Making a Black Lace Dress, Part One

In a couple weeks my uncle is getting married. That means i’ll being going to a semi-formal event and need to wear a semi-formal dress. I’ve made a few of those before but they all either obnoxious, too formal, or white, which wouldn’t be very appropriate! I could have bought a dress, but for the first time in forever I had the opportunity to make a dress and actually wear it somewhere, and I felt like I owed it to myself to do just that.

I bought the fabrics before I had a design in mind. I had fifty percent off coupons and thought the fabrics looked pretty together so I picked up three yards of black lace and four yards of point d’esprit netting. I also ended up buying shoes to match the lace before actually making the dress, so those are pictured below as well.


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I had some black cotton sateen, ivory shantung (leftover from my Royal Milk Tea costume), and quilters cotton  laying around as well. The material costs on this dress were pretty low so I splurged and ordered four hundred swarovski crystals in the color “jet”.

Now I had my materials, but I didn’t have a design.

I wanted an A-line silhouette with a structured bodice since I think that flatters me best. I sketched up a simple strapless dress with a lace overlay, which was nice but very boring. The shape of it made me think of vintage dresses from the mid 1900s, so I started browsing pinterest in search of inspiration. Eventually I came across something I really, really, liked. It’s the dress Marilyn Monroe wore to the oscars in 1951.

I think it’s beautiful. I wanted to make something really similar to it, as in identical but with a shorter hem and contrasting fabrics. I titled my progress folder “Mairlyn” because of that.

But things really didn’t go as planned. I  made some decisions which took the design in a different direction, and my materials were way stiffer and more opaque which prevented the airy ruched collar. So my dress looks nothing like this one, at all, but I still love this dress and wanted to share it because look at it. It’s so pretty.

Step one was draping the bodice. One of my favorite details about the dress I used for inspiration is the illusion neckline created with flesh toned fabric. I figured I could do something similar, which is why there is a line about an inch away from the edge around the bodice neckline.

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I wanted this bodice to be really structured so I cut it into several different pieces which allows me to add boning into the seams.

I copied all the pieces onto tracing paper and added seam allowances so I could assemble my first mock up.

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Here is the fabric after being removed from the dress form.

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And the pattern it got turned into.

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I made my first mock up and it went really well. So well that I decided not to bother making another mock up. I regret this decision because I think the finished bodice would fit a lot better if I had made a second mockup and did a test run with the boning.

Since my mock up didn’t have boning in the bra cups they slouched down a bit and made the neckline look a lot deeper than it actually was.

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Because the neckline was lower than I expected I decided to remove the illusion neckline aspect of the bodice. It was revealing enough without that, and even though it wouldn’t cause more skin to show it would hint at it, and I didn’t think that was necessary.

So I made some pattern alterations and added more seam allowance. Now I had a pattern that looked like this!

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Like most structured bodices this will be made up of three layers. The top layer is made from the fashion fabrics, the base layer where boning and structure is placed, and the final layer is lining to hide anything ugly on the interior.

I started by making the base layer. Since the top layer will be stiff I didn’t want to add bulk by having a base layer made from heavy materials. So I chose a medium weight quilters cotton. All the boning channels will be backed with canvas and it will be stitched directly to the top layer of fabric so i’m not worried about it stretching or warping overtime, even though it is a lighter fabric than what would usually be used as a base.

I cut all the pieces out and marked the boning channels. Then they were sewn together with three quarter inch seams.

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I clipped the bust seams just below the line where underwire will be added, then I turned the seam allowance inward and pinned them down. Once these are sewn I will have boning channels I can feed plastic boning into. Plastic boning won’t compress the bust, but it will prevent the fabric from turning over or collapsing down, which happens a lot on strapless bodices if you have a small bust.

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Then I created the rest of the boning channels. I used spiral steel boning and bias tape to create underwire beneath the bust. Ribbon backed with canvas was sewn on to create channels for the really thick, stiff, steel bones. Some seams were folded inward to create channels for the flimsier bones, which are either plastic or spiral steel.

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Here the bodice is with all the bones added and the bra cups pinned in. These were bra cups I bought for my Royal Milk Tea costume ages ago – I threw that costume away a long time ago but salvaged the trims, boning, and notions. When I installed these in that costume I had no clue how to draft a bodice to fit them, or how to sew them in. They ended up being really uneven and that bodice gaped horribly at the neckline, you see straight down it.

Those were bad times. But i’ve learned a lot since then, and this time they got sewn in properly!

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Here is how the base layer looked when I tried it on. I was so ridiculously pleased with this fit. There was a bit of warped boning in the back – this is the fault of a spiral steel bone. This was my first time using spiral steel and i’ve decided it’s pretty damn useless, plastic boning holds its shape better, is easier to move in, and a lot easier to install.

Aside from that, I thought this looked pretty great.

