Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

How can I make it look more formal?

cloetzu | Posted in General Discussion on

I have a wedding to go to later this month and have been strugling to find a dress.  I found this one today and bought it (in a size 10 and 14)  🙂  I need a 12 but they were all out, the bottom of the 10 is a perfect fit I need more room in the bust.  So I bought both sizes, will alter the 14 (using the bottom half of the 10 as a guide) and then return the 10.  I exlpained this to the lady at the store and she thought using the 10 as a guide was a great idea and had no problem with me returning the 10 later.

Having said all that, it really is a good fit (or will be) and really flatters my figure (most things do not), BUT it is a sun dress – very casual.  It is lined and made of 100% cotton – it almost looks like a linen actually.  Very pretty with cut work at the bottom but still not ‘dressy’ enough for a wedding (which I know most attendees will be all dolled up).  So, wondering if anyone has any ideas on who to make it look more formal?  Accessories aside, the dress needs something to make it look ‘better’ and more expensive.  I would have bought a nicer dress if I could have found one that fit well but couldn’t and time is running out.

I was thinking of adding a temporary overlay on the top half above the band on the torso and then again below but don’t want to loose the fit and make it look bulky… adding beads or glass isn’t going to do it.  A pretty shawl will help but not quite enough.  Any ideas?  I think the only solution is an overlay but I want it to be sheer and sparkly but not bulky or hard to sew/handle as most of it will likely be done by hand to ensure I don’t distroy the dress as I want to make it casual again after the wedding and wear to work or less formal events. 

Any ideas???? I’m still a newbie so don’t know all the ‘names’ of fabric but I just need to know what to tell the lady at the fabric store.  I KNOW i’m up for the challenge!  😉

View Image

I hope you can see the picture.  If not the link to it is at: http://www.nygard.com/onlinestore/ProductDetails.aspx?Catalog=Bianca+Nygard&Category=Dresses&ProductId=Y22131550&inCountry=CD  It came in black and white but the store I found it at only had black.


  1. jatman | | #1

    Hi Cloetzu!  Very cute dress!  Have you thought about creating a slip in a contrasting color (like pink, red, blue) that would show through the eyelet and use that color for accessories, like a matching pashmina?  Would that make it dressy enough for you?  Maybe use a contrasting color trimmed with black lace so the lace would should below the hem but the color would show through?


  2. liselaure | | #2


    It's a very nice dress. A good way to make any outfit more formal is to add a jacket. What about wearing your dress with a lace bolero for instance? Another suggestion is to wear your dress above a lace long-sleeved fitted top.


  3. Fruzzle | | #3

    I love this dress, but I can't quite see in my mind how you could attach an overlay without messing with the gathering lines at the bodice.What about a fitted shrug in your overlay fabric? I think if you did that and went with some dramatic dressy jewelry and great shoes, you could pull it off.

  4. tmorris1 | | #4

    CloetzuA nice wrap, jewelery, bag, and shoes will dress up your wedding attire. I would try to stay away from all black though since it is a wedding. Pick your accessories first, and get a fabric color for the wrap that will play off of the colors in the accessories. You can even wear the dress and accessories to the fabric shop and just drape fabrics until you are happy with the result. A jacket would also be nice, but a bit more work. I am afraid, however, that a jacket would be too visually heavy for your lacy dress. I like to keep the brides colors in mind when dressing for a wedding. You tend to really look out of place in a red dress when the brides colors are all lavender. I am sure that she will appreciate the thought.

  5. Josefly | | #5

    I think silver or other metallic shoes, bag, and jewelry would fancy up your dress nicely, without altering the dress itself, especially if it's an evening wedding. A sparkly stole would be simple and make it even dressier. Would a separate overskirt, gathered onto a sash/band, and tied in the front or back, make the waistline area too bulky? I'm thinking of a sheer fabric with sheer sash/band, left open where it ties at the waist, showing the skirt underneath. If you don't like the idea of a tie/sash, then a pretty button, maybe rhinestone, could replace the sash.Edit: On looking more closely at your photo, I now see that the waist of the dress has a gathered cumberbund effect, so an overskirt might not work over that.

