Before I started sewing, my favourite special occasion dress was black stretch lace over taupe lining. It felt elegant and chic, but so comfortable! For this Cali Fabric make, I decided to channel that dress but in a more daytime appropriate way. Cali has a great selection of lace – I was so tempted by this stripe and floral one! – but I chose this classic black stripe lace for a casual-but-classic look.
But what colour to put underneath? I considered cream, or hot pink, or purple… literally any colour would work! I choose an emerald green rayon jersey in the end because it’s a colour I don’t have much of in my wardrobe. (I actually bought a slightly different emerald jersey, which is now sold out, but the colour is really similar!)
If you are interested in making a lace overlay dress, here are a few adjustments to keep in mind:
1. Choose a simple pattern. Every seam is going to have four layers of fabric to wrangle, so a simple pattern will save you a lot of time. If you do choose a more complex pattern, you’ll probably need to baste the lace and jersey layers together along every edge before seaming. I used the Kitschy Koo Comino Cap dress, which has has simple lines but shows off the lace nicely.
2. Cut two of everything. Yeah, that’s a pretty obvious, right? One in jersey, one in lace. I cut the lace to be slightly larger all around, to make sure it would be properly caught in all the seams.
3. Consider your finishing before you cut. I decided I wanted to cleanly finish the neckline without a band, so I cut an extra centimetre of seam allowance around the neck. To finish the neckline, I zigzagged clear elastic (without stretching) around the neckline, so that it doesn’t stretch out. The elastic also gave me a guideline to fold both layers of fabric to the inside, before topstitching with a zigzag stitch.
For the sleeves, I finished with a folded band. This is the only place I noticed that the lace stretches less than the rayon, so I ended up having to recut the lace bands longer.
4. Hem each layer separately. I treated the lace and jersey layer as one in the bodice, but kept them separate in the skirt. This lets the lace drape smoothly over the underskirt, and lets you have that nice peekaboo effect where the lace extends past the lining. I left a raw edge on the underskirt – why hem what no one will see?
To hem the lace, I serged the edge, folded the serging to the inside, and zigzagged it in place. I also zigzagged down the seam allowance in the lace skirt side seam, so it looks neat and clean. One of the joys of sewing this lace is that any topstitching is perfectly camouflaged!
5. Go slow. I normally construct knit clothes using only a serger and coverstitch machine, but for better control, I used my sewing machine a lot more. I even sewed the waist seam (reinforced with more clear elastic) on my sewing machine, so that the seam allowance would remain and give the seam strength. I had fears of a serged waistband coming out of the wash with the lace starting to pull away from the seam!
Although that may sound like a lot of extra considerations and changes, it was actually a really easy and fast dress to sew up! Both fabrics were very well behaved, and took less than two hours to put together. I’m happy to have a dress that could be glammed up for a party or dressed down for everyday.
Have you sewn with stretch lace before? I can’t wait to give it another try – maybe as a casual top next time?