How to Make a Ballroom Dress

There are a lot of ballroom gown styles to choose from, including vintage Civil War looks. It is possible to make a ballroom dress without a pattern, but pattern manufacturers, such as Simplicity and Butterick, have some lovely styles. This project will be an eight-paneled strapless gown made from black velvet. It requires some knowledge of sewing, and dressmaking, if you choose to make your own pattern.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Dressmaker's paper
  • Pins
  • Marking chalk
  • Scissors
  • Black velvet
  • Steam iron
  • Sewing machine
  • Black slipper satin to line inside of the bodice
  • 2 bone stays
  • 18-inch zipper


  1. Measuring and Generating your Fitted Pattern

    • 1

      Measure the bust and around the waist. This is the bodice measurement for the strapless top.

    • 2

      Take the waist measurement and quadruple it. This will be the fit from the waist to the flare of the floor-length skirt. The material will be in eight sections and cut on the bias.

    • 3

      Translate the measurements to a paper pattern, sketched on dressmaker paper. The bodice will be a rectangle, half the width of the bust, plus 2 inches ease, folded in half and placed on the fold line. The back section is half the bust measurement, plus 2 inches ease, placed on the folded material.

    • 4

      To make the skirt pattern, divide the waist measurement into eight for the top and draw a seam that gradually increases to four times the width of the waist measurement at the hem. Add an extra 1 inch on each side of the flared pattern for seam allowance. Draw this panel the length of waist to hem, plus 2 inches for the turned hem. This will be placed on the folded material so that you cut out eight sections.

    Cutting and Sewing the Material

    • 5

      Cut the bodice from the velvet and also cut the lining for the bodice from black slipper satin. Cut the eight skirt panels on the bias of the fabric. This allows the fuller bottom edge to swing if it is on a 45-degree cutting line.

    • 6

      Pin the bodice piece and have someone help you make the bust darts. Turn the bodice inside out and put it around your chest. Pin the back shut on the seam line, Pinch the fullness of the material in, under the center bottom of each breast, and pin into a bust dart. Repeat with the satin lining.

    • 7

      Sew all of the darts in place. Use a wide zigzag stitch to attach the bone stays on the inside of the lining piece. Place the lining and bodice right sides together and stitch across the top. Fold open and stitch down the side seam of the liner over and across to the velvet. Complete seams down both sides. Sew up the back seam with a long running stitch. Hand stitch the point of both bust darts together to secure the bone stays. Repeat at the bottom of the bodice. Steam lightly, trim the seams and set aside.

    • 8

      Sew the four front and four back skirt panels together, seaming each section from hem to waist. Before sewing the last back seam, mark from the top of the bodice down 18 inches and into the skirt for the zipper insertion. Sew the last seam up to the marked point and then turn the stitch length to a running stitch as you seam up to the waist. Trim all seam allowances and lightly steam.

    • 9

      Pin the bodice to the skirt, right sides together, matching side and back seams. Stitch all around to secure the top and bottom of the ballroom dress. Sew in the 18-inch zipper, according to package instructions. Try the dress on and adjust the fit. Hem the bottom. Steam the dress before wearing.

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