High-low cocktail strapless dress | Orange Lingerie Esplanade bra hack

Orange Lingerie Esplanade bra Esplanade strapless high low dress

Like the last of the summer wines, the last of the dresses I’ve been sewing for the summer are making their way on the blog. Even if they do come with the sprinkling of goose bumps for accessories…

I’m so happy to be showing you one of my favourite makes of the year, which brings back amazing memories of my wedding in the Caribbean and another awesome wedding I attended in Italy in May this year. This is a hack of the Esplanade bra pattern from Orange Lingerie into a glamorous dress. Also, I have tales of jeopardy and crazy last minute sewing, so keep on reading to see how it all links together.

So what’s so special about this dress?

As you might remember, I made my own wedding dress in 2015. It was a bit of a project, as it was completely self-drafted and I did not spare myself the construction crazy parts, like boning and foam cups and the lot. It did get a bit mental… But as I’m a glutton for punishment, I wanted to revisit this in a different fabric so I can wear it again for another special occasion.

What I love the most about being a sewer is that I can make my crazy ideas move from my imagination into reality! And even if I am not the best pattern drafter in the world, I am darn good at frankenpatterning! And I’m super good at spotting that one pattern around which an idea can come together.

And ever since I saw Orange Lingerie launch their Esplanade strapless bra, it all came together. The most difficult thing about making my wedding dress was drafting the cups and this pattern was the answer to all my prayers.


And voila, the result in all my modelling glory!

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What do I love about this dress?

My favourite features are the cups, I love that they are bra like and have proper support from both the foam and the underwires. I also particularly love the colour. Green has always been one of my favourite colours, but this deep emerald is just so dreamy.

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So, where to begin with the details?

The Esplanade bra is was a great starting point, which I used to construct the cups and for the instructions on how to sew that part of the bodice. However, I dusted off the pattern pieces I had drafted for my wedding dress, based on a Burda Style pattern – it’s the bombshell dress that Gertie did the sew along for. The trouble with that pattern was the cups, so I had to frankenpattern the Esplanade cups and the bodice of the bombshell, plus add a few centimetres to make sure it reaches the waist. The skirt is completely self-drafted, as a high-low full circle skirt.

Or such it ended up. The original plan was to make some sort of pleated circle skirt, but that definitely not work out, so I had to chop off some width to make it work. It ended up with a bit of an odd shape at the front, which I planned to change at some point, but kinda grew on me.

From a construction perspective, the hardest part was obviously the bodice, as there are so many parts to assemble. I assembled the cups differently from the Esplanade instructions. I attached the cups and the wire channel to the lining and then sewed the main fabric to the lining inside out.


The boning was sewn directly to the lining seam allowance as well. To make sure it doesn’t poke through the fabric, I sewed pieces of fabric folded over the end of the boning pieces. The boning was cut to the length of the seam, excluding the seam allowance at both ends.

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What I forgot to mention was that this was one of those mad sewing dashes when I was still hemming the dress 15 minutes before I was due to leave for the airport. So I had to make some quick executive decisions as I did not have a lot of time for experimentation.

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Also in the mad dash to finish it before flying to Italy, I made a mistake as to which side I left open for the zipper and it ended up on the right side, but I’m sure it’s one of those things that only sewists will notice.

But thank goodness, except for that, it all came together in the end and I wore it at the wedding, feeling fabulous, getting loads of compliments and just so proud of saying that it’s one of my creations.

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I haven’t actually tried it on since May, and surprise surprise, when I put it on for the shoot, it I realised I had lost quite a lot of weight since May. The problem with this kind of boned fitted dresses is that it’s so darn complicated to open them up and fix them. So you might notice some ill-fitting in these pictures, but I hope you will be dazzled by the glamour and ignore them…

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Details Recap:

Pattern: Combination of Orange Lingerie Esplanade Bra, Burda Style Bombshell dress and self-drafted. I cut a size 34 B for the bra and a size 38 for the dress bodice.

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Pattern description: Strapless lined dress with foam cups and underwire, boned bodice and high-low circle skirt.

Fabric: Polyester taffeta from Abakhan and stretch cotton for lining

Notions:a  sheet of bra foam, bra underwires, boning, one invisible zipper

Alterations: N/A

Future alterations: take in bodice by about 2 cm; add pockets

Make again: I’d love to, but I think two of these dresses might be too many.

I’m leaving you with a few shots where I am wearing the Mona biker jacket over the dress, I’m really loving this look!

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  1. 11 September 2017 / 12:10 PM

    Stunning!! What else can I say?? It looks great with the jacket too!

    • Alex
      12 September 2017 / 12:42 AM

      Thank you, Janey! That jacket was my favourite make from last year so it’s only fitting they should go well together, ha ha!

  2. 11 September 2017 / 12:23 PM

    I’m not the best at frankening patterns, but your effort is epic! I love everything about this dress.

    • Alex
      12 September 2017 / 12:42 AM

      Thank you, Sue! You have some many other superpowers, so not too worry about frankenpatterning too much :).

  3. 11 September 2017 / 1:19 PM

    I ‘frankenpattern’ (love that word!) all the time too. I love the idea that something is totally unique just like your dress is. What a fabulous dress it is too! Love the colour as well.

    • Alex
      12 September 2017 / 12:41 AM

      Thank you, Diane! I think frankenpattenring should be a superpower, like flying or invisibiloiyt 🙂

  4. 11 September 2017 / 2:33 PM

    Wow this is stunning Alex! That shade of green is everything! The bodice is fabulous as us the Hemline, terrific job!

    • Alex
      12 September 2017 / 12:40 AM

      Thank you Sarah! I only wish I have more opportuniites to wear it!

  5. PsychicSewerKathleen
    11 September 2017 / 3:47 PM

    Your dress is so gorgeous I wouldn’t know where to start the love, “Let me count the ways…” 🙂 The colour, style and that built-in bra is the icing on the cake. To not have to even think about bra when putting on this fitted dress is perfection! The high-low hem – it’s beyond gorgeous. And what is the very best is that you’ve met 2 seriously challenging goals successfully – anything from this point forward is going to be pretty easy.

    • Alex
      12 September 2017 / 12:39 AM

      Thank you so much for your kind comment.

  6. 11 September 2017 / 5:37 PM

    It’s a gorgeous colour. Was the taffeta difficult to sew? It looks beautifully finished 🙂

    • Alex
      11 September 2017 / 5:45 PM

      Thank you! No, not so much, it’s not slippery at all. You just need a very sharp needle, 60 or 70, because it can snag and you end up with those weird line starting from the needle hole.

  7. 11 September 2017 / 7:27 PM

    It’s beautiful and it fits so well! I would love to see the inside too!

    • Alex
      12 September 2017 / 12:39 AM

      Thank you! I will try to post something on IG, maybe my first IG story :).

  8. corrineappleby
    12 September 2017 / 12:09 AM

    Oh my giddy aunt! That dress is spectacular and you look stunning in it!

    • Alex
      12 September 2017 / 12:38 AM

      Thank you! (Love that phrase btw 🙂 ).

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