Vintage Sewing

Advice on backless dresses

By on October 26, 2014


I was hoping to get some advice on a project I’ve been working on. I’m making a dress to wear to a Christmas party at the end of the year, and will be drafting the pattern myself. I wanted a simple design to show off a beautiful silk brocade fabric I bought on a trip a few years ago, and when I flicked through my old pattern catalogues for some inspiration I was immediately drawn to this design (Style A, the short version):


I love the demure neckline at the front and the dramatic V-back. Of course, though, with a backless design comes the bra dilemma: I’d like a bit of support, but a normal bra isn’t going to work!

I was wondering if anyone has any advice or recommendations about backless dresses.

  • has anyone made a similar dress (or owns a vintage one) and has tips about how they are constructed on the inside?
  • I know that backless evening/wedding gowns usually have a built in foundation with bra cups/boning etc. Would such a foundation be appropriate for a simple dress style like this, or will it be too much/too bulky?
  • If a foundation is recommended, how would you attach it on the inside, given the dress has a high neck at the front?
  • what materials would you recommend to make the foundation from in a light dress like this?

The easy option of course is to just find a backless bra, but since the fabric is really special I don’t mind putting in the extra effort to make a foundation if that would be the best option.

Thank you in advance for your help!


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Vintage Sewing

So close and yet so far

By on January 19, 2013

Hi everyone

This is my first post on wesewretro, though I’ve been eagerly reading it for some time now. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the amazing creations posted here and it has really inspired me with my own projects. Sadly my first post here is a call out for some advice on a sewing disaster that has me completely stumped!

I started making this dress late last year:

The pattern is self drafted (one of my first experiments in self drafting) and the concept was for a 1950s style party dress to wear for New Year’s Eve. Though the style is simple, the dress is quite constructed. It has a sturdy built in foundation with boning and bra cups. The fashion fabric (a lovely rose coloured embroidered cotton voile) is hand draped in pleats onto an underlining of cotton poplin, and the whole garment is lined again in cotton poplin. The skirt is very full (1.5 circles). Here is a picture of the bodice up close:


And here is a picture of the foundation inside (with the lining folded back):

Everything was going really well until I got to the final stages. I used an invisible zipper in the left side seam, and while it zipped up OK when the dress was not being worn, as soon as I tried it on I discovered that it was impossible to get the zip past the waist seam when on a human body!

Because it’s strapless the dress is a snug fit, but it’s not too small. I think the problem is that because of the foundation and all the layers of fabric the waist seams are too bulky for the zipper to get past when it’s being worn and not lying flat. I tried clipping back all the seams rather savagely but it didn’t help. In retrospect, I should have made the foundation a separate piece with its own closure (hooks and eyes etc) and used a zip just for the outer layers. I didn’t think to do that and the foundation is now very firmly stitched all in one with the bodice. I think it might be too late to separate it again (without dismantling practically the whole dress) and am desperately trying to think of another stronger closure to use for the dress as it is. The problem is that having clipped the seams there is not much seam allowance left to play with.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do? Would a regular zipper be stronger than an invisible? What techniques do you use with bulky waist seams? Any advice would be really appreciated – I would really hate to have to put this dress down to experience as it’s SO close to wearable.


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