[Module 8] Creating a Garment | Garment Ideas to Make - Tulip Party Dress, Part 1

Design Details

DESIGN NAME –Tulip Party Dress

DESIGNED BY - Amanda Goldsmith

SAMPLE SIZE – Approx. size 10

SKILL LEVEL – Brave Beginner to Intermediate and Advanced


  • Fashion Fabric – A nice crisp Cotton or linen or wool blend medium weight. Approx. 2m. required. This sample was made using a silk/wool blend.

  • A lining fabric was used in this sample to hide the internal seams and finish off the Neckline and Armholes. Approx. 2m. required. This sample was made using a fine silk such as a china silk although you could use a heavier silk lining. If you are not lining you will need to either bind the Neckline or Armholes or draft a Facing to finish off the seams, unless you are leaving raw seams which can look nice if you have chosen a looser woven wool fabric.

  • An underlining is used in this sample to bring out the essence of the fabric and to assist with hand sewn finishing. It is highly recommended to use an underlining for this dress and sewing technique. This sample was made using a silk organza but you could use a cotton for a more weighted result, get some advice from your fabric store when you purchase your fashion fabric for their ideas on underlining. Approx. 2m. required.

If you are in any doubt regarding quantity of fabric as fabric can come in so many different widths then take in your completed pattern pieces to your supplier.

As a guide there are quite a few small pattern pieces for this dress and very generous seam allowances so this dress will use between 1.5 and 2m of fabric for average sizes (between 10 – 14 size).

OTHER NOTIONS – Apart from the usual sewing requirements such as sewing machine, needles and thread/basting thread, scissors, drafting tools, tailors wax and tracing tool etc. the following are required; Zip optional to put in the back around 12”, Silk organza selvages, or a cotton binding for stays in the seams, Pinking shears are a useful addition to your toolset,

Beeswax for thread preparation - optional.

DESIGN NOTES – This is a tailored form fitting dress to mid-thigh or just above the knee with a pencil skirt and back split. It has a mid-depth square neckline on both the front and the back with straps. The design shows style lines with Princess seams both front and back. It also has a waist band and an option of a style line across the shoulder/chest (not used in this sample).

The dress is fully lined and has an invisible zip in the back.

From these photos you can see how nicely the Princess seams show the shape of the body in the silk as the shine on the silk switches across the seams in the light.

This fabric is beautiful to work with but is not very forgiving so work very slowly with it for the best results.

Here is the Back.


The prerequisites for working through this ‘Sew Along’ are that you have worked through the following Modules and Units;

An estimate of time to allow for each stage is 1 – 2 days to draft the patterns and create Test Garments, 1 – 2 days to pre-treat the fabric and cut out the pieces and preparation, 2 - 6 days for sewing at least. Although everything could be done within a week it would be a long slog so just take your time with each stage and it will take as long as it has to. Obviously the timeframe is down to each person, experience and daily life.

Remember to post pictures of your final garment!

Have a look at this overview process for creating a garment, it is very straight forward and logical and will hopefully you can now see how everything flows and pulls together from what you have learned so far.

Design Notes

This dress designed is a very fitted dress and is a classic dress shape fitted all the way down with a pencil skirt and is designed to be worn for a special occasion. So with this in mind it makes complete sense to take some extra special care with this dress and using a couture style of dressmaking to make the best garment you can possibly create.

So get out your favourite fabrics, this is the time to use them. This sample has been made using a rather beautiful red silk/wool with an organza underlining and a black silk lining, a little tricky to work with if you have not worked with silk before, in this instance the lining is slippery to work with and necessitates a light touch. The fashion fabric although very lovely to work with needs special attention when pressing and will show every little stitch from the inside if you are not careful with your finishing stitches.

The designed length is mid-thigh but that is personal choice you could go any length with the skirt, knee or mid knee would also look really good. I would say as the dress has a covered bust that a mid-thigh option would still keep the dress classy but add a little sexy to the overall look.

The design uses some simple style lines to add in some interest and break up the colour, with this silk in mind a seam will catch the light at a different angle and help show how the dress travels across the body. Seams you could include are a Princess Seam in the Back and Front, a Centre Back seam, a panel around the bodice at the waist and an option of a seam line at the base of the shoulder strap across the chest at the Necklines both Front and Back.

This means more pattern pieces to sew as there are lots of seams, but it also means more opportunity to get a very good fit as this is a fitted dress after all.

