Oscar de la Renta Chiffon Dress

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

When I first joined the Mood Sewing Network one of the things that excited me most was having a wide variety of beautiful fabrics I’d never used before at my fingertips. I’ve really tried to challenge myself to sew with new and slightly trickier fabrics this year; so this month I decided to take the plunge and try one of the most infamously tricky fabrics to handle and gave in to my urge to snap up some of this stunning printed silk chiffon from Oscar de la Renta.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I probably should have picked a slightly more straightforward garment for my first chiffon project but I have a tendency with my sewing to jump right in feet first and all I could envision this fabric as was a dress with a full, floaty skirt. So that’s exactly what I did! I chose the skirt from By Hand London’s Flora Dress as this was the fullest skirt I could think of. It is a  I had an image in my head of the movement of contemporary ballet skirts and knew that many of these are formed of layers of chiffon and lightweight silk so I chose this antique white silk crepe de chine for my lining/underlining. I used just the one layer of the crepe in my skirt, if I’d been sure the whole project was going to work out or if it had been for an extra special occasion I probably would have put a second one in to add a bit more plushness to swirl of the skirt. As it is I am so delighted with the movement and the weight of the chiffon and crepe de chine together. It doesn’t show up fully in photos but hopefully these two give you some kind of idea!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress
For the bodice I chose view A of Simplicty 1876. Fitting the bodice was pretty straightforward because of those princess seams. It also helped that most of my fitting problems stem from excess length between the shoulder and bust which obviously isn’t an issue with this design! The boned, strapless style meant I was going to need fabric with a bit more structure for the bodice pieces. I therefore chose to use the crepe de chine as underlining in this area and added a cotton batiste lining with silk organza interfacing. I didn’t want to the halter strap to be too rigid or too weak so I used the chiffon, crepe and batiste for strength but no organza here. I cut a size 10 of both the bodice and skirt and used 2 yards of the chiffon, 2.5 yards of the narrower crepe de chine and just 0.5 yards of both the batiste and organza.
Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

Silk organza was used a lot throughout this dress. Stabilising is key when using fabrics this delicate for a fitted dress. I stitched selvedge strips of organza to the seam allowances where I was going to insert the zip (in place of the fusible interfacing I usually use) and stitched bias strips of it into the seam allowance along the neckline instead of stay tape as I thought even a narrow twill tape would be too bulky.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I used this fabric covered boning from Mood Fabrics which I will admit I was a little apprehensive about ordering as it was such a bargain for a whole roll! However, it turned out to be absolutely perfect for this particular project as both narrow and lightweight meaning that it would not put too much stress on the delicate silk nor show a ridge through to the outer side. The plastic bone can be removed from the casing which is different to similar products I’ve bought here in the UK before. It makes it much easier to work with as when sewing the seams across each end you can push the boning away slightly and not risk breaking your needle by catching the end. I really like the boning that comes pre-covered as I could just sew it straight onto the wrong side of the batiste lining once it was assembled, aligning it over each seam line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I’ve been reading Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques recently and it got me fired up to try out some more involved techniques to make the most of the delicate chiffon. Don’t get me wrong, I still started each step pretty terrified about what I was about to encounter but I was up for the challenge! One of the main things I took from her book was how to add a petersham waist stay. Even with these super fine fabrics that full skirt is surprisingly weighty and I didn’t want it to distort the shape of the bodice or add stress to the delicate fabrics.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I used french seams on both layers of the skirt. I expected these to be quite frustrating in the chiffon but both fabrics responded well to pressing so I managed to achieve a neat and smooth result. I wish I’d been a bit more aggressive in trimming down the allowance of the first seam so that the completed seam was narrower and more delicate in appearance but it’s not a major issue, just something to remember next time! The bodice seams are all enclosed within the lining so I chose just to pink these to reduce some of the bulk and risk of fraying.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress
I hand basted each of the bodice layers together (chiffon to crepe and organza to batiste) and used very little steam throughout as I know the loose weave of chiffon means it has a tendency to shrink and stretch. I used a brand new size 60 sharps needle in my machine, made sure not to back tack when sewing with the chiffon on it’s own and kept hold of the thread tails when starting off a line to stitching to prevent. All this really worked to help prevent snags, knots or fabric getting ‘eaten’ by the machine. I did a lot of research into sewing with lightweight silks and noticed many people recommended not to use pins at all. With these shifty fabrics I knew I wanted to use A LOT of pins to keep everything in place so I simply made sure to use silk pins and keep them within the seam allowances. I used a combination of pins and weights when cutting and (although a rotary cutter seems to be the preferred cutting implement for silk I had some huge pattern pieces for that skirt) I used shears, cutting everything out in a single layer on carpet which helped prevent pieces shifting off grain.
Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I feel like I could ramble on for hours about the construction and different techniques I used but I’ll save you the longest read in the history of the MSN and share some more detailed insights and pictures on my blog later in the week! All in all I’m really proud of this dress and certainly won’t shy away from working with chiffon or lightweight silks again. It’s very time consuming and requires some patience but I really enjoy a challenging project like this. The process was a mixture of ups and downs (the downs namely being slipstitching the lining down at the waist and that hem…argh!) but most aspects actually came together better than expected and with surprisingly infrequent use of the unpicker!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress
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Comments


