E’s Prom Dress Finale

Front view, modeled so nicely by my vintage Acme fully adjustable “living” dress form.  🙂

Bodice front

Another bodice pic.  I tried to get those sparkly star effect thingys happening with the light prisming through the crystals, but obviously my photography skills aren’t up to snuff, and I wasn’t about to Photoshop them in.

So there we have it.  Six yards of silk chiffon + silk peau de soie bodice embroidered with freshwater pearls, Swarovski crystals, silk flowers, japanese seed beads + petticoats and a variety of supporting layers = one completed prom dress.  I had a lot of fun!!!

E’s Prom Dress 5: Spiral Steel

As I said a couple of posts ago, I’m using spiral steel boning for this bodice.  I’ve only used such boning once before, and was very pleasantly surprised at how it refuses to become permanently bent out of shape during wear like the plastic boning.  But it is a tedious process to cut the steel and cap it.

This time it went swimmingly, however, thanks to a suggestion, I taped the ends of the steel with my DD1’s ballet toe tape prior to tipping the lengths.  Does your mind ever wander far and wide as you work on a project?  Mine wandered to the question of rust.  Do steel bones rust?  I don’t think I want to go down that street…..

E’s Prom Dress 4: Bodice Lining

Boning channels in the bodice lining.  I used an Egyptian cotton shirting – feels lovely next to the skin – for the lining, and grosgrain ribbon for the channels.  I’ll be using spiral steel boning for the bodice.

E’s Prom Dress 3: Embellishments

Japanese iridescent glass seed beads, silk flowers, fresh water pearls and Swarovski crystals for the bodice.

E’s Prom Dress 3: The Cummerbund

The waist is accented by a very flourescent lime green cummerbund.  I could not for the life of me find silk in the colour I wanted, so ended up using this poly charmeuse, and it is awful to sew with – slippery, unpredictable and will not shape the way silk would.  Once the dress is on dear E, the cummerbund will fit tautly and the handstitched pleating will not be so noticeable.  The zipper is completely hand-picked.  I’ve been craving some hand sewing these days, and this zipper was like a sip of cold water on a hot day when you really want to jump into a swimming pool.  But there’s a lot more hand work to be done on the bodice yet….

E’s Prom Dress 2: The Bodice

I used Burda 05-2011-122 aka The Bombshell Dress for the bodice.  We decided on a medium-weight ivory silk peau de soie.  It’s a dream to work with.  Here’s the interior.

E’s Prom Dress 1: The Skirt

I’m making a prom dress for a good friend’s daughter, and instead of posting all the information when it’s complete, I thought I’d break up my progress into a variety of posts.  This is six yards of silk chiffon in a border print for the skirt.

The Bombshell Course: Mission accomplished

side frontFirst, I want to apologize for the crappy over-exposed pictures, but the sun is shining and it’s warm enough to be outside dressed like this. There was frost in my yard this morning!

After ripping and sewing (shell) and ripping and sewing (lining) and generally fussing with this yesterday for 5 hours, I’ve accomplished my goal.  I’ve made up the dress as a trial to see if it was worth using fabric that I value highly, and found that yes, I’m pretty happy with the finished product.  It’s come a long way and is definitely worth making up two or three more times.  Using a print would also disguise a lot of the picky-picky fussing issues about the bodice cups – you just wouldn’t notice them!!! He he he he….

B 5-2011-122 back viewWhen I first saw the dress pattern on the cover of Burda’s May 2011 issue, I did not even look at it twice.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I did look at it twice, because it’s in the magazine twice.  And I distinctly remember thinking, “I really hate that dress.  I hate the 3 piece bra cup.  It fits terribly.  I hate that dress.”  And then I saw Gertie’s Bombshell Course.

A little history here:  I am completely self (read book) taught.  My mother used to sew a lot when I was little, and I finally convinced her to teach me when I was 9 years old.  The extent of her teaching was how to lay out a pattern and clarification for steps in the directions that I didn’t understand.  The first thing I ever made was a basic doll dress made up of rectangles…. on a Singer treadle, no less.  But I’ve never ever taken a sewing class. Until Gertie’s course.

