Hack Your Own Designer Gown

October 26, 2016 DIY

Lets get this clear. I AM NOT A DRESS MAKER! My dress maker Mother bought me my first bought dress on my 10th birthday because I begged her to. I tore the frill off at first break at school (we laughed about the cheap quality). I had home made dresses all my life, and when I became a teenager, she tried so hard to teach me. But NO. I don’t follow patterns, wouldn’t follow rules, and refused to sit patiently and learn her craft. My Mum will be rolling her eyes reading this. Sorry, Mumma you know it. I am a HACK. I find my own way — trial and error — and I am too stubborn to follow rules. So this is the Sue Bryce hack version, hand stitched, no patterns. Really, this was me wanting a little creative project on an idle Sunday when it’s too easy to go sit at the computer and work. Total Cost $39 and a whole lot of fun.

1. These mannequins are expensive. The cheapest I have found are $90, but they are really good to drape and pin onto. Also, if you are attracting visuals for your brand, your marketing PDF, and social media, they look great for Blogs and Posts, etc, and Behind the Scenes. Remember, it’s all about marketing on the periphery.

2. This is a $10 wholesale corset bra. It was brand new, and it was white. I stained it with 4 tea bags, rinsed, and dried. (It is easier to pin and drape on an existing bodice.) You can also buy an ugly, old dress and cut the shirts and sleeves off to use the bodice to build new gowns. This would be the hardest part for me to make, and because I am not a dress maker, using the structure or recycling old dresses is the best.

I pinned the tulle where I wanted it to go and cut it. I had so many options here to create different shaped neck lines.

I used a thin piece of ribbon for the waist band and cut the tulle roughly in about 1.6 m long strips, using 12 long pieces. I, one by one, pulled them through the ribbon so that’s about 20 yards of tulle that I got for $1 a yard wholesale from the fashion district in LA. I haven’t ever done it this way before, so it means the strips are not stitched together. It makes the skirt fuller, and it moves differently I will shoot it on Wednesday and see if it affects the movement of the dress or how my client sits in it.

With all the strips pulled through, I then stitched around the ribbon while it was on the mannequin, being careful not to stitch the mannequin fabric ha.

I used two different colors of tulle — every second strip — so there is texture in the skirts.

Leaving ribbon at the back creates a wrap around that means most sizes can wear it

I used white tulle as it’s cheaper than colored tulle. I stained it with tea bags and then rinsed the tulle. That’s why it looks scrunched and vintage. The softer the tulle, the better it looks.

I then stitched the breast line tulle on to the corset and up and over onto the straps. I thought if they over power the client too much (too wide), I can stitch them a little thinner at the top of the shoulder.

Here is an alternative to the corset. I found this belt for $10, and the client can bring their own bra, or a billowing blouse would look very beautiful. I always use these skirts on the hip, so they look more flattering as they are bulky and can make even little waists look fuller if they wear the skirt lower then the bodice or the corset tapers the waist. Remember, the client can also bring their own corset. This helps personalize styling.

Now I have stitched the skirt and the bust line. I’m using the last scrap of tulle to loosely cover the bodice.

I pinned it on and then tacked it onto the bodice, gathering as I stitched. I followed the line that the corset already had to make it look authentic and emphasize the existing lines.

The accouterment I found at trimexpoonline for $9. I added that for extra bling sparkle.

Overall, the tulle cost $20, the bling cost $9, the corset $10, and I had a lot of fun. I have already showed my client for this Wednesday, and she said “YES, PLEASE, can I wear that?” Ha. So, I will post her images later this week. Enjoy playing and please show me your creations and ideas.


  1. I woke up the other morning knowing how to make a tulle skirt — it was almost exactly what you’ve done here. In my vision I used a piece of tulle instead of ribbon, so it would be flat against the body. Then I envisioned adding some sparkly trim or wrapping another piece of tulle around it to cover the stitching. Thanks for the bodice — that part wasn’t in my dream.