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Here it is laid flat. The underwire doesn’t look great here, but it sits smoothly against the body when it’s worn.

There were a couple things I noticed during the fitting. The first was that the neckline was way higher (like, a whole inch higher) than I was expecting. As I said earlier, this is because my mock up didn’t have boning in it so it slouched down. With the boning holding the material up it sits much higher on the body. This is good and bad. It means the neckline is high enough for me to feel comfortable adding the illusion neckline back in (yay!) but I think the neckline is a little bit too high. If I ever use this pattern again I would chop a half inch off.

The other thing is that it’s slightly too long in the waist. By maybe a quarter inch. Which means it digs into my hips a little. But this dress will be worn over petticoats, which should provide a bit of padding and prevent anything from bruising or bleeding (I hope).

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Since the illusion neckline is back I made a quick alteration to the two front panels of my bodice. On the left you can see the original pattern, and on the right you can see the altered version.

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Finally we are onto the top layer of the bodice! I cut everything out from polyester shantung, then pinned two layers of petticoat net overtop. I didn’t like how bright the ivory was beneath the black lace, this helps dull that a bit.

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…And now we skip a few steps! I sewed the netting overtop of the shantung, then basted a layer of lace on top. The only panels that didn’t get an overlay are the top pieces of the front panels. I left this material plain so it would better match my skin tone.

All the pieces got sewn together with three quarter inch seams.

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I didn’t do the smoothest job on those curvy seams at the bust, but that’ll be hidden by the collar so it’s okay.

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I traced around the neckline and measured an inch and a half away from the traced line, this created a facing which got sewn onto the right side of the bodice.

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I turned the facing over and sewed it down to get a finished edge. I tucked the base layer between the facing and top layer of fabric, then stitched it to the facing.  To further secure the base layer in place I sewed the lower edge of the top layer to the base layer and turned them over to get a finished edge.

I hope that paragraph makes at least a little bit of sense.

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I created a paper guide for where topstitching should be around the bust. I used pins as a guideline and carefully stitched across them by hand to secure the two layers together.

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When it came to actually trying on the bodice I ran into a little problem. It wasn’t too small, but it was too small to zip up (there is totally a difference). If I added a lace up back it would have been fine, but I didn’t want to do that. I tried adding extensions onto the back of the bodice but then it was too big and the boning gaped away from my body.

Finally I figured out a solution: Make a little girdle/waistband thing that goes on before the bodice to cinch my waist in, then zip the bodice up.

To do that I quilted a piece of shantung and backed it with cotton. Then I sewed in plastic boning so it wouldn’t scrunch up. Hooks/eyes were stitched into the front with upholstery thread to create a closure.

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It leaves behind some pretty ugly marks, but it worked really well!

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The bodice zips up nicely. Does it kind of painfully dig into my hips? Yup. Will the petticoats help pad that? I really hope so. Even if it doesn’t I should be fine, it doesn’t restrict or alter my breathing in anyway so it isn’t dangerous, it’s just uncomfortable and might leave behind some bruises.

I wish I could change a few things to make it fit better (like go back in time and make another mock up… ) but at this point those would be MAJOR changes, and I only have a few days left to get this project finished. So i’m leaving it this way for now, and i’ll suffer through for the sake of looking pretty.

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I think that’s it for the bodice – the skirt, collar, and other good stuff will be coming up next week. Also I vlogged throughout the whole process. If you would like to hear me ramble on about my thoughts on this project as I make it, you can watch the videos here!

Thanks for reading!

Heinrich Mücke Inspired Dress, Part Two

The procrastination project continues! Earlier this week I wrote about the process of making the lining and sleeves. That post can be read here. I didn’t mention this last time, but I “vlogged” (I hate that word) about making this dress on youtube. For the five days I worked on it I took short clips about my goals and how it progressed. I edited them into two videos and if you are interested in seeing those they can be found here!

Starting where the last post left off, I went ahead and gathered the tops of the sleeves and sewed them onto the bodice lining. I didn’t figure out a way to make these more opaque with the materials I had on hand, so I left them the way they were. Luckily as the project has gotten closer to completion the sheerness has grown on me!

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DSC_5020With the sleeves finished I switched to working on the skirt overlay. I started by cutting out a big rectangle, which was a little more than four yards wide and fifty sevenish inches long. I turned the bottom edge over by a half inch and basted it down by hand.DSC_5015I pinned that edge up to create a two and a half inch wide hem.DSC_5022And sewed it down with a cross stitch. I haven’t hemmed anything this way in a while because it is a little more time consuming than a whip stitch, and takes a lot more thread which makes it more prone to tangling. But this project reminded me how nice it looks from the outside of the fabric, you can hardly even see the stitches!DSC_5025The top eight inches of each edge got rolled over twice and stitched down with a whip stitch. I did this on the lining layer as well. It gets left open when I sew up the back seam and gives me a way to get the dress on and off.

