If you are keen on fashion trends, you must surely know that open-back evening and wedding dresses are today’s most sought-after style. They convey elegance, femininity and sensuousness and allow women to demonstrate their graceful bearing and beautiful curves.
No wonder women often prefer to have their open-back dresses custom-tailored.
However it can be hard to achieve perfect fitting of the garment to the client’s body if you’re not familiar with the sewing technique and don’t possess enough experience. Issues might arise when you try to attach lace elements to the dress or shape its back.
I am here to help you. First of all, you need to choose a style that suits your client’s body type before accepting her order. If you cope with this task successfully, you’ll have a better understanding of the construction of the dress and the sewing technique.
But let’s put first things first. You can classify open-back dress styles into three groups based on how low their back necklines go: above the waistline, to the waistline, or below the waistline. This kind of a classification enables us to elaborate on prerequisites relevant to sewing each type and makes it easier to understand what style suits what body type.
You surely know that open-back dresses need shoulder straps!
But their shape and width and their location at the back can vary.
Besides you can also replace them by covering the back with lace or see-through mesh fabric fully or partially.
We will discuss how to choose the right shape for the straps and lace elements a little later.
Here is another essential question that both clients and seamstresses are faced with: What base should I choose for the future garment? Should it be a bodysuit, a bodice or a corset?
The answer depends on the client’s body
Only her body type can help you decide how low the back neckline of the dress should be and determine whether a tightening or shaping effect is necessary or you can offer her a thin elastic bodysuit
Whenever you opt for a really low back neckline (reaching below the waistline), make sure you know how to preserve its shape and secure it in place. This could be achieved with the help of a heavy skirt that’d pull down on the dress
or with the help of bodice reinforcements
or bodysuit panties that would prevent the dress from ‘jumping up’ and fix the shape of the neckline.
We shall return to body types and dress bases later and now I’d like to talk about some peculiarities relevant to the process of sewing open-back dresses.
Let’s follow the order of our classification.
The first group is dresses with a back neckline that stops above the waistline level. They say a dress belongs to the open-back category if the back piece is 10-12cm or shorter in the middle.
There is an important peculiarity that concerns modeling the back of such dresses. You have to cut down the top part of the dart in order to make the back neckline lower. If you’ve ever worked with such models, you must have often noticed some gaping at the top edge during fitting tests – and you really wanted to get rid of it.
. I wouldn’t recommend touching the side seams or the center of the back to remove those extra centimeters: as strange as it may sound, it would affect the way the garment fits in the chest at the front.
Instead, I recommend that you use the princess seam at the back, i.e. make the dart at the back deeper
Lace or see-through mesh fabric can serve as straps when placed over the open part below the waistline. It also helps conceal minor skin imperfections and cover the shoulders and upper arms. Such lace elements make the dress much more comfortable to wear without affecting its lightness.
Corset-based dresses with a low back like this are perfect for women who wish to disguise insignificant ‘figure flaws’ such as belly bulge. It is also great for women who lack a well-defined natural curve between their waistline and hips and wish their hips looked fuller.
Bodysuit-based dresses can be offered to women with great figures when there’s no need to restrict or re-shape the waistline.
The second group includes dresses with a back open down to the waistline.
Such dresses can have a bodysuit base or a bodice-reinforced front
The tummy control or body-shaping effect is out of the question.
And that’s why dress models with a back open down to the waistline are recommended to clients without belly bulge problems and with a well-defined transition from waistline to hips.
A dress with a low-cut back will make a woman’s body seem straight like a stick if she has narrow hips or a broad waist, since it won’t sit tight enough at the waistline.
When constructing your pattern, don’t forget that by lowering the top edge of the back you’re nearly cutting down the entire dart above the waistline, which means the curve in the lower side part of the back is no longer accounted for.
Therefore you’d better make an inclined dart about 1cm deep towards the back neckline (unless your back is fully or partially covered by lace or mesh fabric). You can adjust this dart during the fitting test.
I highly recommend that you use a mock-up to define the shape of the back neckline. Trust my experience: you can’t always draw its outline correctly on paper. Mesh fabric or lace at the back will not only replace straps but ensure proper fitting to the skin. If you want to use a lace insert, remember to account for a dart at the back of the dress to sew it in. If you want a buttoned closure, you should account for your client’s shoulder blades (how prominent they are) and the curvature of her back when constructing the middle cut.
There are a range of technical aspects in the sewing process that involves combining lace and mesh fabric. They are explained in detail in my course that teaches you how to use lace or mesh on various garments.
The third group is represented by dresses with a back neckline that ends below the waistline level.
Dresses like this place even higher demands on the woman’s figure: she needs to have a gracefully arched back, a well-defined waistline and well-conditioned skin. It’s best if your client’s back is not too arched though. Otherwise it will be hard to achieve good fitting at the back and especially at the waistline level.
Women with an exaggerated back arch can opt for a dress with lace or see-through mesh fabric inserts.
They can help provide proper fitting to the body. Just remember to account for darts wherever the dress joins the mesh when you’re constructing your pattern.
This brief review of the major types of open-back dresses has prepared us for looking into different body types and learning how to choose the right design for the back of your client’s dress. There are nine different female body types on your screen now. We are interested in the shape of the back and in the belly area as seen from the side. I have already mentioned the requirements to the transition between the waist and the hips. First I’m going to talk about each picture in detail and then I will summarize it to make the whole process of choosing the right dress model more comprehensible.
