Evening gowns, for normal people, aren’t something that’s just hanging around in our closets. The average woman has one – if that. On the rare occasion that evening plans call for an evening gown don’t run out and spend a month’s salary on the dress, make it yourself.
One of the very most important things involved in making an evening gown is selecting just the right fabric. The fabric is what will catch the eye of others when they initially see the dress. Go to a nice fabric store that has quality cloth and a wide selection.
Choose silk, satin, or another beautiful fabric. Price is usually an indication of how nice the material is. Don’t select the cheaper fabrics but don’t choose material by price alone, either. A really nice fabric should run between $10 and $15 a yard.
If you’re not sure about what threads are appropriate for which fabrics ask for help. Material that stretches will require different thread than fabric that doesn’t give at all. Most clerks that work in fabric stores have some knowledge of various sewing techniques and materials and will be able to help you choose the right thread.
You should have in mind an idea of what you want the gown to look like before going to the fabric store. You’ll need to know approximately how much yardage the dress will take before purchasing. Most easy evening gowns, that are designed to reach the floor, will require between 5 to 7 yards of fabric.
One easy gown to make is a simple strapless design. You’ll need the measurement from the floor up to the underarm area, and a measurement of the hips, waist and bust. A disappearing ink marker will help tremendously for drawing the pattern onto the material. The ink markers are sold where fabric is sold. The ink can be drawn on most fabrics and will disappear within a couple of days.
Fold the fabric in half, lengthways and begin to draw the measurements onto the material. Start towards the top of the fabric and draw a line across the fabric, the measurement of half the bust size. Add an inch for seaming. If the fabric is stretchy omit the inch for seaming.
Measure from bust area to waist area by using a tape measure from between the breasts and just above them, down to the navel. Measure this on the cloth. That is where the waistline will be drawn. Draw half the waist measurement onto the cloth, adding an inch for non-stretch fabric.
Measure from the side of your waist to the hip area. Measure that far down from the waistline that’s drawn on the material. Now draw half of the hip measurement onto the fabric, allowing an extra inch for non-stretch fabrics.
You should now have three lines drawn onto the fabric: one for bust, one for waist, one for hips. Use the total measurement, from underarm to floor, to see how far down you should cut the fabric. Cut straight across the material to form the hemline. At this point, you’ll have to make a decision about the design of the gown. If you’ll put a slit in the gown, stop and cut straight up, towards the hip area. If the design won’t have a slit you may want to go out farther with the hemline, to allow plenty of leg room. If there isn’t enough room in the leg area you’ll find it difficult to walk.
After the hemline is cut, begin cutting the fabric towards the hip area, then in, towards the waistline, then back out, to the bust area. When you reach the underarm area you’ll stop and turn to cut the material over to the fold.
Hem across the top edge then hem the bottom edge of the dress. Now hem the side seam, from top towards the bottom. If you’ve decided not to make a slit, sew all the way down. If your design will have a slit, it’s made in a different manner. Before sewing the side seam hem both side pieces from floor to just below knee area, then put them together to sew the side seam.
Use a zig-zag stitch to put a piece of quarter-inch elastic into the back, at the top edge. This will help to hold the gown up. Or, eliminate the elastic and stitch on spaghetti straps instead. You can also use ribbon or even lace strips for straps.
There are many ways to make this gown into something else. Instead of making a side seam, turn the gown until the seam is in the back and leave a slit at the bottom. You can also cut the back piece eight to twelve inches too wide, across the back. Sew as usual. The large back piece will cause the gown to drape in the back. The same can be done for the front, cutting it about six to eight inches too wide, then allowing it to drape in the front.
Cut below the knee, rather than floor-length for a different look. Add a sequin applique to the top front of the gown for a less simplistic look. Use sequin strips, purchased by the roll, to accentuate the front or back neckline, down the sides, the slit, or as straps.
To accentuate the bust line use a piece of quarter-inch elastic and sew it from just under the top hem to just below the breasts. For “A” cups, use a 3″ piece of elastic, “B” cups – 4″, “C” cups, 5″ and so on. Stretch the elastic slightly as you stitch it with a zig-zag stitch. Remember to back-tack the end of the elastic to secure.
Evening gowns are fun to make and you can make many from one pattern. Remember that the most important thing about the gown is the fabric you choose. Have the gown dry cleaned, rather than home laundering, to make sure it lasts for a long time.