Key elements of couture sewing include the underlying structure, hand craftsmanship, impeccable finishing and embellishment details that enhance the garment. By adopting a few tricks from couture designers, you can lend a couture feel to your garments without spending the time to construct everything by hand.
Make Custom Trims
On a Chanel-style suit jacket made from a loosely woven fabric such as nubby wool, bouclé or tussah silk, make your own custom trim. Unravel long fibres from the extra fabric, secure the fibres with a pin and braid them to create flat trim. Stitch the trim to pockets, sleeve openings, the neckline, front and hem edges. For another option, cut 1-inch-wide strips of the jacket fabric and pull the threads along the length of both sides of the strips to make double-edged fringe. Cover the centre of the strip with commercially made braid and sew into place.
Use a Corselet
The bodice of a couture gown may fit loosely while having the support of a separately constructed boned corselet attached inside at the waist. Finish the top edge of the boned corselet with 2 inches of bias fashion fabric to match the dress, especially if the neckline has an off-the-shoulder silhouette that may shift and reveal the corselet as the wearer moves. The corselet may end at the waist or extend 6 inches below the waist.
If a top or dress has long armhole openings that may expose the wearer's undergarments, make a camisole and sew some of the fashion fabric to the camisole under the arms. Even though the underarm area of the camisole will show, it will match the fashion fabric and look like a layer of the dress or top.
Dress up metallic buttons by adding fabric-covered rings beneath them. For this Chanel-style technique, use plastic rings with a diameter larger than the metal buttons. Cover each plastic ring with a circle of fabric twice the diameter of the ring. Hand-stitch around the perimeter of the fabric circle, place the plastic ring in the centre and draw up the thread. Pierce the centre of the fabric circle and push the shank of the metal button through it.
Add a Waist Stay
Add a 1-inch-wide grosgrain ribbon waistline stay that wraps around the waist on the inside of a dress. The stay becomes the structure that supports the weight of the skirt and prevents the skirt from pulling the bodice down or out of shape. On a dress with a waistline seam that joins the bodice to the skirt, you can stitch the lower edge of the stay all the way around the waist seam allowance, leaving 2 inches on each side of the zipper unattached. Add two hook-and-eye closures to the ends of the ribbon. On a dress without a waistline seam, tack the ribbon to the side seam allowances. Close with hooks and eyes.
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- "Threads" magazine; Shortcuts to a Designer Jacket; Cheri Dowd; December 2006-January 2007
- "Couture Sewing Techniques"; Claire Shaeffer; 2001
- "Threads" magazine; Inside a Chanel Jacket; Susan Khalje; October-November 2005
- "Threads" magazine; Couture Techniques for Every Sewer; Susan Khalje; February-March 2001
- Burda Style; How to Add/Install a Waist Stay -- "Fiskars Unzipped"; loyl8; February 2011