My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part XI: Supply List

Now that the outfit is done, I figured I could take some time to provide resources for any other would-be Eliza Doolittles!

I will note that I wasn’t able to make my dress exactly screen-accurate– I didn’t locate all of my reference images until I’d already done some of the work, and it wasn’t worth it to me to re-do things like the embroidery on the center skirt panel to get it exactly right. I did, however, try to reproduce the original as best I could under the circumstances. For what it’s worth, the dress has about 7,000 individually-applied sequins and rhinestones, so you’d better be up for a lot of handwork!

Here’s what I used to make the dress:

Materials:

Bias-cut ivory gown (purchased)

4 yards ivory English net, 56″ wide

3 yards clear beaded teardrop fringe

At least 8 yards of 1/2″ wide ivory floral trim

4 yards 1 1/2″ wide scalloped ivory trim

5 yards 1″ wide ivory trim

2 yards each of 2.9cm and 3.2cm round floral trim to make round appliques.

1440 ss10 rhinestones, 1440 ss20 rhinestones, 288 ss30 rhinestones, 144 ss50 rhinestones, all in clear flatback (no AB, no hot-fix) (I had a ton left over, especially of the ss30 and ss50 sizes, but these quantities were pretty inexpensive from this seller so it’s better to have too many than too few!)

4mm and 6mm round flat sequins in “moonshine”

4mm round flat sequins in silver

Gem-Tac adhesive (I only needed one large bottle, using syringes as applicators)

Invisible thread

So, final notes and tips:

  1. Definitely use blunt-needle syringes as applicators for the sequins and rhinestones. Once they’re full of glue you can store them point-down with the needle tips in a mug with about an inch or water in the bottom, and they’ll stay usable almost indefinitely. The water keeps the glue from drying inside the needle section, though Gem-Tac does occasionally get clumpy so I can’t promise you won’t need to occasionally swear a little as you un-clog the needle by soaking it in hot water. I worked with two syringes at once so I’d be sure to have a working one at all times.
  2. Toothpicks (the blunt ends) were perfectly good tools for picking up sequins and the tiny rhinestones. I wouldn’t bother with Q-tips or the special wax sticks you can find online.
  3. If you can’t find perfect appliques, don’t be afraid to cut apart/combine other appliques to get the effect you’re going for. Particularly since this gown has so much sparkle on it, no one will be looking closely enough at the precise type of lace you’re using to see if it matches everywhere.
  4. While it might seem easier to do the embellishment on the overgown before attaching it to the undergown, I think that it’s necessary to have the whole thing hanging on a dress form before you finalize the placement of the swags and appliques. Otherwise you might end up placing something incorrectly and not finding out until it’s too late to fix.
  5. Don’t finalize any embellishments at the hem until you’ve tried on the mostly-embellished gown and ensured that the net hasn’t stretched out. Don’t store the dress on a hanger or dress form– keep it flat to avoid further stretching. It may also be a good idea to leave the bottom few inches relatively plain in case you need to hem it again later and don’t want to lose detail.

And of course, if anyone needs help with laying out embellishments or figuring out how best to drape the dress, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll try to respond! Good luck!

My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part X: Final Photos!

I can’t believe that I’m finally done with this project! I’ve been wanting to make this gown for so long that it’s just amazing to see the finished product and know all the work that went into it– I think the last time I was this thrilled with a costume gown was my very first foray into costuming, when I made a noblewoman’s outfit for the Renaissance Faire as a high school sophomore. (That dress had tons of hand-beading as well, so maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment after doing hours of detailing work?)

Anyway, here are some photos taken the talented DROO Photographer, at the convention I attended (sadly, the sparkles really don’t come through in photos the way they do in real life):

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And all of the links to the progress posts:

Part I: Inspiration

Part II: Underdress

Part III: Selecting Overgown Embellishments

Part IV: Overgown Construction

Part V: Appliques and Trim

Part VI: Neckline and Sleeve Beaded Trim

Part VII: Tiara

Part VIII: Stitched Sequins

Part IX: Rhinestone Choker

Part X: Sequin and Rhinestone Swags

Part XI: More Appliques

Part XII: Sequins Redux

Part XIII: Paillettes and Rhinestones

Part IX: HAIR!

 

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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