So now we had fabulous headdresses that were beautiful and drew comments from every random stranger we passed by[i]
: clearly the pressure was on to produce gowns to match. And that was when my sewing reality hit me like a ton of bricks.
See, my sister and my niece were coming out to CoCo with me for the first time. Having never been before, and having not been ‘in the sewing game’ for a while (in my sisters case) or as a costumer before (my niece), I realized that they were going to need a bit of help getting their Mucha dresses together.
Like, from the ground up help.
Fabric procurement, pattern drafting, mock ups, assembly, final fit – the whole rodeo.
So I wasn’t working on one Gala dress, I was working on three.
OK, let’s be honest here: I love this stuff! Three different gowns that are all based on artists sketches which only bear the most passing resemblance to how *actual* gowns fit and *actual* fabric flows? Sign. Me. Up. But holy hell, this was for my family members and my normal ‘mess around until the last minute and then blow it all out at once’ would never work (not just because of the volume to be done, but because I needed their Actual Physical Forms present for a lot of draping and fitting work).
That mean procrastination was not going to be my friend.
So we got right to work. The inspiration images had already been selected:Nieces DressSisters Dress
We bought our fabric at Stone Mountain & Daughter and at JoAnne’s. I beat my fiber snob fairy into submission.[ii]
The selection was cheeringly wide, and cheap, and made me feel better about not forcing everyone into silk. We bought satins, and textured poly, and the Demon Chiffon. We bought WAY more than we needed (I had no idea how much all this drapery was going to take). My sister and niece were champs about my guesswork, but I suspect they will have new curtains to match their gala gowns at some point…[iii]
The principles we used in selecting fabric here was much the same as those used in the headdress construction workshop. We knew the colors we wanted, but we tried to ensure that we used a VARIETY
of textures and fabric weights. This helps to add depth to the finished pieces.
The next step was for me to put my brain hat on and try to figure out HOW to put these dresses together. Let’s be clear. Alphonse Mucha did not paint many women in dresses. Mostly he painted them in sheets and curtains. I mean that literally. Sheets and curtains.
Yes, that is a boob. It's art people...get a room. ;)
A number of the ladies in our project actually *did* this, literally took bed linens and uncut yardage and made their dresses from it. And, might I add, to great effect! I am still really hoping that ladykalessia
will do a write up on her dress and the technique she used to make it because – ladies and jellyspoons – this little number is GENIUS.Photo Credit: American Duchess - CoCo 2013
But oh no…not me. When I looked at the inspiration images for these dresses I saw structure in the fit of the bodices and the drape of the skirts.[iv]
So I had the girls come over and we did some duct tape pattern making. For those of you who don’t know this process, a mini-tutorial on using this technique for a basic bodice is here
Of course, unlike my prior uses of this technique, I realized that I could actually use *darts*[v]
to fit my bodice patterns in this period[vi]
Also of course, I have no idea how to use a dart to save my life.A Rough Translation From The Duct Tape BaseThe Mock Up - Don't JudgeThe Bodice - Prior to Skirt & Trim Application: This Is When I Knew The Darts Had Won
Again, thank god my family is forgiving.
The darts aren't horrible, but I realize now that I could have put them UNDER THE BREAST to better effect. *sigh* I got this right in my sister's bodice, and thank god my niece has a naturally beautiful figure that helps to make up for my errors in pattern making!
Once we had the basic bodices down, it was time for the skirts. Based on the fashion plates of the time, I used the fabulous tutorial available here
to make a basic, trained skirt form.
