White lace dress

One great thing about living in the USA is that my birthday is in Summer here! I’m so much more inspired to dress up and head out for the night in the middle of Summer. The end of June always seems so cold and dark in Sydney (relatively speaking).

To be perfectly honest though, I’ll use any excuse to sew a nice dress. Yes, there’s still over a month until my birthday, but several years ago I came up with best birthday strategy ever. For the next month, many sentences will begin with, “It’s my birthday soon, so…”. If I really stretch it, I can milk my birthday for a good eight weeks, which could possibly turn into several dinners out, maybe some new shoes, fabric…and you’ve already seen my “birthday” sunnies if you follow me on Instagram.



But let’s get back to the birthday dress. It is my own design, albeit a very simple one, and also one you’ve seen before. The skirt is the only real part of the design I changed, moving and adjusting the pleats a bit to create the volume and shape of the skirt. I also moved the zipper to the back and left it exposed (because it is a bit fancy!).



I’ve been calling the outer fabric lace, for want of a better word. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It is actually faux leather embroidered on scuba mesh. Surprisingly though, it is very stable. There isn’t much stretch in that mesh so I was able to turn the fabric on the cross grain to utilise the mesh edging/selvedge as a hem. I decided that the lining needed to be black for contrast and cotton for breathability under the spongy synthetic exterior.

Now, the construction of this dress is where things went a little Pete Tong. My original plan was to partially line the bodice, just like this blue Milly dress. However, after sewing all the seams  (of the outer fabric) and serging them, I realised that the underside of the lace was so hard and scratchy that the dress would be unwearable if it was left even partially unlined. I could have used silk organza blocked into the top part of the lining and sewn it as a full lining, but I didn’t have the right shade of nude on hand and I just wanted to get on with it.

My solution was to first bind the armscye of the outer lace. Then I sewed together the lining in full and attached it to the lace at the neckline. Then a lot of hand-stitching ensued. I slip-stitched the lining to the armscye binding and down the centre back. The dress is actually very close to passing as reversible.

I’m very happy with the fit. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I will always feel an element of surprise and delight when I step into a garment that is perfectly molded to my body. It’s a sensation that I’ve never felt with RTW.



And while we are speaking of perfect fit… I drove past an estate sale last week and bumped into the impeccable Jill Sander shoes that you see in the photos. They were not only my exact size, but comfortable, possibly unworn, and totally meant for the dress I was sewing. I felt like Cinderella!

17 thoughts on “White lace dress

  1. Carolyn

    I love this dress sooooooooo much especially since I have some of this fabric in black. The shoes are the perfect accessory and I hope you have many chances to wear it out for birthday events!


    1. Debbie Iles Post author

      Thank you Carolyn! It’s an easy fabric to work with – it just doesn’t press. It would make a great sheath dress, or pencil skirt too. I have a little left so I’ll have to see what I can squeeze out of it (although if I’m a kind mum, I’ll use it for my daughter ;-)) I’ll look forward to seeing what you make with it oneday!


      1. Carolyn

        Thanks for the “no press” information! I bought it with a batch of other pleather fabrics to use as accent pieces…now I’m wishing I’d bought more!


  2. Sam

    I love this dress Debbie. I’m with you on always feeling slightly surprised when things that I’ve made to fit me do actually fit me properly – the tailored jacket I made recently is a typical example of this. Every time I put it on it feels amazing and I can’t believe how well it fits.

    Those shoes are to die for too!


    1. Debbie Iles Post author

      I loved your tailored jacket Sam. And you are right – I think the really big “wow” impact is definitely also with tailored jackets (I have a coat that feels like that) and fitted, woven fabric garments. I can wear my well-fitted knit garments and loose memade clothes day in, day out, but then I put on a dress like this, or my fitted coat, and the “wow” always comes back. You’d think it would have worn off by now, but no!


  3. Jillian - SewUnravelled

    You should feel like Cinderella. I adore the volume in the skirt and the fabric is lovely. And I’m totally using the “it’s my birthday soon, so….” tactic. Mine is in August so I figure I’ll have to wait a few weeks and then go full ball with your strategy.



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