Finished edges on ballroom gown

Alright, my ballroom buddies! I have yet another question to ask you about making a costume!

FYI, I am making a lady's american smooth costume. I am making the bodice and body suit out of four way stretch lycra and I am making the skirt out of silk chiffon. The skirt is wonderfully full, and I'm really pleased with it.

Now what I'm struggling with is learning how to create nice, finished edges on the lycra. When i look at a costume I borrowed from a friend, a particular sewing technique has been used to finish off the edges. I know its not surging/overlocking. What is it? How do I do it? please help!

Also, if I wanted to create a low backed dress, how would I make sure that the edges were stiff/firm/formfitting enough to prevent puckering and keep the fabric fitted to my back?

Thanks! I only hope that someone has answers to my questions :)


New Member
Without seeing a close-up picture of your friend's dress, it's difficult to guess how it was finished. I have finished lycra dresses by serging, by just cutting the edge and leaving it raw, by putting a narrow hem in, by sewing narrow elastic (without stretching) into the hem and then turning it up and sewing it down, by sewing polyester horsehair braid into the hem and then turning it up and sewing it down, and by using a decorative stich from my friend's machine that can do like 50 kinds of non-serger-style stitching. A look that was popular for a while was to bind off the edge of the hem with satin or velvet binding.

Oh, and it's out of style now, but I've also sewn Rigeline (boning) into the hem.

You have lots of options. What did you have in mind for the look you wish to achieve?

As for the fitting, the best way I've been able to make low-backed dresses work is to build the dress in two parts: a bodysuit, and a skirt. Ideally, you want the bodysuit and its openings to sit against your body without you having to use elastic to hold it in place. Rather, the elastic simply finishes the edges and keeps them from getting stretched out of shape over time. The curvier you are, the more difficult this is, especially if you have a big butt like I do that curves out away from your back.

Most bodysuit patterns I've worked with are much too large for the "ballroom" fit, so if you are having problems with it gapping or hanging away from the body then the garment was simply cut too big to begin with.

Anyway, once you've got the bodysuit worked out, cut the skirt separately and sew it on top of the bodysuit at or near the hips. You will need to have the bodysuit on a dummy or on the wearer when you pin the skirt to the bodysuit, that will make sure that the place where the skirt is sewn to the bodysuit will be properly stretched out. You can cover the seam with lots of stones, or a belt, or sash.
What look? I simply want to be the most beautiful lady on the floor :D ... quite a lofty goal.

In all seriousness, I'm making a very classy, old Hollywood style smooth gown.


New Member
Well, if you want a contrast band at the bottom, you would probably bind off the edges as I mentioned above. If the fabric doesn't run or fray, then you can just cut the hem and leave it raw. If you want the kind of stiff loopy hem that stands way out like was popular 10 years ago, you'd sew in the Rigeline (not sure if I spelled that right). If you want a tiny bit of stiffening to give shape, then sewing in 1/2" or better yet 3/8" wide polyester horsehair braid gives a very nice finish. If your design calls out for a basic hem and the lycra is finicky and won't hem right, then sew 1/8" wide elastic (without stretching) all the way around the edge and then turn it up and sew it down to make the hem. If you don't want any stiffening at all but can't just leave the edge uncut, then you can do a narrow serged edge with the stitches close together -- as if you were doing a rolled hem edge, but without the tension that makes the edge roll. All of these treatments work on lycra and on woven fabrics.

Since the skirt is silk chiffon, I think a rolled edge is a good way to go. Rolled edges don't really work with lycra, but are great for chiffon. You have to either use your serger set to do a rolled edge (see your machine's directions) or use a rolled hem attachment for a regular machine. The rolled hem attachment gives the nice clean finished edge that you see on silk scarves.

Now, for the lycra seams in the bodice, commonly-used treatments are to either zig-zag a couple of times along the raw edge and trim the fabric off close the the stitching, or to use a serger.


Well-Known Member
Chiffon is pretty much the definition of running and fraying, though...I don't think a raw hem will do. ;)


New Member
I have a beautiful gown from De Paolis with chiffon skirts, that's finished with a very narrow horsehair braid (about 1/4") and then satin bias binding over it. However, this is polyester, not silk!
I think that I wish use my surger to do a rolled hem on the chiffon, and use one of the decorative stitches on my surger for the lycra. :) Thanks for the help.