    Edited 5/11/2007 5:31 pm ET by Josefly

  6. Teaf5 | | #6

    I agree with Fruzzle that an overlay will destroy the lovely drape of the bodice and all those nice angles that might be really nice if highlighted by a sheer, loose, wrap-style blouse/jacket with loads of color and just hints of black.At an art fair today, I saw several silk wrap tunics made from large, square, sheer scarves. They were folded in half, with a neckline oval cut along the center line, with the points in the front, back, and along the top of the arm. The center front was slit open and narrow hemmed. The sheer fabric draped beautifully, and the diagonals created by the hems (fringed in lovely rayon) and the front slit would accent the lines of your dress nicely.To get a better idea of how this might work, take a sample square of sheer fabric or tissue, fold it in half diagonally to create the shoulder line, and cut a small oval in the center of the fold. Next, cut down the front half. With the fabric still folded on the diagonal, cut a triangle from the loose edges toward the neckline for an underarm/sleeve seam. Stitch the underarm/sleeve seam, the hem the front opening and neckline.In white paper, my sample looks like an angel's costume, but in drapey fabric, it would have the ease of a wrap with the shaping of a tunic. If the original square was a fringed scarf, the tunic has fringe around the hem and the ends of the sleeves, all with those lovely handkerchief angles. I wouldn't be surprised if you can find directions for "handkerchief tops" or "scarf tops" on the internet!

    1. Gloriasews | | #8

      Teaf's idea is good.  I have also seen sheer items like this, but they were left poncho-style, with no underarm seam.  They were made with an oblong piece of sheer about 36" long, folded lengthwise.  Cut each end on the fold 13".  Find the middle of the oblong & cut a 13" slit in it for your neck.  Finish the all edges with a narrow folded hem or zigzag satin stitch.  This can be worn with the end slits down the front & back, or sideways across the shoulders, with the side slits on your arms.  This is really quick to make, & fits any size of person.  (I bought them for Christmas gifts, then really looked at them & saw how simple they were to make).

      1. Sunshine | | #14

        After looking at the dress in more detail, I agree with those who suggested making an underskirt in another color so the color shows thru the eyelet. Select purse and jewelry, etc in a matching color.  I like the idea of a light, drapey fabric "poncho" in a coordinating print that picks up the black and whatever other color you select.  I'm attaching directions for 2 ponchos that I have made from summer fabrics - sheer or  lightweight polyester, like a georgette or a scarf-type polyester.  My choice would be a summery or abstract print, but it's whatever appeals to your taste!  These took me about 3 hours to make, but I'm kind of slow on sewing. I do have a couple of suggestions when making these:

            -  Draw the oval neck opening directly on the fabric or on paper and trace onto the fabric.  BEFORE you cut the opening, run a staystitching line on or next to the drawn line.  If you have a serger, do a rolled edge all around.  If not, just zigzag or turn and stitch a narrow edge.  Or maybe some sort of stretchy binding (lace, satin, ??).

           -  On the triangular poncho, do the same on the cut edge, or maybe just a fringed edge will look nice.  On the rectangular poncho, I just left the fuzzy selvages as is.

            -  On the triangular poncho, I rounded off the points that are over my hands, just because I thought that looked better and it was easier to sew. I rounded the front and back center points also, altho not as much.

        As you can see, I took this from the Joann's website (Projects).  I didn't see this on the current version; it's a good thing I copied this last year! I hope you all like these....

        Have fun at the wedding - I'm sure you'll look great!


  7. Teaf5 | | #7

    On another thread, someone just explained how to post a digital photo onto the forum. If I get a chance this weekend, I'll try to post a photo of the design I'm trying to describe...

  8. Ralphetta | | #9

    This is a really cute dress.  There's a lot going on there and I think any kind of overlay would just be too, too much:  there's a lot of texture, holes, shirring and trim.  As others have said, an overlay  would spoil the lines. 

    If you go with a jacket, I would definitely have it stop above the crushed waist at a bolero length.  I think the addition of very much color  or metallic would cheapen the look.  I think the short jacket should be very simple to compliment the richness of the dress and in a rich black. 

    I think sticking with black would keep it more formal and less sundressy. I'd use black patent shoes and either jet or pearl jewelry. I think anything very sparkly would be too much contrast and only emphasize that it's a cotton sundress

    I ALWAYS have an opinion, but understand that it's only that.

  9. Teaf5 | | #10

    Here goes on my first try of posting photos on the forum. 

    One is a silk chiffon scarf draped as a tunic with black string marking cut lines. (I treasure this scarf and would never cut it!)  The other is the paper pattern. 

