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.

embassy-appliques

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.

Continue reading

My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part III: Selecting Overgown Embellishments

When I first started this projects I started bookmarking every applique, trim, rhinestone, or other embellishment that I thought might be useful in recreating the lavishly beaded overgown. There were so many options!

It looks as though there are a few different types of embellishment:

  1. Narrow trim down the center front that outlines the central panel. This appears vaguely floral in design and may or may not also be used to outline swags around the hem of the dress. It looks to be about 1/2″ wide.
  2. Circular embroidered motifs that are graduated in size– the largest appear to be about 1.5″ in diameter, and it looks as though the largest few sizes are pad-stitched with a bead or rhinestone in the center.
  3. Narrow embroidered trim around the very bottom edge of the hem. It appears scalloped on a large scale, but it’s tough to see detail.
  4. Filler appliques of some kind to embellish specific points on the gown– for example, the center front of the skirt and the high points of the swags I mentioned earlier.
  5. Clear rhinestones, sequins, and beads in various sizes.
  6. Baguette beads or sequins sewn in straight, short lines.

Continue reading

Altering an Edwardian Dress

edwardian-white-before

So that antique Edwardian dress I mentioned earlier? Before I could wear it (shown above before I did anything to it), it needed to be altered. It just needs a few inches of extra room to make it perfect, and since I can’t make up the difference with a corset (there’s only so far you can cinch down your waist… or your ribcage), I’ll have to do it the hard way.

I know, I know… there will be people out there gasping in horror at how I could dare to alter an antique— but come on, people have been repurposing older garments forever, including making over old dresses to suit new modes of fashion, so I hardly think that merely tweaking a dress to enlarge it and make it wearable for the modern figure is that much of a problem.

Besides, it’s not like I’m repeating the mistakes I made in college when I actually went so far as to add an elastic waistband to an antique embroidered skirt (still cringe about that one). Anyway, here’s how I did it:

Continue reading

Belle Epoque Wisteria Gown, Finished!

Tanya Wisteria 2

It’s done! Done and– dare I say–gorgeous. I really love the way it turned out– it’s pretty close to exactly what I pictured from the beginning, and I had such a wonderful time wearing it to an 1890s-themed ball. The skirt has such a great swirl to it from all of the fullness in the back, and the dimensionality of the embroidery really makes it stand out in a crowd!

To recap the process:

Part I: Design

Part II: Dyeing Hug Snug

Part III: Modifying Bridesmaids Dresses

Part IV: Tea/Coffee Dyed Lace

Part V: Petticoats

Part VI: Neckline Embellishment

Part VII: Embroidery

Part VIII: 3D Wisteria Blossoms

 

Belle Epoque Wisteria Gown, Part VI: Neckline Embellishment

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?

Continue reading

Belle Epoque Wisteria Gown, Part IV: Tea/Coffee Dyed Lace

tea-lace-L-to-R

Part of my design for this gown included some frothy lace at the shoulders and bust, so I purchased a 25-yard length of lace on eBay for a really low price. Unfortunately, when it arrived it was blindingly white– something needed to be done. Well, something needed to be done to about 5 yards of it, anyway– I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever need more than that for the neckline of a dress…

I decided to tea-dye the lace to take the edge off of the white. I’ve never tea-dyed anything made from synthetic fibers before– only cotton– so to figure out how to dye my nylon lace I did some internet research first. I ended up following this tutorial by Cation Designs, which seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

First I used Darjeeling tea, which seemed to be an appropriate color when brewed, but when I’d followed the dyeing process and rinsed the dyed lace, it looked awfully dark and orange. Like, rust-colored. I didn’t have any confidence that it would dry significantly lighter, so as long as I had all of my supplies out I tried another option– coffee. I basically followed the same steps as for tea, but using instant coffee instead. I didn’t let the lace sit in the coffee mixture for as long, removing it after only about 3 minutes, and it ended up not only lighter, but less orange-y in color.

Side by side of the wet lace (Tea on left, coffee on right):

tea-lace-dark

 

It was around this point when I started regretting not having done any test swatches– I decided to try again, this time starting with a relatively mild coffee solution (the equivalent of one cup of brewed coffee diluted with about 6 cups of water) as opposed to the full-strength coffee I’d been using before. Instead of adding the vinegar at the end I soaked the lace in a water-vinegar solution ahead of time, per this tutorial. Then I dipped it for a bare 30 seconds into the diluted coffee before removing it and rinsing it in cold water. A decent amount of the color came out in the rinse, but it still looked somewhat creamier in color than the original white lace, so I decided to dry it and see how it turned out.

tea-lace-wet

Much better! Perfect, in fact. So I’ve learned my lesson– for just a hint of creaminess, dip the lace quickly and get it OUT of the tea/coffee solution before it picks up too much color. This totally goes against my experience in dyeing the seam binding for the ribbon embroidery– the only thing I can think of is that the seam binding was almost sheer, so just wetting it made it look a lot darker. Unlike the lace, which has pretty opaque threads that look much the same dry as they do wet. Or maybe it’s just one of those things that I need to chalk up to experience.

In any case, I now have five yards of light ivory lace to use on my ballgown. Let’s go!

 

 

Belle Epoque Wisteria Gown, Part I: The Design

wisteria-sketch.jpg

The period spanning the late 1890s and early 1900s has always been my favorite when it comes to evening wear. You’ve got the slim waist, slightly fitted hips, and the elegant swoosh to the bottom of the skirt, which all combine for a breathtaking silhouette. Plus, you’ve got gorgeous fabrics and trimming, which can run the gamut from embroidery to lace to faux flowers to beading… the possibilities are endless. Which is why, when I heard about a Victorian-themed dance weekend in my area, I knew I’d have to make something for it.

I browsed through Pinterest looking for inspiration, concluding (as I’d always known I would) that the spectacular gowns by Charles Frederick Worth were what I’d eventually end up mimicking. Just look at the gorgeousness!

4f72509444f97b1d38b7422b9e160bee ea06e9105f65a95de47eeaccd99819af 04a1e4603be7b23ef89a3ece70d85402

After I’d finished drooling, I decided that I’d want to do some kind of embroidered embellishment to go down the front of the entire gown, much like the butterflies you see above. And because I always have to make things difficult for myself, I eschewed the idea of embroidered roses (which I could’ve done using pre-made appliques) and decided on wisteria. I was really inspired by this Japanese fabric:

177525adb617893f485dda80ff5ac7e9

So, the gown will be purple, with trailing wisteria blossoms and leaves, possibly some flowing water lines at the hem. Simple, right? Famous last words…