DIY Lace Tulle Dress Tutorial

This dress has got to be the most fun, hilarious, Ciderella-like, dress I’ve ever made! The drafting, sewing, and even the gown itself was pretty “standard” but the moment I tried it on, Madeline was totally awestruck by it and immediately demanded that I take off the dress and give it to her! Since I wasn’t fast enough to undress, she started yanking the dress off of me. Talk about toddler tantrum! It just reminded of that scene from Cinderella when the stepsisters tore her dress apart before they left for the ball. Yikes! I was able to take a video of the Drama Queen but if it wasn’t for my chaotic and embarrassing room, I would totally share it with you for a good laugh.

I don’t have any special events coming up – I really just made this dress for therapeutic purposes only. To put it on and twirl around in front of the mirror a bit to forget, even for a few minutes, about the arthritis-induced sinusitis and low grade fever. My PCM had given me Flonase to try before I’m sent to ENT so my face has been feeling like I got a big, heavy brick placed on it. I even told my friend the other day that it hurts to make a facial expression so I have this constant RBF, or resting bitch face, going on. I try to see the humor in everything. My rheumatologist told me to stay off Methotrexate until the sinusitis is taken care of and asked if I was on Xeljanz. Ok, so I’m pretty iffy about Xeljanz. If you are taking or have taken Xeljanz, please share your thoughts  and experience! I’ve heard so many good and bad things about it. 

So for this therapeutic project, I chose to use this red lace tulle which has been sitting in my closet for the past two years. My mother had brought with her a stack of colorful lace fabrics from Myanmar and since this was the longest fabric of the bunch I decided to make a gown based off of my little black Christmas party dress which was based off my denim dress I made last summer. That’s the thing I love about basic patterns – you can modify them anyway you want as long as it’s got the perfect fit. I also jumped on the fashion bandwagon and made the underskirt super shorter which is a trend I’ve been seeing. Just type in “lace gowns” on Google and you’ll pretty much see a lot of that style. I’ve included lots of photos of my sewing process and I hope you’ll find the steps clear and helpful!

1.I used a lightweight stretchy fabric that I got from Walmart for $1 a yard as both underlining and lining. The underlining hides the seams and also masks the sheerness of the tulle, and the light beige color of it really makes the red flowers pop. The underlining is cut exactly the same as the lace pieces and they are treated as one layer. 
I trimmed 1/8” off the neckline and armholes on the lining pieces so that the self fabric will “roll” towards the inside of the garment.

2. I marked my seam allowance corners which made it easy for me to match up the pieces, pin, and sew. I don’t have any pictures for this but I basted by machine-sewing within the seam allowance the underlining to the lace tulle. 

3. I sewed all the pieces together normally except for the side seams – keep them open.
The neckline and the armholes were also clipped to release some tension along those curves when the garment is turned right side out.

4. You can see this next step in my video which I will be posting on Youtube soon. I’ll include the link here when I have it up. Push the back pieces through the shoulder and pull them out from the front. Now the neckline and the armholes will have a nice, clean finish. Because the lining was trimmed a bit smaller, it shouldn’t be visible from the right side of the garment.

5. I matched and closed the side seams – tulle front to tulle back, lining front to lining back.

6. I added front and back darts to the underskirt. I find it easier to copy the darts onto the fabric by cutting out the darts. You can use fabric chalk to draw in the darts or anything that’ll wash off easily.

7. I wanted the skirt to be a full circle but the fabric’s width was quite short so I was only able to get about a quarter circle out of it. I double stitched the side seams. You can trim off the access fabric after double stitching. I had also added 1/2” to the center back seams for the zipper.

8. I’m not a skirt person but looking at the sort-of finished underskirt, I am wanting to make it in a thicker fabric to wear outside!

9. Here are the tulle and the underskirt together. I think a full circle skirt would’ve created some beautiful soft folds at the hem. Maybe I’ll try that next time on a wider fabric.

10. I overlocked the center back raw edges of the underskirt. Double stitching would work for this step as well.

11. The tulle and the underskirt are matched at the side seams and sewn together within the 3/8” seam allowance.

12. Then, I matched all the side seams and darts of the top and skirt together and sewed with a 3/8” seam allowance. The lining is left out.

