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Silk Charmeuse for a curvy body

Marissa | Posted in General Discussion on

I’m about to start sewing for a dress for my sister-in-law to wear for a bridesmaid dress at my wedding.  She picked a beautiful silk charmeuse with an asian inspired floral pattern.  The dress pattern she picked was this one


I mentioned when she picked out the pattern how unforgiving this fabric was on curves of any kind.  She had my wonderful nephew about 7 months ago and is working at the baby weight and the baby belly. 

Now I’m scared to death that I’m going to sew her a dress that she is going to hate.  $80.00 and many hours will be out the window.  I’m looking for any suggestions on how to make this fabric work on this dress, or a curvy body.  Or maybe we need to look at a different pattern all together. 



  1. sueb | | #1

    Can you cut it on the bias ?

  2. mygaley | | #2

    You can interline the garment and then line it, which disguises a multitude of imperfections, but that might change your beautiful charmeuse into something less nice to wear.  In any case do line it; you will not be sorry.  If I am making a garment for a customer that I believe won't work for any reason, I increase my fee so that I don't feel put upon while I am sewing.  My advice, since this seems to be a family project, is to select a pattern and fit the body she has now--you can always take it up.  God bless you both as you sew this special project.  P.S.  Sew the darling nephew a vest with scraps from her fabric--he will steal the show!

  3. mem | | #3

    MMM diplomacy called for . I would make it up in a cheap satin and then let her see it on . The other thing you could do is make sure that she wears a very significant all in one foundation garment  you know the ones that include a bra and long line pants . Those English style gurus , Trinny and ????? Swear by them  and also cut the pattern with an added 1 inch seam allowance so that you can be generous when fitting it . The other thing would be to use the dull side of the fabric over the tummy area and the shiny on the bust area

  4. woodruff | | #4

    At the very least, do a fast muslin in a cheapish polyester of a similar weight and drape. It doesn't have to be perfectly finished; just enough so that she can see the effect. She may change her mind about the pattern when she sees how she will look.

    1. stitchmd | | #5

      I agree on cutting with extra ease. To disguise the belly you can use a larger size for the bottom part below the empire seam and ease it into the seam. Definitely also agree with making a muslin so she can see how she likes the style on her body, not the pattern envelope model.

  5. Tessmart | | #6

    I would sew the bottom on the bias, the top on the straight grains.  It would just flow over any curves.  Good Luck


    1. Marissa | | #7

      Thanks for all the great ideas.  Two questions:

      1. I don't often make big changes to patterns.  How exactly do I cut the dress sections out "on the bias".  My best guess is just to adjust the direction of the pattern pieces so that the threads run diagonally instead of up and down.  Anything more complicated than this, or do I just shift stuff?

      2. Suggestion for underlining on the charmeuse?  I did my wedding dress bodice in a very stiff poly/cotton and the skirt in a lighter weight poly.  What would allow for a flowey feeling, but take up some of the clingy feeling of the fashion fabric?


      1. Teaf5 | | #8

        When you cut on the bias, you also need to allow 1-2" more in the seam allowances, as the fabric will get skinnier as it hangs.That pattern looks very nice for a curvy figure (an hourglass) but new moms often have a much bigger and lower bustline than they did before baby, so you'll want to fit the bodice carefully. I agree with the poster who suggests making a mockup in cheap polyester; a new mom may not be as excited about that very revealing neckline when she sees it on her new body!

        1. woodruff | | #9

          Bias can be beautiful, but it IS tricky, and I wouldn't recommend it for your maiden voyage, as it were, on expensive silk, for a public occasion. At least not without doing it on a muslin in a similar, cheaper fabric first. As the last poster noted, you will need a surprising amount of ease, if your SIL doesn't want every curve and bump showing, because bias hangs narrower, even with a modest amount of extra ease. Some experts recommend twice as much ease as you need for a woven fabric, so to be on the safe side, you're probably looking at 4-8" of ease. No kidding. In addition, your slippery silk on the bias will be uncontrollable as you cut and sew, if you don't use special techniques. Tilton recommends starting your bias sewing experiments with rather firm fabrics, which will behave in a softer, more knit-like manner when cut on the bias. She specifically recommends that beginners choose linen. Read, read, read about it first, using Sandra Betzina or Marcy Tilton's publications on the subject.

