The Simple Strapless Dress–not really….

Lately several inquiries have come my way to make a “simple strapless dress”.  Last fall, my husband and I attended a wedding where the attendants wore strapless dresses–that didn’t fit.  My husband looked at me and said “they keep pulling their dresses up”.  I have heard several men say they “hate those strapless dresses that all the girls keep pulling up”. 

To the untrained eye, a strapless dress looks “simple”.  They don’t have a neckline, shoulder area or sleeves that need to be fitted.  This style is one of the most difficult silhouettes to construct and wear.  It is what you don’t see that makes these dresses hang correctly and a pleasure to wear.  The most luxurious and well-planned garment cannot succeed without the proper inner structure.  Strength must be built into the bodice that creates a smooth torso; supports the figure; enhances posture; flatters the wearer; and supports the weight and style of the skirt.  All of this works together providing a garment that is without distorion; stays wrinkle-free; and allows a reasonable range of movement.

While a tight bodice goes a long way in supporting a heavy gown, further inner support is usually needed.  If you rely only on a tight bodice, you will be disappointed with the end result.  If the bodice is too tight, the wearer will have a “muffin top” spilling over the top of her dress–not a flattering look, even for those with perfect figures.  Also, if the fashion fabric has any stretch properties (i.e., lycra, spandex, etc.), the garment will begin to “grow” while it is being worn; resulting in that ineviable “pulling up” of the dress.

The first step in creating any garment that fits properly is to make a muslin; which, is a test garment.  This provides an opportunity to fine-tune the fit, add or modify details, and adjust the garment’s proportions to the wearer’s figure.  This step alone can consist of several fittings and design changes.  These changes are then transferred into the construction of the garment.

Boning and the waistline stay are a strapless dress’s engineering tools; working together to counteract the force of gravity.  They are needed because the female body widens both above and below the waistline.  A sagging bodice is generally the result poor construction and fit that is compounded by the weight of the skirt pulling the whole gown downward.  Adequate boning, firm underlining and a secure waistline stay will shape the top edge of the bodice, guarantee a more comfortable fit, and result in a more flattering dress.  Eliminating any of these elements will compromise the success of the garment.  Keep in mind, the more you have up front, the more support you will need.

Boning is sewn into the under construction of the dress bodice to prevent horizontal wrinkles and support the garment.  The amount of boning used varies with the weight of the dress or gown, and the placement is planned during the muslin phase of the garment.  The security that boning gives far outweighs its presence.  The boned bodice stands on the stay, and the skirt hangs from the stay.

Adding a waistline stay ensures a better-fitting and more comfortable dress.  It acts as an anchor that can’t be pulled off-center, because it is placed at your waist–the smallest part between your shoulders and hips.  A stay can also ease the strain at the zipper on close-fitting garments, support the weight of a dress’s full or heavy skirt and control the way a dress hangs, which creates a smoother line on your figure.

Strapless dresses are very much “in Vogue” today and can be dressed up or down, depending on the event.  They can also be worn more than once if planned correctly.  Attendants in weddings incur significant costs; one, of which, is their dress.  If a strapless dress is the desired style, why not think about using fabric and style that can be transferred into a dress that can later be worn for another special occasion.  This can often be accomplished by merely shortening the dress.