My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part I: Inspiration

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I’ve always loved the dress Audrey Hepburn wore as Eliza Doolittle in the Embassy Ball scene of My Fair Lady. It’s just beautiful– due in no small part to the wearer, but it’s objectively beautiful on its own. So elegant, so sparkly, so perfect in every way; I read that it’s actually made out of an original Edwardian piece, modified to suit the fashion sense of modern audiences. I’ve been dying to recreate it for ages– I even saved the embroidered and beaded tulle from an eBay wedding gown I bought for Halloween almost ten years ago, hoping to use it to make the overdress someday. (spoiler: I did not end up using it)

Then, while planning for what dress I would wear to an upcoming Edwardian-themed ball,  I saw this rhinestone shoulder chain on eBay and was immediately struck by how similar it was to the jeweled neckline on the original dress– surely, it was Fate! It has the drapes in front, the shoulder swags, and the tiny crystal dangles all around the edges. Not perfect, of course (got to get rid of that tacky central jewel), but close enough to get me started!

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I started collecting as many images as I could of the original dress to try to figure out the structure and embellishments. It looks like the dress is comprised of a fitted satin underdress (very fitted– look at that tiny waist!) with a scoop neck and narrow skirt, and an English net overdress that’s gathered tightly at the center front and center back.

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You can see that the overdress is covered in appliques and sequins, set out in radial stripes from a center gathering point at the bust. There are also shorter diagonal swags along the sides of the dress, and some embroidery along the hem. It looks like the appliques are mostly round or oval, with beads in the center and lots and lots of scattered sequins and beads all over the gown.

Here’s my sketch for how I think the embellishments are laid out (sans all the tiny sequins, which you can just assume are concentrated around the appliques):

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I will note that while I did study many photographs and movie stills to get the layout, I was also helped immensely by Jennifer Oberg’s recreation of this gown for a wedding, below. Her site is now defunct but pictures are available on Pinterest. Her dress appears to have been simplified somewhat, but the general lines of the embellishment are clearly laid out in her photographs, and it helped me to visualize how the trim was set up, particularly in the center section.

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Final note: It’s going to take me forever to make this dress, particularly since I’ll be ordering most of my supplies from overseas. So have some patience, I’m really hoping the result will be worth the wait!

I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this. I think I may be crazy…

 

 

 

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One thought on “My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part I: Inspiration

  1. Pingback: My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part X: Final Photos! | It's All Frosting...

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