So you know those nude straps that hold essentially every ballroom costume together?
Every ballroom costume made after 1989, that is.
I pulled some pink straps off a smooth dress and was trying to replicate them in nude:
(The bottom one is the original strap from the dress – the top is one of my failed attempts.)
It was 100% trial and error – I knew that basically, you had to wrap 1/2 inch elastic in 4-way stretch lycra and zig-zag stitch it, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. Here, presented for your entertainment, are some do’s and don’t of how to sew nude costume straps.
(1) DON’T make a sausage casing.
So my first idea was to make a sort of sausage casing/pillowcase for the elastic and just slide it in. This is a terrible idea for a couple reasons. Firstly, lyrcra is a slippery bitch, and trying to get it to stay still while you sew it is ridiculous. Secondly, there’s no way it will be tight enough unless you sew it smaller than the 1/2 inch and then you have to shove the elastic through and it does not stretch properly. Plus, the elastic will slide around inside the lyrcra and just generally look like crap. It’s like a bizarre elastic condom. Nobody wants that.
(1a) Don’t use lycra that’s too soft.
I started off with this 4 way stretch that is actually swimsuit lining (I think) because the color was closer to what I wanted. But it was so soft, it kept tearing at the needle puncture sites when I stretched the elastic. There’s no way it would be tough enough to stand up to ballroom wear. So I ended up going with sparkly nude instead that was a little darker, but much more durable. I also experimented with red – it turns out that it doesn’t matter at all if the grain of the lycra lines up with the elastic, it all stretches great no matter how you slap it together. So that’s nice.
(2) DON’T just assume that because you cut it wide enough, the edges will meet.
I thought, you know, just fold it and kind of push the edges together as you sew and it will work out! Here’s why that turned out to be a stupid idea: LYCRA IS SLIPPERY AS A MOTHERFUCKER. It slides around and the edge you THOUGHT was attached turns out not to be, so the fabric doesn’t actually wrap all the way around the elastic. It will look good from the front, and then you turn it over and swear a whole lot because that turned out to be a total waste of time.
(3) DON’T pull the elastic through the machine.
So I have my mother’s old sewing machine (which incidentally I had NO idea how to thread or do anything with, so thanks internet for helping a sister out) and when I was about ten, she was teaching me how to sew pillowcases and curtains and whatnot. She would always tell me not to pull the fabric through – guide it through from the front of the machine, don’t pull it from the back. And then she would swear like a sailor because she actually hated sewing and it was a pain in her ass and why wouldn’t the motherfucking bobbin sit in the goddamned thing fucking correctly etc etc.
Turns out that lesson (plus the profanity) are still constants in my sewing efforts. I was attempting to pull the lycra tight around the elastic, but in the process of trying to wrap a stretchy slippery fabric around a substance whose entire point of being is to elasticate, I ended up pulling it and the zig zag stitch I was laying in didn’t fall properly – it ended up with this weird warped sort of thing happening, so the strap would not have lain flat once it was attached to the dress. Bummer.
(4) DO pretend it’s a burrito.
Cut the lycra a little wider than double the width of the elastic, and fold one side over the elastic so that it’s flush with an edge, and then fold the other side over. Hold that bitch tight and run a quick line of stitches across the top of the elastic so that nothing moves. After that, sort of keep folding it over as you go down, folding one side in to stay close to the edge of the elastic and pulling the other side all the way across. Because it’s wider, the extra fabric will actually go past the elastic – this is totally fine, don’t stress out about that. After you’ve gone all the way down, set a similar line of stitches on the bottom of the elastic. Then trim off the extra fabric close to the zig-zag stitch – this is easy because you can just pull on the lycra and sort of run your scissors along and it comes right off and doesn’t fray.
Yay! Learning by doing.
Next time: attaching sequin fringe and making armbands.