Working with Lace

Peggy Bodice dress in red lace by Charm Patterns.

The Peggy Bodice pattern has quickly become one of Charm’s most popular patterns and it makes a fantastic party dress in lace!

Sewing with lace can be a bit tricky, so here’s a few of my favorite tips and tricks to make this beautiful dress.

Types of Lace

Lace is one of my favorite fabrics! It’s an openwork fabric made on special looms, and traditional lace is usually narrower than regular fabric (about 39 inches or 1 meter wide). Modern (and much more economical!) laces are made on standard looms and can be up to 60 inches (1.5 m) wide.

These are the main types of lace:

  • Chantilly lace, a very delicate web-like lace often with eyelash selvedge
  • Alençon lace, the lace I used for this red dress, with cording outlining the motifs
  • Guipure lace, a thick cotton or rayon lace with no net foundation
  • Stretch lace, a modern spandex-blend lace often used in lingerie
  • Embroidered tulle, not technically a lace but it can be used in similar ways

Special Considerations When Sewing with Lace

Because lace will be see-through, you’ll want to choose an opaque lining that is attractive. Great options include taffeta, shantung, charmeuse, crepe de chine, cottons, and cotton/silk blends.

Lace fabrics do not need to be pretreated or washed before sewing, and should always be dry cleaned.

Use French seams or another method to hide the seam allowances if they will be visible on the finished garment.

You may need to buy more lace than recommended yardage suggests for your pattern, as lace placement can be tricky. You may want to use the scalloped edges from the lace selvedge (like I did here on the sleeve and skirt hems), and you’ll want to be sure to place the motifs to their best advantage. Mirror the lace if possible, or balance the motifs across your garment.

For additional tips on sewing with lace, see the Techniques for Special Fabrics chapter of Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book.

Peggy Bodice dress in red lace by Charm Patterns.

Fabric & Supplies

  • The Peggy Bodice pattern, available to all Patreon members
  • Any of the Lamour-series bottoms. I used a simple gathered skirt, about 4-1/2 yards by my favorite skirt length (28 inches, plus seam allowance).
  • Lace fabric with a decorative selvedge.
  • Fabric for underlining the dress in a matching or contrasting color. We used a red cotton/silk satin from our stash.
  • A 24-inch standard nylon zipper
  • All other supplies listed in the Peggy Bodice pattern

Peggy Bodice dress in red lace by Charm Patterns.

Pattern Alterations

  • For the neck facings, use your underlining fabric instead of lace. You don’t want the lace (which can be irritating) against your skin.
  • Cut off a length of the lace selvedge, carefully trimming around the scallop shape with small scissors, and attach to the cut sleeve hem with a tiny zigzag stitch. Trim the excess carefully. The stitching will be almost invisible on the lace.
  • Hem the underlining fabric at the sleeve hem, 1/2 inch (in) (1.3 cm) shorter than the lace sleeve.
  • Underline the lace Peggy Bodice pattern pieces with your chosen underlining fabric. Baste together using a 1/2-in (1.3 cm) seam allowance around all edges and treat as one. Do not baste the sleeve hem.
  • Line the lace skirt with your same underlining fabric so they can move independently of each other. This shows off the lace’s decoration and sheerness, while still giving you full coverage.

Sewing Instructions

  • Sew the Peggy Bodice as instructed.
  • Hem the skirt lining. I shortened the lining by about 3 inches (7.6 cm) to really show off the pretty lace hem.
  • For the skirt, baste the lace to the underlining fabric along the raw edges and treat as one. Sew the center back seam to the zipper circle marked on your pattern. Gather the waist seam.
  • Attach the bodice to the skirt at the waistline and insert the zipper.

Peggy Bodice dress in red lace by Charm Patterns.