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Couture Dressmaking Techniques

with Alison Smith
Couture Dressmaking Techniques
Elevate the beauty and longevity of any garment you sew. Learn couture dressmaking fundamentals with School of Sewing founder Alison Smith.

Create couture garments with a flawless look that lasts. Underline bodices to give them stability, structure and shape. Stabilize neck edges and shoulder seams so they never stretch. Create lovely shaping using slashed, balanced and contoured darts. Stitch crease-free princess seams and luxurious hand-finished necklines. Discover couture boning techniques for bodices that fit like a dream. Use sleeve heads and ribbon stays to sew gorgeous set-in sleeves with a touch of fullness and no wrinkles. Choose and insert impeccable linings by hand. Keep dresses from riding up or dragging with a waist stay. Harness couture dressmaking techniques to create special-occasion attire and everyday garments that eclipse high-end ready-to-wear.

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Lesson plan


Lesson 1. Introduction & Making a Muslin

  • Meet your instructor, Britain's premier sewing educator Alison Smith, and learn more about the couture touches you can use in your own dressmaking. The class is designed to be a reference resource – watch it all the way through or skip to the techniques you need for your project. Alison's instruction begins with altering your pattern pieces, making a muslin and cutting out fabric.


Lesson 2. Understanding Underlinings

  • Underlining and stabilizing your fabric will prevent wrinkles and sagging in your finished garment and greatly extend its wearable life. Alison discusses types of fabric you might use for underlining and the fashion fabrics that will benefit from their support, then shows how to attach underlining fabric to your pattern pieces and transfer markings with tailor's tacks. Learn to use a herringbone stitch to secure interfacing to a neckline, and padstitch when reinforcing a zipper or shoulder seam.


Lesson 3. Delightful Darts

  • A perfectly finished plain seam is the foundation of sewing. Master it and you're on your way to making beautifully finished darts, too. Alison demonstrates her techniques for the plain seam and for small and large darts that are contoured and balanced. If you haven't encountered a balanced dart before, prepare to be delighted with how easy and smooth it is.


Lesson 4. Perfect Curves

  • If you find princess seams and curved necklines intimidating, Alison is here to walk you through sewing those curves with confidence. The secret is in the pinning! You'll also learn techniques for clipping and notching seam allowances, and how to understitch a collar facing by hand for a couture touch.


Lesson 5. Beautiful Boning

  • Add structure to a strapless garment or to one with a heavy skirt by including boning in the bodice. A tailored garment in a loosely woven fabric can also benefit from such added support. Alison discusses the different kinds of boning and shows how to attach them to a variety of bodice types.


Lesson 6. Stunning Sleeves

  • Give your sleeves a professional finish by adding sleeve heads and ribbon stays. Alison shows how to make your own sleeve head from silk organza and attach it to your sleeve, then demonstrates how to ease the sleeve into the armhole for a perfect fit. Adding a ribbon stay in the seam allowance will stabilize the armhole and prevent your fabric from fraying.


Lesson 7. Fine Linings

  • Attaching a lining to a bodice by hand ensures a smooth edge and no chance of the lining coming loose or peeking out. Alison shows how to prepare the bodice and lining and use a flat-fell stitch to secure the two. If you're making a dress with a heavy skirt, such as a wedding gown, consider adding a waist stay to keep everything in its place.

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