DSC_5026I used my machine to gather the top down to twenty seven inches.DSC_5028Then I attached it to the bias tape I made earlier. I cut a fifty seven inch long piece of bias tape and sewed the center twenty seven inches over the raw edge of the skirt. I whip stitched both ends (which were fifteen inches long each) shut so I could tie them into a bow at the back of the skirt.DSC_5029I did up the back seam with a half inch wide french seam. Which doesn’t sound hard, and it wouldn’t be with more fabrics,  but this material is incredibly difficult to work with. It acts almost like a very tightly woven silk chiffon. Even my finest needle which was changed right before working on this caused tons of pulls when sewing a simple seam. Luckily they mostly ironed out, but it was really annoying!DSC_5037And here the skirt is, looking all nice and pretty on my dress form! At this point the skirt was complete so I moved on to the bodice.DSC_5031The bodice will have a draped gathered overlay on it, which is something I have very limited experience with, so I was a bit nervous. I took my remaining fabric and cut it into three rectangle, which got sewn together. Then I gathered the lower edge down to the width of the waist of the bodice.DSC_5039I pinned the wrong side of the gathered rectangles to the right side of the bodice. Then I sewed across the bottom.DSC_5040Then I started on the tricky part, pulling, gathering, and manipulating the fabric into a visually pleasing overlay. It looks great, right? The image below just has things roughly pinned in an attempt to get the fabric evenly distributed over the neckline. The next step  was gathering pieces by hand and basting them to the neckline. And of course, trimming away a ton of material so I could ease the overlay across the shoulder and around the armholes.DSC_5043After a bit (okay, a lot) of work I had something much more attractive.DSC_5049

DSC_5047I left the fabric around the zipper opening loose, since it will be stitched down in a specific way to cover the zipper. I have to wait until the zipper is attached before doing this, so it stayed open for quite a while.DSC_5050I tried it on to make sure it fit okay and didn’t create a “snowman effect” which happened with the gathered bodice for my christmas costume. It sort of did but I was able to mostly fix it by pulling it down in certain areas to create more tension and smooth it out.

Unfortunately since this bodice doesn’t have boning in it or anything to help keep its shape, the whole tension thing didn’t really work. It just pulled up the layer of suiting which made it rest a half inch higher on my waist. I’m really annoyed about this. It was coming along so well and actually looked pretty flattering! And this sort of ruined that. It wasn’t a mistake I could really fix since I had already trimmed the overlay fabric down, and even if I hadn’t, ripping stitching out of this material would be impossible.

I had no choice but to move on. So I did. I sewed the overlay down around the neckline, sleeves, and shoulders. Then I covered the neckline with more home made bias tape and stitched it down by hand.DSC_5053To help with the length problem just a little I decided to cover the raw edge at the waist with one inch wide bias tape, then top stitch the skirt layers onto the bias tape. This doesn’t make the bodice longer, but it does prevent me from losing the half inch seam allowance.DSC_5058Then it was time for beading. I decided to stitch a row of gold sequins across the bottom of the bias tape at the neckline, then another row extending down from every other sequin to create gradient type of effect. In the center of each sequin there is a red seed bead. This took three or four hours to do, which was wayy longer than I had expected. It’s a little more subtle than I had wanted, but I think it adds a lot to the bodice so it was worth the time it took to do it!

I chose to take a close up of the first section I did, which was a bad idea. The rest of it looks much cleaner, I promise.DSC_5060Here it is on the dress form.DSC_5061 I decided to make beaded tassels for one of the additional waist ties. I’ve never done this before and didn’t research how to do it, so it ended up taking hours and the end result isn’t that great. But I like how they look with the finished dress!

The one on the right was my second attempt. It took half the amount of time, used fewer beads, and looks way cleaner. So I think if I made these again it would be much faster and yield better results.

DSC_5067And that’s everything for the bodice! So back to focusing on the skirt. I sewed the skirt lining onto the bias tape on the bodice.DSC_5064

DSC_5072…Which made my dress too small to fit over the shoulders of my dress form. So here is how it looks hanging up!DSC_5069I sewed the zipper in (I did an awful job because I was feeling lazy and knew it wouldn’t be visible. I’m a bit ashamed of that) and top stitched the skirt overlay on.

The bodice overlay got tacked around the zipper and it was done! I’m very happy with this dress. It might not be the best thing i’ve made when it comes to quality of stitch work, but I think it’s really pretty and I know i’ll enjoy wearing it!