Seriously folks, if you have to make an Edwardian skirt from scratch, Use. This. Tool. It was dead simple and that is coming some someone who has *never* drafted a pattern from measure before.Hard to See, But I Swear There Is A Pattern On That PaperMy Cat Begging For Death and the Implement Of His Potential Destruction Success! - the Muslin Proof on Eloise
The original idea was to use this pattern for my niece’s garment only. But upon looking more closely at my sister’s inspiration piece, I realized that with the addition on a ‘false apron’ to one section of the skirt, I could achieve as similar ‘wrapped and tucked’ effect[vii]
. I had my sister wear the muslin mock-up we had created and simply pinned and drafted the apron bit from another section of muslin.[viii]
Now we had both bodices and both skirts patterned and a plan of action. Over the next few weekends, we met repeatedly to put the garments together; the work order went something like this.Nieces Dress[ix]:·
Cut and line bodice in blue satin·
Get ready to cut trained skirt from off-white satin·
Realize that satin is so thin a moth could fly through it without damage·
Realize we can line satin skirt with cotton muslin already completed during patterning phase·
Have a celebratory drink·
Actually cut off-white satin for skirt, as well as additional facing sections to create lined dress as per the instructions here
(see 'Step 3': again, DEAD SIMPLE – except for the part my niece had to do with all the hands sewing… )·
Cut cream chiffon for skirt cover·
Realize that love3angle
is completely correct and that chiffon is the DEVIL·
Have a bracing drink·
Cut the trained section of the skirt pattern after having ‘expanded’ the overall size of the patter piece by three times, this included expanding the overall curve of the train so the chiffon over layer would be evenly expanded over the whole hem·
Consider cutting each of the other skirt pieces individually·
Finish the bottle that you are drinking·
Decide that the remainder of the skirt can be constructed of a rectangle composed of the remaining SEVEN YARDS of chiffon·
Attach ‘trained’ chiffon section to large chiffon rectangle·
Use a gather stitch and an army of pins to attach the gathered waist of the chiffon to the lined satin·
Baste the two together·
Hem all nine yards of chiffon using this technique
(Bless You Pinterest!)·
Open new bottle, start chilling the third...·
Add skirt to bodice, ensuring a split in the back waist for getting the dress on - with a proper modesty panel·
Add hook and eye tape for closure·
Drape, pattern and add a dropped sleeve/strap to one side of the bodice in the same blue statin as the body proper·
Trim the neckline of bodice and top of the sleeve/strap with a constructed ‘ruffle’ of various textures of fabric hand cut, stitched and trimmed to a variety of heights[x]·
Construct and add ‘chained arm decorations’ to alternate arm·
Dip dye ornamental scarf in orange
I know that my niece didn’t get a chance to add the additional embroidery and metal blingy bits to the bodice of the dress and that the 'chained arm decorations' abandoned ship not long before we hit the Red Carpet, but I hope she goes back and adds these all later because it will take a beautiful dress to gorgeous!Sister’s Dress:·
Cut and line bodice in white – to be used as a base layer for attaching the skirt to and draping the burgundy material onto·
Cut trained skirt and false apron from gold satin (hem with facing in the same manner as the skirt above)·
Thank the gods that you don’t have to line this one too…·
Attach skirt to base bodice layer·
Add hook and eye tape for closure·
Cut and assemble sash from burgundy satin[xi]·
Drape and hand sew burgundy layer over under bodice, leaving the shoulders free in white fabric (see footnote, as above)·
Cut and assemble false ruffle/drapery from a variety of textures in white fabric[xii]
and affix to neckline of the base bodice layer
What did we achieve?
You know, sometimes draping and pinning really *is* the way to go.
In our next installment we will explore the insanity that was the real draping and handsewing nightmare: my own gala dress. See, all this time working on the gowns above was really just a means for me to avoid having to make a decision about my own clothing…
This is what happens when you wear these things out in public, en masse, for no apparent reason. Who knew? Well *clearly* we weren’t waiting until AUGUST to wear them for the first time… *grin*
“What do you MEAN synthetic fabric is going to pass under my sewing machines pressure foot?!? NEVER!!!” *whack whack whack*
OK, that might be a *bit* of an exaggeration in some cases – I know that my niece’s skirt fabric was pretty much spot on and we used every inch of chiffon, but I think my sister and I could make a whole second dress from our cuttings.
Trust me, you don’t have to tell me to get my vision checked. I know. *chuckle*
My normal application being 16th
C. German costuming…which apparently also has some proof of darts being used per research done by those better versed than I!
“Period? What period? The period of the forest nymphs?” Let’s just say that I was trying to roughly base my construction styles (in some cases) on the fashion forms used during the time that Alphonse Mucha was painting these images.
Little did I realize until later how much ‘wrapping and tucking’ would go into my sister’s final gown…
This was the first bit of *actual* patterning from draping I have EVER done. Needless to say, it was not the last in this project…
To be clear: My niece and sister did the lionesses share of the handsewing and construction on these garments. I basically just ran the weekend sweatshop that helped get the pieces cut and basically assembled to send home with them for finishing
In the original dress, this was probably just the top of the sheet sticking out around the neckline where the blue wasn’t wrapped high enough to cover it… But you know me… STRUCTURE! *head desk*
Structure! In Progress!
Remember when I said before that I had no idea how much ‘wrapping and tucking’ would go into this dress? Well, my original plan was to create a two yard long, 4 inch wide sash out of the burgundy fabric (to create the drapey sash in the inspiration image) and actually drape and sew the remaining burgundy sections on my sisters white under bodice. In reality, my sister ended up making one HUGE sash (approx. 5 yards long and 10”-12” wide that we pinned and wrapped around her on the night of Gala. And you know what…? It totally looked just like her inspiration image.
By ‘cut and assemble’ I mean, while standing in a hotel room with your freshly burgundy wrapped sibling, holding safety pins in your mouth and muttering under your breath about not having time to tack the filmy bits in place. Again, the result was *spot on* for the original image. W.T.F.