How to Make a Dress Like a Taffeta Prom Dress or Cocktail Dress

Written by karyn bowman
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How to Make a Dress Like a Taffeta Prom Dress or Cocktail Dress
A prom dress that is made by hand ensures a unique dress for the event. (Jenny Acheson/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A homemade prom dress is like no other dress at the dance as it does not come from the same rack as every other dress. The maker has the benefit of choosing a colour that best suits her skin tone. Taffeta is a stiff form of silk that is perfect for creating poufed prom skirts that stand out with a little help from a slip made of netting.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Pattern
  • Taffeta fabric
  • Lining material
  • Sewing machine
  • Size 7 sewing machine needles
  • Thread
  • Silk pins
  • Cutting board
  • Newspaper
  • Marking pen
  • Hook and eye
  • Hand sewing needle

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  1. 1

    Go to a fabric centre and find a prom dress/cocktail style dress pattern. Using the recommendations on the back of the envelope, pick out fabric and lining material for the dress. At this time, buy any needed notions including sewing machine needles, thread and silk pins.

  2. 2

    Cut out all needed pattern places for dress style with scissors. Read pattern directions regarding pattern piece placement on the fabric. Lay cutting board out flat. Lay newspapers on top of the cutting board, then lay fabric according to the pattern directions. Once pattern placement has been completed, pin the pattern piece to the fabric and newspaper sheet. Cut out pattern pieces using the appropriate size line for guidance. Repeat this step for the lining material.

  3. 3

    Go over each cut out piece and use marking pen to mark each matching dot or arrow from the pattern onto the fabric and lining material. Read over the instructions before construction.


  1. 1

    Many patterns start by constructing the top of the dress. If there are shoulder seams, pin together the seams by matching positioning dots on the fabric and stitch together on sewing machine. Repeat this step with the lining material. For strapless dresses, begin by constructing the side seams. Pin front and back side seams of the right side together, matching positioning dots, and seam together on the sewing machine. Repeat this step with the lining material.

  2. 2

    With right sides of the fabric facing each other, pin together the dress top and the lining material, matching all connecting dots. Stitch together the two pieces of material. If there are curves to the neckline, clip fabric just to the seam line. Make an underpinning seam by sewing the lining to the seam allowance of the top of the dress. Iron the neckline flat.

  3. 3

    Pin bottom of the top together with the lining. Stay stitch the lining and bottom of the dress together with a 1/2 inch seam. Set aside.

  4. 4

    Begin construction of the skirt by placing right sides of fabric together for the right side of the skirt, matching placement dots along the way. Stitch the right side of the skirt together. On the left side, do the same and note the stopping point for the zipper. Stitch the left side of the skirt together, making sure to stop at the stopping point.

  5. 5

    Make the hem of the skirt by folding over the bottom of the skirt a 1/4 inch on the wrong side of the fabric towards the top of the skirt. Press as you go along. Repeat this step, pinning the hem after each pressing. Stitch down the hem at the top of the fold.

  6. 6

    Baste the top of the skirt if the skirt is gathered. Pin the skirt top to the dress bottom, right sides facing each other and using marking dots as guides for placement. Stitch together, leaving a generous 5/8 inch seam allowance at each end.

  7. 7

    Press a 5/8 inch seam allowance on each side of the seam facing the inside of the dress. Open the zipper. Pin the zipper to the inside of the dress fabric on both sides. Using the seam line on the zipper, stitch the zipper down the left side. Making sure the needle is down in the zipper, lift the foot and turn the zipper so it is facing towards the right. Put down foot and stitch towards right seam line. Stop with needle down in the zipper. Close zipper and turn it towards you. Stitch down the zipper using the seam line as a guide.

  8. 8

    Pin lining material just on the other side of the seam guiding line. Open zipper. Stitch down the left side, using the zipper thread line on the outside of the dress as a guide. Repeat this step on the right side of the zipper.

  9. 9

    Set the machine to the appropriate width for a zigzag stitch and stitch together seam allowance for the skirt and top. Press towards the skirt. Hand sew the hook and eye closure at the top of the zipper. Clip any leftover threads.

Tips and warnings

  • Pinning the dress pattern on the taffeta and lining material with newspaper keeps the slippery fabric from moving around when cutting out the material.
  • Silk pins are short and very sharp pins best suited for the slippery material as they do not move around as much as regular pins.
  • Size 7 sewing machine needles are best suited for thinner materials such as silks, taffeta and lining material.
  • Doing an underpinning seam makes the lining lie better under the fabric of the neckline.
  • Using the wrong size needle with the fabric can cause the fabric to be pushed inside the needle hole of the plate on the machine, ruining the fabric in the process.
  • Make sure the iron is at the right setting with a scrap of dress fabric. If the iron is too hot, it can melt the fabric.

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