The weather where I live has been overcast all week, so I haven’t had enough sunlight to take worn photos. But that will probably change in a few days so I’ll have some worn photos to post soon!DSC_5077Here are some close ups for now.DSC_5558

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I’ve also made a headpiece (well, two headpieces, not sure which i’ll use) out of wooden skewers, sequins, beads, and dried flowers which are all mounted on plastic headbands. I think this will pair really nicely with the dress and give a similar appearance to the spiky brush strokes that were used to create the appearance of a halo in some renaissance portraiture.

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So that’s it for today! Thank you for reading!

Heinrich Mücke Inspired Dress, Part One

Last week I shared the making of my Cinderella dress, which I actually finished today (thank god), that project has been frustrating, to say the least. Part way through I decided I needed to take a break, which meant it was time for a procrastination project!

I decided to begin work on something I mentioned in my Progress Report. I’ve had this project in mind for a while and I knew it would be relatively easy to make, so I got to work! In total this dress took five days to make, and sixty dollars worth of materials. I used sari fabric from Joanns, and a matching suiting for lining. I also raided my beading collection and used some sequins and seed beads for embellishments.

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This project is based on a dress from a painting called “The Body of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Borne to Heaven by Angels” it was painted by Mucke Heinrich. I love this painting, I think it’s really pretty. And even though the dresses shown are simple, I really like them.

The image below does not belong to me and was taken from this page.

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I drew up a quick little sketch as well. I decided that it would have a structured base out of suiting, with the sari fabric draped overtop. The sleeves would be large with little ties at the wrist, which match larger ones at the waist. The neckline would be finished with bias tape and have sequins sewn on to cover the seam.

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Step one was draping the pattern. This is a super simple three piece pattern, which will actually end up being a four piece pattern since the front and back seams are cut on the fabrics folded edge.

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Once removed from the dress form it looked like this! It was pretty rough around the edges so I did some trimming before tracing it for my paper pattern.

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After things were straightened out, I traced each piece and added seam allowances. The pattern looked like this.

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I turned that into a mock up (made of cute puppy dog fabric, of course). I was pretty pleased with the fit. I just wanted to deepen the neckline  a little and lengthen the waistline by a half inch.

After a big of fiddling,  I decided this dress would close with a zipper up the back side seam. It makes getting it on a bit of a struggle, but it’s really the only seam I can hide it in.

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With the alterations made I cut out my pattern. The two panels shown below are the ones the zipper gets inserted into. Instead of being sewn together with a seam both edges get turned over by a half inch.

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But the rest of the seams get sewn the way you would expect. This is actually the wrong side of the bodice, which will be facing the interior. As I said earlier the suiting is the lining, and the sari fabric will be draped overtop which will hide the raw edges.

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Here the bodice is with the shoulder seam done up and the right side facing out. I know it looks a bit messy, but that is unavoidable with these things! I also chose to stitch a half inch away from each edge, this creates a guideline for where to attach the bias tape.

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Speaking of bias tape, the next step was using some to cover the raw edges around the arm holes.

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With that done I placed it on my dress form. I think it looks a lot better this way! And this is actually the last step about making the bodice lining, because everything else has to be done after the overlay is attached!

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With the bodice lining “done” I moved onto the skirt. The skirt is a four yard wide, fifty four inch long rectangle. The top eight inches of the two raw edges got turned over twice and sewn down. This will be the opening for the skirt.

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Then I pleated the top down to twenty seven inches. I had to do this part twice since I sort of messed up on the measurements and it ended up four inches too small….

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Here it is on the dress form. The hem is really long, but I kind of like that. It reminds me of my Pleated Navy Gown, which is so long that it’s impossible to walk in. Though not very practical, it looks really nice in photos, so I decided to leave it.

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I used horsehair braid to hem it. I’ve shown this process before, but it doesn’t hurt to show it again! It gets sewn on to the right side of the fabric, with a half inch seam allowance.

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Then rolled over, twice, so it’s on the wrong side of the fabric. Then it gets stitched down again.

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With that done I did up the back with a french seam, leaving the top six inches or so open so the zipper can be sewn in  later on.

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The skirt can’t be attached until the bodice overlay has been draped, so this is pretty much it for the lining layer! I think the lining actually looks pretty nice on it’s own. This would be a fun dress to make in a day if you used prettier fabrics.

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But that would be far to simple for me, so of course I have to add an overlay, waist ties, and sleeves…

I’ve leave the making of the overlay for my next post, but I will show how I made the sleeves. I started by drafting a quick sleeve pattern. It has a lightly sloped top and is wider at the wrist than the top, but it’s pretty damn similar to a rectangle. So it doesn’t make the most flattering sleeves, but they are full and pretty!

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Here they are cut from the sari fabric. This fabric is kind of odd, it has big bullseye stains dyed into it at various points throughout. I think it looks fine in the finished dress, but when laid out flat it looks like the fabric has been shot and is bleeding!  It seems really out of place with the subtle mottled dye the rest of the fabric has.

