My friend and I wanted a summer project to keep us busy (and together) before we went our separate ways for the next year. I suggested a quilt. She said, "Ya know, I've always wanted a backless dress!" And so that's what we made!
(Sorry I don't have any "in progress" pics! I completely forgot!)
Neither of us has ever made clothing, though I have a good deal of experience with sewing in general (purses, plushies, quilts, bags, etc.) She drew a rough sketch of what she wanted and then we poked around online for a while.
Among other things, we found this great FREE pattern ( http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/katjusha
) on Burda Style. (In order to get the free pattern, you have to register on Burda but it's quick and easy and they don't spam, so it's worth it!) Oddly, the download didn't come with instructions, just the pattern, but it's easy enough to figure out which piece goes where. I think we used the whole pattern except for the back and the sash.
We used white linen underneath a nice white lace. We realized halfway through that the skirt would be too see-through so we added another skirt layer of white silky fabric, which also gave it a little more volume. Once we pieced together the bodice (an inner lining and an outer facing of white linen, and an outer layer of white lace) and the skirt, we sewed them together and started tailoring.
We cut the back of the skirt from where it met the bottoms of the bodice (on the sides) to a point in the center of the lower back. Then we hemmed the rough back edges. (It was still a bit tight getting into it so I cut an opening down about 2 or 3 inches from the point in the center back. We put in hook and eye closures.)
For the accenting, we used a light gold synthetic silk (rayon?) which ended up being a pain in the butt to deal with. It was very low quality and kept fraying! The solution I came up with was to melt the edges of the cut fabric with the heat from a candle flame (notice I said heat
and not flame
! Very important!) This was a tedious but effective process. However, if you do this, you have to be VERY
careful not to burn the fabric (or yourself, or the room, or whatever). What I did was hold the edge of the fabric taut over the heat of the flame just long enough for the fringe to disappear. It kind of looks like the fringe is being erased in thin air and the edge will get a little darker and harder as it melts. Careful not to let it heat too much or it will pucker, get uneven, or burn. Try it first on a scrap piece until you're comfortable. (Sorry I don't have pictures for any of this! Maybe if I make it again, I'll remember.)
We made two straps with the gold fabric to tie at the back of the neck. We also put a gold sash at the waist, right over the seam that connects the bodice to the skirt. The sash did not go all the way around, though. It stopped where the bodice stopped at the side. To make the straps, sash, and laces, we ironed the strips in half lengthwise, folded the sides in toward the center line, and then folded in half again. This was the only way I know to make ribbon or straps that are strong and relatively flat (and won't fray!)
Next we put in several eyelets so we could lace up the back like shoelaces. Eyelets are very easy to use and I had so much fun hammering them in!! The only problem we found was that they don't grip the fabric very well around the outside edges so you have to be very careful not to pull the fabric too hard or you'll pull it out from under the eyelet. In retrospect, I think we should have used something tougher, something that can withstand everyday wear and tear.
I think that's all I have to say about the process, at least for now. Here are some pics of my friend modeling her new dress!
She even painted her nails to match the gold!