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I would have to say that my top tip for turning out professional looking garments is the use of quality fabrics. Use the very best that you can afford.

For example, I cringe when I hear that corsetmakers use twill, drill, and denim as an interlining. If you are going to make something which is so time-consuming, do it right. For a professional corset, it *must* be coutil.

The same goes for the fashion fabrics. If the fabric came from the remnant bin of JoAnns, it will most likely look cheap. When I look at fashion fabrics, I carefully examine the weave and thread count. The weight of the fashion fabric is also extremely important. And fiber content, of course.

Tanya Rohler



Identify your materials and treat them accordingly.
Laurie Tavan


Choice of suitable fabric comes before any other step in making a great costume. Here, in addition to the comments above, is my own experience of receiving this advice:

Very early in my career I gate-crashed the expensive London boutique of my very favourite wedding gown designer, the imposing Basia Zarzycka. Amongst the acres of tulle and lace and exquisite eighteenth century corsetry I dissolved into a puddle of admiration and admitted that I was just mystery shopping her, but as I was firmly escorted to the door, I had the presence of mind to ask her for a single piece of advice for a young costumer’s work. “Use the very best fabrics you can possibly afford,” she told me, and to this day that is the most pivotal piece of advice I’ve ever received.

antique shoeIt was obvious: her wedding gowns may not have shown any more sewing skill on the surface to the uneducated onlooker, but that special something that set her apart was the exquisite lace, the attention to how the different fabrics matched or contrasted in a single gown; even though you couldn’t necessarily pick out the fact that the fabrics were expensive, they were the je ne sais quoi – the quality of those fabrics, the fact that you didn’t see them everywhere, gave them that magical aura.

A good fabric instantly raises your game, and convinces the onlooker that you’re serious about doing great work. Don’t be fooled by the bargain bin; you do get what you pay for.


Lisa Miller
Unlock your dream wardrobe
Wow! My grandmother certainly taught me how to sew the right way. What she didn't teach me directly, I went on to learn based on what she had taught me. And most of it is here in your article. The only things I hadn't seen before were to iron the seams flat before pressing them open, and the use of a specially shaped board to press seams. This is ALL excellent advice. I'm thankful my grandmother taught me everything she knew.
Thanks for witing this guide! I started sewing about a month ago and my work started looking a lot better after I read this article and started taking my time with each little detail and planning ahead.

Carelessness and rush are the surest way to ruin a project!

I would not put foil over my wooden pressing tools. They are made of soft woods that I can pin to (I use thin silk pins and replace them regularly like my machine needles). Do not use woods with too much resin in them or they will mark and cause odors, which may not be obvious immediately but perhaps when exposed to sun. The foil will make condensation on the fabric which can be undesirable on expensive sensitive fabrics. Wood is suppose to absorb water without problem. When in doubt, use test scrap fabric. I use my pressing tools bare with pristine white silks without problem. I will agree that great fit and construction is greatly marred by poor pressing (which newbies may refer erroneously to ironing). I'm all for sharing and encouraging someone's evolution in costuming. My two cents.tongue
mistakes (and being human)
My advice with forty years of mistakes under my belt is to pick out the mistake and then walk away from the pieces. Only then could I ruminate about a solution (and sometimes there isn't one - that is an answer too - back to drawing table and reexamining the goal). If I left a mistake I found it was almost impossible to come back with a fresh mind, the situation only dredged up the bad time previous. Think of it this way, you are already annoyed, so pick it apart, then go have a cup of tea and come back mind and body relaxed. Go ahead and try it both ways, and see what fits you. But just don't stop creating.

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