Party season is coming! It's time to think about what you'll wear for the holiday season this year. Want to wow them at the office party? Then you'll need something ‘on-trend' and with lace, one-shoulder and asymmetrical dresses all being in fashion, I've combined to create a free little black dress pattern that I think is a winner.
(Excuse photos for this one – stormy weather this week and my hair just won't lie flat!)
- Lace, net, mesh or chiffon overlay
- Lined bodice, lined skirt optional
- Darted bodice, and straight skirt with small pleats or darts
- Invisible side zipper
- Overlay can hang lower than the inner skirt if you like
- Range of sizes
- Super flattering – sexy but not revealing
Intermediate. The instructions for this dress assume that you already have experience in sewing with non-stretch fabrics and making basic fitting adjustments necessary in any pattern to achieve a good personal fit. You should know how to sew an invisible zipper.
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Experience in lining a dress is also useful but not essential. The instructions provided for this project assume a certain level of knowledge and experience and don't go into details on how to finish your seams, insert a zipper, etc.
Where can you get the little black dress pattern?
Can I see some more pics before I decide?
Of course you can. Here are some other views of the little black party dress.
Choosing your fabrics
For the inner fabric you will need a non-stretch fabric with somebody to it. I used a crepe backed satin, as it is slightly thicker and easier to sew than a regular satin might be.
The overlay may be in a sheer fabric such as lace, net, mesh or chiffon. This can either have some give to it or be fixed depending on what you have available. Decorative fabric with embroidery, sequins or lace would look lovely. See some examples at the bottom of the post.
I'm using a mesh with ribbon decoration and sequins. My overlay comes with a ready-made scalloped edge which I used for the hemline. For the lining fabrics, something lightweight such as a pongee, Bemberg lining or cotton voile.
Making up your pattern
Your pattern is conveniently split into 2 pieces to make it more manageable – the front and the back. Each piece is labeled with a letter and number – B for back an F for the front. Numbers run top to bottom and left to right. Cut off or turn under the page edges and match the borders with the adjoining pages.
If you need more information on how to put together your pattern, you can read more in the Summer Drape Top.
Each pattern piece has one bodice and one skirt piece, and the front and back look similar. Lay out pieces 1 to 6 in the top row, then 7 to 12 in the second row and lastly pages 13 and 14 complete the skirt at the bottom right. Your completed pattern should look something like this (excuse the state of my patio!):
What Size Do I Need?
The dress is made from a non-stretch fabric and therefore takes more fitting and includes more ease and fitting allowance than some of my earlier knit patterns. Fitting ease is included in the pattern so you can adjust and take in for your own personal measurements. Please use this table as a guide only as although our body measurements may be similar, different body shapes may require fitting differently.
I highly recommend the Sew the Perfect Fit course if you want to learn more about how to pick the right pattern size, make a muslin and get the correct fit. Making a muslin is always recommended prior to cutting your good fabric. If you are in between measurements, do measure the actual pattern pieces to determine what size would suit you best.
If you fall in between sizes, you can also cut between the lines, and you can ‘grade’ from one size to another by, for example, cutting a small in the waist curving out to a medium at the hip if you need to. The pattern is fairly simple, so you should be able to upgrade to a larger size if you need to. I added extra to the waist and hips for my dress. Always test the fit using the paper pattern pieces, or an inexpensive test fabric before cutting your expensive fabric for this dress.
If in doubt test the larger size and adjust for fitting at the side seams during construction. Adjustments to length. The dress is designed to fit an average height – I am 5’6″. If you are taller or prefer the skirt to be longer, simply add some length to the skirt piece at the bottom. If you are using a pre-finished fabric with the hemline already made, check the skirt length before cutting your fabric and attaching the skirt to the bodice.
Cutting your fabric
Start by using your pattern pieces to cut your inner fabric. You will need a bodice front and back, and a skirt front and back.
You can then lay your inner fabric either on top or underneath your sheer overlay and if there is a pattern to your lace, you can line up your pattern as you want it prior to cutting using your lining fabric as a pattern. I suggest leaving some excess around the overlay fabric as it can be delicate and shift during cutting or sewing. Allowing a little extra in the seam allowances will help with this and can be trimmed off later.
If your overlay has a pre-finished edge, take this into account when you cut your fabric, allow for the inner layer to be hemmed and for the outer layer to hang lower if you want. You can also finish them so they are both the same length. The finished look and length is up to you.
You may also use the inner fabric pieces to cut your lining. You can choose either a bodice lining or a full lining. The lining pieces will be the mirror image of the inner fabric pieces and will finish with wrong sides together, so lay your fabric this way to cut.
Little Black Dress Sewing Instructions
Seam allowances – 5/8th of an inch throughout unless mentioned.