    I hope that these two pictures are better than the couple hundred words I tried earlier!  (Will have to learn how to make them smaller before attaching; these turned out HUGE.)

  10. NewRenaissanceWoman | | #11

    Can't see the detail in the picture that you attached but the one on the nygord website is white and all the detail is visible. I like the suggestions you have gotten so far. I would opt for the bolero jacket ending just under the bust.

     An overlay to the skirt would tend to cover up the embroidery which makes quite a wide band around the hem and tend to look like it was put on as an after thought. Consider making a slip 1"-2" longer than the dress in a light color and weight fabric such as lawn or a semi-sheer cotton in a pink, light blue or turquoise, lime green, or yellow etc. Make the bolero in black voile or other matte sheer or semi-sheer fabric lined with the slip fabric. Keep to a cap sleeve or other short sleeve since this is a summer dress. Maybe an angel sleeve if you like that flared drapey look.

    You can make the bolero square or V'ed at the front so that you can fasten it with a hook and top with a fancy button that coordinates with your jewelry/accessories (an idea already suggested that I like) that makes it look a little dressier. You could also make a scalloped V in the back of the bolero to match the hem or even all the way around if you're up to that much work.

    A suggestion for the slip edge is to make the hem of the slip the same width as the skirt of the dress then trace the scallops of the dress hem onto the slip and scallop the hem to match the dress with a satin stitch zigzag. This will require a stabilizer to do the stitching. Your fabric store should be able to help you with that decision based on what they have available. It will make the slip look like it is part of the dress.

    If you don't feel confident about doing the scalloping yourself there are usually embroiderers who will gladly do it for you in most cities, unless you have a friend who is glad to help you with this project at a cheaper price.

    Now just match up your accessories and you're off to a wedding and in a custom outfit to boot.

  11. NewRenaissanceWoman | | #12

    coming back at you with a suggestion for an accessory item that will make the outfit look more weddingy. If you can find a black sheer (nylon) garden party hat, the kind with or without a crown, trim it with some flowers or a bow in the slip color. These are usually available at bridal/wedding shops in a wide range of colors as they are popular for summer weddings as bridesmaids hats. A lace straw hat would probably also work well. Hats are very good for wedding attire and not just for the bridesmaids.

  12. ineedaserger329 | | #13

    I love it!!! I might just have to order one for myself.....I did something with a skirt that had a similar lower edge.....I would take another color....something dramatic...fire-engine red or bright white, even baby blue....make a long rectangle (long enough to go around the skirt...you might need to divide it ((mine was more of a pencil skirt)) to better fit around the bottom and as wide as the eyelet part)....well, I don't think I am describing it well at all.....umm...make a slip of sorts and baste it into the skirt of the dress. the color will peek through the eyelets and you can match you shawl to it....It doesn't sound like much, but it sure does the trick. I would use a silky fabric - very light-weight. You don't want to weigh it down too much. Hope I didn't confuse my description too much and you understand my babble....good luck, please let us know what you end up doing with it!OOps....sorry, I guess I should have read before putting in my 2cents.... but have fun with it anyway!

    Edited 5/12/2007 12:44 pm ET by ineedaserger329

  13. cloetzu | | #15

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you for your input and great ideas!!! 

    All the ideas were great and I can picture how each one of them would improve/fancy-up the dress.

    Time is running out so I'm going to focus on a slip in a contrasting color, and the accessories!  I saw a manican wearing the dress with a light weight shawl and it really made a difference - add some pretty jewlery, sparkly shoes and I think I'll be fine.   I don't have enough time to do much more right now but later on I think I'll replace/cover up the scrunched waist piece with a fabric to match the shawl or the purse etc... and add some crystal beads to the embroidery at the bottom and change the slip color and it will be a 'new' dress!  If i'm brave enough I might embroider the shawl with the same color as the slip!

    Speaking of crystal 'beads' - does anyone know of a source for crystals that are 'sew on' vs glue on?  I can't find any at the local stores.  They are flat on one side and have little holes so you can sew them on like buttons (i have a RTW Tshirt that has them)....

    Thanks again to all!

    1. tmorris1 | | #17

      A wide belt is very fashionable now-a-days, and could be used to cover the "scrunchy waist" for now. And Jan, she said "shawl" not "poncho" there is a huge difference in the style.

