Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ball dress, my greatest pride!

My daughter's school ball has been the biggest social event in her life so far, and I was thrilled and honoured that she wished for me to make her dress for her.  We had a wonderful time together; planning and shopping for fabric and generally bonding in a girly way.
She had a firm idea of what she wanted, making it much easier for me; the challenge in this process was for me to make the dress to fit her vision of how she wanted to look.  Fortunately she loved her dress!  She had seen a Gucci dress in my Vogue magazine that she wanted for her look, with the skirt to be fuller.  I studied the dress and eventually decided that the best way for this to work would be to make the bodice as a corset with a long waist tie/train to nip in the waist, and with a separate skirt.  This immediately caused a few hassles and she emphatically did not want a skirt and a top, but a dress!!!  I had to promise that it would look like a dress and no one would be able to tell it was a skirt and top.  I think I achieved this successfully.
The whole process was deeply satisfying to me, both as a seamstress and as a mother.
I used as a basic starting point Simplicity 9775, although this was drastically altered to fit my daughter's shape and the complex style of outfit we had in mind.
I firstly drafted the skirt and overlay and a whole lot of geometric "petals" in paper and fitted and arranged them.  I then realised that the model wearing the dress in my Vogue magazine was probably over 6 ft tall, and the arrangement of petals on the original dress was not going to fit on my 5 ft 4 daughter at all!!  So I recut and rearranged until finally coming up with a dress and design that looked just right for my daughter's frame and suited the fuller style skirt she wanted.  I also put a petal design on the train, as I wanted for it to flow and mingle in with the skirt overlay to become an artistic folding of layers to draw and please the eye.
The corset caused some angst (for me).  It was very important to me that the folds in the three joining pieces (the front and two backs) corresponded exactly to each other, as well as the folds conforming to her body shape to best effect.  So, wider folding over the bust and narrow folding at the waist and even narrower in the small of the back.  I folded and fitted and folded and fitted into the wee hours of several mornings, and then some.  This, along with the applique of the petals, took the longest time.  I probably spent a week on just getting the folds of this corset just right!
The dress is entirely of silk, fully lined (obviously!), and the corset is boned.  The corset closure is by hidden hooks and eyes.  I toyed with the idea of covered buttons and silk ribbon loops, but decided the folding of the bodice should close cleanly with nothing to interrupt the sculptural effect of the folding.
The green shot silk has an orange weft (warp?), so gleams with a bronzy-coppery glow under lights.  It looks gorgeous with my daughter's strawberry blond hair.  And as we all know, the shades of ivory/cream/white are almost endless!  We both thought this particular shade suited her peaches and cream complexion very well.  The underside of the ties/train are black, like the appliqued "shadows" of the petals.  I think these splashes of black just set it all off and added a tiny touch of severity and sophistication to the gown.
I have since entrusted it to our local dry-cleaner, and she has worn this to another ball.
My finest achievement...
Photo below is from Gucci Spring/Summer 08,, see here 


  1. Two amazing and beautiful creations to be very proud of!!!

  2. Sandi says...Carolyn your daughter looks stunning. She must be so proud to have such a talented mother. This dress reveals your artistic flare, the petal design and colours chosen work perfectly. You must have the patience of a saint.

  3. This is so beautiful! congratulations on such a fabulous design. Your daughter must be so proud of it. The corset is amazing - I like how you've folded it in the front. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Holy greatness! That dress is awesome and your daughter looks so beautiful. I'm going to follow you and make the wardrobe refashion pledge soon. In Feb., I am taking a class to make my own dress form according to my measurements. I'm really excited. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Carolyn, This is an amazing creation. What a true labour of love. No store bought gown could suit your daughter so well or envelop her in care like this does. I have just discovered your blog through WR and love what you do.You're a very talented woman. Keep up the good work. From a fellow Aussie

  6. I'm a WR girl wandering over to your blog. This dress is out of this world beautiful. I love love love how you made the blockish print with layers!

  7. Much better than the original!!! Congratulations!

  8. I just read your interview on BurdaStyle and came to check out the amazing dress. And it is so incredible! How creative and well done! You should be proud, she looks beautiful.

  9. Carolyn, the dress and your daughter are so beautiful. What an amazing gown. Thank you for sending me the link, I am feeling rather nervous about making my daughter's gown, so it is very inspiring to see your wonderful work.