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Re-create Couture Pleated Silk Organza Panels

Photo: Susan Shildmyer

The students in my couture sewing seminars are always presenting me (and themselves) with interesting challenges. It's fun for everyone in the class to see how things are worked out. My student Cheryl Marsh tackled something interesting just the other day, and I'd like to share it with you.

  Cheryl was inspired by a dress designed by Oscar de la Renta with a standard application of quilting; hand-finishing the seams on the inside, a hand-picked zipper, applied trim, and pleated silk oganza panels, which are the stars of this tutorial.

She needed to make six pleated panels of various sizes: the front yoke, the two back yokes, two short sleeves, and a long horizontal panel for the bottom of the skirt. We calculated roughly how much silk organza she'd need for each panel, and she got to work. While the pleats we created were slightly bigger than those in the original dress, we liked the idea of using a blocking board's 1-inch spacing. We did a quick sample, and we were happy with the result. We did need to figure out the best way to produce the pleats, and here's what we did:

Fortunately, Cheryl brought a 20-inch by 30-inch blocking board to class. It had a sturdy padded surface with a clearly marked 1-inch grid, perfect for aligning and pinning the pleats in place. (She bought it at one of the chain stores for about $30).

  Begin by pinning all four sides of an organza strip to the blocking board, aligning the raw edges along the printed grid.


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Comments (20)

Laceylac Laceylac writes: interesting challenges
Posted: 5:41 am on September 10th

Antonsantiago Antonsantiago writes: Great ideas
Posted: 12:54 am on September 10th

Antonsantiago Antonsantiago writes: Good job
Posted: 12:44 am on September 10th

Quincyblake Quincyblake writes: Truly Amazing
Posted: 8:28 am on September 9th

EmilyBint EmilyBint writes: The result looks quite impressive. I can't even imagine how much work you've done to achieve it. And the couture dress looks very elegant. Great choice.
Posted: 3:00 am on August 24th

slmendes slmendes writes: Beautiful and inspirational work on these pleats! They are just lovely. We hope to be able to see photos of the finished dress someday!
Posted: 11:48 am on June 10th

shaunpollock shaunpollock writes: wow very nice stuff loved it
Posted: 5:06 am on March 4th

JennyEbner JennyEbner writes: Many years ago I did a similar process with a silk fabric, and made a jacket. I never thought of trying to have the pleats not be to one side or the other and I love the way you did these pleats. Thanks for the tutorial.
Posted: 6:40 am on June 28th

AnnaRae AnnaRae writes: A thank you to Cinsred5 for the computer tip. I've often wondered how to enlarge images. A big help!

Lovely project, Susan and Cheryl. Thank you.
Posted: 3:08 pm on June 22nd

user-2393070 user-2393070 writes: Makes perfect sense. Off to get a mat board to make the template! I have several pieces of organza just waiting for this treatment.
Posted: 6:50 pm on June 20th

Yumjo Yumjo writes: Hi Susan,
Interesting challenge and so many possibilities for it's use. I've always loved pleats of any kind. I've used this technique on a couple custom christening gowns I've made with bridal satin instead of organza. It's more difficult to press the satin because you can't see when the pleat is centered over the seam to press it, but it's do-able. Also, the pleats were half the size because the dresses were smaller. The inspiration dress reminds me of one I had and wore in the early 60's.

Thanks for sharing, Ymana Johnson
Posted: 1:33 pm on June 20th

SusanKhalje SusanKhalje writes: Sorry I don't have a picture of the finished dress - it was one of two projects Cheryl was working on in class, so her focus with this was to master those pleats. The dress was a sheath of black and cream houndstooth wool, done a la Chanel, with parallel lines of quilting and hand-finished inside lining seams. There will be fringed bias strips of the wool around the neckline, the seamline where the pleated yoke joins the top of the dress, on either side of the pleated band that's along the hemline, and along the bottom of the pleated sleeves.
Posted: 11:02 pm on June 19th

Cinsred5 Cinsred5 writes: Nice detail work! If you want to see a close up of the inspiration dress, hold down your Ctrl key while you rotate your mouse button to scroll and increase the size of the page, you should be able to see the yoke and hemline details much better in the picture.
Posted: 12:04 pm on June 19th

darlen0383 darlen0383 writes: this is stupendous..! can you also show us the "illusion necklines"?
Posted: 2:31 am on June 19th

manella manella writes: Hi Susan, Forgive me if I seem a bit dull, but it kind-a come with age. But, what happens after you base around the muslin? I would also like to see the finished product. I couldn't make out the details from the photo. Dull eyesight also comes with age :). I thank you in advance for your response.
Posted: 2:01 am on June 19th

kne5017894 kne5017894 writes: Is there a photo of the finshed garment? I was not able to find and would love to see how the pieces looked once assembled.
Posted: 10:42 pm on June 18th

SueatMagnolia SueatMagnolia writes: Hello Susan and Cheryl. Lovely result and well worth the time and effort. I concur with HarmonyQ. Clover produce a set of plastic rods in varying widths for pressing accurate tubes - just perfect for this application.
The other tool I would try using is a fine tipped marker from Pilot Pens. It's called an 'Erasable Pen' and you get it from stationers, supermarkets etc. here in Australia. I'm sure you can get them in the USA. It comes in a range of colours and produces a fine line. It's beauty lies in the fact that heat from the iron erases it completely. The packaging states that it will only reappear in temperatures of minus 20 degrees Centigrade. So unless you are wearing the dress in the Antarctic (or the Arctic, in your case) you are pretty safe.
Posted: 9:34 pm on June 18th

HarmonyQ HarmonyQ writes: This reminds me of a French sewing technique called 'Nun's Pleats.' It is a lovely detail that is well worth one's patience. For ironing the pleats open, there are plastic and metal tools for making your own bias strips. Quilters use these constantly. I prefer the plastic and they are sold in sets with different widths. These insert into the pleats perfectly for ironing. No need to make your own. Conveniently, you can find on the market ones which have the center opened up for easy seam alignment.
Posted: 7:02 pm on June 18th

MysteryWoman MysteryWoman writes: Susan, this is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing this with us -- I'm going to use this for one of projects in my monthly challenge group. There are so many possibilities with this. The edges could be stitched down with decorative thread, or a ribbon could be inserted into each pleat. Or the pleats could be embellished with beads and sewn into place. And on and on . . . What a beautiful element to any garment. See you at the American Sewing Guild conference in DC in August!

Posted: 5:15 pm on June 18th

RedPointTailor RedPointTailor writes: Fabulous! Absolutly great! I know it costs a lot (really a lot of) time but it is really worth it! Susan - you are amazing!
Posted: 4:17 pm on June 18th

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