Regency Brocade Gown, Part I: Fabric and Design

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I’m taking a quick break from the Embassy ballgown to post about another project I recently started– a Regency ballgown that I’m going to wear to a dance weekend at the beginning of April. While I do plan on wearing my burgundy dupatta open robe for the first night, I’m ready to make something new for the Grand Ball the next evening!

I do love beautiful textiles. Even when I was a kid I’d go to fabric/craft stores and buy beautiful ribbon by the quarter-yard just to have it, not necessarily to make anything with it (yeah, the people at the cutting counter just *loved* me, I’m sure). And some of the most beautiful fabrics in the world are Indian saris, at least in my humble opinion. I was on a sari-buying kick a while back, figuring that I’d use them to make Edwardian or Regency gowns, and while I’ve managed to use a cotton sari and a silk dupatta, the rest have languished in my closet for far too long.

But no more! For this project I’m going to use a gorgeous navy blue and gold sari– it has a fabulous pallu that’s not only brocaded, but also embroidered with bullion thread and sewn with tiny pearl beads. It’s just begging to be shown off at a fancy event!

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part XII: Sequins Redux

As I said in my earlier post, I had just finished the sequined swags on the sides of the gown (which took a few tweaks to get right), and was about to start embellishing the center panel when I realized that I had a problem. While some of the movie stills quite clearly show that the center panel is covered in sequins, other shots make it look like there are far fewer sequins, and still others imply that any sequins aren’t really that prominent at all.

For example:

Here, there are tons of sequins visible, all looking the same color silver as the side swags:

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part XI: More Appliqués

I know, you’re probably curious to know what happened with the sequins, but you’ll need to wait until later because I had to get the center panel’s appliqués done first. The larger floral appliqués I ordered were some of the last components to arrive, which is why I had to leave it for so long. I bought both venise and alencon lace appliqués because I wasn’t sure which would work better– neither were quite in the same style as the other trims, but I thought they’d work out all right.

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You can see in the reference images below that there are leafy floral motifs at the center front and sides of the center panel, and smallish motifs at the high points of the swags of trim around the hem.

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part X: Sequin and Rhinestone Swags

As I mentioned earlier, the original gown appears to be sewn all over with beads and silver sequins– while I briefly considered doing the same, I knew it would take absolutely FOREVER and I really didn’t want to deal with the time and effort involved. Instead, I decided to use glue to attach silver sequins to the dress.

As previously noted, I purchased six thousand 4mm flat silver sequins for this dress. You can see in the photographs that the sequins are concentrated around the lines of trim on the side sections, and are basically everywhere in the center section, so I figured I’d need a lot of them.

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Taking the advice in this tutorial (excellent tips, by the way), I bought Gem-Tac glue to attach my sequins and rhinestones, and made myself a big cardboard backing to use as a base for attaching things. I covered it in parchment paper and used binder clips (cushioned with paper towel to prevent snagging or creasing) to clip the edges of my fabric to it.

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part IX: Rhinestone Choker

The main accessory for the outfit is a fabulous rhinestone choker– it’s huge, it’s gorgeous, and it probably inspired my long-standing partiality for festoon-style necklaces. I’ve been drooling at the thought of getting to wear something similar, but it’s been quite a process getting to the finish line on this one…

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I had a difficult time finding anything that was as elaborate as the choker in the movie– sadly, modern tastes don’t seem to trend towards festoon necklaces. Then I came across a gigantic necklace (billed as a shoulder chain) that had surprisingly familiar-looking elements…

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part VIII: Stitched Sequins

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After I attached the beaded fringe on the neckline and sleeves of the dress, I did some hand-stitching of sequins. I had not originally realized that this would be involved, but closer examination of the sleeve decoration showed that the straight lines (and by extension, the straight line segments at the neckline and hem of the dress) were not baguette sequins or beads, but were actually alternating lines of sequins and what looked like stylized vines with sequin leaves. See?

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So I bought a bunch of clear 4mm sequins to go with my silver 4mm sequins, and got to work. Again, to assist in accurate placement I ran basting stitches of white thread to mark the lines. Then I used ivory embroidery thread to stitch down lines of silver sequins and to make the central vines for the clear sequins. I used a basic running stitch– since the net is see-through, the stitching looks like a solid line. I then used regular white sewing thread (finer but still visible to match the original) to stitch clear sequins along the edges of the vines.

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part VI: Neckline and Sleeve Beaded Trim

So as I was working on the dress, I thought I’d see how it looked with the rhinestone shoulder chain that had first inspired the project– by itself it looked reasonably good, but once I tried the choker on the dress form (more on that later) it was clear that the combination of the two was just too much. Too gaudy, too garish, not so much a replica of the original as an over-the-top version you might see on stage. Plus, it wasn’t quite long enough to drape properly over the shoulders, which (while fixable) just pushed it over the edge into “nope” territory.

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So despite being initially inspired by the rhinestone shoulder chain, I decided that it had to go. (Luckily for me, since it had arrived broken I got an almost complete refund from the seller, so I only ended up paying $6 for it– not a huge waste of money) But what to replace it with?

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