Sending the Stepsisters to the Ball required some creativity and walking a fine line between awkward and WAY TOO MUCH. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I made many, many upcycled ball gowns for the chorus members. Creating something for Gabrielle that was in her signature pink, and a bit “off”, and yet not modern, was a challenge. It took me a long time to find a good base dress for her.
Eventually I happened to stop at a Goodwill Outlet . . and found “the” dress (shown over a hoop here, which I ended up not using):
It had quite a bit of underskirt:
If you have never been to a Goodwill Outlet, it can be quite the adventure and you never know what you will find. Items that have not sold from other Goodwill stores are brought in and they are displayed in long troughs (there is no other word for them) and you dig through looking for treasures. The items are almost all sold by the pound. Some things can be deceptively heavy. Luckily they have a scale to check! You pick out your items, put them in your cart, and then wheel the cart on to the scale. I think the current charge was 89 cents/lb the last time I was there. I found a huge stuffed fish to use for a prop, and insanely crazy Survival card game (“When approached by Zombies, you should A) . . . .), a few blankets to use as quilt fillers for mission quilts, and this dress. You just never know.
This dress was an excellent start to a ball gown for Gabrielle. As you can see, I have my dress form padded with some extra stuffing to get it closer to the measurements of my cast member. The dress was strapless with beading on the bodice and a slightly dropped waist. The skirt was ruched with beaded motifs at the gathering points. The fabric was a lightweight taffeta. I left the underskirt as is since I wanted her to have some fullness, but not hoop-fullness, as I was looking to create a slimmer, taller silhouette for her.
I combined this with dress #2:
This dress had a strapless beaded bodice. The skirt was a tulle bubble skirt with beading on the lower edge. It was more of a bubblegum pink than Dress #1. I removed the bodice from the skirt (and set it aside for another project) and slit the skirt up the back (where the zipper was). This became my overskirt. I needed another fabric and so I played with different combinations of fabric, stepping back and looking at the overall effect. I ended up choosing this pale pink and silver-embroidered tulle.
I wanted to make divided puffed sleeves. The last sleeves I made similar to that ended up way too long, and so I found a pattern to use as a starting point.
I did cut them a little bit taller at the shoulder to give it a bit more puff. I used the pattern for the placement of the gathering channels.
Here are the bias tape channels stitched to the sleeve prior to sewing up the underarm seam.
A strip of bias tape edged the top of the sleeve for a casing. An extra piece of petticoat net was inserted at the shoulder seam to give the sleeve head a bit more body.
Next I stitched the sleeve to the bodice, carefully sewing to avoid breaking my needle. If I sew slowly, my machine will usually slide off the beads or “pause” and I can readjust the fabric.
I added a ruffle of the pink/silver tulle to the top of the overskirt. I stitched the overskirt to the dress on one side from the front to the back zipper. I used velcro to attach it to the other side. The difference in pinks and the solid column in the front added to the vertical look.
The back was supplemented with some pink 1.5″ grosgrain ribbon. The zipper was removed, the ribbon sewn in, and then the zipper was replaced.
About now, we started doing some practice dress rehearsals with some of the dresses. The sleeves on this dress did not stay up at all. We remodeled them using some of the pink grosgrain ribbon.
The ribbon was covered with the pink/silver tulle. A piece of elastic was zig-zagged on the underside of the ribbon across the top to help with the fit. The original sleeve was stitched to the new strap at the top. In making costumes for this show, I repeatedly underestimated the amount of sleeve that needed to be on the shoulder in order to keep the sleeve from falling off. This is something that I will be working on in the future. I think I thought that since the base dress was originally strapless the sleeves are decorative instead of functional. When I cut a sleeve out using a pattern that had supportive fabric in the bodice, the sleeve can end right at the shoulder. Without that supporting fabric, it needs to come up farther on the shoulder. I am watching vintage patterns for a good one-piece sleeve pattern from the 1980’s that has elastic over the shoulder.
I also added several large wide waistband hook & eyes to help support the overskirt. The cast member felt the skirt was a bit heavy for the velcro, and at one point she lifted Charlotte in the dance, which put some extra tension on this area of the dress, even though we stitched down the side that the life was done on.
The final finishing touch was to add five bows to the skirt of the dress. The bows add a bit “more” and are also reflective of the large bow on the dress Charlotte wears.
So . . .this base dress was rather dated. I have no idea how old the dress was, but, I will tell you, they used some cheap, cheap thread when they made it. As I was working on the dress, periodically I would find one of the embroidered motifs that held the ruched points together. I didn’t think much of it, and just re-gathered and stitched those places. I also pulled up the bottom at various times to shorten the dress as it was a bit long, and it seemed like it was always too long somewhere. What I didn’t do was put two-and-two together and realize that the THREAD was disintegrating so badly, that not only was the stitching falling out, but that at the least bit of tension, like, oh, someone stepping on it during the dance, it would easily give way. The week of dress rehearsal I restitched all of the ruching lines (and added some string sequins while I was at it). So, if you happen to be upcycling a dress, and things are falling off . . . the stitching may need reinforcing sooner versus later.
I also added a row of pregathered lace to the underskirt.
This was one of the best things that I did for this dress. It gave it a whole new dimension of layers and enhanced the richness of the dress. This just upgraded this dress overall. Who would think?
The height difference was played up nicely:
The dress moved well on stage, and had a wacky, but not garish, look.
Cost: Dress #1–I think it was $5-6 (based on weight, dress #2, $10, fabric $12, lace: donated, sequins: from a large roll, ribbon: donated. Cape: $17 plus collar. Feathers: $4 each, plus scraps & donated materials.