  • Sue @ A Colourful Canvas
    October 20, 2014

    Oh, so very pretty and romantic! There’s isn’t anything better than silky, slippery fabrics when it comes to challenging sewing skills! You’ve done a brilliant job! I can’t believe you’re a novice!

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      O thanks Sue! I’m a very patient novice! I love a good challenging project like this to push myself!

  • Carolyn
    October 20, 2014

    Wow Fiona, this is a masterpiece! I love all the details you’ve added, and I enjoyed reading about all of the construction techniques. I’m also current reading Claire’s book, and there are so many great gems of wisdom in there! It’s exciting to see you put some to good use. Congrats on a really well-made and beautiful dress! :)

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thank you Carolyn! I am absolutely loving Clare’s book, it’s really inspiring me to try some new things and advance my sewing skills. Deciding what to make next so I can put some more techniques to good use is the next challenge!

  • carolyn roemer
    October 20, 2014

    Your dress is lovely and floaty. My girls say that is this year’s look. So I’m taking your tips to heart. I’m about to start a silk dress also.

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      O good luck with your dress, I hope reading about what helped me benefits you somehow! I tried to not put any time pressure on myself with this so I could enjoy the process and get it just right.

  • DebB
    October 20, 2014

    That dress is absolutely perfect on you! Congratulations on such a beautiful garment. I love seeing all of the construction details you showed. Your time invested certainly paid off!!

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thank you. Working with this silk was very time consuming but so worth the effort in the end! I’m glad you enjoyed reading about the construction, it’s often my favourite thing to read about on sewing blogs!

  • Cennetta
    October 20, 2014

    Goodness! This is a lovely dress, Fiona. My hats off to you for trying different fabrics and creating new challenges in dressmaking for yourself. Bravo!

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thank you Cennetta! I think it’s really important to challenge yourself and try new things, for me it’s one of the things that keeps me motivated to sew

  • Mac
    October 20, 2014

    Very beautiful dress and you look fabulous in it.

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thank you! It feels lovely too!

  • Sandra (Sewist-Stitch)
    October 21, 2014

    Your dress is beautiful. You managed the chiffon so well and it shows in the finished dress. Very inspiring!

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thanks Sandra. I was really nervous about working with the chiffon and had visions of everything shifting about and getting twisted and puckered seams but taking it slow and doing thorough research really helped

  • Ginger
    October 21, 2014

    Wow! This dress is a real stunner! I’m so impressed!!!

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thanks Sonja, I’m pretty impressed with myself! I think luck was on my side with this one a bit too…!

  • Peter
    October 21, 2014

    This is such a lovely dress, Fiona, and I really enjoyed reading about the challenges involved in making it. It’s great that you’re willing to work with fabrics I generally avoid out of fear!

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      O Peter, if I can handle a bit of chiffon you definitely can! It’s just very time consuming and at times a wee bit frustrating!

  • Denise
    October 21, 2014

    Beautiful and well done! Timely too, given the designers passing this week.

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thank you Denise. Yes it was a bit of an odd coincidence! I am really pleased I succeeded in making one of the best things I have yet in tribute with this fabric

  • Amy
    October 22, 2014

    It looks absolutely beautiful. I hope you have many occasions to wear it

    • Fiona
      October 23, 2014

      Thanks Amy! I think I’m going to have to make some as it feels so great to wear! Luckily a lot of friends are getting married at the moment, they just might have to get used to me wearing the same dress a lot!

  • Amanda S.
    October 23, 2014

    Really really pretty!

  • justine
    October 27, 2014

    Just divine workmanship!

  • Sew Busy Lizzy
    October 29, 2014

    Fabulous gorgeous dress and a real work of art that you should be proud of. In fact – you could wear it inside out. Perfect choice of pattern and I bet you enjoy wearing this…. again and again and again.