A Year of Dresses: La Tulipe and Perfect Party Dress Mash Up

Can you believe we are on the 31st week of A Year of Dresses?  This might be my favorite dress so far!  I adore how this dress, or I should say, these dresses, turned out.

Let's start with a little bit of background.  I made three of these dresses as flower girl and Jr. bridesmaid dresses for a dear friend.

Her wedding was last Saturday and a beautiful fall affair.  The colors were just stunning.  I think fall might be my very favorite color pallet.  These dresses were custom made for the wedding using patterns of the bride's choice with a little modification.  Don't worry, I'll tell you just what I did for each step!

As you probably can tell, the bodice of these dresses is the La Tulipe Dress, but the skirt is definitely not a circle skirt.  I used the skirt cutting chart from the Perfect Party Dress.  If you didn't know, the bodice of  La Tulipe and the Perfect Party dress are the same finished width and length so the bodice and skirts can be interchanged without any modifications.  I used the sash from the La Tulipe pattern, but added a gathered sheer overlay for added depth and dimension, more on that later.

Where to start...?  Let's start with the patterns. La Tulipe is a girls size pattern ranging in size from girls 2-10.  The pattern as written features a sweetheart neckline, tulip sleeves. pleated sash ties, and a full circle skirt.  It is an advanced beginner level pattern with plenty of photos to help you at each step of the way.  Tulip sleeves are truly the easiest set in sleeves ever!  If you've never set in a sleeve, this pattern is a great place to start!

The Perfect Party Dress is also a girls pattern drafted for sizes 2-10.  It features a classic sleeveless bodice with a full gathered skirt and wide sash that finished is a beautiful bow.   The pattern also includes optional bib details and ruched hem ruffle options.  To read more about those options make sure to read this A Year of Dresses post. The perfect Party Dress Pattern is recommended for  beginner / advanced beginner level seamstresses.

Next, let's talk about fabrics.  Both the La Tulipe pattern and Perfect Party Dress patterns are designed for cotton fabric, but other woven fabrics can be substituted for a different look.  For these dresses I used a stretch velvet for the bodice, satin flat piping on the sleeves, and lined with tricot lining.  The sashes are satin with a chiffon overlay; the sash ties are chiffon.  The skirts are also satin with a chiffon overlay.

The bodices were by far the most time consuming element of these dresses.  Sewing with stretch velvet is a bit like sewing with minky.  It slips, slinks, and stretches easily.

Let's start with the sash.  I used the sash pattern piece from the La Tuipe dress and cut from pumpkin colored satin.  I then cut the chiffon overlay the same width of the pattern piece but twice as long.  Next gather the sides of the chiffon to match the length of the satin sash piece and baste both layers together close to the edge.  Now you can treat them as one piece.  Next, instead of pressing under the top edge and topstitching as directed in the pattern, I marked a placement line on the bodice, aligned the sash with the marking right sides together with the bodice and stitched in place 1/4" from the edge.  I then flipped the sash down and basted to the sides and bottom of the bodice.  I'm sorry, I made three of these dresses and forgot to take any pictures of this step!

For the sash ties in the back I used the same chiffon as the gathered overlay in front.  I cut the sash according to pattern instructions, but instead of seaming and turning as directed I used a rolled hem on my serger to finsih the edges. I then gathered the short end that attaches to the side seam to fit the width of the sash.  Make sure to align the top edge with the top of the sash and leave 5/8" from the raw edge on the bottom. Baste in place.

I then finished assembling the bodice as directed in the La Tullipe pattern.  I first tried lining the bodices using apparel lining, because I did not need the stretch properties of the velvet, but polyester apparel lining has no give and was not working well with slinky stretch velvet.  So I switched to a tricot lining designed for knit fabrics.  It worked much better and still stabalized the velvet as needed. Pins and the occasional dab of a glue stick were definitely my best friends while attaching the lining.  When you think you've pinned enough, add a few more just for good measure. Instead of topstitching the bodice edge, I used that advanced technique of understitching.  To understitch open the seam flat and sew the close to the seamed edge only through the lining and seam allowance.  This will keep the lining from rolling to the outside of the garment.

The sleeves are lined with apparel lining.  Keep in mind that the sleeve lining can sometimes be seen on a tulip sleeve.  Plum apparel lining definitely looks better than black tricot!  I used a flat satin piping in the sleeves.  To make flat piping cut a strip of satin on the bias 1" wide by the length of the sleeve edge.  Fold in half and match the raw edges with the edge of the sleeve. Baste in place.  Now continue with the sleeve lining and finishing as per the instructions.  

And breathe a sigh of relief!  The hardest part is done.  While working with special occasion fabrics takes a bit more time and patience than working with quilting cottons, but don't despair.  Take your time, sew a bit slower, and use lots of pins.  You can do this, and the results are so rewarding!

Moving on to the skirt.  This part is pretty easy.  The skirts are made from a layer of satin and a layer of chiffon.  They are cut from the Perfect Party Dress cutting chart except that I used the full bolt width (60" on special occasion fabrics) of the fabric for each the front and back skirt pieces..  I used the full width on all three dresses even though they are different sizes.  You'd never know that the fullness is slightly different on each dress.  The two flower girls (sizes 2 and 4) skirts knee length as per the pattern.  The Jr. Bridesmaid's dress (size 9/10) is lengthened to tea length.  The length was determined by measuring from the crease of her knee to mid calf where the dress was to fall and adding that number to the skirt length on the Perfect Party Dress pattern cutting chart.

I seamed the satin layer by sewing and then serging and hemmed with a blind hem stitch following the setting in my machine's manual.  I seamed the chiffon using a french seam.  To do this sew WRONG sides together using a 1/4" seam allowance, trim to 1/8". then fold on the seam (you now have RIGHT sides together) and sew again with a 1/4" seam.  A french seam is a great way to finish sheer fabrics where you do not want to see the serge through the fabric on the right side.  I hemmed the sheer with a rolled hem on my serger.  I used embroidery thread in my upper looper for a pretty shiny finish to the rolled hem. When hemming the chiffon I cut off about a 1 1/4" with my serger blade, leaving the chiffon a little longer than the satin.

My very favorite aspect of these special dresses is the color play going on in the skirt.  The satin layer is pumpkin orange while the chiffon is plum.  It gave the perfect depth and color to the dresses!

When gathering the skirts, instead of basting and gathering as one (the traditional method for gathering an over and underskirt), I gathered them separately.  I really wanted the chiffon to sit on top of the satin instead of in with it.  So I gathered the chiffon and basted to the bodice.  Then I gathered the satin and pinned it in place.  Finally I stitched through all the layers.  I found that there were too many layers for my serger blade to be able to cut smoothly so I trimmed the seam with my sewing sheers before serging to finish the seam.   

One final detail and this dress is done.  Because this was  fall wedding and maple leaves were a big part of the decorations, we added a leaf pin to the sash.  I made the pins by hot gluing purchased leaves to a broach pin and securing to the sash.  It was the perfect finishing touch!

Sit back and admire your beautiful dress.  This dress is slightly more involved than many dresses, but so worth it.  Miss 4 year old flower girl requested that the dresses be twirly.  The extra fullness in the skirt made them super twirly! 

I love the little peaks of pumpkin satin you can see
under the skirt in this shot.

Too sweet!

And there you have it!  Beautiful dresses that will be cherished forever. If you love a dressy holiday dress, try this dress in red or green, navy or silver.  The options are endless!  If I've left out any details you would like to know more about please ask and I will do my best to answer for you!

Here are the details of the the patterns I used to create these dresses. 

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