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Help w/ gown: volume, support, hem…

mjb_44 | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I made a gown out of medium-weight satin using McCall’s 4776 (see attached image) w/ a lace-up back & no straps.  I didn’t line it b/c it would be displayed on a dressform, & it just wasn’t practical for the amount of time I had.  When it was on the dressform, the skirt’s lack of volume wasn’t obvious b/c I weighted the hem, which just reached the floor, & this allowed me to spread the hem outwards.  But now the gown is going to be worn in a runway show, so I need to make some changes.
I’ll line the gown, & I think I’ll give the skirt volume by attaching gathered crinoline to the lining at mid-thigh.  It seems like I should put extra crinoline in the back, b/c of the train.  Does anyone think this is a bad idea, or have suggestions?
Another issue is the gown’s weight.  There are many appliques on the train, & all together they’re kind of heavy.  Since I want to make absolutely sure the gown stays put while it’s being modeled, I need to find a way to support some of that weight.  I think boning inside the lining would offer enough support.  Am I wrong?  Is there a better way to support the gown w/o adding straps?
If I do use boning, where should it end?  I would put it at each vertical seam, & at the edges where the back laces up (so, 8 places total).  Should it end at the waist, or lower?  I want a smooth transition.  Also, I’ve read that boning should not go over the breasts, but I’ve also read that it should.  Which is more appropriate for my situation?  If it helps, the model’s about an A cup.
The gown’s length is a potential issue.  Even in heels, the model’s shorter than the dressform the gown was displayed on.  I don’t really mind hemming it, but I’m not sure how to handle the excess fabric at the bottom.  Instead of cutting it off, I’d like to keep that extra length, so the gown could still be worn by someone taller in the future.  Is there a way to finish the hem decently while keeping at least some of the extra length (it’s about 2.5″ to 3″) inside the hem?
Thank you so much for reading all of this, & any help would be greatly appreciated!


  1. stillsuesew | | #1

    Nothing like having to redo the whole thing!  I would put boning along side of the bust line - especially with an A cup.    I would definitely  add some netting  underneath, maybe several layers and or tiers under the train.  If you had underlined the whole thing right down to the bottom of the hem, you may have be able to tack the hem up to the underlining.  If you are going to add netting to the lining you won't be able to tack the hem to that.   Sounds like a lot of reworking. Good luck with it all.

    1. mjb_44 | | #2

      Thank you so much for your advice!

      Sorry if this is a dumb question, but when you say "put boning along side of the bust line," do you mean I should put boning where there is not a seam?  (There's a vertical seam going over the center of each breast, & there's a vertical seam on each side of the gown, beneath the armpits.)  If I understand you correctly, that does actually sound like a good idea, b/c then I wouldn't have to worry about whether or not to put boning over the breasts.  My only concern is that the boning would show through on the outside of the gown.  Perhaps a thicker lining would help w/ that.

      Yes, I do wish I'd underlined the gown!  Unfortunately, when I made it, I hadn't even heard of underlining.  Would it be possible for me to cut out pieces of underlining fabric & stich them to the inside of the gown along the original seams?  I'd be happy to do that if it is possible.  Underlining would, as you said, help w/ hemming, & it would also reduce boning show-through & give the gown more structure.

      1. stillsuesew | | #6

        You can put boning where there is no seam.  It goes about half way between the side seam and the seam that goes over the bust.   It would be sewn to the lining.  Underlining helps to hide it.  Since you do not have underlining, can you possibly put it on the inside of the lining, against the body.  

        1. mjb_44 | | #7

          Do you know if it's possible to add underlining after a garment is constructed?  I know underlining is supposed to be treated as one with the fashion fabric, but I'm wondering whether I could cut out underlining fabric & sew the pieces to the inside of the gown, following the original seam lines.

          I really appreciate your help!

  2. alotofstitches | | #3

    gown volume, support & hem

    It appears that the gown is fitted in the bodice only not over the hip area--for that reason the boning should stop at the waistline.  Really good RTW bridal gowns are supported by a waistline stay of ribbon or wide elastic attached to the lining w/boning.  I prefer to use 1" grosgrain ribbon that is run thru narrow ribbon "belt loops" sewn to each lining seam or area that has boning to hold the waistline stay in place on the gown.  That makes the boning sit on the skeletal system to actual hold up the dress (not the breasts).  The  VERY SNUG grossgrain ribbon is fastened at the back with a skirt hook.   Another thing is the lining seams should be attached to the dress seams by a 1/2" thread loop on the inside of the dress--this prevents the dress from hanging separately from the lining when supporting the skirt.  My favorite boning is the HTC brand and it can made flat by pressing with steam and letting it cool while flat.  I sew boning to the princess seams allowances:   side back/back seam, side seams and the area between the side seam and the front bust seam.  I do not sew boning over the bustline.  I altered a gown recently that had 3 pcs. boning in the separate satin piece that goes behind the back lacing.  For the skirt you definitely need 2 tier crinoline ruffle sewn to the  lining.  RTW adds another longer piece of gathered crinoline sewn just above the ruffled crinoline and continuing down beyond the ruffles and going on into the train in back.  that crinoline may help take up the extra length--you can crush or fluff the crinoline to do minor adjustments of the length.  Good luck on all this!

    1. mjb_44 | | #4

      Thanks for the great information!  I think it will really help me.

      I think the waist stay is a good idea, but unfortunately in this case I don't think it would work--the ribbon would show because my gown laces up in the back.  Darn!  On the other hand, the lacing at the waist may be tight enough (on the model) for a skin-colored ribbon to go unnoticed.  Maybe I'll consider it after all, if that's the best way to support my gown.

      1. alotofstitches | | #5

        skirt volume/support

        You're right I forgot the open back.  But with the laced backs that I've seen the lacing is so dense at the waistline area and only open 2-3 inches then the flesh or pink tone ribbon might work.  If not, sew the ribbon to one side of the back opening.  Lace up the dress on the model to wear it on the runway and adjust the ribbon on the other side of the back opening so that the ribbon is snug.  Mark the ribbon where to sew it into the gown back or for another future wearer, you can sew a hook leaving extra ribbon in case you need more in the furture.  It's maddening trying to make a dress fit several bodies!

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