Abbreviations used: RST – right sides together.
Note on skirt darts – darts are shown on the skirt pattern should you wish to use them for a closer fit, or you may simply choose to pleat the fabric as I did in this example.
Our first step is to join the inner fabric with the overlay fabric and then we can treat them as one going forward. Simply baste the two pieces of fabric together, with the right side of the inner fabric facing the wrong side of the overlay. In the seam allowances, baste the two pieces together using large fairly loose stitches.
I have done mine in white so you can see them better, but you should probably use a matching thread in case your basting just peeps out anywhere later on.
Baste together the two bodice pieces on all sides.
Baste together the skirt pieces at the waist and on the side seams until you get near to the bottom. If you overlay has a pre-finished hemline, you will need to keep this free from the inner fabric which is to be hemmed. So do not baste the two together for the last few inches to allow for this later. Make sure your hemlines are parallel.
Once the pieces are all basted together, we will treat them as one piece of fabric going forward. Stay-stitch neckline edges in the seam allowance to prevent stretching on the bias as we work. (Read this tutorial on staystitching.)
Mark, pin and stitch all bodice darts, front and back. Make sure your two fabrics are lying flat together as you sew the darts. (Useful tutorials – How to mark darts accurately. How to sew darts perfectly.)
Press darts down or to the center. Join bodice at the shoulder, RST. Press seam open.
Join the shoulder seam of the lining fabric, RST. Press seam open.
Pin lining to dress bodice, matching shoulder seam, RST. Pin along neckline and around armhole.
Stitch lining in place, leaving 2 inches free and un-sewn at each end under the arm where the zipper will go. Trim and grade seam allowances and clip around curves.
Turn the bodice the right side out by turning through the tunnel at the shoulder seam. Magic!
Understitch as far as possible to keep the lining in place and then press well, paying attention to press along neckline and armhole making sure the lining fabric is turned well to the inside so it doesn't show on the outside.
Sew the side seam on the bodice and lining under the armhole. Match up under the arm and pin. Pin sides seams front and back and the lining.
Open out and sew in one seam from the waistline of the bodice through to the waistline of the lining.
Clip away excess fabric at the underarm point to reduce bulk. Press seams open.
Take the skirt front and back and hem the inner fabrics separately on each piece. If your overlay fabric needs hemming, do this too.
Join the skirt front and back RST at the side seam that goes under the shoulder strap, leaving the other seam open for the zipper. Neaten and finish your seams.
Trim and neaten seams on the lace overlay if this hangs below the inner fabric.
Match side seam on skirt with side seam on bodice RST, pin at this point. Match opposite side seam where the zipper will go, matching bodice and skirt edge. Skirt piece should be too wide for the bodice.
Pin skirt to bodice at the waist seam, starting at side seams and working in. At the dart points on the bodice, evenly place a small pleat on either side in the skirt fabric to make it lie evenly with the width of the bodice.
Repeat for the skirt front and back. Check that pleats are correctly placed from the outside.
Stitch skirt to bodice at the waist. Grade seams to reduce bulk and press seam upwards towards the bodice.
Pin invisible zipper to side seam. Check zipper length and reduce if necessary. The zipper will need to be long enough to allow the dress to pass over your widest point at the hips. Keep the lining fabric clear.
(Tutorial on how to reduce the length of zippers and insert an invisible zipper.)
Try on the dress and make any fitting adjustments necessary. Sew the zipper to side seam, matching the waist seam and checking fabric layers are lying flat and not puckered.
Finish the side seam below the zipper and press the seam open. Neaten and finish seams.
Return to the lining at the top of the zipper. Turn the dress inside out and even up by stitching the remaining lining to the outer fabrics crossing over just above the top zipper stop on each side.
If you are adding a skirt lining, pin and stitch this to the bottom of the bodice lining now, matching side seams and pleating excess fabric as you did for the outer skirt pieces.
If you are only lining the bodice, like in my example, turn up the bottom of your bodice lining to the inside and stitch a 5/8 hem.
Turn the dress completely inside out exposing the zipper tape. Pin the edge of the lining fabric to the zipper tape matching raw edges.
Turn over the top corner at the lining stitching line, turning towards the lining fabric. Pin in place.
Stitch lining fabric to the zipper tape on each side using your zipper foot. Don't sew the lining in too tight to the zipper or it might catch – leave a small gap. Press lining at the zip to neaten.
If the skirt is lined, finish the side seam in the lining and hem the lining fabric. If only the bodice is lined, slip stitch the bottom of the bodice lining to the waist seam allowance, pleating excess fabric at the darts.
And you are finished! Wear and enjoy your new dress and don’t forget to send me your photos. Suggested overlay fabrics: