Finishing the Graduation Dress!

At this point, the dress is sewn together, seams finished and the zipper installed! On to finishing the edges, adding the lining and designing the straps! First up the edges around the bodice and at the hem were finished by trimming the base fabric to an even 1/2 inch seam allowance and then just folding it in and catch stitching it to the interlining. I have to admit it felt like cheating - it just didn't seem professional to just be folding the fabric in and stitching it down, but that is the couture method and one that is very easy! Below you can see the finished edge of the base fabric.

Next up, I made spaghetti straps and sewed them by hand to the interlining at the front and back. I determined placement by having her try on the dress again...

The scary part came next. To give a finished edge to the neckline I really had to trim back the lace.

In the picture above, you can see it untrimmed. In the close-up, it looks good, but when you stepped back and looked at the dress, it really looked unbalanced. Trimming that entire motif from the center was scary but necessary. Here is the neckline with the motif trimmed away.

See how much of the fashion fabric is showing? Here is a picture of the area by the straps.

Now the fun began! The bodice was finished by adding the selvage edge strip around the entire neckline.

Here you can see the selvage strip. I pinned it in place with the motifs pointing down toward the bodice and the selvage folded to the back of the bodice. Again because I was careful when I was doing my cutting, I saved this piece. I slit it to wrap around the spaghetti straps. This gives the bodice that smooth line in the center front.

I pinned all this in place with the dress on Betty but didn't sew it in place until we had "decorated" the straps with the lace pieces.

My daughter and I went to town adding pieces of lace here and there on the straps, stepping back and admiring it and adjusting it again until we got it just right! If you look at your lace, you most likely will find that there are mirror images of the motifs and so it was easy to make a mirror image of each strap.

Once we were happy with the design, the hand stitching began again. The lace motifs were stitched to the bodice and spaghetti straps.

To finish the hem I tried pinning the other selvage edge to the dress but wasn't happy with the look. Instead we settled on adding individual motifs all around the bottom.

The flowers just blend in and you can't tell they are individual pieces sewn in place. Once we were happy with the look, it was time to start hand stitching. Finally, using the muslin as my pattern, I cut a lining for the dress. Seams were sewed and then the lining was hand stitched to the zipper and around the entire bodice neckline. It was anchored to the non-zipper side of the waist and tacked to the hem on either side with a hem anchor. A button hole was added to the front and back bodice lining next to the zipper before it was attached to allow the waist stay to come through and be hooked. I have to confess, I got down to the wire on this part and so don't have photos for you, but is covered in Susan Khalje's wonderful book on Bridal Couture.

I hope all of this encourages you to try working with Guipure Lace rather than shying away from it. It is really just a matter of planning you cutting, having extra lace to work with and taking your time and trying different things as you go along. My daughter looked amazing in her dress, received tons of compliments, and has a special heirloom to remember her graduation by!

#sewingforwomen #sewing #Lace #GuipureLace