A Hand-Sewn Dress

dress sewing banner

I have hand sewn a few garments; or machine-sewn- it’s still handmade so I count it! Some were costumes for Halloween or fun events like the local Renaissance Festival, but I do not pretend to be an excellent seamstress. Garments are hard for me!

My mother is one of my go-to’s for help. She used to make the vast majority of her clothing growing up. From t-shirts to swimsuits to prom dresses; she did it all! She made all my Halloween costumes and doll clothes while I was growing up. So what happened to passing these skills on to the next generation!?

First off, my mom taught me AND I learned on my grandmother’s tank of a sewing machine. I’m grateful for this heritage! But…. it actually became a lot cheaper to buy clothes than the cost of fabric to make them. Where it was a cost saving measure before, it is now way more hassle to sew garments, especially when you factor in the cost of time.

Plus! Fit has gotten a lot better in pre-made garments. It used to be difficult to find the correct fit of jeans, for example, if you were tall, petite, curvy, etc. (While it’s still hard, it’s no longer from lack of OPTIONS, it is now from too many options!)

So I mostly learned to sew when it was necessary to customize something. I’ve done a lot of alterations; taken dresses in, hemmed pants, shortened shoulder straps…

This dress I’m making now I chose to hand make for a few reasons:

  1. Practice for the future!
  2. I couldn’t find what I wanted for an event that wasn’t SUPER expensive
Pockets In-progress

I’m gonna jump straight to talking about #3; pockets. ALL dresses should have pockets! I’m maybe ok with super tight, form fitting, slinky dresses to forego them because putting anything in them would take away from the sleek look…. Other than that. POCKETS PLEASE! I know we women usually carry a bajillion things in our purse, but sometimes I want to just get up from my desk/ table/ chair and flounce over to somewhere without my purse. And still bring my phone. (PS. in dresses, movement must be described in effervescent terms such as ‘flounce’, ‘skip’, or ‘float’. If I’m wearing it, I feel darn lady-like, alright!?)

#2 Cost. One dress that I tried on and really wanted for an upcoming wedding was on sale (yay!) for $80. (Boo!) I didn’t like it $80 worth.

The $80 not-to-be-purchased dress

I juped on over to the fabric store and got the fabric I wanted with a 40% off coupon. BAM! Only $32.56 for fabric ($19.48), lining fabric ($9.09), and zipper ($3.99)!

#1 I’m using this as a practice sew/ fitting/ pattern test for my some-day wedding dress.

Here’s how it went:

  • I learned I don’t have very good fabric cutting scissors. They are OK, but not the best.
  • I apparently lost my seam ripper.
  • Zippers work better when you don’t sew them inside out.
  • Irons are magical. I almost forgot to iron the seams flat. ALMOST. (Win!) It looks so much nicer when you press the seams and the fabric! The lining and outer fabric was much easier to sew together when lining up the seams.

I’m fairly happy with the results. It feels like a real dress when you pick it up! The colors are more like the picture above, than the one below.


I may add some type of straps since the first place to test drive this is going to be for swing dancing.

UPDATE 8/5/17: Added straps with a woven section!


What about you?

How do you customize your style?

What skills or hobbies did your family pass down?



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