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I turned the lower few inches of the edges over by a quarter inch and sewed it down with a whip stitch.

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Then I gathered the bottoms down to six and a half inches.

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I made little ties for the wrist out of bias cut strips of the fabric. I folded the edges inward, then folded the strip in half. The gathered edge of the sleeve gets tucked into the folded strip so the raw edge is hidden.

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The ties were sewn on, and the edges that weren’t folded were sewn shut with small whip stitches. Here are the sleeves with the bottoms nicely finished.

I wasn’t super happy with these, even though I liked how the gathers and ties looked. They were a lot more sheer than I had expected, which makes my arms really visible through them, and I didn’t want that. But the fit of the bodice makes undersleeves impossible and I didn’t have enough fabric leftover to line them. So I decided to live with it and move on!

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I did up the back seam with a french seam. The tops still need to be gathered and attached to the bodice, but i’ll go over that in my next post.

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So that’s it for today!

Thank you for reading.

Making a Orchid Inspired Dress, Part One

I’m back with yet another fashion project, which has kept me from going insane while finishing up the final details on my tudor costume! As the title suggests, this is a dress inspired by my orchids. I got the materials for this project (and talked a bit about it) in my birthday haul.

 In that post I mentioned that i’m really easily inspired, especially by things around me. I’ve had a pretty little orchid sitting next to my desk since January, so it was only a matter of time until I made a dress inspired by it. I’m honestly pretty impressed with myself that I  managed to hold off for three months.

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The original dress design can be seen below. I wanted it to be simple and elegant while still being visually interesting.That is a description I would use when talking about orchids, so I think it makes sense that my orchid-inspired-dress can be described with the same words.

. I had hoped to find materials in dark ivory, light purple, and a dull fuchsia, which when used together would create a gradient effect.

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But then I got another orchid. And I found the color patterns of this one a lot more interesting. I think the deeper purple spots and contrast against the lighter ivory better fits my “Simple, elegant, and interesting” description. So the sketch got revised a bit, and my fabric choices became much different than I had originally planned!

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I ended up with three yards of 120″ wide striped fabric, three yards of silk organza, and three yards of silk taffeta. I thought I bought four yards of the silks, but I remeasured and realized I was wrong about that! Honestly I should have bought four yards of all these fabrics, I  almost ran out part way through the project.

But I standby the actual fabrics I picked, even though I got the wrong amounts. I love the color, sheen, and weight of the taffeta, it was lovely to work with. The striped material gives just enough texture to what would otherwise be a boring circle skirt, and the organza gave it a lightness that the project needed.

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And here is Dotty (yes, I name my orchids) with the inspiration fabric.

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Okay! Now for actual progress photos! I wanted the bodice to be asymmetrical, and by that I mean as asymmetrical as I could get with everything still being covered. The majority of the bodice would be made from off white material, with a purple taffeta “collar” across the neckline and shoulders.

 I managed to accomplish the shape I wanted pretty easily, and my mock up fit on the first try!

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I made a few slight alterations to my pattern, the most major of which involved lowering the waistline. Then I marked out the boning placements and where the lacing loops would be.

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After making the skirt (which I will blog about next week) the fabric I had planned on using was almost entirely gone. I had enough to use for the bodice, but none of the stripes would have pointed in the right direction, much less matched up. So instead I decided to make the bodice from organza, with the option to add lining later on.

This is the bodice cut out.

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And with the boning channels marked out!

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I cut my boning channel casings from the leftover striped material. I cut these  out across the fabrics grain so you can see all the stripes. It isn’t very noticeable when the bodice is worn, but I think it’s a fun touch!

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Those got sewn in place. Unfortunately this part didn’t go smoothly. The two bobbins I had made in advance had something (I have no clue what) wrong with them which caused a tension problem and left me with very messy loose stitches on the underside. Ripping out stitches on organza is hell so I just went over the channels again after fixing the bobbin.

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Then I added boning! These bones don’t go to the top of the bodice, so  I had to hand stitch stoppers to keep them in place.

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Then I added another layer of organza overtop. This diffuses the look of the boning channels and makes the bodice slightly more opaque.

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I cut two inch wide strips of purple taffeta on the bias and folded them into double fold bias tape. Then I pinned them around the bodices edges.

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I sewed it down by hand and for once i’m pretty happy with how it looks! My hand sewn bias tape hasn’t been cleanest in the past, so this is a big improvement for me.

Not sure if it balances out the sloppy boning channels, but it certainly helps!

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I also cut out one inch wide strips of fabric on the bias. These got ironed and sewn into quarter inch wide strips that are three inches long. I made about twenty of them, all to be used for loops up the back of the dress. I think loops look a lot more elegant and since elegant is the buzzword for this project, I decided it was worth the extra time to make them!

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They got folded into loops, then pinned onto leftover bias tape.

