Making an Irish dance dress

Someone on posted questions about making an ID dress. The last part of it summed it all up: “Would someone please answer some of my questions and advise me on whether or not I could make a decent… no, beautiful, Irish dance dress with NO SEWING EXPERIENCE!!!???”

Susan answered here wonderfully:


We’ve all heard stories about someone who never sewed a lick and just popped out a world-class dance dress. I haven’t ever seen one that was successful. I have seen pictures of some dresses that the maker claimed were first attempts at sewing anything, but of those that weren’t pretty lame, it turns out there was some experienced dressmaker guiding the process along the way.

Lately, I’ve received a bunch of emails from folks along the lines of: “I’m a real experienced dressmaker, but I’ve never made an ID dress before. How do I measure my daughter?” or “how hard is it to make a dress?” or “how long will this take” etc. Excuse me, if this person is “experienced” then she would know better than to ask these questions. She would know that there is no ONE answer to any of these questions.

I’m starting to wonder what “experienced dressmaker” means. Operating a sewing machine, no matter how many hours you log on it, gives you NO experience as a dressmaker. NONE. Operating a sewing machine I can teach you in half an hour. Dressmaking is the hours and hours and hours of work and skill that go into getting ready to sit down at that machine and sew.

Start here: Dressmaking Info.  Ann outlines the dressmaking process. Notice that sewing the dress together is at the very bottom of the list.

Are you good at following directions? Solving puzzles?

Are you patient enough to do something over and over and over again until it is correct?

Will you promise not to take shortcuts because you are in a hurry or because you don’t think a step is important?

Are you willing to go out and buy some cheap fabric and make an entire dress that you will throw away before you try to make a for-real one?

Are you willing to buy GOOD tools and a GOOD pattern (both are very unwise places to try and save a couple of dollars)?

Are you willing to give yourself enough time to accomplish this (think at least 6 months – probably longer)?

Your biggest hurdle will be getting a good fit. That isn’t something you just learn – it takes experience and trying things and understanding how to read wrinkles and fabric. If you are really committed to this project, even after reading Ann’s blog and my answers, I would still say don’t try to fit it yourself. You need to find a tailor or another ID dressmaker who will work with you and help you tweak your fit. You really do need someone to pin things while you have them on. So your first step is to find a mentor or buddy that will help.

Good luck. Keep us posted.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hpyswr
    Sep 26, 2007 @ 22:41:00

    This is the best thing I have ever read!! It is a perfect answer to that question.

  2. Trackback: Dressmaking for Experienced FDS « Taoknitter

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