The pattern is made without predefined seam allowances added to it to allow for a final fitting for the best fit possible, and larger seam allowances do settle in very easily on the inside and make hand sewing an easy and exquisite process this is a more couture way to make the dress. It demands a little more fabric and hand sewing but I think it is worth it in the end result giving the seams a little more weight and helping with the drape of the dress and finishing.

One other thing to consider is an underlining. An underlining sits under the Fashion Fabric and essentially they are basted together for every pattern piece and dealt with as if they were just one piece. Having an underlining gives you a great advantage during construction as you can wax trace on to it and mark it for reference points and you do not have to put any of your finishing stitches into the fashion fabric which is a benefit when making a dress for a special occasion that may have lots of eyes on it. Also an underlining can help show off the nature of the fabric and its drape it can add more oomph and structure. I used a silk organza for this sample.

Other Flexible Pattern options are;

  • It can be created with or without a Centre Back seam and place the zip on the side.

  • You could add sleeves.

  • Make the straps wider.

  • You could make it without a zip as it would fit over the head but be careful with a larger bust size, squeezing on a dress can pop stitches and this is couture after all so …..

  • Try different skirt lengths.

  • Raise or drop the Necklines.

  • Add a different skirt such as an Aline straight or gathered skirt as you have a Waist seam it is easier to swap the skirt pattern.

Here is my very simple drawn design that I started with to work out the main features of what I wanted to make.

The aim is to make the wearer feel exquisite in this party dress so a good fit and quality fabrics is all part of process.

Couture dressmaking will give you the ability to get more control over the fabric as there is lots and lots of hand stitching.

When you create a dress like this although you may have a plan of action you will still make many decisions on the fly which is all part of the process, for example you may decide to sew in a certain way because of the fabric you have chosen. The best way to continue along is to have your plan but be flexible.

It is a good idea to read through the rest of this Unit to get an idea of how the Tulip Party Dress was created and then you can determine how you would like to do it. This way you can see what decisions I made making the dress. So what follows in an honest account and I have not hidden my errors partly to show I am human but partly to show that it does not matter, if you have made any mistakes then work around them until you get your result. At the end of the day your mistakes will help you learn so strive forward I won’t tell if you don’t tell! Take your time and give yourself rest breaks along the way. But most of all enjoy the process!


Drafting the Front

As this dress is simple Style lines the drafting is pretty straight forward.

Start work by copying off the Working Template for the Front and Back and draw in all guidelines and all darts all pointing to the Upper Bust Point (in this photo I forgot to add my Back Shaping but I did add on later when I noticed as it will be used to get a better fit as the model does have a sway back so this will help).

In this example my Working Template has 2” of wearing ease and as I want the dress to be fitted I didn’t add on any extra ease.

If you want more or less design ease, add it or remove it off the sides.

The drafts are labelled as the Front and Back and if it helps at this stage you could label all of your lines and Guidelines and orientation points for example, Side, Centre Front Waist etc.

The Front draft is separated from the Back by cutting down the middle and the Back is put to one side for now.

The Front draft is then cut off at the Waist to assist with the dart manipulation and as we have a Waist Seam the waist shaping is used and is cut away. In this photo you can also see that I have drawn on the breast position as I need to understand where the bust is to determine how low it is going to be (you can see how to do this in Module 6 - Create the Flexible Pattern - 4c. Bodice – Necklines, in the Low Neckline text).

The width of the Waist Panel is drawn in.

When I looked at the space between the Breast and the Waist on this draft it seemed very short to me and actually later the bodice was extended during the fitting (something to revisit on the Base/Working Template, we can continually improve these Master Drafts if you do spot something obvious like this). The wide band I had drawn in the original design would not fit into this space. Which got me thinking had this person grown since I did the Base Template as it was quite a few months ago which is a good reason to date your Base Templates. So I set the band at 2 ½” for now and decided that I would leave extra-long seam allowances for the test garment in this area at the bottom of the bodice and the top of the Waist Panel to give me room to make adjustments if needed. I decided to wait until the fitting to decide on the width of the panel and look at the overall proportions of the dress. Sometimes you just can’t make these sort of decisions during drafting, you just need to decide on a plan of action and work it out when it gets placed on the body.

The Waist Panel is then cut and removed and the Waist Dart portion cut away and the two pieces of the Front Waist Panel are taped. The piece is then labelled to keep the correct orientation but I did have a few questions with this piece regarding its depth and the sharp shaping of the piece and so it is not quite finished at this point so it was put aside to be considered a little later on after which notches would be added and it would be trued to the Bodice and Skirt pieces.