As a side note, I noticed that some people make skirts with lycra underneath the chiffon, and some people just make double or triple layer chiffon skirts. I'm going to make a triple layer chiffon skirt because I like the way it flows better, but what are the advantages, disadvantages and "professionalism" of each?


New Member
I do international style, not smooth, but I have never seen chiffon OVER lycra, only the other way round with chiffon underskirts. I like the multi-layer chiffon effect as it has lovely movement, especially if using silk.
ladyinred said:
Also, if I wanted to create a low backed dress, how would I make sure that the edges were stiff/firm/formfitting enough to prevent puckering and keep the fabric fitted to my back?
This can be tricky. You probably want to finish the edges with elastic and fold over that, but getting it to fit without an elastic across the opening can require substantial pattern adjustments. In essense, the pull of the fabric is related to its inherint stretchiness and it's width - drastically narrow the width of fabric across the lower back, and the still intact front will pull harder than it can balance, stretching the back out of shape. An ex partner wanted the back in something we'd tossed together cut deeper, and as soon as we did that what had been a nicely fitting swimsuit pattern based bodice ceased to fit at all. In deperation I cut out two big triangular darts from the back opening to the sideseams in the small of the back. This actually worked, though of course there were oddly positioned seams involved. Subsequent attempts used redrawn side back pieces that had an equivelent amount of fabric taken out - in essence I took the pattern and redrew it so that it's much smaller in the center back and normal at the sideseams (well, normal in the context of using a size or so smaller than the pattern recommended). The deeper the back cutout the more of an issue - these extreme situations tend to come in most severly when it is cut below the natural waist.

Oh, one more suggestion: this is probably obvious, but when experimenting with hem techniques and particularly if a serger is involved, test on scraps a lot first. If the fabric is different in one axis than the other, be sure your tests include both as well as the bias angles in between, as you may run into all of these around the circumference of the hem, depending on how the panels are cut.

I'd like to know how to make skirt hem with wide satin ribbon (tape)? I want to apply it to my full lycra skirt. The way I did it was simply sew onto the hem, but the hem line became not even, since lycra stretches.

Basically I'd like to make such a nice hem, like in this picture:

Thank you for the answers.


New Member
Before you sewed the hopefully bias-cut tape onto the hem, hang up the skirt for a couple of nights so it will stretch out a little. Then re-cut the skirt to even out the parts that stretched.

The reason why you want to use bias-cut tape is because the bias-cut tape will stretch and curve more smoothly as you sew it to the lycra than something straight and "firm" like ribbon or blanket binding.


Well-Known Member
You might also want to lay out and press the bias-cut tape on a slight curve before stitching it to the hem.
Are you all saying that I have to cut bias tape myself? I was going to use the ones that they sell in stores... But I haven't seen wide satin bias binding.

Anyway, it's a good idea to slightly curve the tape when ironing.

But I saw dresses where a ribbon or a tape is used. I found a picture where it looks like a ribbon, because the are no black ribbon on the other side of a skirt (just at front).

or here:

What I'm thinking ... the ribon is straigt, but the skirt is curved, so how this technique works?


New Member
Chrisanne sells (or at least used to, I haven't looked at their web site in a long time) satin bias binding by the yard that people would use on dresses.

Also, if you use stretch satin, you often can get away with just cutting it in strips (not cutting it on the bias) and sewing it to the hem of a dress. I've done this several times with excellent results.

Cutting your own bias edging is easy, but somewhat tedious.

I do not recommend using satin "blanket binding" that you can get in stores. It's not bias so it won't go around the curve very well -- it's really just for finishing of straight edges on blankets.

Oh, another thing that works is to use strips of shiny stretchy lycra (like bathing suit lycra) to finish off edges of things. I've also used stretch velvet in this manner. I don't worry about cutting it on the bias since it's stretchy anyway.
Thank you for the info.

I thought it is rather simple to make this hem, but... it's a lot of work.
Anyway I'm tempted to try it :) Will write later how it worked for me.
Bumping this up to ask - where on earth does one find the flat crin trim *other* than Chrisanne? My :google:-fu is pretty broken and all I can find is a place called "I Kick Shins" which sells the flat stuff in a plethora of colors for not a lot of money... $14/10 yard roll in varying widths/colors. But I'd sure like more options...


Well-Known Member
ohhhh, so is this the stuff they use on cupcake gowns? I've been wanting to add ribbon to the hemline of a few gowns, but can't see how to do it without sewing a dart every so often to keep it on a curve. Does this weird tubular bouncy stuff flatten out so you can sew it to a hemline?

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