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I sewed over them several times until I was confident the loops were secure.

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Then the loops got sewn onto the bodice. This part doesn’t look as pretty. I was trying to avoid hitting the boning channels while being unable to see where the bone ended since the loops covered them.

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Now it was time to add the collar. I cut more strips of taffeta and sewed them into tubes, so the raw edges were hidden inside the tubes. It’s a little wasteful fabric wise, but saves the time it takes to hem the strips and completely avoids having to combat puckered silk hems.

I can’t really describe how I draped this. I pleated the end of the strip and placed it at the waist, then I just tugged, folded, and pinned until I was happy with how it laid. I cleaned it up a little bit after taking this picture, since the neckline wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be.

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Then I tried it on! I liked how it looked a lot, but it needed a couple of alterations. The biggest one was taking in the collar (that feels like the wrong name for this, though i’m not sure what else it would be called) at the shoulder, and taking the entire bodice in by more than an inch.

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I re-draped the collar so it was a little smaller in the shoulder, then tacked everything down so the pins could be removed.

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Before doing that I took it in by a inch. I did this in the under arm area, right next to the boning channels. Then the extra fabric was stitched underneath the boning channels. It’s obvious from the interior, but from the outside it is hard to tell!

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Back to the collar. Here are all the tacking stitches. Not the prettiest thing ever, but much nicer to look at than tons of pins or puckers, which are the two alternatives. The edges of the taffeta were tucked underneath the loop closures and whip stitched down.

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With the collar done, all I needed to do was finish the lower edge with bias tape! So I did that. This time I used cotton bias tape that I had leftover from making the skirt.

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And it was done! Could probably use a steaming, but that’s all that I have left to do on it.

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Thank you for reading!

Making a Pleated Navy Gown, Part Two

The draped dress continues! Part One is posted here, it talks about making the lining for the dress, and though that was successful, it wasn’t looking very pretty. Today i’ll be adding the satin faced chiffon and making it look much better!

So this is the mess I left off with. The first step towards improving it was creating side panels from chiffon.

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But the chiffon is too delicate to keep the shape these panels require. So I backed them with a medium weight fusible interfacing.

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The edges got turned under, then the side seams were sewn.

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I removed the bodice lining from the dress form and pinned the side panels over it. I rested the bodice over an ironing ham to make sure the shape was right!

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Then the side pieces were sewn on with big basting stitches, these will get removed later on so the sleeves can be attached.

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Here is what it looks like on the form! Once it was pinned in place I could begin draping the chiffon overtop.

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I had this weird assumption that this part would be easy. I was wrong.

Granted my only experience with draping comes from watching Rami Kashou and Austin Scarlett do it on project runway, which apparently isn’t enough of an education to make my attempts turn out brilliantly on the first try.

After two – or maybe three, it all blended together in a big mess of frustration, hours I had something that looked decent! And kind of symmetrical. Not really symmetrical, but it was close(ish).

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I used large basting stitches and white thread to secure down all the pleats. My first plan was to sew them down by hand, which I did on the left side. After trying it on I realized it looked TERRIBLE. Even the tiniest stitches created a lot of puckers and it lost the effortless look I was going for. So that got ripped out.

You may notice the back left side looks a little weird. Because I was doing this in a dim room and didn’t realize I was working on the wrong side of the fabric, so that had to be ripped off and re draped.

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The back up plan of keeping everything when it should be involved ironing the crap out of it and hoping the pleats would stay in place, which totally worked!

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Now it was time to move onto the skirt! I cut out another large rectangle, but I made it a couple inches longer than the gabardine layer I cut for lining. I wanted to make sure the gabardine wasn’t visible at the hem, and since I wanted the skirt to drag it made a lot of sense to leave it extra long.

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After cutting the skirt to the proper length I had a three inch wide strip leftover. I folded that strip in half and ironed it so there was a sharp fold. Then I stitched the side with two raw edges onto the raw edge of the skirt.

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I treated it like you would any hem tape and turned it inward to the wrong side of the fabric, so the raw edge was hidden. I pinned this in place and then spent a few hours hemming the damn thing, doing my absolute best to avoid puckers.

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When that was finished I stitched the top of the skirt to the gabardine layer. Then I pleated the top into three quarter inch wide pleats. Two thirds of them face one direction, and one third faces the other.

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I attached a gabardine waistband to the skirt and turned the raw edge under so there was no added bulk at the waist. Then the raw edge was finished with home made bias tape to prevent fraying.

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With all that pinned to the dress form I had something resembling a dress!

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Now it was time for sleeves! The original plan was to have an undershirt made from brocade with fitted sleeves. I made the undershirt but I eventually realized the print was a little busier than I wanted, and I wasn’t happy with how it looked under my dress.

