9 Fancy Dresses You Can Make Yourself

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012

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dyed lace embellishes a plain ball gown
Cathie Fillian
Difficulty Level: Easy 

Another method for creating a dress that speaks to your fun personality? Dye lace and hand-sew it to an unadorned factory or handmade dress! Cheap and effective. Cathy Filian posts on Creative Juices a thorough how-to on dying lace and then sewing it to the dress. She recommends using the lace as decoration on the bust, as a belt or on a purse. Message to newbies and non-sewers: This is an excellent way to personalize a dress without maxing out on frustration. 
Get the free embellishing with dyed lace tutorial!
blue tea-length prom dress
Difficulty Level: Intermediate 

Offering a modern and almost rebellious take on the traditional prom dress, this pattern from BurdaStyle offers a floor-length skirt with gathers that show off an underskirt as well as a loose bodice and belt. Ideas to feminize the dress include using corresponding colors like silver satin and a white chiffon, or fitting the front and back tuck with princess seams. The average sewer, one comfortable with sewing and looking for a challenge, could go it alone on this dress. First timers will want a mentor or co-conspirator to struggle through with. 
white lace tea-length prom dress
Difficulty Level: Intermediate 

Made from almost 200 yards of lace and eyelet (with some kept white and others hand-dyed shades of beige and tan) baseline, this laid-back formal-wear dress is a whimsical alternative to a usual sea of satin. Skarinjia posted her vintage-looking design on the Craftster forum and writes that she didn’t use a pattern but instead followed her own sketched design. Yellow pleats and a V corset in the back complete this lovely dress. This is a design for anyone who is very comfortable with sewing and hates to follow the rules of patterns.
wedding dress decorates with laser-cut patterns
Jessica Hinel
Difficulty Level: Intermediate 

This dress created by Jessica Hinel uses the crisp lines of graphic patterns and laser cutting to enhance the bold juxtaposition of contrasting colors. The groom’s vest also borrows a subtle motif from the bride, skirting the dreaded and outdated matchy-matchy look. As demonstrated on her website, this process can be complicated for the crafter new to laser cutters — a tool you will need to acquire for this project. Also on the list? A digital drawing tool like Adobe Illustrator. There is no pattern posted, so you’ll need to find a one with an underskirt. Another alternative is buying a dress for the cutting and then attaching a coordinating fabric to line the store bought. This is a difficult project that is best suited for those with an interest in drawing or doodling, some experience with a digital drawing took, and are patient. 
floor-length sheath ball gown
Difficulty Level: Intermediate 

Offering sex and glam, this sheath prom dress from MCall’s makes a statement. Crepe or satin works best for this pattern, which has two variations on the bodice as well as the back. The ruching [pictured] will give newer sewers some difficulty, but the help of a mentor or choosing the simpler bodice variation will help. Newbies should also consider a stiffer fabric like satin rather than charmeuse; it will be less slippery and easier to sew. This pattern is for the seamstress comfortable with sewing. Or a patient grandma. 
red regency ball gown costume
Difficult Level: Intermediate 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman of old-school romantic sensibility must be in want of an Austen-esque fantasy. This regency ball gown made by Aurora may not deliver your Darcy, but it, like much of Jane Austen’s work, is a delightful escape from impolite society. Made of ruby red crepe silk, the lightweight material employs extra fabric between the silk and lining to add body. To add more historical authenticity, consider making underpinnings like a chemise, chemisette and short stays. The pattern for the dress and underpinnings are available at Sense and Sensibility Patterns
Read more about the regency ball gown!
floor-length strapless wedding dress
Difficulty Level: Intermediate 

If you’re shopping on a budget and have the body for cotton knit, then consider the $10 T-Shirt Wedding Dress offered by Threadbanger. New T-shirts are cut along the factory-made seams and then sewn together to create sewable material that is then fashioned into a strapless sheath dress. Curled strips of knit cotton wrap around the bodice, creating texture that contrasts with the straight sweep of the skirt, while a lone heavy pendent creates a focal point. Since of this is average difficulty, those who are comfortable working without a pattern will be successful with this dress. 
lined, sleeveless vintage ball gown
Vogue Patterns
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced 

Circa 1955, this ball-gown pattern from Vogue’s Vintage collection offers a simple solution: Can’t find what you want? Make it — rather than scouring the consignment shops, create your own vintage dress! The sleeveless look features a darted, fitted bodice and a gathered skirt which can be either floor or mid-knee length. Most vintage patterns sold online have never been opened, and prices tend to start at $75. A tad pricey, we know. Good thing McCall comes to the rescue, offering vintage Vogue patterns for less than $30 and often on sale online for half the listed price. 
Difficulty Level: Easy 

The ease of this gown refers not to the wearer but to the sewing, and is perfect for newbies or procrastinators. Tea-length, floaty and rife with variations, this formal-wear pattern from Butterick works with a casual (and cheaper) broadcloth or with more elegant fabrics like satin or crepe. 

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