13. I always press my zipper with a warm iron so that it’s nice and flat which makes it easier to work with.

14. To be honest, installing invisible zippers used to scared me! Not the sewing part but the trying to get the waist seams to match up after the garment’s been zipped up part. I wanted to share with you the technique that works for me. It’s easy and stress free – no getting frustrated and furiously seam-ripping the zipper repeatedly because the waist seams aren’t matching. How I wish I knew all this when I was in design school! I didn’t think about turning to Youtube or sewing groups on Facebook for help and wisdom from seasoned sewing mavens. Nope, I pretty much suffered silently alone in my sewing room. Ugh. I’ve learned a lot since then – tried different techniques and kept or altered the ones that  work best for me. This is the only way I install my invisible zippers nowadays. I marked 1/8” from the neckline and placed the plastic part of the zipper teeth there and then marked on the zipper tape the waist seam of the dress. I also marked 1/4” above the zipper head, that’ll be where I stop sewing the zipper. 
I closed the zipper and copied the markings onto the other side.

15. I copied the same marking that I had made above the zipper onto the dress within the seam allowance. The two skirts will be treated as the same layer until that point. Then I sewed the tulle and underskirt from that point to the waist with the waist seam allowance up.

16. Here is the invisible zipper foot from Distinctive that I use all the time. I prefer this presser foot than my Juki industrial ones because it’s just a quick pop on and off and works with any low-shank snap-on sewing machines. I use it on my Janome HD1000. The Distinctive concealed zipper foot runs for about $12 a pop which is a bit pricy for just one foot and I try to be frugal but it’s really worth it because I’d rather spend a few more dollars and enjoy sewing than be stressed out over a cheap product that won’t do what it’s supposed to do. I’m not getting paid to sing praises about this brand – I just love it that much!

17. I can’t remember when I stopped pinning my zipper to the garment but I just don’t anymore. Instead, I use the same kind of glue my son uses for school. I used the Elmer washable purple glue which dries clear even on fabric. I’ve used the Avery permanent glue sticks as well and they work just as fine but if you’re worried about the fabric being stiff afterwards than I suggest the washable kids’ glue.  I prefer gluing my zipper in place than pinning because it gets the zipper tape to lay flat on the fabric without budging which won’t shift the waist seams from the markings I had made on the tape. I leave it for a few minutes for the glue to dry and work on the zipper one side at a time.

18. Roll the zipper teeth away from the tape and lower the presser foot so that the teeth fit smoothly in one of the grooves. You can backstitch and sew like you normally would. Just go slow and steady – it’s not a race!Sew to the marking above the zipper head, you can use a tweezer (or a pen like I did) to help roll the zipper teeth away if the zipper head makes it hard for your fingers to get in there. Backstitch and one side is done.

19. For the other side, place the zipper wrong side up with the teeth away from the raw edge. I think the picture best explains this step. Then match the markings and glue the tape in place.

After zipping up the garment, I always take a moment to admire how beautifully the waist seams match up. Sometimes you just gotta take a minute and appreciate the little things. *Sigh.

20. The last step for the zipper is to attach it to the lining. I always pull the lining near the neckline taut and leave a little give for the self fabric so that when I turn the neckline right side out, the lining won’t be peeking out.

21. Sometimes I overlock my lining’s waist and other times, I’ll just fold it under depending on my mood for rethreading my serger with matching threads. Haha! I made sure the serged edge of the lining was over the waist seam and then I glued the lining to the zipper tape. Yes, glue again. No matter how I pin the lining to the tape, it would shift but the glue keeps the lining and zipper tape nicely lined up. I used my narrow zipper foot which I lined up against the zipper teeth. 
After folding the neck seam allowance down, turn the corner right side out.  Looking good – at least to me!

22. Whether the lining is overlocked or folded under, I’ll match the darts and the side seams of the top and the skirt and then hand stitch to join them.

23. I used to sew right up to the end of the zipper seam when I was in design school. It was hard – I would change presser feet to get as close as I can to the zipper’s last stitch and then I would end up with an ugly pull at the bottom of the zipper. Now, I just sew up to that last pin. The more you know, the easier!

24. I suggest sewing the overskirt first which makes pulling the underskirt away easier. I already had the machine threaded with white thread so I did my underskirt first. I sewed the tulle up until that last pin. I also clipped the seam to release any tension in the area when it’s turned right side out. Then I double stitched it all the way down to the hem.

25. Since my lining is a stretchy fabric, I finished the hem of the underskirt by folding it up and doing a zig zag stitch. You can also use a double needle or a straight stretch stitch. I left the tulle lace unhemmed since tulle doesn’t fray and I thought it looked pretty the way it was.

I can’t wait for the warmer weather so I can take some outdoor pictures in this lace gown. I live pretty close to Mount Scott and there are some really pretty scenic spots there for some photography. It gets pretty windy here but I think I could take advantage of some of that wind to really show off the flowy, soft tulle! The recent drop in temperature and this arthritis-induced sinusitis has me hibernating in my work room just waiting for doctor appointments and hospital call backs. Ugh!

Do you have have any tips or techniques you do differently now from when you first started sewing? Share your thoughts and experience here, I’d love to hear from you!

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