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So I scrapped it, and decided to make sleeves from ivory jacquard. Coming up with a pattern was a huge pain because the bodice has pointed arm holes, which are really difficult to set a sleeve into. The end result aren’t very pretty on the upper arm, but they are functional enough.

I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but here they are!

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Overtop of those sleeves I wanted draped sleeves that were open at the tops and nearly hit the floor. I was expecting this pattern to be quite complicated, but after cutting my remaining chiffon into two panels (40″ x 60″) and playing around I realized I could create a really pretty sleeve without cutting them at all!

This is just a rectangle pinned around the arm hole, and it falls really nicely.

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So I went with that! After making sure both rectangles were the same size I used a crayon to mark guidelines on the raw edges. The raw edges got turned inward by a half inch, twice, to prevent fraying.

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I stitched them down, which was time consuming since this fabric is so delicate.

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But the end result was really lovely. In this photo they are just pinned, but they got stitched on properly soon after. Both sleeves were sewn onto the lining, then the side panels of the bodice – which were previously basted in place, were stitched around the sleeves to hide any raw edges.

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The skirt got sewn onto the bodice, then I made a waistband to cover the raw edges. I wish I had enough chiffon leftover to make a blue sash, but the only remaining fabric was a 1/2″ wide strip of salvage. So Instead I used a piece of brocade. Brocade also got sewn on to create a collar.

Lastly I stitched eyelets into the back of the dress, I had originally stitched a zipper into the back but it wouldn’t zip smoothly past the bulk the pleated skirt created. But that’s okay, I like eyelets!

With that finished, the dress was done.

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Here are some worn pictures! I used the salvage strip of leftover fabric in the wig because I didn’t have a matching headpiece.

I think in the future I would like to add some boning to the centerfront and sides, which should keep the front smoother and allow me to lace it tighter at the back. Right now it isn’t very flattering. But before making any changes i’ll try it on with my pair of bodies or stays, which should give a similar result.

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So that’s it! Not bad for something I made in four days from things in my stash.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Silvery Blue Dress, Part Three

This is the final post about making this dress! I originally posted about it at the end of January, almost two weeks after I finished it. It’s inspired by Madalena’s wedding dress in the show “Galavant” and has a Renaissance/Fantasy flair to it.

There is more information about all that in the first, and the second posts about this project! I would suggest reading those first, if you haven’t already.

In my last post I had just completed the bodice and sleeves, which meant it was time to focus on the skirt! The skirt is made entirely from the greyish “mystery” fabric. I had quite limited amounts of fabric, so I couldn’t make the skirt as full as I had hoped. It ended up being a rectangular front panel, with three gored panels in the back. Skirts like this can be cut from three and a half yards of fabric, which is super handy!

I gave it a small train – I would have made it longer if I had more fabric, but it only ended up being around sixteen inches.

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 I had planned on cartridge pleating the top, so I cut strips of flannel on the bias to back the waistline with. This will give the fabric more volume which makes it pleat nicer!

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I hemmed one edge, then stitched it onto the skirt. One end folds over a half inch, and the other is one and a half inches long.

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Unfortunately even with the backing this fabric really didn’t want to pleat nicely. I ended up with really tiny, sad looking gathers and I wasn’t pleased with them at all.

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So I decided to pleat the top instead. I had hoped having a gathered waist would help differentiate it from the dress I used as inspiration, since i’m not trying to make an exact copy of it. But sometimes you have to do what works with the fabric, even if it isn’t part of the plan!

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This is it all pinned! One large box pleat is in the center, then knife pleats on the sides.

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Then it was time for hemming! I marked one inch inside the hem and folded the edge to touch it, then basted it down.

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Then I turned that edge inward again, until I had an even one and a half inch hem. I did make the hem a little deeper towards the back, so I could get really smooth curves.

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I stitched it by hand with a cross stitch to make it nice and pretty!

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I turned the top of the back seam edges over to create a slit.

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I finished the edge with bias tape and sewed hook/eye closures every one and a half inches to keep the skirt closed. I don’t think I got any photos of those, but below you can see the markings I made for them.

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Then the skirt got pinned on!

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And finally sewn on. I did this by hand to try and hide the stitches, but both of these fabrics are very pucker prone so i’m afraid it isn’t as smooth as I had wanted!

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Here is the finished dress – all it needs is a good ironing!

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I’m probably most pleased with the tiny gathers on the sleeves.

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I decided to pair this dress with the silver crown I got on ebay last year. I’m a little annoyed because it has started to turn gold in some areas which is really bizarre. I’ve heard of fake gold turning silver, but never the reverse! Luckily it kind of comes off with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

I also wore it with a bunch of rings I got from ebay and forever 21, and a pair of earrings from Charlotte Russe.

