The theme for dressing Charlotte in this show was “more”, and her Ball Gown needed to be reflective of that. On the flip side, it also needed to be in line with the rest of the cast, and not obnoxious in a distasteful way.
We began with this Prom dress:
The dress was a strapless, corset back dress. It was several sizes too large for the cast member playing Charlotte. It had a slight drop waist with embroidered and sequin trim and some feathers. The bodice had pleats of sheer fabric. The skirt had a lining under the ruffles, and then had a second underskirt with petticoat net attached. The skirt was very full with graduated ruffles that were iridescent to a fuchsia color. It had a train in the back. It had wonderful movement.
I did not do a particularly good job of taking pictures of this process. This was my daughters costume and I waited to do hers until after Costume Preview Night. I was running behind, and trying hard to get everything else done. I had a week between that date and the start of dress rehearsals and I had easy access to her for fittings. We also were having difficulties with the transforming dresses, and were working on those. Long story short . . I didn’t take very many pictures of the process.
I began the alteration with the bodice. I put it over the hoop and pulled the waist up on the sides. I also took the side seams in a little. I clipped the appliques off and then reattached them. This was done quite easily. The ” before” picture isn’t great, but, if you compare the two you can see how I pulled the skirt up on the sides, and made the point in the front deeper.
Next I moved on to the skirt. The first picture shows the underskirt and the second the petticoat net and the lining.
When the dress was over the hoop it rather looked like a stuffed sausage. There also was no room to accommodate the bum pad.
I vacillated back and forth on how to deal with this. I wanted to use the bum pad, so that meant I needed more width in the center back. I considered detaching the skirt from the waist and inserting a half-moon of fabric to go over the bum pad (I have no clue if that would have worked–I never did it). That idea seemed like a lot of work with no guarantee of success so I stalled. In the end I decided to slit the dress up the front. This made an immediate difference. The hoop popped out in the back, and the slit opened up. The first picture in this post shows how much the slit pulled open.
That done I made a contrasting underskirt. I neglected to take a picture of the dress I used. It was a very full, slightly high-waisted pink dress with a dark purple sash. I had the idea that I could just make an underskirt that was like an apron. It would fill in the front slit, and I wouldn’t need as much fabric. I cut the dress off under the armscye and opened the back seam. I shaped this a bit and sewed it to a waistband. This would have worked, except for the fact that Charlotte was a very vigorous dancer and loved to twirl. The underskirt pulled out from under the dress and her hoop showed on the sides. Not very impressive. Of course, this was something I didn’t figure out until she tried wearing it in a rehearsal. I did have some hot pink satin so was able to make a back to the petticoat. I also extended the front. to make it longer.
The first picture shows the front. You can see the original petticoat with the yoke. It is very full, and a much heavier satin. The back is inexpensive satin. I added several layers of ruffles in the back, trimmed with pre-gathered lace that would show when she twirled. Because . . why not?
I needed to eliminate the train in the back just for getting-stepped-on issues. Initially my thought was to cut the back off, and use those ruffles to make some sort of sleeves. As I was looking at it, however, the ruffles were graduated, and the widest, longest ruffles were in the back. If they were cut off, the dress wouldn’t be nearly as fun. In the end, I pulled up the skirt in various places and tacked it in place by hand. This made the back much fuller, and accentuated the bump of the bum pad.
I also pulled up the lining with the petticoat net and tacked it up. This was to make it wider at the top to accommodate the bum pad. I sewed some white lace on the bottom of the petticoat net thinking that would show. However, the lace I used had a very pretty iridescent thread, that, while pretty, was worse than velcro for sticking to stuff. Pretty much that lace just folded up into the petticoat net and made a wad. Some of the longer bits of petticoat net I just cut off. It is fairly uneven and rather a mess inside that dress, but it doesn’t really matter because no one looks at it.
This side view picture gives an impression of how the back skirt is pulled up and tacked down. The bow pretty much sits on a platform of poof.
Next step was the top of the dress as strapless just wouldn’t do 🙂
I found this dress:
The waistband had a nice look, and I thought I might want to use it, so I cut the bodice off several inches above the waist line and inserted it into the dress. I removed the zipper and folded the back sides down to open it up a bit.
I made a large pink bow for the back. This helped with the “more”. The bow is lined with petticoat net for shaping. The bow is pinned to the dress by an extension of the center knot “wrap”. You can see in these pictures that it centers nicely on the back. As rehearsals went on, it became a bit limp and tended to lay off to the side. Eventually I added some snaps to hold the bow loops in place. I was able to use my colored snaps–maroon on the dress side and hot pink on the bow side. This helped immensely.
The back of the dress closes with velcro. I sewed the modesty panel in place on one side. On the other side I put velcro. Eventually I added a second piece of velcro and a snap to help it stay shut. This dress weighed a ton, and she put a lot of stress on the velcro. Because of the way the back of the dress was pulled up it would have been difficult to put a zipper in. She also needed to do a fast change into this dress. I think the combination of velcro and snaps worked well, I just should have put the snaps in sooner.
This was a “pausing point” for me on this dress. I just didn’t have a vision for sleeves. I thought maybe a little cap sleeve? or more bows? or a puffed elbow length sleeve? It was a good thing I had to go to work for a few days and give it a rest.
When I came back to it, I was inspired by the pleated skirt that was left over from making the straps. I cut the skirt in half, pressed in the pleats, and then sewed the creases in.
Then I cut all the pleats apart and turned the other edge under and sewed it down. Even using a pinking shears these edges tended to ravel. I maybe should have used some heat & bond strips to secure them down. The top edge would be attached to the shoulder, and the strips would cover the upper sleeve. A few of them I had to go back and reinforce the stitching. We ended up cutting a couple of the edge strips off once it was in place as they hung down under the arm.
I had some sequin mesh that coordinated. I cut puffy sleeves out of this and backed it with petticoat net.
I made a band of scrap fabric from Dress #2 to go in between the upper and lower sleeve. I stitched the sequin puff sleeve to this, and arranged the strips over it and topstitched them in place
Now I needed a lower sleeve, and . ..right before my eyes lay the cut up dress from making the Market dress for Charlotte.
I cut the nice stretchy velour sleeves off, opened the side seam just enough that I could sew them on to my sleeve band, and closed up the sleeves. Ta Da! Well, I had a little more to do. I covered the inner edges with some folded over bias tape to keep it from being too itchy.
And then I sewed the puff sleeves into the armscye, and topped it with the band of strips. THEN I was done.
I really love the motion this dress has,
The really fun thing about this dress is that it became an extension of Charlotte and her personality. It bounced as she bounced, it moved as she moved, and it reflected her “more”. Charlotte wears this dress for at least half of the show, so spending a little extra time on the Ball Gowns for Madame and the sisters is time well spent.