Embroidered organza shift with sleeves

I decided to make a birthday dress for myself this year.  The fabric was purchased for me as a birthday present last year when my husband was on a business trip to NY. He chose it himself which impresses me to no end. At a glance, it’s gorgeous. In real life, it’s a fabric I wouldn’t  have checked out myself. I would have taken one look at the label and put it back on the shelf. And I would have missed out on a lot of fun.


My friends, this delicious embroidered organza is pure, flammable polyester. I suspected as much, but was hoping for a miracle. A burn test outed this beauty. The fibres melted rather than burned. Further confirmation was delivered by an IG buddy who recognised the fabric and remembered its content.




Silk organza would have made this dress an enduring beauty. Polyester organza means this fabric does not breathe. It is stiff, scratchy, and uncomfortably hot. I can deal with the comfort issues by moving the dress into my Winter wardrobe. I think it would look good with a black slip and black tights. The contrast under the sheer organza would be fun.

Unfortunately, my birthday is in the middle of a sweltering Kansas Summer (we’re talking tropical Top End weather to my Aussie friends out there). I could have forgone the sleeves, but the sleeves are an important feature of the dress for me (these were actually the 3rd sleeves I trialled for this dress).

The fabric also does not press or hold a crease. To work around this fact, I kept the design as simple as possible. It’s a sheath with bust darts, French seams throughout, a hand-stitched bound neck, and sleeves. I toyed with the idea of back darts or a CB seam for shaping but after some online research into sheath dress shapes on designer runways, I decided to keep mine without. I’m wearing a white slip underneath it for modesty.


I wasn’t keen on hemming the dress and sleeves because the embroidery makes the organza quite bulky and of course it doesn’t press. My solution was to cut the dress and sleeves on the cross-grain so I could incorporate the beautiful selvedge into the design. After putting the dress together, however, I decided that didn’t like the pretty frayed edges after all. I ended up cutting them off but keeping a portion of the un-embroidered selvedge. I also felt that the original flared sleeves were a bit much for the loud fabric so I cut different, more streamlined sleeves instead.

It was a lot of fun making this dress. I loved problem-solving the fabric issues. I will wear it, but probably not during Summer. It might become my Christmas or New Years dress instead.




20 thoughts on “Embroidered organza shift with sleeves

  1. Gorgeous dress. I’ve wanted to try a project with organza and I have a piece in my stash. Your post tipped me off to some of the challenges the fabric will present. The sheath style seems like a great fit for it!

  2. Oh so very lovely, lovely, lovely. I hear you re polyester. Ick, I hate the way it makes me so hot and unfortunately BO smelly at times! Oh I’m a charmer! I also remember working with poly chiffon for my Roxanne and it was a dreadful mistress of doom. It’s worth it though, this dress is really gorgeous and your idea of moving it seasonally sounds like a good one.

  3. That is gorgeous! I love the look of the fabric. The simple shift shape shows it off perfectly. Bummer it didn’t work out as your birthday dress but I can’t wait to see how you style it in winter.

  4. Wow. Clever make, love how you got round the issues. Amazing fabric, such a shame it’s polyester. Husband in a million! Just needs a bit of education about looking at fibre content 🙂 and then he’ll be Mr Perfect;).

    Personally, I use some man-mades a la viscose, tencel, etc – but synthetic, not in our hot and sometimes sticky summer. I don’t even wear lightweight silk in our summers as it just doesn’t keep me as fresh as linen and cotton, the finer the better….

    1. Thank you Francesca! I’m all about natural fibres too. Linen is my absolute favourite, and no matter what my fashion preferences might be at the time, I just keep going back to the same old linen dresses in my wardrobe because they are just so comfy in the sticky heat.

  5. This is a striking little number. The colours are all sorts of fabulous. I made a similar dress last year to wear to a 70s party. I bought some vintage fabric in a 70s print off ebay – 100% acetate. I’m sure it matches the breathing qualities of your polyester organza. I live in the tropical Top End and can wear it in the winter months on it’s own or as a tunic over jeans. Any other time of year, it would be like walking around in a garbage bag having my own little private sauna. BTW, it looks awesome with those shoes!

    1. Hahahaha! Bernice, thank you, and I especially love your analogy. I was only outside for a few photos and it was indeed like wearing a garbage bag….so humid and hot here in Summer, not at all what I expected of the Midwest ;-).

  6. Gulp! This is stunning, and for all the work-arounds you described, you certainly landed on the winning combination.
    I think I would rather have a melty dress than a burnable one. The fact that the melty one doesn’t breathe as well is a strike against, although there’s no denying your husband was definitely a sweetheart to pick out such a purely romantic, beautiful fabric for you.

    1. Thanks Melanie! I think the melty fabric will actually be perfect for winter – I’m surprised I didn’t have the foresight earlier – I HATE being cold and usually just spend winter trussed from head to toe, so it might be nice to wear a festive dress for a change 😉

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