Every year I attend a beautiful ballet gala and get to dress up. I always joke that it is like prom for adults. The first couple years I bought dresses but the past two years I have made my own. The year before I went in emerald green velvet with an Edwardian look. This year I wanted to emulate some Hollywood glamour with a slight Disney vibe for fun. In a wonderful twist of fate, a kind sewing friend sent me yards and yards of gold brocade and I knew it would be perfect!
I started with Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. I confess I had never done a modern boned bodice before. I had a general idea but wanted some instructions just in case. The book comes with several basic paper patterns then shows how to mix and match.
I chose the classic strapless bodice and didn't really do much in ways of modifying. It is a basic strapless bodice with princess seams. I was pleasantly surprised with the good fit. I took in the waist a teeny bit then set to work with boning.
As you can see in the images, Gertie walks you through the boning sequence and even gives you supply options. I went with lightweight rigelene boning because I did not need much support and the idea of just sewing in casings with boning already inside was appealing. The bodice went together fairly easily. In a surprising move, I opted to bone the lining rather than the brocade. I attached the lining at top of bodice neckline and it worked ok!
The brocade frayed like crazy so I serged. The red thread was due to pure laziness (no one would see it anyway). In these pictures the lining isnt attached at the bottom of the bodice.
Once the bodice was complete I started on the skirt. The brocade fabric was very very heavy so gathering was not an option (ok fine, I did try to gather and it was a horrible disaster that left me yelling at gold fabric and questioning everything in my life). I draped the fabric on Betty the mannequin and discovered that 3 yards was my max width. I left the front flat and started to pleat towards the back. This solved many problems. First, It left the front with clean lines. Second, the pleats all facing towards the back created fullness in the back, which makes for a great profile. And third and most important, the thick pleats laid nicely and made it possible to attach to the bodice.
Some close ups of the pleating, starting from center side
And then, like any seamstress feeling great and full of cupcakes, I grabbed a zipper and figured the hardest part was over. I have installed many zippers. The first garment I made was a 1955 dress pattern with a zipper. I opted for an invisible zipper because I wanted it to be, well, invisible. In case you can't tell by now, this was a bad choice. The zipper refused to zip. I pulled. I yanked. I had a talk with it. Zipper would not budge up past the waistline. Thanks to google and several bloggers, I discovered that metal zippers are used for a very good reason. I have several in my notions box so I chose a 1960's deadstock and carefully restarted the zipper process. Due to the thickness where the pleats attached to the bodice waist, the metal zipper was very much needed. It worked easily once the right zipper was installed. I hand sewed the lining down with a whipstich.
Lining sewn down, ready to go!
I carefully hand topstiched once the zipper was set in.
I left a slight train when hemming and the dress was (mostly) complete. I still feel like it is missing a little something. I played with the idea of adding a draped collar at the bustline, or perhaps a belt? Before I had the opportunity to experiment I came down with a bad cold and had to cancel my gala plans. My gown sat for a couple weeks and then I decided to channel my inner Dovima and photograph it because why not?! I may add to it and at least I have my gown ready for the gala next year.
Back can be further topstiched so I will probably go back and fix this
I added a lovely 1960's floral brooch to my hair and long white gloves to complete the look.
Nice look at the back pleating