How to Make a Little Black Dress

Little black dress
Little black dress (Image: Image by Dallagio)

Little black dresses (or the LBD) were made famous by the one and only Coco Chanel in the period of rebirth after World War II. When first introduced, the "LBD" meant an A-line dress like the one worn by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Nowadays, it's been totally reinvented to include almost any style, as long as it's cocktail length (to the knee) and black.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric
  • Needle and Thread
  • Scissors
  • Chalk (optional)
  • Paper (optional)
  • Pattern (optional)

Flip through magazines and surf the Internet. Look at different pictures of women wearing the "Little Black Dress." Decide what style you'd like to make. There is so much freedom now that you're almost not bound by any rules.

Have a friend help you take your measurements. You'll want to know the measurements for your arms (circumference if your dress is sleeveless and both circumference and length if you'll be adding sleeves), for the distance from your shoulder to your knee, and for your waist, bust and hips. This will help you pick out a pattern or design one yourself.

Make a trip to the fabric store. Look in the pattern books to see if there are any that match the dress you are going for. It doesn't matter if the final product pictured is black or not, you can make it black. Just pick a style that you're comfortable with.

Sketch a design of your dress, if you've chosen to make your own pattern. Draw the front and back so you're absolutely sure how it will look.

Draw the pattern in pencil on butcher paper. It will probably be easiest to draw the front and back of the bodice and the front and back of the skirt separately. You'll want the waist to fall at about your natural waist, so take that into consideration when drawing the bodice. Drape the pattern onto your body so you'll be sure it will fit you correctly. You should draw the pieces around the neck and sleeves about 1/4-inch bigger and the areas around the bodice and skirt about 5/8-inch larger. This is called seam allowance so that you can later hem or shape your dress, if necessary (although a little black dress won't need much, if any, shaping).

Pick out fabric. Cotton is fairly easy to work with for those with less sewing experience. Satin is the most difficult. Decide what works for you. Make sure you have enough for your entire dress (remember the dress will include a front and a back).

Pin the paper pattern that you've made or the premade pattern to your material and cut it out. Alternatively, you can use chalk to trace the pattern if you want to reuse it.

Sew the cut pieces of fabric together. Follow the steps the pattern has given you, or first sew the front and back of the bodice together, then sew the skirt together. Finally sew the the bodice to the skirt. You can use a sewing machine or sew by hand, although it is easier to get an even stitch with a sewing machine.

Hem the skirt. Decide what length is appropriate after holding it up to your body. Remember, the little black dress should come to just above the knee. Cut your material to the desired length, then tuck the material back about an eighth of an inch and sew. Do the same thing with the collar and sleeves for a more polished look. You may want to sew to parallel lines in the hemming to prevent accidental tears.

Tips & Warnings

  • A dress is a huge undertaking. It may be easier to have someone show you how to sew before you dive into this project and make several small items in order to work your way up to making a dress.

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