I am so in love with Melissa’s DIY this month…squeal! She took the Stepford Dress pattern from the Pattern Member site, and truly gave it a kick.  I have always loved the look of the hand drawn extras on clothing, but had never thought to do it on a women’s dress before. My mind has officially been blown. Melissa talks about this fun process, and shows how you can achieve the same look properly.

Trompe L’WOW Dress w/ side pocket tutorial


coArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Trompe what? Trompe l’œil, or “decieve the eye”, refers to any technique, be it painting, drawing or sculpting, that fools the the looker into thinking that it is multi-dimensional or is representative of something 3D. After seeing many forms of this pop up recently in fashion, I decided I had to make a whimsical dress for myself. Here’s my pinterest board of all my inspirations, plus some really fun paintings and street art that utilize this fun process.

Armed with the newest pattern from the pattern membership on, Jessica’s Stepford Dress, I started hatching together a plan. This pattern met all the criteria I felt necessary to create my design: simple silhouette, clean neckline, very few details in the bodice and simple skirt. You’ll need a pretty simple, blank canvas, if you will, in order to allow your trompe l’oeil effect to stand out. Frilly collars and sleeves and button details will all just detract from what you’re trying to accomplish. Jessica’s pattern is currently part of the May offerings, but will most likely be available on the site directly next month.


  • Simple dress or top sewing pattern
  • Specified yardage per your pattern of a plain cotton, preferably sateen or smooth finish, not canvas or twill
  • Fabric marking pen, water soluble
  • Fabric markers, in varying widths
  • Curved and straight rulers

I opted to use some undyed organic cotton sateen from, which I dyed myself, using Seafoam Green from Dharma’s Fiber Reactive dyes. I recommend using light or primary colors; the darker shades won’t work well with fabric markers. But you could use white fabric paint instead to create a photo negative effect.

I also decided to add real pockets to the dress, which the Stepford pattern did not include. It seemed silly to me to draw on faux pockets and not have real ones along with it! I’ve got to have pockets! If you need to add them to your design, here’s a pattern for you. It’s meant for straight side seam skirts, so if yours are angled or curved, adjust accordingly.

Cut out your fabric, per your pattern. Take some scraps and test your markers, by drawing a few lines and shapes. Throw it in the wash and then dry it to make sure that your lines didn’t bleed or fade. I used a standard Sharpie for my thicker lines and a ZIG fabric marker for the little stitch details.

Then, sew up the bodice, including all darts and the shoulder seam. Leave the side seams open, if your pattern has a fully lined bodice. If it’s just finished with a facing, you can go ahead and sew up the side seams. Once you’ve got the basic garment together, and before attaching the lining or facing, drape your bodice onto a form or a hanger. Using your water soluble marking pen, test out some designs for your faux details. I tried a couple different collar styles, before opting for a rounded, Peter Pan-esque one for the front and a pointed one for the back. I also drew on a rudimentary bow at the waist for my faux belt detail.

Test draw your design - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Next, using your straight or curved ruler, draw on your collar. Using the ruler will help keep the fabric from being stretched under the pressure of the marker and keep the lines smooth as you draw. Be sure to not leave the marker tip sitting on one point for too long, or else the ink will pool in little thick spots on your design. Also, you’ll need put a piece of paper under your fabric, so you don’t ruin your table top.

Draw collar - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Making sure to transition smoothly over the shoulder seam, draw on the back collar lines.

Draw back collar - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Using the ZIG marker, I added topstitch lines. While not necessary, details like topstitching and shadows can help create more authenticity to your design.

Details on collar - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Draw on the bow detail on the front. While I marked the belt with my water soluble pen, I waited to draw on the belt until after the zipper was attached.

Draw Bow - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Now on the skirt: trace out your pocket design on one side of the front only. I drew mine free hand style, but here’s another design for you to use. Once you draw that on, pin together the side seams of the front piece, along the center front, with the right sides facing out.

Pin together for transfer - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Using the sunlight as a lightbox, trace the pocket onto the other side of the front piece.

Use sunlight to transfer - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

To add on a button detail, use a spool of thread. Add 2 or 4 dots for your buttonholes and then curved lines in between to mimic the threads.

Use thread to draw button - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Pocket time: pin the one pocket piece onto the side seam of the front  about 4 inches down from the waist. You might need to adjust where to place the pocket, depending on your height. Your arm should have a slight, natural bend while your hand is in the pocket. Stitch on with 1/2 inch seam.

Pin pocket on - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Press the pocket away from the skirt piece and then topstitch.

Topstitch pocket - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Repeat by attaching the other 3 pocket pieces to the other side of the front skirt and the sides seams of the 2 back skirt pieces. Then, pin the front piece to the back piece. Stitch down the side seam, pivoting at the top of the pocket, going around the pocket bag and then pivoting to finish the side seam down to the hem.

Attach front to back - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Attach your facings or lining. Leave the lining open at the bottom for now. Then attach the bodice to the skirt and install the zipper according to your pattern’s directions. Once the zipper is installed, you can draw on your belt detail. Be sure to put the paper in between the fabric and the lining, so it doesn’t bleed through to the lining.

Draw belt - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Lastly, use a wet cloth to remove your temporary markings.

Remove erasable markings - EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY

Finish attaching the lining at the bottom and sew on your hook/eyes, buttons or whatever small details you need to finish the garment. Oh, and hem it. 😉 I recommend ironing with spray starch so your cute details don’t get lost in fine wrinkles.

Et voilà!

EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY front view

C’est magnifique!

EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY front detail

While taking our pictures at the park, we happened across lots of duck familes, and human ones, too, all enjoying a clear, cool spring day. A rare thing in Texas, where we usually go straight from blustery winters to sweltering summers.

Les canards et moi!

EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY back detail

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as I enjoyed making this dress.

EcoArmoire Trompe l'oeil DIY back

Au revoir!  And until next time…

Happy Sewing :)