Ribbon can sometimes be thought of as a bit of an afterthought in sewing, or something only used on small children’s clothing. But utilized in a sophisticated manner, it can add a little touch of elegance (or even whimsy, if that’s your style) to many garments. Soft, vintage ribbons or ribbons of natural fiber materials (silk and cotton) are my favorite to work with, as they drape beautifully and don’t suffer from excessive shininess that synthetic ribbons (especially satin-finish) ones do.
This is a beautiful, mid-century example of using ribbon to not only accent the fabric, but also act as a structural element to the design. The scalloped cut outs along the neckline and sleeves have a subtle peek-a-boo effect, and are just tacked to the dark velvet ribbon. I could even see using this on a skirt for an interesting effect!
If the girlishness of ribbon is something that is a concern, consider this slight more restrained use of ribbon. Again, this is velveteen ribbon (my favorite to work with!), and is placed on this busy sheer-and-gingham fabric to break up the pattern. Horizontal bands of wide ribbon have been utilized in fashion for centuries, and lend themselves well to creating a contrasting band of color or graphic element. Wide ribbon also works beautifully for calling attention to certain portions of a garment you want to highlight.
Finally, what I would categorize as a delightfully girlish and whimsical use of ribbon! The 1920s was full of ribbon embellishments, and roses worked in light silk ribbon are one of my favorite applications. Whether tacked on to a frilly lace skirt on a party dress as seen here, or perhaps just a small cluster on the collar of a blouse, they add a very lovely early 20th century charm to any garment. (Many books on traditional ribbon work or heirloom sewing have instructions on achieving this technique.)