The project has three parts: shorten the gown; add shoulder straps; and embellish the gown with flowers. B. and I begin with a brief sketch of the concept:
The goal is to have enough flowers to really make a statement, clustered all around the bodice and trailing down the skirt.
I hem the two layers of the skirt: the sheer silk organdy with a Calvin Klein hem, and the silk charmeuse (which was flat-lined in cotton) with horsehair braid. While I am cutting the bottom, I cut the back just a little longer than the rest, to give it a brush train. Here are the before and after pics:
And here, for your delectation, is a cat who's convinced that we're doing this whole project to give her something to hide under:
MAKING THE STRAPS
I start with a bit of muslin, pinned to fit:
That gives me the pattern. Then, using fabric from the removed train, I make the straps.
INSTALLING THE STRAPS
The dress is lined with acetate. To put the straps in, I must separate lining from exterior fabric, slide the straps in between, and sew it back together. For strength, I want all the weight of the dress to be hanging from the stronger acetate lining, not the weaker silk exterior, so I sew that seam first, and then just slip-stitch the exterior down. Here's a slideshow of how I do it:
A KITTY INTERLUDE
While I'm hand-sewing the straps in, I turn away to get some tea. Then hearing a rustling noise, I turn back and see a mysterious lump in the skirt of the dress! I investigate:
Well hello, Pretty Kitty!
Thinking that there ought to be smaller flowers and petals on the gown, to fill in the gaps and allow me to distribute the larger flowers more strategically, I take time another day to cut a bunch of thumb-sized petals in kidney and heart shapes. I use a flame to sear and curl the edges of the synthetics, and leave the silk as it. I also cut lots of small circles of fabric, fold them in quarters, and stitch up the corners. When I unfold them, the stitches make them buckle in the center, so they won't lie flat. That makes them look floral, too.
APPLYING FLOWERS TO GOWN
Everyone loves pretty pictures!
THE BEST LAID PLANS...
. . . gang aft agley. Alas, B. was unable to make it to the ball this year. However, she plans to go next year, and in the meantime has a splendid ball gown for any formal event that comes up! It was a privilege to work with her to bring her vision to reality; the gown is lovely and so is she.
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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