Let’s look at body type 1. It features prominent shoulder blades and prominent breasts. The back neckline of the dress can reach right to the waistline, stop below it or 5-6cm above it. You can use mesh fabric to cover the part of the back beneath the shoulder blades and conceal a declining posture. The dress can have a corset, a bodice or a bodysuit base.
Body type 2. Almost any dress style will look good on this type of a body unless your client has some noticeable skin imperfections on her back. A figure like this is perfect for any kind of a dress at all, especially if there’s a gracious natural curve between the waist and the hips.
Body type 3. It features prominent breasts and prominent buttocks – in other words, it is curvaceous. Women of this body type should choose dresses with back necklines that don’t go below the waistline level. You can use a corset, a bodice or a bodysuit as a base. If the back neckline of the dress does reach below the waistline, it is highly recommended that you use lace or mesh fabric to cover up the curviest area or choose a loose skirt (as shown in the picture).
A V-open back is also more advisable than a scoop back.
Body type 4. Here we can see prominent shoulder blades and a modest belly. Corset- or bodice-based dresses with a back neckline that reaches to the waist or stops above it are a good choice for this body type. It’s desirable to add slim straps that don’t pass over the shoulder blade area. I wouldn’t recommend covering the back with lace or mesh fabric to avoid highlighting the prominent shoulder blades and somewhat bulged back.
Body type 5. That’s an average female body type. The belly is slightly prominent but not more than the bust. Bodice- or corset-based dresses with a moderately open back (not lower than the waistline level) are suitable. There can be thin to medium-wide straps and lace or mesh fabric covering the back fully or partially.
Body type 6. It features prominent buttocks and a somewhat prominent belly similar to the previous type. Corset- or bodice-based dresses with a back neckline that stops at the waistline or a little above it are the best option. You can add any kind of straps and lace or mesh fabric décor at the back.
Body type 7. What we have are prominent shoulder blades and a prominent belly. In this case I would recommend a corset-based dress with a back neckline that ends at least 7cm above the waistline in order to flatten the belly and re-shape the figure. Bodice-reinforced or bodysuit-based dresses are not advisable. Avoid emphasizing prominent shoulder blades by using decorative elements. It’s best to make a one-shoulder strap. It is also a good idea to use halter-neck straps and add decorative elements in the upper part of the back, near the neck and shoulders.
Body type 8. Shoulder blades and buttocks stand out to about the same degree and the belly is somewhat increased. A smart choice is a corset-based dress with a moderately open back. There are no limitations concerning the style of straps or usage of mesh fabric – it depends solely on the design you choose. Lace or mesh fabric do not perform any technical functions in this case.
And finally, body type 9. It features prominent buttocks and a prominent belly, i.e. it is rather curvy. This body type is best complemented by a corset-based dress with a back neckline that ends at least 7cm above the waistline. Feel free to cover the back with lace or mesh fabric fully or partially. The shape of the straps can also vary: halter-neck, crossed straps, multiple slim straps, decorative string beads, etc.
And now let me put it all together and sum it up. There are several common rules applicable to all these body types.
Clients with body types 1, 2 or 3 can be offered dresses with a bodysuit, bodice or corset base and medium back height.
Body types 4, 5 and 6 are well complemented by bodice-reinforced or corset-based dresses with a back neckline that ends at least 4-6cm above the waistline. Bodysuit-based dresses are not advisable, save for few particular dress models. A bodysuit doesn’t suit this body type well because of the prominent belly. You can use a bodysuit if there is draping or decorative elements at the front of the dress that conceal the problem area.
The best choice for clients with body types 7, 8 and 9 are corset-based dresses with a back neckline that ends at least 6-8cm above the waistline. Since all these body types feature a prominent belly, bodice-reinforced dresses can only be offered if there is some decoration in the stomach area. A figure like that calls for some re-shaping and that’s why a corset-based dress with its waist restricting effect is a great option. Bodice-reinforced dresses can be suitable in very rare cases and bodysuit-based dresses are, in my opinion, absolutely out of the question!
Common Rules That Concern the Shape of Dress Straps.
Slim one-shoulder straps are suitable for body types 1, 4 and 7. Lace, mesh fabric or any other kind of decoration should be located strictly below the level of shoulder blades. You don’t want to visually emphasize the stoop.
It’s recommended that you choose slim or medium straps and cover the back with lace fully or partially when making a dress for body types 2, 5 or 8.
Women with body types 3, 6 and 9 can wear dresses with any kind of straps and a partially lace-covered back (fully covered for type 3). If the back neckline is very low, you can use some lace below the waistline to ensure better fitting to the body or choose a creative loose skirt.
You must have already noticed that the function of lace inserts at the back can be either purely decorative or serve as a means of improving the fit.
Straps are a must because the dress might simply slide off without their support, but you should be very careful when choosing their shape, width and location so as to match the shape of your client’s back. Otherwise you might spoil your client’s appearance in her new dress because the open back will point at the imperfections of her figure instead of making her look elegant.
Now you are familiar with the basic pattern for choosing dress models with regard to different body types. Make sure to analyze any style variations based on the circumstances but remember to stick to my recommendations. The entire working process will be much easier if you take pictures of your client when you meet to take measurements and discuss the model.