Tag Archives: sewing tutorial

Burgundy Cocktail Dress

How to dress for less

Hi and welcome to this week’s blog.

Do you ever find yourself drooling over the glamorous clothes you see in the pages of your favourite glossy magazines?

Do you ever worry about how you can afford the latest fashion looks or a new dress for that important family occasion or the smart presentation you have to do for work?

Well I have the answer

Sew your own clothes. Yes, it can be far more cost effective to sew your own fashion than to buy ready made off the rail clothes. Especially those items like a good quality shirt or an elegant dress. When you make your own garments you can make sure that they fit you perfectly so you will look better and feel prouder too. Sewing and dressmaking is a very satisfying pastime, you will be  learning a new skill and forever improving upon it.

Go on grab a pattern and some fabric and have a go.

I have been looking at a few of the fashion designer’s collections for fall/winter 2014/15 and I noticed that one of the prominent colours which really stood out was burgundy. Its surprising. When I started looking I realised the colour is everywhere, in a variety of shades. So I took the colour as my inspiration this week.

Follow Sewing Avenue’s board Burgundy Dress on Pinterest.

Burgundy cocktail evening dress

I’ve drawn a couple of sketches of a dress I saw recently with a cowl neck line. I like this style as it is soft and flattering without being revealing.


The fabric I am using is a crepe fabric with no stretch to it so this style would be suited to any medium weight woven fabric.

How I pieced the bodice together…

The cowl neckline is the main feature of the look of this cocktail dress. It is cut as one piece of fabric which consists of both the front bodice and it’s lining. It’s cut out on the bias of the fabric, this will give it the lovely drape effect I desire.

Burgundy Dress Construction
Burgundy Dress Construction

The front is attached to the bodice back at the shoulders and armhole edges then turned out, as you would when constructing any regular bodice with this method.

Burgundy Dress Construction
Burgundy Dress Construction
Burgundy Dress Construction
Burgundy Dress Construction

The lining on the back neck and the armhole edges is under stitched to stop it rolling out.

Burgundy Dress Construction
Burgundy Dress Construction

Don’t press the edge of the cowl neckline to a crisp edge though, the intention is to keep a soft edge look here.

Then I stitched the side seams together and checked the fit. The fit can be altered at this stage by using the seam allowance to let out or take in fabric to get the desired look. I always try to use a seam allowance of ⅝ inch/15mm. If you are dressmaking for someone else you can allow as much seam allowance as you think may be needed to achieve the fit, it can always be trimmed back later, when you are happy with the finished fit.

I have used a concealed zipper in the back seam. Which type of zippers do you like to use in your dressmaking. Lapped can look nice but I don’t usually put in an exposed zipper on a smart dress, I would keep this style for a more casual or sporty outfit.

Burgundy Dress
Burgundy Dress

I am so excited about this dress. It fits well and definitely looks dressed up enough to wear out to dinner and drink those cocktails in! I want to make it again now in another colour. Don’t be surprised if it appears again in another blog!

What’s on your sewing table at the moment?

Happy sewing

How do I take my body measurements and why should I bother?


If you want to sew an item of clothing for yourself or someone else it is obvious that you will need the correct basic body measurements. You will need the measurements even before you purchase the pattern as commercial patterns don’t usually have all of the size options in one packet. They vary from one pattern company to another and even from one style to another. You probably won’t find a pattern with exactly the correct sizes for all of your body areas, so buy one which covers your sizes and be prepared to make some pattern alterations to it before you begin your sewing project. So knowing how do I take my body measurements is important in making a garment the right size.

When you are choosing which pattern to use it is worth remembering that not many items of clothing fit us as snugly as the set of measurements you will take. Most garments have shape and style which gives the body room to move about, so the set of size measurements for a size 10 for example, are not what the actual paper pattern or the finished garment will measure. You can also directly measure the paper pattern yourself to see how this compares to your size. Remember there will be a seam allowance on the pattern.


When you buy ready to wear clothing you will be used to seeing measurements for the bust, waist and hips, however to get a good fit on a garment which will be perfect and look exactly  how you want it to, there are other measurements you need to take as well. Considering some people, myself included here, choose to make their own clothes, or to have them made, is because ready to wear just does not fit them, this is important. RTW only cater for the average height and sizing, and people who are symmetrical. Most of us are not average but when we buy off the peg we have to make do with the best fit that we can find and it’s not always the correct fit.



So how do you take your measurements?


First of all you will need someone to help you. It is difficult to take accurate tape measure readings of your own body by yourself. So as well as a tape measure which is long enough to measure all of your body parts including your height, you will need a pen and paper to write it down. So dress in your regular fitting underwear and you are ready to begin.


Front Body Measurements
Front Body Measurements



Measure across the widest part of the bust,under the arms and across the widest part of the back with the arms hanging loosely by the sides of the body.

To measure your cup size, measure around the body just under the bust, take this measurement away from the first measurement and if the difference is one inch you are an A cup, two inches difference is a B cup, three is a C cup, four is a D cup and five will give you a DD cup.



Mark the waist by tying a string snugly around your middle. It will roll naturally to your waist. Take the measurement where the sting settles.



Keeping the tape measure parallel to the floor and level all of the way around, measure the fullest part of the hips which should be around eight inches below the waistline, depending on the individual.


Shoulder length

This is the distance from the base of the neck, shrug your shoulders to find this point at the neck, to the edge of the shoulder.


Apex of bust

The distance from the base of the neck to the point of the bust.


Back Body Measurements
Back Body Measurements

Back waist length

This is sometimes called nape to waist and is the distance from the prominent bone at the back of the neck to the waist.


Sleeve length

With your hand on your hip measure from the top of the shoulder to the wrist. Note this down as one total measurement and two separate measurements, top of shoulder to elbow and elbow to wrist.


Dress length

Measure from the base of the neck at the centre back to the desired hem length. The back of the knee is a good reference point if you are uncertain of desired finished length at this stage.


You will need the following measurements if you are making trousers/pants.


Seated Body Measurements
Seated Body Measurements

Crotch depth

Sit down on a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor and measure from the waist to the chair seat.


Side Body Measurements
Side Body Measurements

Crotch length

From the waist at your back under the body between your legs to the waist at your front. Also note down how this divides into two measurements, back waist to the centre point between the legs and the front waist to the centre point between the legs, This may not be an equal division of the overall measurement.


Inside leg

From the midpoint under the body to the finished hem length, if you don’t yet know this, measure to the ankle bone.


Outside leg

Measure from the waist, over the curve of the hip, down to the desired hem length or the ankle.



Now that you have all your measurements, keep them safe and check them every six months for any changes.


Happy sewing