      Edited 5/16/2007 2:58 pm ET by tmorris1

  14. JanF | | #16

    Please, whatevr u do - dont add a poncho!!!
    How naff do you want to look? - ponchos are only good on the young, dainty - and even then(to me)I think they look so dated!
    Bear in mind I can remember them 1st. time around - and I thought they looked a "dog" then.
    I go with the short bolero jacket idea!

  15. cloetzu | | #18

    This is a follow up to let you all know what happened with this dress (also shown below in white).

    ***edited to explain better***

    View Image

    I ended up leaving the dress as is (only a small alteration at the shoulders) and wearing a shawl that I made over it - the shawl was slightly sparkly yet soft and I wore sparkly shoes and some nice accessories - carried it off quite well.  I was going to put in the slip/lining in a bright color but just ran out of time.  I'll still do it to change up the dress for future use.  BUT did not wear it to the wedding, at the last minute I found a 'dressier' dress.  which actually worked out great because I needed somethign to wear to a formal party the night before the wedding.

    The only problem is that the top is still very snug.  It's a size 10 but I need a 12 -14 on top.  'Snug' is not the issue but rather 'show and tell'.   When I stand straight the dress is fine but when I sit the top gapes open.  I've worn the dress with the shawl so no one was the wiser and since then have worn it with a little sweater on top and all is well. The problem is not from it being too big but rather snug or something else is wrong.  I'm 34 DD on top.  The side seems are straight so the problem shouldn't be there.  Anyone know what alteration it may need?

    And thank you again to everyone that contributed to my dilemma!  You guys are awesome! I love this forum!

    Edited 6/10/2007 8:26 pm ET by cloetzu

    Edited 6/10/2007 8:33 pm ET by cloetzu

    1. cloetzu | | #19

      After writing the above message I went back and 'played' with the dress and between writing out the problem (which made me think a bit more about it) and playing I think I figured it out... I pinned up the straps a little higher and then also took in a tiny bit on the side seam just under the arm - between the two it now seems to stay in place and not gape open when I sit - now I just need to sew it!  ;)

      There is one problem that I can't fix, now with those alterations (above) it is obvious that I need more 'depth' in the bust - meaning the top of the waist portion is riding up too high - I'm going to try to let out that seam (which may give me up to 3/8 inch and see if it helps - it wont be enough to make it perfect but will have to do.

      1. Teaf5 | | #22

        Do you mean you shortened the shoulder straps? The key is to shorten the inside (neckline) side of the shoulders only--make the shoulder seam more horizontal rather than slanted up to the neckline. Starting from the shoulders, stitch straight across to the neckline; you may end up with taking out 1/2" of the neckline, which will help it lie flat on your collarbone.Also, the fit of the upper back has a tremendous effect on the gaping in the front; I often take in a full inch in the center back just at the top two inches. This snugs the upper chest area while allowing enough ease in the bust and shoulder blades. If you try the dress on inside out, you can use safety pins in these areas to get a sense of how it works for standing, sitting, bending over, etc.

    2. JanF | | #20

      Oooh gosh I wish someone would give me an answer to this too!
      This has been my "bete noir" since ever I developed what used to be a small bust! I could never bend forward comfortably - and even now at 57 with a rather ample 34E if I bend forwards, I jokingly tell whoever is viewing it that they can practically see down to my breakfast! I never see my boobs -looking down myself- just the gaping chasm 'tween them that develops when i bend forward - and yes I do have a good bra !
      (an aside - got properly measured about 12mths ago - for years Ive bought a 40A - cos that what the charts told me I was - only to find that after fitting its 34E!!)
      Anyway - I digress!!
      I read somewhere in Threads how to keep sweaters from falling forward with elastic etc. - but quite frankly I can't be ars...d doing this to all my clothes - and then what hubby wants to see u wearing such a contraption?
      If anyone else has a great, easy, sexy way of solving this problem I'd LOVE to know!!

      1. cloetzu | | #21

        Hi JanF! From my little experiment I think the solution may be to ensure that it is 'snug' everywere else so that the fabric is 'held' in place - this may not be possible with knits or light fabrics.  At least that seems to be the solution for this dress.  But it only worked because it was a thick stiffish cotton.  I don't think it works with knits etc.  With clothes like that I have to buy larger sizes so that my bust is fully covered and then take them in on the sides...

        Hope that helps a little!

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All


Shop the Store

View All
View More