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After wearing this dress for a bit i’ve decided there are two things I want to change. The skirt REALLY needs a liner of some sort, the fabric is too flowy and looks very lumpy, even over a smooth petticoat. It also caves in at the bottom so I think adding six inch horsehair in the hem would make a huge difference.

I’d also like to pick up something to cover the waist seam – next time i’m in NYC I’ll keep a look out for silver lace!

Here are two pictures of the finished costume. We got some snow I thought it would make for a pretty backdrop!

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Thanks for reading!

Dewdrop Series, Photos

Today I have photos to share! Finally it was overcast enough to get pictures of one of my costumes! Unfortunately It’s still too warm out to consider photographing any of my other projects (long sleeves, high necks, yikes) but this is a step in the right direction.

This costume came out a little fancier then I had expected, so I think it looks a little out of place in the forest even though it was inspired by one. But i’m still very happy with the pictures, and i’m glad we got to take them while everything is super green and lovely! A big thanks goes out to my photographer-in-training of a father who took these pictures for me.

A per usual the dresses, cloak, and headpiece were made and worn by me. More information on how I made the costumes can be found here, and the headpiece is just dried red roses strung between glass pearls.

I had a few problems with my pocket hoops collapsing, and ants were traipsing all over me, but aside from that i’m really pleased with how this shoot went and the photos that came from it.

I hope you like them too!

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Thanks for reading – er viewing!

The Making of a Sakizo Inspired Historical Gown [Part 1]

 

Since I am apparently insane, I’ve decided to make another costume before Katsucon, which is less than three weeks away. It’s not even a simple costume – it’s actually pretty difficult and elaborate.

But it is also very, very pretty! 

This costume is of a Sakizo design…but it’s a very detailed oriented one so what I have sewn so far doesn’t look much like it (at least not yet). Because of this, I’ll post the reference picture i’m using in the next post relating to this costume.

I will probably have one or two more posts about this. It shouldn’t take me long to finish since everything is just detail work. The next post I made will talk about sleeves and beading so make sure to check back for updates!

I had draped a sweetheart neckline princess seamed bodice pattern a few weeks ago, which I decided would work well enough for this project. I actually took photos throughout the draping process since I get asked about pattern drafting a lot and plan to make a tutorial later.

Here are a few pictures, all you really do is pull, pin, draw, and cut the fabric until it’s the shape you want.

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When removed from the form the pieces looked like this.

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Once seam allowances were added I had a pattern!

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I know that seems like a lot of work, but it only takes twenty minutes or so.

I cut the pattern I had made out of muslin and measured out 1.5 inch stripes onto the pieces. I also sewed a mixture of metal and plastic boning into the bodice. Then I drew out the neckline I wanted.

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This is how the boning placement looked when flat. Most of it’s plastic but I did add a few metal stays.

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Once the boning was removed everything got labeled to make reassembly easier.

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And then each stripe was cut apart.

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And then I used those as a pattern for cutting out my fabric! I choose red cotton sateen, gold spandex, and an ivory silk satin for this project. All the materials have really nice textures and drape beautifully, plus I had them laying around. The spandex was reinforced so it doesn’t stretch.

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Once assembled it looks like so!

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I cut out the same pattern for lining and drew out the boning placement.

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With boning sewn in~

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Then it was attached to the bodice.

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And here it is just pinned, also ignore the flowers, they were a stand in.

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I had to go through and hand sew each seam down. This was made slightly less tedious by the fact I watched disney movies throughout working on it. And then pearls were sewn over each seam.

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At this point I cut out my skirt, the front consists of two 30×56″ panels of cotton sateen and a 40″x56″ panel of silk satin. I made the panels longer than they needed to be so I could add a large hem later on. I didn’t want any stiffening in the hem so this is a substitute to make it heavier.

I’m not sure why the stripes look uneven on the form…they are fine when worn.

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Then I cut out the train! I have never made a dress with a train before this so it was quite the experiment. I sort of marked out various measurements and then cut out what I thought looked okay, it wasn’t a very technical process.

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In the end I’m really happy with it, I think the shape is quite pretty!

[Please ignore how the top looks here]

UntitledNow that the base is done I can start on details mwaha. I got a bunch of trims on etsy which I’m super excited to add to this costume!

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One of the ones I bought was this cute flower trim, which I took my sewing shears to right away and separated the flowers from the main trim.

Also shout out to The Store, who sells all these gorgeous hand dyed gold venice lace.

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I took the flowers and pinned them onto the upper portion of the skirt in a randomized pattern that faded down

I didn’t like how it looked at first, but it grew on me. I ended up [i’m embarrassed to admit this] hot gluing them all into place. Hand sewing 100 tiny flowers on didn’t seem appealing at all, and I didn’t think it would look that great. The glue ended up working really well.

Then I pinned the hem and pinned on this gorgeous lace that I ordered from here.

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Sooo that’s everything for now.

Thank you for reading!