This dress was upcycled for a performance of “Phantom of the Opera”. The cast member who wore this had a walk on, and then sat in the opera box with Raoul.
I do not have pictures of the original dress . . . .but this simple upcycle consisted strictly of adding decorations to the dress. However, this back view (ignore the sequins) gives you the best idea of how it looked.
This is one of my favorite dress styles to find at a Thrift store as it is extremely versatile. Add a chemise . . and it becomes something Renaissance. Split the skirt to show an underskirt, and add any of a variety of sleeves, and perhaps a partlet or collar. . and it can be something Elizabethan or Tudor–and you can dress it up for nobility, or keep it simple for a more “villager” look. True, the skirt may not be as full as one might wish . . but . . if you are casting a show and have lots of chorus members, or just looking for an inexpensive way to make a costume–it is perfect and versatile.
For this particular dress, because it was mostly just seen from the waist up . . . I focused on that. Strictly speaking, for an 1860’s gown, it probably should have had a more off-the-shoulder look, and today I would probably do it differently . . for this particular production, it was fine . . and it did give the appropriate silhouette. (Keeping in mind also . . . that this was a minor, walk-on role . . . not to overshadow the costumes of the main characters).
I used a border of blue sequin ribbon around the neck and also at the waist. I then glued (using a fabric glue) rows of black sequins to the top. I also basted on a decorative design on the front using string sequins, plastic diamond mesh pieces, some random jewel flowers, and some glitter “leather” pieces from a broken headband.
I just recently repaired the dress and sewed the string sequins on as they were not staying secure with the fabric glue. I used a large zig zag. One important thing when sewing string sequins is to stitch in the direction that the sequins are going. I also like to use a large needle. A thin needle will more readily break if it hits a sequin it doesn’t “like”. A thicker needle powers through and/or stops the machine, and then I just adjust it to the side a bit and keep going.
Thoughts on sequins: not all sequins are created equal. I tend to prefer the hologram sequins. I haven’t made my mind up on cup vs. flat sequins for maximum glitz on stage . . . if anyone wants to weigh in with opinions . . . I would love to hear them. I had pretty much decided I liked cupped sequins better, but, then I realized that the sequin fabric I like best in my daughters dance outfits is made with flat sequins . . .so . . .???
Whatever sequin I pick, I would pick them ANY DAY over that confetti dot type fabric (or the squares). That stuff is wicked to sew on and gums the needle up horribly. HATE IT. I will spend the extra $ for real sequins any day.
One hazard of upcycling (and repairing) is trying to figure out how to squish a whole puffy dress under your sewing machine . . . . I ended up having to go at it from both directions in order to sew WITH the sequins.
Here is another picture of the front:
The cost for this upcycle was less than $10; $5 for the dress, plus $2-3 for the sequin ribbon. The black sequins I bought in a large spool, so the cost was negligible, and the other decorations were left over from other projects.
Here is the picture of the dress during the performance:
(So . . . . this was dress rehearsal . . .she ditched the visible red straps for the actual performance 🙂 )
Cinderella Ball Upgrade:
We used this same dress 5 years later for the Cinderella Ball. The narrow straps on this dress seemed out of place with the other gowns, so I added some sleeves. These sleeves were cut out of a silver sweater that was donated. Due to the glue on the straps of the dress, I had to whip them in by hand.
I really like how they changed the look of the dress.