Episode 707


Lace Elegance by Kay Whitt

Learn tips for working with lace fabrics and make a customized dress for a night out. 

Sewing lace and other embellished or specialty sheer fabrics isn't as hard as it looks. All it takes is a bit of extra planning and care to create this stunning dress.

This pattern was adapted from Serendipity Studio's The Zoe Dress, and is a Kay Whitt original made exclusively for Sew News: sewserendipity.com.

Embellished/Specialty Sheer Fabrics

Embellished, sheer woven fabrics sometimes have a pattern or decoration running along the fabric length rather than the width and have decorative finished edges. Because of this, it's necessary to unfold the fabric to utilize it in the opposite direction of how other fabrics are customarily treated.

Because these fabrics are often synthetic, set the iron to low heat and use a press cloth. This protects the fabrics from scorching, since pressing seams during construction is necessary to achieve professional results.

Keep the fabric decorative edge in mind when laying out pieces for cutting. For instance, the featured sleeves incorporate the decorative edge.

Sheer Dress

Create a show-stopping sheer-overlay dress utilizing decorative edges.


  • 4 yards of 54"-wide lace or specialty sheer fabric with a decorative edge
  • 2 1/2 yards of 58"-wide lining fabric (such as satin, taffeta, silk, etc.)
  • 1 yard of 108"-wide tulle netting
  • 1/2 yard of woven fusible interfacing (See "Source.")
  • Matching all-purpose thread
  • 18"-long invisible zipper
  • Hook and eye
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Removable fabric marker
  • Decorative button (optional)


Use 1/2" seam allowances unless otherwise noted.

{Size Chart}

































Download the Lovely in Lace pattern here; print using the tile large pages option. Determine the desired size using the size chart above.

Take your measurements while wearing a supportive bra with no shirt. Measure around the fullest part of your bustline. If the measurement is 1/2", round up to the next size to preserve the ease. The bust and waist measurements are the most critical in choosing the correct size. (This pattern was designed for a size B- to C-cup bust. If your bust is larger or smaller and doesn't fall within the size chart, modify the bodice in the closest size to fit your measurements.)

Find full bust alteration instructions here.

When cutting out the pieces, leave all sizes intact. Fold the pattern edges to the size needed or trace the pieces in the desired size so all size lines are available for alteration or future use.

Pin the paper pattern pieces together using a 1" overlap to allow for seam allowances. Pin the darts. Fit the pattern on your body to determine the desired alterations.

Stitch a muslin fitting sample using the over bodice and waistband pieces to further check the fit before cutting out the sheer fabric. Alter the pattern as needed. Stitch one sleeve to check the length and fit. Have someone help you pin the fitting sample at the center back to achieve an accurate fit.

If a skirt-length adjustment is needed, use the "shorten or lengthen here" lines on the skirt pattern to fold or cut apart the pieces. This also applies to the sleeve length.

Once all alterations have been transferred to the pattern, open the sheer fabric and fold it in half so each selvage is aligned with itself at each edge. Place the fabric on a flat cutting surface. Lay out the pattern pieces perpendicular to the fabric selvages, noting that some pieces that need to be cut on the fold, such as the bodice front, skirt front and front waistband.

Don't pin or cut until all of the pieces are laid out to ensure there's enough fabric. Be mindful of the print direction, if applicable.

Place the sleeve lower edge 1" above the decorative edge so it can be included when the sleeves are cut out (1).


Leave the lining fabric and tulle on the fold as they came from the bolt with the selvages together. Lay out the pattern pieces (2).


Cut out all pattern pieces, cutting out all notches at the same time. Set aside the remainder of the sheer decorative edge to use for the sheer skirt hemline.

From the interfacing, cut one waistband front and two waistband backs.

Serge-finish each lining-piece perimeter. If a serger isn't available, trim the seam allowances to 1/4", and then use an overlock or sewing machine zigzag stitch to finish the edges.

On the under-bodice wrong side, transfer the dart markings from the pattern. Snip the seam allowance to mark the dart legs, and then mark the point using a removable fabric marker.

Along the upper edge, snip each lining-skirt center front within the seam allowance.


On all sheer fabric seams, trim the seam allowances to 1/4", and then press toward the back. This fabric doesn't ravel, so finishing the edges isn't necessary.

Notch each bodice-front vertical centerline. Fold the pieces in half along the foldline, and then snip a small triangle from the seam allowance along the neckline and lower edge.

With right sides together, align each sheer upper-bodice lower edge with one lining lower-bodice upper edge; stitch. Finish the seams, and then press the seam allowances toward the lower bodice (3).


With wrong sides together, stitch the bodice back to the front at the shoulder seams.

With right sides together, stitch the sheer over-bodice back to the front at the shoulder seams.

Align the over- and under-bodices with right sides together. Pin the neckline, and then stitch.

Trim the seam allowances and clip along the neckline curve. Turn the bodices right sides out, and then press. Pin the raw edges together (4).


Stitch the raw edges using a 1/4" seam allowance to secure the layers. Treat the bodice and lining as one piece throughout construction.

With right sides together, fold the bodice, aligning the dart-leg snips. Stitch, beginning at the snips and tapering toward the dart point (5). Leave long thread tails at the dart point. Tie off the thread tails, and then trim the threads. Repeat to stitch the three remaining darts.


Trim the bust dart excess to 1/4" to reduce bulk, and then serge the raw edges. Press the bust darts downward and the waistline darts toward the center front.

With right sides together, align the bodice side seams; stitch. Press the seam allowances toward the back. Set aside the bodice.


