High Fashion on a Low Budget: How to Sew Your Own Ball Gown

High Fashion on a Low Budget: How to Sew Your Own Ball Gown

Formal events are a bit like old age: inevitable, but far more enjoyable if you’re prepared! A last-minute scramble to find a gown can leave you stressed and heavily out of pocket.

Not to mention you’re at the mercy of Zara’s poxy collection. Who on Earth thought puffed-up sleeves were a flattering design choice?

If you’ve got a few weeks until the important day, you’re in the perfect spot to create your own gorgeous statement: fully tailored; exquisitely flattering; and not breath-takingly expensive.

Though possible with old-school needle and thread, sewing machines or sergers will absolutely make this process easier (and potentially less prickly!)

First step: Fabric & Design.

First, take your pick of dress design. Are you partial to a strapless bandeau or a full-throttle fortuna gown sort of gal?

Be careful to consider your own deadline and skills. If you’re a complete newbie, then go for simpler but still-beautiful cuts such as a high neck bodice and circle skirt. Satin is definitely harder to work with, but can make for a beautiful finish.

If you can, go and check out a local fabric store. This is not only more sustainable as you’re shopping locally, but allows you to really feel the weight and movement of a fabric. Sequins can seem like a fantastic idea – until you order the fabric online and you find it’s incredibly itchy!

As for the amount of fabric: you’ll need up to 6 metres, depending on your pattern choice. Speaking of…

Grab a Pattern

Once you’ve got a few ideas, shop around for a suitable dress pattern. You’ll need a pattern suitable for the fabric of your choice.

Thankfully, free patterns are available online. With these, you download the pattern and print it onto paper. Once assembled, you choose your size, cut out and and start tracing the pieces onto your fabric. 

Make sure to cut outside the lines on your fabric! This gives you ample room for seams later.

Most patterns will come with instructions. These always follow a similar format, which is why dresses are fantastic projects for beginners. 

Pin & Sew

Once you’ve cut out your pattern pieces, start assembling. Each segment will have its own number, which corresponds to the piece it’s to be sewn to.

Take two pieces at a time and securely pin them together. This stops the fabric from slipping as you sew it.

Make sure to test your sewing machine with a piece of scrap fabric: if the tension or stitch settings need adjusting, it’s far easier to find out this way!


Darts are small, v-shaped markings on a pattern. Sew one edge of the ‘v’ to another. It’s what gives a three-dimensional shape to a flat fabric.

Seaming, Hemming & Finishing

Once your dress panels are connected to one another, you’ll notice a strip of fraying fabric. This needs to be tucked into itself to protect the delicate edge. We wouldn’t want those hours of hard work to unravel on the dance floor!

Using a three-thread stitch, slowly secure the rolled-in hem. This lends a beautiful, professional finish to your beautiful ball gown.

The final, crucially important part of the process: try it on and give yourself a twirl!

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