      2. mygaley | | #10

        Innerline charmeuse:  try a very lightweight cotton blend, perhaps poplin or even batiste.  These would be especially good cut on the bias.  By the way check the archives, there was an article within recent memory on working with bias.  Galey

        1. FitnessNut | | #11

          I may be wrong, but my gut instinct tells me to avoid bias in a flowy fabric like charmeuse if you don't want to call attention to the figure underneath. It would be MORE clingy rather than less, which may not be the best approach for this garment. And, by all means, make a sample garment to perfect the fit. If she isn't totally thrilled with the outcome, the two of you may wish to consider another pattern.

          1. mem | | #13

            I agree I have a curvet bod and I have to say that the bias over the curvey bits is a disaster. What does work is bias below the curvey bits ie a bias cut skirt with a top which skims the body ie cut on the grain and fitted to be not too large but to just skim the bulgey bits . The columnar effect of the bias skirt is very slimming but NOT over the bulges!!!!!!!


      3. Elisabeth | | #12

        I think the charmeuse would be very pretty in the Simplicity pattern. As long as the skirt is not tight in any place and there is enough ease that the hips don't get tight when sitting then cutting the fabric on grain (which it looks like the pattern is designed for) should work fine. Bias cut is lovely but takes a lot of fiddling to get to hang right and fit right and probably not so good for hiding bumps of any sort - think slinky 40's gowns. If the pattern is not designed for bias then just changing the pattern piece orientation will not work since bias demands more initial width.Charmeuse is nicely underlined with charmeuse, chiffon, or georgette, depending on the weight of the charmeuse and the look you want. You might consider using georgette just as a lining rather than bothering with underlining if you want it to be easier. Silk georgette has an airy texture that makes a nice underlayer and is comfortable against the skin and is realtively easy to sew. Again, make sure you have plenty of ease in the skirt, silk charmeuse is too gentle a fabric to stand up to stress.Enjoy the project, it sounds beautiful! Silk is so lovely to work with. You might like using silk thread or an all cotton lighter weight thread. The polyester all purpose stuff can pucker seams and not act so pleasing. Think of the old saying that the thread should never be stronger than the fabric, if the garment gets pulled the seam should rip first.

  6. sueb | | #14

    Would it be possible for you to take her to a store where she can try on a ready to wear dress that's made in a similar clingy style so she can actually see on her body what she may be getting?   Maybe a high end retail store that carries evening wear? 

    Is it possible that she is not concerned with how the finished product will accentuate her curves?  If you've told her and she's comfortable with that then I wouldn't worry about it.  There are some terrific tummy control products out there now like spanx (I know these are a favorite of Oprahs !)  http://www.spanx.com

    1. Marissa | | #15

      How on the target you all are.

      1. Decided after doing some research that I'm not going to cut this stuff on the bias.  Too much hassle for the bride to be and it really does seem like it will hug her curves more not less.

      2. I let her try on my muslin mock-up with my Spanx.   Dang that stuff sucks you in.  But still the pattern looked terrible.  I'm especially unfond of the flat front of the dress.  It just hangs there until it hits a bump, no darts, no pleats, nothing.

      3. I just called her this morning to see if she will go to the mall with me to try on dresses.  She really should see what the styles that look best on her are before we finalize a pattern.  Besides, it is fun to try on fancy expensive dresses and then make your own.

      Thanks for all the help thus far.


  7. SewNancy | | #16

    Recomend she get a spanx undergarment that will cover her problem areas and then fit the dress with this on. You can get it to go down to knees and up to under bust.

  8. Desiderata | | #17

    Hi, years ago I went to an experienced dressmaker with some wonderful gold silk brocade for a jacket and matching colour charmeuse for a bias cut skirt. I was 3mths pregnant at the time but there wasn't much to see.

    She firmly suggested that I NOT request a bias cut skirt because the fabric would not stop stretching at the hem. I heeded her advice because I had seen her work, she had made a wonderful wardrobe for my sister, the handwork exquisite. So a sixth sense told me not to argue.

    She cut the skirt in 6 gores with a flared hem. It was beautiful, at my second fitting I knew she was absolutely right. By the time the outfit was ready approx 4 weeks later she had also made allowance for my growing stomach. It was perfect. I really respect dressmakers who know their job.

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