Not so easy to see in this next photo but this is how I determined the Neckline level. To gauge where the top of the breast is I firstly drew a line from the top of the bust radius out to Centre Front. Then determining how low I wanted the Front Neckline to be I then drew another line below this to review a little bust but not too much, this was around ½” below the first line.

The next step is to determine where the Side Neckline position should be and in this case I used the outside Dart Line as my guide as this then leads quite nicely down the bodice to determine the Princess Seam in the dress. Although I wanted to shape the Side Neckline a little to make it a little softer so I bowed this line out slightly using the French Curve from the Shoulder down to the new Base Neckline Point which was around 1/8” away from the Dart Line at the widest point (I changed this again below to around ¼” away from the Dart Line to give a little more shaping). Which basically means that the Shoulder Dart is not needed.

The new determined Base Neckline was also bowed ever so slightly and here you can see more clearly now how the Neckline is taking shape as all superfluous lines are crossed out, can you see how much softer these lines are even though they are only altered ever so slightly. Just be careful with the Base Neckline to square off from the Centre Front first before the shaping so

that you don’t create a peak in the centre.

If you look closely at the shoulder dart below the Neckline you can see that there is a little mini Shoulder Dart left in the bodice and because I bowed out the Side Shaping on the Neckline the dart no longer lines up so I shifted both mini dart legs to the right by the same amount to fix this up a little. Picky I know but it’s not going to affect too much and will make it easier to follow the lines when I come to cut out the pattern as this mini Shoulder Dart will be cut away and turn into part of the Princess Line. It’s good to look out for these little things and fix them up as you go.

I decided to bow out the Waist Dart slightly because I know that with a larger bust and a smaller waist things are potentially going to get even curvier in this area depending on how close we need to fit in this section. In doing so I decided to change the position of the Dart Legs a little. Later this would need checking against the skirt panels to ensure that all lines match up, it’s only around 1/8” difference but it will need truing as these lines will be very obvious in the fabric that I have chosen. If you have anything to remember and check like this you could always put an asterisk on the pattern to remind you to check it when you come back to truing, it’s your pattern so you can write whatever you like on it to help you get the result you need, just try not to forget it. No doubt things will change here during the fitting anyway.

The Armhole and Bust Dart are not going to be used to keep the bodice side panel clean, so they can be manipulated out to the Waist Dart and taken up in the Princess Seam. You can see that I have firmed up the Neckline also in red to ensure that I know the correct lines to use as it is a little busy in that area with pencil marks.

Also reflecting back to the design I was going to create a Style Line around the Cross Front Guideline but looking at the shape of the Neckline and Shoulder now I have drafted this I am not sure that I like this idea so I have decided to drop this option for this draft because I think I will prefer the smooth lines in the side panel of the bodice without interruption.

To get ready to draft the Back I have also worked out how wide the Back Neckline is going to be, so measuring from the new High Shoulder Point to Centre Front on my draft is 5 5/8”. I need to add 3/8” as the new High Shoulder Point is around midway across the older shoulder width so this gives a total of 6” for the Back Neckline. Refer to Module 6 - Create the Flexible Pattern - 4c. Bodice – Necklines to review how to work out the Back Neck Width and further information.

The pattern so far is labelled as the Master Front Bodice.

A cutting copy is now made by tracing off the bodice pieces the Bodice Front and the Bodice Side including tracing all pattern markings. As pieces are cut smaller than the original Master they will need to be trued and in which case will create a pack of pattern pieces that I will call Master 2 which is the pattern that I write back to with any alterations for this dress.

Here is the Bodice Front piece, showing all markings. This piece will be cut on the Fold. All labels are added to help with orientation and a notch has been added to help line up this piece with the Bodice Side using the Bust Line as a Guide. A Grainline should be added taking the Centre Front as a guide to determining the Grainline. This little piece is then cut out.

The same is done for the Bodice Side and I have notched the Chest Line to help line up the lining for the inside later and the Bust Line to help line up to the Front Bodice and the Bodice Back Side pieces. All labels are added.

Also not shown on this pattern piece as it was added later when trued it will help if you notch the point for the Base Neckline where the Front Bodice piece ends on the Front Side piece. A Grainline is added and the piece is cut out and trued up with the Front Bodice