When I signed up, I had no idea I would be using the Hated Dress Pattern.  But the course was paid for (half price – yay!), and so I thought, “Well, even if I never wear the darned thing, I’ll learn a lot from taking this course, especially about boning a bodice.”  And that was only the beginning.  Let me share just a little of what I learned:B 5-2011-122

  • I learned about draping.  I had to so drastically re-draft the cup pattern, that I did my first ever teeny tiny drafting project under Gertie’s video supervision  to get the cups to fit.
  • I learned about using needlepunch or thin quilt batting or felt or whatever to shape the cups and working with spiral steel boning.
  • I got to practice a lot of techniques that I’ve done once or twice over my sewing years all in one garment.  FUN! Smile

underwired bodice liningAnd now to some technical things.  I decided to double bone the CF of the bodice – in the absence of a wooden busk or very inflexible steel – and added underwire to the lining.  This doesn’t show from the outside or the inside, but it does add more security to the bodice.  I’m still not 100% happy with the way the neckline does not lay flat, but it’s better than it was.  waist stayHere’s the finished bodice from the inside.

There are some things that I will fix for next time.  First, the skirt lining is doing weird things (you can see that in the top picture).  Second, I will reduce the curve on the bottom of Piece #1 (the cup top piece) by about 1/4”.  This will change the silhouette to curved rather than angular.  I did reduce the centre seam by the intended 1/2” for this version, but it’s still not enough.  I’ve made notes on my pattern pieces for the next version.  Third, the back bodice needs to be shortened by about another 3/4” to account for my high hips (or sway back, however you like to call it). And last, I will look at imitating the boning pattern of a corset in the hopes it will encourage the CF neckline to lay flat against my breastbone.  It’s not bad, but it’s not perfect.necklineThank you to all of you who have cheered me on as I’ve waded through this one, and I just wanted to say, yes, usually I’d trash something that made me *almost* cry, but I was bound and determined, come hell or high water to conquer the fit of this dress. It’s my repressed type A personality showing through, I guess!! And the fact that I beat it in the end is truly enjoyable. No, I’m not a sucker for punishment. I just really really hate giving up on something. There is always a way to win. !!!! Did I just write that? Ah, well…..B 5-2011-122 back

So, when do you quit?

sideSo here’s THE TEST.  I’ve pinned the front hem and a halter strap, but the dress is fully lined and boned.  The back skirt needs some tweaking (I’ve got some lines happening) but that’s the least of my problems.   The test run started with undergarments, but remember, my goal is to have this bodice fitting as well as possible so that I don’t require undergarments.

Let’s start with what I think is good about this dress.  First, I’m surprised at how much I like it.  I like it enough that I’m tempted to keep tweaking it to ensure the fit is wearable perfect.   Second, I like the sarong-style skirt.  Third, I’m generally pleased with the bodice fit, although the bust line needs a few fixes.

And now comes the list of improvements required. To appreciate this you need to know that the one strip of spiral steel boning down the CF does not provide enough support for the bodice on me.  I really need a completely inflexible piece of steel, about 1/2” wide to hold the CF flat against my breastbone, and that is a necessary thing on this dress.  Looking over my shoulder with a clear view to my navel is not my idea of a good time.

trial bodiceIn these first pictures the CF is pinned to my undergarment so that it lies flat against my breastbone like it’s supposed to.  And looking at the picture below, you can see that I’ve still not got the perfect fit on the cups.  This is creating a problem or two!  If I’m going to wear this dress with the undergarment I have on, then I need to tweak the fit.  The right cup has a lot of extra ease along the neckline, and needs to be adjusted in – about 2 inches, I would guess.  And I would need to reduce the centre cup seam by about a total of 1/2”.  You can see from the picture (above left) that the shape is a bit odd – I’d prefer a slightly rounder shape than the angular silhouette it currently has.

bodice problems

I’ve decided that wearing this dress without some kind of shoulder strap is not happening for me.  Maybe it’s my age or my size or my mental state – don’t get me wrong!  Strapless dresses have always been something that I wanted to wear.  This is not a new opinion!  I distinctly remember a strapless bathing suit I had when I was about 13 years old, and thinking there was just something about my (less-than-boney) shoulders that did not do justice to a strapless neckline.    This dress has done nothing to change my mind about that.

However, here’s a pic of the bodice taken in along the neckline about the required 2” and pinned…… so I could take these pictures to see if the fit is any better.R cup adjustedI think it is….. along the neckline anyway.  But I’m still concerned about the gap at the centre front.  Maybe I can steal a piece of wood (like a wooden busk) from DH’s workshop to see if it would actually make a difference to have inflexible reinforcement at the centre…..