Lace dresses dominated this year's Oscars ceremony. Feminine and flirty frocks came down the red carpet in droves, from Mila Kunis in Elie Saab Couture to Scarlett Johansson in Dolce & Gabbana to Hailee Steinfeld and Halle Berry in Marchesa. Another example: Tough-talking Melissa Leo won Best Supporting Actress in Marc Bouwer. As fragile as the material may look on these heavy fashion hitters, sewing lace is simpler that you might think. Here's how:
Just the lace: There are three main types of lace: Chantilly (a delicate floral lace), Alençon (a needlepoint lace) and guipure (a firm, stiff lace with large motifs, like Melissa Leo's dress). Lace can range from very inexpensive to shockingly expensive. With each type, you will want to take special care in cutting and sewing and use techniques that are specific to the type of lace you are working with. Buy a little extra lace to help with matching pattern pieces; a half-yard is a good rule of thumb. For pricey laces, bring your pattern pieces and lay them out on fabric at the store to make sure you get exactly enough.
Lacey sewing basics: With a bit of knowledge and care, you can sew with lace like an expert. Raw edges will need to be finished to prevent raveling: You can either use a loose machine zigzag stitch or hand-roll and finish edges with an overcast stitch. Lay out pattern pieces so that motifs are matching and cut out around the motifs. To stitch together invisibly, use an appliqué technique by overlapping sections with motifs matching. Pin, baste, then hand- or machine-sew by lowering your feed dogs and stitching freestyle along overlapping motif lines to join. Trim excess lace along the appliqué lines.
Lace tricks: To sew a lace overlay on a garment so that the lace is layered on top of another fabric, as with Scarlett Johansson's Oscar gown, you will need to cut out both the fashion fabric and the lace with the same pattern piece. Then baste them together and sew as one piece of fabric. If you really want to get clever, you can cut out the fabric behind the lace for a peekaboo effect, like Johansson's décolletage. You can also add lace inserts as accents in a garment, even one of your ready-to-wear blouses. Really, it is completely possible to go crazy with lace once you get going.
For more "DIY Design" columns, click here. Next week, sew up a maxi-skirt and be on-trend for Spring 2011!
And check out the video below for a full Oscars fashion recap: