My Christmas Dress: A Velvety Experiment

Less than a week before I embarked upon my holiday travels, I decided it would be a great idea to make a dress for Christmas. Because, y’know, last-minute deadlines are SO helpful in the midst of the already-stressful holiday season. HA. But, actually, this turned out to be a reasonably successful experiment, given what I has to work with.

I say “reasonably successful” because a) this was my first time working with velvet, and b) the velvet I used was incredibly cheap. Like, $3/yard, I-need-to-spend-more-to-get-free-shipping kind of cheap (which, yes, I totally did…). So I knew going into it that this would be a somewhat mixed experience. To prevent myself from getting too frustrated over what could potentially be a total disaster, I allowed myself one day to work on the project, and made myself promise that if I reached any major snags, I would ditch the project and move on. With those parameters firmly in place, I got to work!

Before cutting into my fabric, I did a bit of internet research about working with velvet. Many sites had great information, like cutting your pattern pieces in one layer and tracing pattern pieces onto the back of the fabric instead of pinning. Both of these were fantastic pieces of advice that definitely saved me a lot of slipping and sliding in the cutting phase! I also read that you should baste your seams in place before sewing. If I had been working with fancier velvet, I absolutely would’ve done that, but my fabric was panne velvet, which is a crushed stretch velvet (and not nearly as delicate as the fancier, more expensive versions), so I just forged ahead with my good ol’ serger.

For my pattern, I used my old workhorse, the Lady Skater Dress, which I made a million times last winter and then put aside for some reason. So I was happy to revisit this one once more! I probably should’ve gone a size up, as my fabric had only moderate mechanical stretch and no Lycra, but alas, I didn’t, and my finished dress is definitely on the tight side. Oops.

Sewing with the material was kind of awful, since it was so cheap, but actually not quite as terrible as I expected. I had read in one internet article that with panne velvet, you can just sort of “smoosh” the right sides together, and the slightly Velcro-like quality of the fabric will cause it to stick to itself, eliminating the need for pins. So I totally did that. I also underlined the bodice with a double knit, since the fabric was a bit sheer, and also threatened to stretch out rather disastrously. I’m very glad I did this – I think it will increase the longevity of the garment a bit, which would be nice. I also decided not to try hemming the dress, and just left the hem edge raw. I was afraid that attempting to sew a hem would stretch out the fabric too much, and I didn’t have the time to play around with stabilization opinions. So I may go back and hem it later – any suggestions?

Anywho, enough talk!

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I’m actually rather pleased with the outcome, all things considered. I wore it to our Christmas Eve church service, and felt appropriately festive and decadent.

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How about you? Did you sew any special party/holiday/Christmas outfits? Maybe next Christmas I can plan mine more than a week in advance!

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4 thoughts on “My Christmas Dress: A Velvety Experiment

  1. Looks great!

    I love that stuff. “Real” velvet is a completely different animal, though, as your internet research warned you. (you have to do weird things so the nap doesn’t get sucked into seams, etc. Also: expensive. Also: uncooperative. Also has a disturbing tendency to “show your work” rather than recovering from pins, folds, etc.)

    Re: hemming, you can just leave it unhemmed for a surprisingly long time before it requires trimming/cleanup, but you can also go for bias-binding it in a very flimsy fabric (or not bias tape, but doing the same sort of “sandwich” thing with cheapo limp ribbon – this wouldn’t work on wrists or anywhere else you need the stretch to let you into the dress, but for full-ish skirts, it’s great), preferably in a contrast rather than an attempted match.

    Enjoy your dress!

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