My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part XIII: Paillettes and Rhinestones

So, time for the finishing touches! You can see in the photo below that in the center panel there’s an arc of large silver sequins just above the floral appliqué around knee level.

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I bought 10mm silver paillettes to attach to the dress– I only needed 20 paillettes for that section, but then I realized for the first time that the dress actually had more paillettes around the hem! Good thing they came in a package of 200…

So, not only are there swags of embroidered trim near the hem, but there also appears to be a row of silver paillettes following the lines of that trim with short line segments connecting the two. It’s really only obvious in this one photo, so it’s no wonder I missed it on my initial viewing:

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See the little gray dots following the lines of white trim? Clearly paillettes. However, I can’t tell what the faint white lines are– it’s possible that, like the sleeve and neckline detail, they are embroidered lines of thread with clear sequin “leaves” on either side.

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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 VII: Tiara

 

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For one of the accessories for this outfit I had to find an appropriate small tiara. It was actually harder than it sounds– while there are tiaras galore on eBay, most are much larger than the delicate piece Eliza Doolittle wears in her gigantic updo. The few smaller ones weren’t much better– they were usually too rounded and none had the tiny dangles you can see in the original. I finally came to the conclusion that I’d need to cobble one together myself. Luckily, after much searching I found this comb, which had the radiating tines decorated with rhinestones, even if it was in the wrong color. I removed the heart from the front and snipped off the extra tines so there were only seven, just like the movie version. I had to bend them into the correct position to make them look like they were radiating from a wider base, as well.

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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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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.

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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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