Sewing the strappy dress: bust darts and french seams.

So far we have prepared the bias and decorative straps, pressed and secured the front pleats and stay stitched the front neckline. Today we are going to sew the bust darts and side seams.

Bust darts

Sew the bust dart the usual way and press it down, then stay stitch the armholes 3 mm (1/8”) from the cut edge. While you are at it, stay stitch back neckline and back armholes.

Now you are ready to sew the side seams.

I know, you must be tempted to quickly run them under machine and forget about them, but slow down: it’s the boring seams that make a lot of difference to the longevity and general aesthetic of the garment. Make the seams pretty by using french seams instead of overlocking.

A few words about the width of seams.

I find that anything over 5 mm (3/16″) finished width looks home made on fine fabrics, and I’m very sensitive to this kind of thing. Plus, this little thing called turn of the cloth must be taken into consideration, no matter how fine your fabric is. With this in mind, I sew the first seam at 6 mm (1/4”) and the second at 5 mm (3/16″). I know, it is only 1 mm (1/16″) difference, but this is how I roll.

Since this dress is flared and the side seams are on the bias, it is easier to start sewing them from the hem up. This way the fabric will behave much better.

And so, place the back and the front of the dress wrong sides together and sew your first half of your french seam, from the hem up.

sew the first seam of the french seam

Then trim half of the seam allowances’ width and press.

trim seam allowances of the first seam

I like my edges sharp, so I press the seam allowances to one side with them facing up, then turn the work over and make sure the seam is open all the way, with no “lip” on either side.

Next, place your back and front right sides together and sew 5 mm (3/16″) away from the fold of the previous seam. Now press your work to form a sharp edge and then press seam allowances towards the back. You are done.

sewing the second seam of the french seam

Next time we are going to sew the most time consuming part of this dress – neck binding and straps. In a meantime, you can get your copy of this pattern here.




Lena Merrin
Lena Merrin

A dressmaker of many years, I enjoy drafting patterns and create custom garments.