Sewing Bridesmaid Dresses: #2 in the Making

Design Idea: Pleated Taffeta

If you’ve followed a few postings you probably know that I’m not the type of person who starts a garment and sticks with it through to completion before moving on to the next creation.   Some call it multi-tasking and others may say there’s a DSM-IV code for this pattern of behavior.  Either way it works for me as I need segments of time to think about how to take the next step in constructing a garment.  Reminds me of how I took home movies of our children, pointing and zooming from one target to another.  Sorry if this approach makes you dizzy.

The second bridesmaid dress which is being made for our oldest daughter Angela, is taking form.  McCall’s 4440 was the starting point as Angela wanted a “V” style neck and an empire waist.

McCalls 4440

Seeing a ready-to-wear dress with a pleated top gave me an interesting design idea but at that point I didn’t envision how tough it is to pleat taffeta.  I’ll go through what didn’t work and then will do a brief tutorial on what did work.

Pleating Taffeta:  What didn’t work

  1. Using a Clotilde 1/4″ pleater.  Using every fold at 1/4″ was too small whereas pleating every other at 1/2″ was the right size pleat but the return was too small – it just didn’t look good.  In addition to the look this pleating method created small bruises in the fabric where I tucked it into the pleater. On to Plan B.
  2. Iron-on interfacing.  After it was ironed on the pleats stayed in place but the fabric was so well ironed that the beauty and texture was lost.
  3. No matter what I tried (except iron-on interfacing), unsewn pleats just wouldn’t stay in place for the intended purpose.

Pleating Tutorial

  1. Start with a large piece of fabric – I used a 36″ long by 44″ wide piece as I needed enough to cut two front pieces on the diagonal.  After pleating there was about 11-12″ by 36″ of usable fabric, depending on how you plan to use it as some of the 12″ is the edge – I’ll talk more about that later.
  2. Measure and then fold 1-3/4″ from one selvage.  This will be your first pleat.
  3. Sew exactly 5/8″ from the edge of the fold.  You now have pleat #1 completed.
  4. Cut a piece of cardboard or straight edge 1-1/4″ wide.
  5. Tuck the cardboard into the first pleat (see photo below) and make a chalk line at the edge of the straight edge.  This is your next fold line.
  6. Sew exactly 5/8″ from the edge.
Marking the foldline
Marking the fold line

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until your eyes start watering and go cross-eyed.  By that time you’ll have about 3″ of usable fabric.  By now you know that this isn’t a job for a day when you’re short on patience or you have too much coffee.  Dare not have a hang-over for this task!

8. Seriously, keep repeating steps 5 and 6 until you are at the edge of the fabric.

Below is a photo of the back of the fabric.  Complaining aside, it’s simply gorgeous when completed.  More to come in my next post.  Please share your experiences – did I find miss some simple way to do this?

back of pleated fabric

4 thoughts on “Sewing Bridesmaid Dresses: #2 in the Making

  1. All I can say is WOW. I need to make a MOB dress for June and haven’t decided what to do. But a pleated or quilted (2 thin fabrics) bodice has been on my mind.


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