One of the things that all of the illustrations and photos I saw of my favorite Belle Epoque ballgowns had in common was an embellished neckline– usually involving pleats and lace and other froofy stuff, it served not only to draw the attention upwards but also to make the waist look even tinier by comparison. So I knew I’d have to do something interesting on my gown.
Of course, my original sketch was kind of, well, sketchy when it came to the neckline. I knew I wanted some pleating across the front, and some lace, and hopefully some 3D wisteria blossoms at the shoulders. But how to put it together?
I’d previously found some two-tone chiffon in gray and purple that (at least when viewed from one direction) was an exact match for my satin. Really, it was uncanny how perfect it was. On the assumption that it was Fate I bought a yard without knowing what I was going to do with it, so I was happy to find a use for it in the bodice pleating here.
I decided that I would do diagonal pleats across the bodice, carry the chiffon over onto the shoulder straps, and around the back to add some texture. I basically played it by ear, pinning the fabric down to the dress and hand-stitching it in place. I didn’t make any formal pleats, I just bunched the fabric together at one end, stretched it across the bodice, and pinned down the other end, letting the pleats form naturally. I probably could’ve done it more efficiently (fabric-wise) by making actual pleats, but it was faster this way.
Of course, now that the chiffon is sewn on the bodice it doesn’t seem to match the satin color at all– so much for Fate– but it’s reasonably complementary so I’m going with it.
Next, I got out my coffee-dyed lace and ran a dense gathering stitch along the top to give it some body. I pinned the gathered lace around the neckline, keeping it asymmetric to more closely mirror my inspiration gowns. I also added some extra ruffles along bottoms of the sleeve caps. The neckline lace was whipstitched around the edge of the dress in ivory thread, and the sleeve cap lace was sewn carefully along the inside of the straps, hiding the purple thread beneath the chiffon. In the end my 5 yards of dyed lace was just enough to finish my design. It took more yardage than I’d expected!
I’m also happy to note that all of the embellishment around the neckline has basically hidden the ugly seams where I attached the extra shoulder pieces to the bodice.
I’m leaving space along the neckline for some three-dimensional wisteria blossoms I’m hoping to make later, but those will have to wait until the rest of the gown embellishment is done! As it is, I’m trying to do the embellishment in stages so that even if I don’t finish all of them, the gown at each stage will at least look presentable.