1860s Embroidered Ballgown, Part II: Hoop Skirt

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I started by cheating.

Yes, cheating. I knew that I couldn’t get started on my dress until I had the correct underpinnings, and I didn’t have the energy to make myself a hoop skirt from scratch, so I bought the biggest one I could find on eBay– a 6-hoop skirt that was at least made from cotton, so it wasn’t quite as bad as shiny polyester. Don’t I get credit for that much?

Anyway, I knew from experience that the hoops on these cheap skirts are adjustable in size, so once it arrived I tried it on and took a look to see what needed to be done. Continue reading

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 IV: Overgown Construction

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I read somewhere that the embassy ballgown in My Fair Lady was actually an antique gown that was modified for the movie– given that, I assume that the overgown is made of silk tulle or something similar that was in more common use back in the early 1910s. However, there was just no way I could afford to work with something that pricey, so not being overburdened with the need for historical accuracy I decided to go with plain old nylon English net. It’s basically a step up from regular tulle– I discovered the name of the fabric during my jaunt to NYC’s Garment District and it helped immensely in my search, since before that I’d been calling it “soft netting” and kept getting directed to either the crappy tulle bolts or to the stretchy power mesh stuff. I picked up four yards of it in ivory (and immediately second-guessed myself, wondering if I should’ve chosen white instead, but whatever).

When I first started draping the net over my dress form to get the shape of the gown, I just gathered a bunch of it in the center front– however, it immediately became apparent that this would not provide the correct shape– far too poofy, not nearly enough elegant drape. I switched over to the idea of a circular skirt– when the center section draped down from a single point (or really a few closely-spaced points) to a full hem, it looked much better.

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Edwardian Hat

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I recently acquired an antique Edwardian lingerie dress (translation: a lacy white cotton dress suitable for afternoon wear) that I plan on wearing to an afternoon tea. However, how can one go to an Edwardian tea without an appropriate hat (particularly when one has no skill at Edwardian hairdressing, making the hat even more necessary)? So when I saw this wide-brimmed straw hat in a local store for only $1.99, I snapped it up.

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You can see that it actually has a slightly fluted brim– I liked that detail– and a relatively small crown that would have to be disguised to get the right shape. I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to look like in the end, so I turned to the internet for inspiration.

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Tutu Dresses for Mini Cinderellas

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My daughter recently watched the new live-action Cinderella movie and was immediately enthralled by the costumes (with good reason!). She adores the old Disney animated classic, but when I saw her eyes widen and her jaw drop upon seeing the new version of Cinderella’s ballgown I knew I’d be making one very shortly.

To be fair, I’d already planned out (just for fun) how I’d make one for myself if I ever had occasion to, but making something for a 3-year-old to wear is different. It needs to be comfortable, or she’ll never wear it. It needs to be washable (at least for spot-cleaning), or she’ll ruin it. And it needs to be reasonably cheap, or I’ll never make it. 😉 A tutu dress seemed to fit the bill admirably. It’s easy to make, inexpensive, very comfortable, stretchy so it’s practically one-size-fits-all, and simple to clean or repair if anything happens to it. And since the kidlet’s favorite color is purple I changed the color scheme to ensure she’d actually wear the dress.

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Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Part IX: The Accessories

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So, back to costumes… the dress is finally done, but there’s still plenty to do before the costume is completely finished.

First up is making the veil and headpiece. The veil in the movie actually looks to be opaque, but I don’t like the look of that so I ordered a 6′ long, single layer veil in ivory tulle on eBay for just under $6 (including shipping, which cost more than the veil). It came wrinkled, but nothing that a session in a steamy bathroom didn’t cure. It ended up being a hell of a lot longer than 6′, though, so I trimmed it to about 12″ off of the floor. This way it won’t get tangled in the tentacles, and no one will step on it.

The movie scenes showed that the headpiece was the same color as the ruffles on the dress, so I cut two tiara shapes out of a manila folder, one of them with tabs on the bottom edge (more on that later)– and covered them in fabric. To do that, I painted a thin layer of glue onto each cardstock piece, then smoothed the fabric over them. Once they were dry, I cut the fabric about 1/2″ from the edge of the cardstock (clipping the curves), folded it over, and glued it down on each piece. Then I sandwiched the pieces together, fabric on the outside, with hot glue. I also inserted two twist ties between the layers to help with stiffness, though in retrospect that wasn’t necessary.

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I folded the tabs at a right angle, bending the twist ties to help keep things in place, and used hot glue to attach them to the inside surface of a black headband so the tiara sat directly in front of it. I’d originally planned on gluing the tabs on top of the headband, but the extra 1/4″ in height makes the tiara sit unnaturally high on my head (and I don’t have poofy Disney princess hair to make it work), so I’m going with this instead. Then I just hot-glued the veil to the headband, right behind the tiara.

(UPDATE 3/25/15: after I tried on the veil I decided it wasn’t draping as well as it could have, so I stitched a 1/2″ strip of white horsehair braid into the hem to give it some body. Looks much better now.)

My original Ursula costume used a cardboard cutout painted to look like a golden shell for Ursula’s necklace, but for this costume I wanted to go with the real thing, so I sourced it out to Etsy. The shell came painted gold, and I touched up the shadows a bit with darker paint just to make them more visible from a distance. Here’s the before and after:

vanessa shell painted

It looks great and probably doesn’t cost much more than I’d have paid anyway for supplies. I did consider trying to find one of those recordable mini-chips that they put into greeting cards to record Ariel’s voice and play it back at appropriate times, but the chips are surprisingly bulky and wouldn’t fit inside the shell.

Finally, while there’s nothing like this in the movie I do need a bag to keep things in at the convention, particularly since I’ve had to forego pockets in the dress. I like to make bags from leftover dress fabric (helps the bag blend in to the skirt during photos), but my dress disaster took up almost all of my extra fabric in the repair. Luckily I put my patchworking skills (already honed from earlier) to good use on the scraps and managed to whip up a reasonably-sized drawstring bag to carry with me. It’s not gorgeous or anything, but it’ll do.

ursula bag

Hey, does this mean that I’m done? Like, DONE done? And with two weeks to spare! Amazing! Pictures of the whole outfit put together coming up soon…

Tips:

1. If you’re going to make something to attach to a headband, make sure that you cut it to fit your head, not just the band. Since the headband will be bent into a different shape when you’re wearing it, just tracing it as-is onto paper won’t give you the right curve.

2. When gluing fabric to things I like to use tacky glue rather than white glue. It’s stickier and less likely to bleed through. Also, I brush the glue onto the non-fabric surface and let it sit for a while to increase the stickiness before smoothing the fabric onto it. If you don’t do this step, the glue just soaks into the fabric and nothing sticks.

3. On the other hand, when you need a fast, strong bond, hot glue is definitely the way to go. I used it for all of the structural parts of the tiara. The only reason I didn’t use it for the fabric was because it’s too dimensional to get a smooth surface.