Jul 16, 2012, 01.35 PMby mebreezy

    Ok my first thoughts of the dress i didnt like the blue one but the white or cream colored one brings this pattern to life I like it thank you for the tips this maybe on my to do list for one to put in my own waredrobe

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    Jul 15, 2012, 08.29 PMby servareginae

    …Beautiful dress! When I first saw the pattern i didn’t care for it. But now that I see the couture potential,I find the dress lovely. Thank you for sharing couture techiques. I am eager to try them.

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    Jul 15, 2012, 03.39 PMby Anna Aasbjerg

    I dream of getting married in a dress like this one! It’s beautiful! <3

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    Jul 15, 2012, 11.38 AMby harrietbazley

    Once all the bias has been stretched out of the stay, how does it remain flexible?

    (I had a look at your earlier blog post on bias stays – NB the blog link above is broken; should be http://frabjous-fashion.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/work-in-progress-stays.html – but am still confused…)

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    Jul 15, 2012, 10.06 AMby thedrizzle

    What a blessing this dress is! For those of us who have a thicker figure, the Jazz Age inspired designs are wonderful! No need to worry about things bulging where they are not supposed to and can fudge a little with the size and fit. Thanks so much for the hand sewing tips, I often forget about the little details.

    I would also like to see more of this in the free section. That would help, too! Cheers!

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    Jul 14, 2012, 07.39 AMby carmencitab

    Another stunner! Grand hand work Marina!

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    Jul 13, 2012, 05.55 PMby Haley Jarret

    This dress is so beautiful and it really suits you! Wonderful job!

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    Jul 13, 2012, 02.00 PMby renatap

    The dress looks amazing!! I hadn’t seen anything in that pattern before seeing your version of the dress. Now I really wanna make one too! Oh and the hem swing is so pretty! Great job!

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    Jul 13, 2012, 01.49 PMby Linda74Sews

    Your workmanship is beautiful. Your attention to detail, the accuracy with which you employ, not to mention your patience in doing so much hand sewing is inspiring. I, too, am a fan of Susan Khalje’s techniques to couture sewing. I enjoy seeing your work.

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    Jul 13, 2012, 12.25 AMby beenta

    Thank you for sharing another amazing project.

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    Jul 12, 2012, 11.32 PMby amsans

    Marina I’m new to some techniques you present but you make them seem doable and you are clear as you present. One question, in the pics for the organza bias strips, did you iron seam allowance open then place the strip over the center and sew both sides of seam allowance to each side of strip? I’m confused because you say stitch close to seam but pic looks like you are sewing on each side… Thank you. The dress looks beautiful!
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    Jul 12, 2012, 05.39 PMby wzrdreams

    I’ve been waiting patiently for the result of this project and I am not dissapointed. The dress is so beautiful. Now I totally want to make my own flapper dress.

    Question: I’m confused a bit about your fabrics. The overskirt portion of the dress is chiffon, but where is the charmuese and the crepe-de-chine? I thought this wasn’t lined so I’m confused. Based on the sketch I thought the dress would only have 3 fabrics including the lace over blouse.

    1 Reply
    • Marina_large

      Jul 12, 2012, 07.30 PMby Marina von Koenig

      Thanks )

      To your question:

      if you look at the technical drawing and at the last picture in this post, you will see that the lace is a separate top worn over an (under)dress, which is actually a straight dress on its own. The chiffon skirt is attached to the dress.

      So, it is the dress that is made with crepe-de-chine (the face fabric, one picking from under the chiffon layer on the last picture), and it is underlined with charmeuse (the shiny layer, you can see it on all the other pictures, except for the first one).

      The Burdastyle project doesn’t have an underlining layer (charmeuse). I added it because I wanted to add body to crepe-de-chine. I explained it in my previous post.

      Hope this makes sense )

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    Jul 12, 2012, 04.28 PMby eliseanna

    I love this pattern, thank you for the tips!

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    Jul 12, 2012, 04.06 PMby nouvellegamine

    since i have a subscription to Burda Magazine & i don’t need to come to the site for patterns, this series has become my main reason to visit the site. it’s really fun. i love the details like hand sewing. & bias facings! i totally forgot about bias facings!

    Thank you!

    1 Reply
    • Marina_large

      Jul 12, 2012, 07.31 PMby Marina von Koenig

      Thanks a lot! Yes, bias facings are fun and so easy to install.

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