With wrong sides together, align one sheer sleeve with one tulle sleeve; pin the perimeter. Stitch the perimeter using a 1/4" seam allowance along the sides and sleeve cap, leaving the wrist free.

With right sides together, fold the sleeve in half, aligning the underarm seam; pin. Stitch the underarm seam, and then trim the seam and press to one side. Turn the sleeve right side out (6).


With right sides together, insert a sleeve into the bodice armscye. Align the sleeve double notches with the armscye back and align the single notches with the front. Align the sleeve seam with the bodice side seam. Align the sleeve-cap center mark with the bodice shoulder seam. Pin the sleeve cap on each side of the underarm seam and leave the area between the notches free (7).


Stitch the armscye, beginning at the bodice side seam with the sleeve against the machine feed dogs. (The feed dogs help ease the sleeve cap into the armscye.) Once the seam is complete, check for and correct any puckers.

Trim the seam allowances, and then press toward the bodice.

For more on armscye and sleeve fitting, see this article by Belinda Beasley, and this article by Christine Jonson from Sew News June/July '11.


Fold the waistband lining in half widthwise. Snip the fold at the upper and lower edges within the seam allowance.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, fuse the corresponding interfacing piece to each waistband wrong side.

With right sides facing up, layer the sheer waistband pieces over each corresponding interfaced piece. Stitch each perimeter using a 1/4" seam allowance to secure the layers.

With right sides together, align each back waistband with one front-waistband edge, matching the notches. Ensure the back-waistband single notch is along the upper edge. Stitch, and then press the seam allowances toward the back (8).


With right sides together, align the waistband upper edge with the bodice lower edge, matching the side seams, center-back edges and center fronts. Stitch, and then press the seam allowances toward the bodice.


With right sides together, align the skirt-side front/back pieces with the skirt front, matching the notches. Stitch, and then press the seam allowances toward the sides.

With right sides together, align one skirt back with each skirt-side front/back piece. Stitch, and then press the seam allowances toward the sides.

Repeat to construct the sheer skirt overlay.

With right sides facing up, align the two skirt layers. Pin along the upper edge, and then stitch using a 1/4" seam allowance (9).


Fold the skirt in half, aligning the center backs with the center front. Snip the folds at each skirt side within the seam allowance. These notches will align with the bodice side seam when constructing the dress (10).


With right sides together, align the waistband lower edge with the skirt upper edge, matching center backs and center fronts and aligning the waistband side seams with the skirt-side notches. Stitch, easing the skirt curved edge into the waistband. Press the seam allowances toward the waistband.


Unzip the zipper and fold out the zipper coil on each side; press using an iron on very low heat. 

With right sides together, align the right zipper tape with the center back. Place the zipper stop at the lower-bodice upper-edge seam where the lining begins and allow the remainder of the zipper tape to extend onto the sheer bodice (11).


Stitch the zipper as close as possible to the teeth, beginning just below the zipper stop.

Zip the zipper and mark each seam placement on the remaining zipper tape (12).


Unzip the zipper and align the remaining zipper tape with the remaining center-back edge, matching the zipper stop to the bodice seam and aligning the marks with the corresponding seams; stitch.

Clip the sheer skirt 1/2" into the seam allowance where the zipper stitching ends and fold it out of the way.

With right sides together, stitch the skirt-lining center back from the zipper end to the skirt edge; press the seam allowance to one side. Repeat to stitch the skirt-overlay center-back seam. Trim the seam and press to one side.

Press the dress on either side of the zipper as well as the center-back seam below the zipper.

Unzip the zipper. From the bodice wrong side, fold the upper zipper tape back onto itself; stitch to the seam allowance (13).


Clip the sheer bodice 1/2" into the seam allowance just above the zipper on each side. Double-fold each sheer edge 1/4" toward the wrong side; pin. Edgestitch the first fold.

Hand stitch a hook to the neckline wrong side at the center-back edge. Hand stitch an eye to the neckline right side at the center-back edge. If desired, hand stitch a decorative button to the neckline right side over the hook.


Hang the dress on a hanger or dress form for 24 hours. Since a portion of the skirt is cut on the bias, it may stretch up to 2" and cause an uneven hemline.

Place the dress on a pressing surface. Fold the sheer skirt out of the way. Measure the distance from the waistline seam to the skirt-lining raw edge at the center front, sides and center back. Find the shortest point.

Mark 1/4" above the shortest point. Measure the length from this mark to the waistline seam; record. Mark this measurement on the skirt lower-edge circumference.

Fold the skirt lower edge toward the wrong side along the marks; press. Keep the skirt seams aligned when folding. Stitch 1/8" from the fold (14).


Trim the excess close to the stitching, and then fold the lower edge another 1/8" toward the wrong side. Edgestitch the first fold; press.

Place the dress on a pressing surface and trim the sheer skirt lower edge 1" longer than the skirt lining.

From the remaining sheer fabric yardage, trim a 2"-wide strip from the decorative edge.

With right sides together and beginning at the skirt center-back seam, align the strip raw edge with the skirt raw edge. Extend the strip short edge 2" beyond the center-back seam. Stitch the strip to the skirt, beginning 1" from the seam and using a 1/4" seam allowance.


End stitching 1" from the seam. Trim the excess strip 2" beyond the center-back seam. With right sides together, align the strip ends. Pin the strip short edges, matching the strip to the skirt edge; stitch. Trim the seam allowances, and then press to one side. Finish attaching the decorative edge to the skirt. Trim the seam allowances, and then press them downward.


Pellon carries Shape-Flex fusible interfacing: pellonideas.com.

Products used in this episode:


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