I ran across two dresses with a couple of neat design ideas. Here's the first one:
Click on it to see the detail, and you will notice that it is actually a very simple dress that can be made using any basic dress pattern. Plain and simple front and back bodice, buttoned up the back, full gathered skirt. What makes this a Look Twice dress? The fabric is gorgeous, but the real attention getter is the gathered trim at the waist and hemline. Easy.
Here's how I would do it.
I would measure the bottom of the bodice, all the way around, after it is attached to the skirt section. Multiply by 2.5--this is how long the ruffle piece needs to be cut. I would cut strips on the straight grain twice the desired finished width of the ruffle. For example, if I wanted the finished ruffle to be 1 3/4" wide (which is probably about right), I would cut it 3 1/2" wide. If the bodice measurement were 28 inches, I would need a piece 70 inches long and 3 1/2 inches wide.
I would measure around the bottom of the dress at the hemline and do the same thing. 2.5 x hem width by 3 1/2".
Then I would press the strip WRONG sides together (yes, like bias tape--thanks, Candle), with the cut edges meeting in the center. (I would probably also baste those edges down after pressing. I'm a great believer in basting.) Use fancy thread and satin stitch along both long edges. I know, I know, this would take some time, but the results would be worth it.
Then I would use my ruffler attachment and stitch down the middle of the strip. Sew to bottom of bodice and bottom of hem and you're done!