Monday, 5 June 2017

Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book - Strapless Party Dress

I've something a bit different to show you today.  This is the strapless bodice and three-quarter circle skirt from "Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book", and if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the progress photos.

This hasn't been made for any specific reason, other than I really wanted to make it!  I got the idea in my head last summer and it rattled around for a bit, but I managed to talk myself out of it.  Then the idea crawled back into my head after I saw this gorgeous dress that Gertie herself made at New Year using the same bodice, and this fabulous dress made by Janene from Ooo Bop.  

It seems I have a lot to say about this dress, so I'm going to break it down. 

Yes, I did use a piece of fabric as a book mark...

Turns out the sizing on this pattern is a bit off.  The size 6 was the closest to my size, but I traced sizes 6 and 8 together to be on the safe side.  I marked in the seam allowance on the skirt, and measured it - and it was too small!

So I through it out to Instagram, where, yet again, sewists came up trumps!  Lots of lovely sewists said they too had issues with the sizing in this book, and had to size up.  And one kind lady said she had attended one of Gertie's sewing classes (lucky thing - not jealous at all!), and Gertie herself said the sizing was out.  So I went back and traced a size 10.


A toile was made, and it was too big around the neckline.  I think I took about 3 inches out around the neckline, but I've lost the bit of paper that I wrote it on!  This bodice was really easy to adjust though, because of the princess seams.  I took a tiny bit off the seams at the waist too, maybe about 1/16" off each one.


So I was ready to put scissors to fabric, which is a good time to tell you what the fabric is.

The main fabric is a cotton/linen mix from Fabrics For Sale that has been in my stash for a while.  I had 3 metres of it, and cut the skirt back with the centre back along the grainline, so have a metre and a bit left. 

The bodice is underlined with some green cotton from ebay, and I also used it for the skirt lining.

Inside of the bodice with the underlining.

The bodice lining is some cotton that came from Sew N Sew in Belfast.  I then added the horsehair braid along the top of the neckline, as in the instructions in the book.  This is it in green in the photo below.

The bodice and lining are then attached at the neckline, and understitched.  I decided to add a decorative stitch along the neckline too, for no over reason than I liked it.


Bodice Boning

No going to lie, this was the bit I was scared of.  But you know what?  It was really easy, and great fun!  Now I want to make all the things with steel spiral boning!! 

I ordered the boning and tips from Sew Curvy.  I also wanted the Tubular Boning Tape for putting the boning in, but it was out of stock.  So I used a tip I saw on a Craftsy class called Couture Dressing Making Techniques with Alison Smith.  It was to make some bias tape, but cut it on the straight grain, and not the bias grain, then use this as the channel for the boning.  Here's what it looks like.


I wasn't sure how much boning to use, or how many channels to add.  There are a few dresses in the book that use this bodice, and there were a different amount of channels in each one.  I decided to just go for it, and add them all!

Next came cutting the boning - I put this off for a few days...  Turns out it's my new favourite thing!  My top tip is to use good wire cutters.  Unfortunately I can't tell you where my wire cutters came from, or even a brand name - I just found them in a drawer in our garage.  


I wasn't too sure about how to attach the tips, and found this video on youtube.  I followed it exactly, and it worked like a charm. 


Skirt and Zip
Attaching the skirt and skirt lining was easy, and I added some pockets because, why not?


I used a lapped zip, which I recommend basting in first.  Learnt that one the hard way...


Here's what the three-quarter circle skirt looks like laid out on the floor, it's pretty big!

Then I tried it on, and it was gaping a bit at the neck!  So I did the sensible thing, and set it aside for a day or two to think about it.  I decided to move the zip over a bit at the top to bring the neckline in a bit, but I soon realised that that wouldn't work because I needed to move the zip over too much.  Then I thought I could sew some elastic across the inside of the neckline to pull it in a bit.  That didn't work either.

I recalled reading a bit in the book about sewing in bra caps, and found some on ebay.  This YouTube video shows how to sew them in using a thread chain, which would normally be used to attach a lining to a skirt near the hem.  This made a big difference, and I think really helps with the shape of the bodice too.  Ultimately though, I think the bodice is slightly too high, so therefore too long.  Having looked at the strapless bodice photos in the book, they seem to sit a little bit lower.  You can see that it is collapsing a bit at the bottom of the centre front of the bodice, even though there is a bone there, and it makes sense that shortening the bodice would sort this out.  But I've decided to get over it, and just enjoy my dress!

This is what the bra cups look like sewn inside, along with a waist stay.

As I've said, this dress was made without a definite occasion, but I have two birthday dos to go to this month, so I think I'll wear it then.

If anybody else has made a strapless dress, I would love to see it, so please leave me a link to a blog post in the comments.  Have a great week! 



  1. This looks great, well done! I have so many issues (and some wasted Liberty fabric...) with a different dress in this book that I have been avoiding it ever since. But perhaps I should give it another go and just be sensible in my approach (aka putting stuff away when I get frustrated) like you are!

    1. Thanks Rachel! Oh no to the dress, and the Liberty fabric! :( Hope you're able to rescue it.

  2. Wow, this is stunning. So much work has gone into this, but I think my favourite bit is the decorative stitching on the bodice. Lovely.

    1. Thanks Louise! I love the decorative stitching too, and it was really a bit of an after-thought!

  3. It's a beautiful dress! Wow such a great fit and it was so helpful to see the inside and how you sewed the boning and bra inserts. You must feel so free and comfortable in this dress!

    1. Thanks Kathleen! I've been doing so much reading on boning and strapless dresses, and have appreciated other folks photos, so thought I'd take plenty too!

  4. I think you should make a special occasion and take your beautiful dress out for a spin!

    1. Thank you! I'm hoping to get wearing it next week.

  5. Great job Lynne! I know what you mean about just wanting to make something - I have had a hankering for a tiki dresss since Gertie passed through down under and showed off her kickstarter 3 way dress. We are heading into winter but I keep thinking about it!

    1. Thanks Colette! Ooo! Gertie's new strapless dress is fabulous, and I'm looking forward to getting my paws on the peasant blouse pattern.

  6. Your dress is stunning!! I live the lining.

  7. Another lovely dress Lynne! I'm sure it does us all good every now and then to make something just because we want to make it!

    1. Thanks Ruth! That's very well put, and I learnt so much from making this dress.


Thank you for reading my blog! I love reading your comments, so please feel free to leave a comment if you have the time :) Lynne.