Regency Sheer Ballgown, Part III: Waistband and Skirt

Once I’d finished the bodice (the most complicated part, obviously), I added a 1″ waistband– something I don’t usually do, but I thought it would help add some definition to the shape of the dress and would provide a convenient spot for adding trim later. I basically just cut out three 3″ wide strips of fabric (to provide plenty of seam allowance on both sides with room to trim)– one sheer, two cotton, and flatlined the sheer strip with one of the cotton strips.

I pinned the bottom edge of the bodice to the flatlined strip and basted it together. Then I pinned the remaining cotton strip to the inside of the bodice (to use for interior finishing later), and stitched all layers together at once.

regency-sheer-waistband

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Regency Sheer Ballgown, Part II: Pattern and Bodice Construction

regency-sheer-bodice

When I was first designing this gown I thought that I’d basically construct it the same way I did my drawstring Regency sari dress— widening the front and back of the bodice and adding a drawstring around the neckline to create soft gathers across the bust and allow for sizing in the back. However, the more I looked at the photos of the drawstring dress, the more I felt that I wanted tinier, denser gathers and a more squared-off neckline. In order to get those I’d need to do two things– gather the sheer layer separately from the lining to keep the gathered fabric as thin (and therefore compressible) as possible, and have the gathered section itself be separate from the rest of the bodice to avoid affecting the shape of the neckline.

Complicating matters was the fact that the sheer layer was– well, sheer. That meant many of my interior seams would be visible from the outside, which is always something I try to avoid. After several attempts to figure out the order in which I would stitch together the various pieces of each layer to minimize visible seams, I came up with the following system:

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Regency Sheer Ballgown, Part I: Fabric and Concept

regency-sheer-sketch

Okay, so after my failed attempt at dyeing fabric for a Regency ballgown, I went in search of some alternative deep red fabric to sew my gown out of. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything similar at the only fabric store nearby, so I decided to go in a different direction with some sheer ivory (polyester, sigh) drapery fabric. It’s thin, lightweight, and has a sort of striated design woven into it that adds some visual depth. It’s 120″ wide and I bought three yards, which should be plenty, right? I figure that I can make a basic short-sleeved gown and hopefully find some trim to decorate it later. The drapery fabric is very sheer, so I also bought three yards of ivory cotton/poly broadcloth (I know, 100% cotton is always preferable but they didn’t have any and I’m short on time) to line it with.

regency-sheer-fabric

 

As another option, I’m going to use a vintage silk dupatta to make a sleeveless open robe to wear with it. I purchased several dupattas and saris a while back and got this one with the express intent of eventually making an open robe out of it, so this seems like the perfect opportunity. The dupatta is larger than usual at 45 x 90″ so even though it’s not enough fabric to make an entire gown I think I can get an open robe out of it if I’m careful with layout.

Wish me luck!

 

 

Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Part IV: Finishing the Dress Details

Ursula movie full

Now that the tentacles are done, it’s time to finish the dress itself. You can see in the movie that there’s a split front in the skirt, filled in by a gathered panel of slightly darker ivory fabric. I actually had a hard time finding something that worked, since all the ivory sheers I found were either too white or too tan. I finally located a workable fabric in a bin at Goodwill– it’s a window drapery panel and it’s got a slightly crushed effect that adds texture to it. It’s still a bit darker than I wanted, but I can deal with that.

I started off cutting a semicircle of fabric, figuring that this would allow for good draping at the bottom but not too much bulk at the top. It ended up being too much, so I cut it down to about 1/3 of a circle. After I’d pinned it to the dress to make sure it would drape nicely, I stitched the skirt ruffles down either side of the panel. While the ruffles are shorter than the panel, both are longer than the eventual length of the skirt after it’s cut to show the tentacles, so I didn’t mind. Because I planned on stitching the ruffle about half an inch from the inner edge, I clipped the curve to the stitching line so it could expand out to a straight line.

Ursula ruffles arc

To sew it to the dress, I first eyeballed how I would attach both sides, making sure that they’d hang symmetrically, and placed pins along the sewing line on the skirt. Then I pinned down the sides of the ruffles to the dress, right sides together, and hand-stitched it to the skirt. Because I was making a triangular panel with the stitching on the inside I had to basically sew from inside a “tent” of fabric. However, once sewn it was worth it– the sheer panel layer hides the stitching lines, so they won’t show even if the ruffles move out of place.

ursula sewn ruffle

To attach the neckline ruffle, I basted it in place while the dress was on the dress form, then took it off to machine-stitch everything from the inside. I slightly tapered the outer corners of the ruffle so it would lay nicely at the shoulder. The sleeve ruffles, on the other hand, I just stitched directly to the outside of the cuff so they’d lay as flat as possible. I also tacked them down in a few places about 2/3 of the way up the ruffle, to keep the ruffle tighter against the wrist.

I will note that I did run a quick underarm seam down the length of the sleeve to make it fit closer to my arm– Disney princesses appear to favor dress designs that have no care for the issues of trying to bend one’s arm in a tight sleeve… I took in about an inch at the wrist, up to about 1.5 inches at the upper arm.

Ursula sleeve seam

So here’s the dress, ready to shorten to show  my awesome tentacles!

Ursula long done