We are onto the final post about this dress! This one will cover the process of making the skirt. The first post about this dress can be read here, and the second is posted here.
The skirt is really pretty basic, since it’s just a giant rectangle. I had four yards of fabric leftover after making the sleeves (which is weird since i’m 90% sure I only bought four yards) and my material was sixty-one inches wide. That was a little long, so I trimmed five inches off the bottom.
Then I folded the bottom edge inward by a half inch and sewed it down with basting stitches.
Then folded the edge up by an inch and a half and pinned it in place. This way the raw edge was hidden and I had a wider hem, which will look smooth once ironed.
I sewed that down with a cross stitch, which is my favorite hemming stitch. I think it’s a lot of fun to do, but I don’t like how much thread it takes up.
I decided I wanted the skirt to close with hooks and bars at the centerback of the dress. But I didn’t want the stitching that attached the bars to be visible from the front side of the fabric.
So I made a facing for the back sides of the skirt out of a rectangle of cotton. I turned over the edges, then sewed them onto the back edges of the skirt, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other.
When the rectangle of fabric was turned over and pinned down I had a nicely finished edge and a base to mount my hooks!
That got sewn on with whip stitches.
Then I secured my hooks/bars onto that. These are spaced between one and a half and two inches apart, and I used black size 2 hooks. I would have used silver ones, but I didn’t have any.
The stitch work on these isn’t the prettiest, but at least you can’t tell from the outside of the skirt!
I really need to get better at sewing these on, I find them really frustrating, which shows in how the stitching ends up looking. My main problem is the thread getting tangled/caught on them, and how difficult it is to hold them in place while sewing them on. Any tips for that would be much appreciated!
The back of the skirt got sewn up with a half inch french seam. I left the top few inches (that have the facing and hooks attached) open, and tapered the stitching down from that point into the half inch seam allowance. This way it doesn’t look abrupt or wonky from the outside.
Then I gathered the skirt down. This part didn’t go very well. Even though this brocade is medium weight, it has a lot of body to it which made it a pain to gather. I did it by hand the first time, but my thread broke when I got to the end.
So I switched to doing it by machine. It took three passes to get it down to forty-five inches, then I used upholstery thread and gathered it down by hand to get it down to twenty seven.
The gathers looked pretty decent but unfortunately I messed them up. I sewed the skirt onto the bodice from the backside, and ended up shifting some of the gathers around so they looked good from the backside. That was a mistake, because from the front they looked really lumpy and uneven.
That’s why it’s a better idea to sew densely gathered skirts on from the front side. And I should know that, I just forgot the day I sewed this skirt on…
The brocade used for the bodice is pretty delicate, and I didn’t want to damage it by removing and resewing on the skirt. So I left it as is. Which is another silly decision because the lower inch or two of the bodice is covered by ribbon, so if the brocade got a little banged up it wouldn’t matter, the ribbon would cover it.
It seems really obvious looking back at it, but it didn’t at the time. So that’s why my gathers don’t look great on this one 😦
I sewed the ribbon around the waistline of the bodice.
Then I made the bow! I cut my remaining ribbon into three pieces, then sewed them together so I had a much wider piece of ribbon. This got sewn into a circle, then I pressed down in the center of the circle to create two evenly sized loops. I secured the loops with thread, then gathered the middle slightly and wrapped a scrap of ribbon around the center.
I love this bow. Maybe not as much as the ones on the cuffs, but it’s pretty close!
I sewed one side of the bow onto the bodice. The other side is secured with a small snap. One half of the snap is stitched onto the underside of the bow, and the other onto the ribbon at the waist of the bodice. When the bow is snapped in place the center of it alights perfectly with the center back of the bodice.
And that’s it! When I wore it for photos I put two fake cardinals on my shoulders. My wig kind of ate them but I thought they looked cute.
I paired this with my wigfashion lace front (I wouldn’t recommend this wig, but I like how it looks here) and the Christmas Crown I made last year from things I got from Michaels. I actually have a tutorial about that crown here, if you’re interested. The full photo set of this ensemble will be in a few minutes, but here is a preview.
Overall thoughts: I like how this turned out. Especially when it’s worn and paired with the headpiece and red lipstick. I think the contrast between the ribbons and the brocade is lovely, and I adore the bows and bodice detailing. It’s not my favorite thing i’ve made this year, but i’m happy with it. Especially considering it was made in a week from (mostly) things I already had, and without a clear picture of what I was making in my mind.
It isn’t as grand as my previous years costume, but it’s definitely better made! I don’t think I had any major construction or fit problems this year. If I did it again I would be more careful when attaching the skirt, and probably bone the back of the bodice a bit more heavily because I had some buckled bones at that point (oops) but there aren’t any raw edges or loose threads or issues that had me stumped for days on end. So that’s progress!
Thanks for reading! I hope you are enjoying the holiday season so far, or the time of work if you don’t celebrate any of them.
6 thoughts on “Making a Gold and Ivory Gown, Part Three”
You are amazing!
Wow, Angela, your work is incredible! I’ve been working in theatrical costuming for many years and you are extremely talented! I will be watching for your name because you will go far! if you are ever in Stratford, Canada, let me know…happy to show you around the wardrobe.
Angela: I have been making costumes and gowns since the 1970’s, and I have not seen anyone your age with your skills! This old man is now a fan of your work. And on a personal note, I think you could wear a gunny sack and still look stunning. You are the perfect model for your work.
“My main problem is the thread getting tangled/caught on them, and how difficult it is to hold them in place while sewing them on. Any tips for that would be much appreciated!”
Try pulling your thread through some beeswax before stitching. It won’t get as tangled. Oh, and keep on doing what you’re doing – it’s phenomenal!
When I sew hooks and eyes I tack them down first to keep them in place: run a couple of stitches through each hole then finish stitching them down. Awesome work. Thanks for sharing your process 🙂
I saw a friend’s post on FB and went to the site to see your beautiful creations. I am in awe. Your costumes are incredibly beautiful, obviously made lovingly and with a passion. You are also beautiful yourself and the photographs are incredible. Do you sell your costumes? They are fine quality and should be used in TV or movies or plays. I am a fan and love your blog. Funny, as my Mom who had wanted to be a seamstress forced me to take sewing classes each summer in middle school, resulting in my despising sewing by machine, and yet as an adult, I have amassed a collection of antique sewing machines. I prefer hand sewing for my simple quilting. Good luck in your future projects, though with your skill, determination , vision and commitment, I don’t think you need luck. Thanks for the blog. I found this all so fascinating.