Once tasked with creating an opulent formal gown for a prestigious occasion, the first step is to choose a design. What do you do when you can't decide between a 1950's ball gown and a Victorian era court gown? You blend them together into a completely original design compiled of the best of both worlds and adorned with all your favorite things; beads, Venice lace, and ruffles.
The next step is to choose the fabric and the colors. One choice was easy. The drape of the sleeves and the under skirt necessitated I use chiffon. But for the main fabric, velvet, brocade, silk and satin were all considered. Ultimately, silk won out because it has the opulence and stiffness that would make this dress have the intended look. As for the colors, I was leaning towards olive green silk and pale pink chiffon, but upon seeing a deep, eyecatching teal silk, that changed the plan and a peach chiffon was chosen as its complement.
From there, it is cutting out fabric. A lot of fabric! Not only was it is the main body of silk, but also satin lining and yards and yards of chiffon skirt and ruffles. Which is why it is always nice to get some help from a friend.
Many small details are figured out in the midst of assembly. Somethings are very difficult to plan out completely without having your hands on the materials and the ability to see the affects of different arrangements. An example of such deliberations is the placement of the lace along the bottom edge of the overskirt.
From the beginning, the plan was to have extensive beadwork on the bodice and sleeves. Nothing says opulence and elegance quite like meticulously placed beads. In the modern age, you can find a plethora of evening gowns decorated with beads, but upon closer inspection, you will find that the design is asymmetrical and sloppy. I loathe unnecessary asymmetry, therefore any beadwork I do is carefully designed and implemented. For this gown, I drew out many potential designs on paper before deciding how I would actually place the beads. Once I had a winning design, I drew it in chalk on one half of the bodice, then, because I am a lover of symmetry, I pressed the other half on top of the chalked up side and some the chalk rubbed off to mark the other side. That way, the exact same lines were on both sides of the bodice and therefore, symmetrical.
And after many hours, that paper draft looked like this:
The back of the bodice and the sleeves went through the same process.
Equally as time consuming were the ruffles on the underskirt. They consisted of three angled rows of ruffles, defined with strips of velvet ribbon and faux pearl beads. The tricky part was figuring out how far apart to place the ruffles and how shallow the angle needed to be to achieve the right look. It involved many repetitions of pinning and unpinning and repinning until it was just right. For me, it doesn't matter how many times I have to redo something, it has to be perfect!
After all those hours of sewing on beads, ruffles, and lace, all of the pieces were finally ready to be sewn together, but not without first checking to see what the finished product was approximately going to look like.
At the end of it all, is a gorgeous gown that is worthy of the name "Masterpiece."