The Prince is Giving a Ball: Damask Overdress

As word of our production spread, and a few teaser photos were posted on Facebook . . . donations of dresses started coming in.  I would walk in to the costume room and a new one would be hanging there . . . someone would show up at my door . . . . a cast member would bring one in.  Now, mind you, I LOVE donations, and the dresses we received were lovely and definitely improved the show, but, eventually I had to tell the Director “You have to say “no” to donations for THIS show”, because, I was ending up re-doing some costumes and shuffling things around as I tried to use what we’d been given.  One late arriving dress was this pale orchid brocade:

The fabric was absolutely gorgeous and it had some fun rhinestone straps.  The dress was too small for any of the girls I still had on my upgrade list, so for fun, I decided to remake it for the girl who brought it in.  I thought this would make a pretty overdress, and if I split it up the front I would be able to make it work.

I found a coordinating dress:

And slit it up the sides.  My plan was to insert fabric and make the dress larger.

sides opened up on base dress #1

I got it to this point, and I messed around with a coordinating dress, and I draped the brocade dress over it, and I didn’t like it.  I don’t give up easily, but on the other hand, I have learned that things won’t always work, and sometimes you have to back up and try again.

Enter . . . base dress #2:

Doesn’t it look amazingly different with the hoop under it?  Things were looking up already.

I had received a donation of partially cut up dresses from a recycle craft store.  One of these dresses was just the color that I needed to supplement the fabric of my dress.  That is one nice thing about using bridesmaid dresses.  If you can stick to popular colors, you can often find ones that coordinate.

waste dress for sleeves

I started by splitting the brocade dress up the center.  I played around with it a bit, but I was unhappy with the amount of gap in the front.  The only way to close that was to split the gap between the front and the back.  Base dress #2 had that cute bow in the back, so I thought it might just work.  I removed the zipper and then split the bodice from the skirt at the waist level, and turned all the raw edges under to finish them.

The base dress was a little low-cut, so I flipped the chiffon drape up and stitched it to the straps.

I put a casing in the top of the skirt and ran some elastic through it, securing it at both ends. I thought it needed something more, so I added some white ruffle trim around the edges of the skirt.

pinning the front drape up on to the straps, and the bodice to the base dress

I flipped the chiffon up in the back as well.  Here you can see where the brocade piece stops on the back.

back bodice with strap

The brocade pieces were then stitched to the base dress, and the rhinestone straps were hand sewn on to make “lacing”.

The skirt was stitched to the main dress on one side, and the other side secured with velcro.

The sleeves presented a bit of a conundrum.  I had the narrow spaghetti straps for the upper edge, and the chiffon drape on the lower edge.  I ended up making a totally mock sleeve.  The top edge rolled around the spaghetti strap, and the underarm was left open.  I made cuffs for the sleeves which velcro’d shut.  The sleeves and the cuffs were embellished with string sequins.

underarm view, cuff closed

It sounds really bizarre, but it worked well.   Most of the time they looked like “normal” sleeves, and even if you saw the slit, it looked more like a design feature than a desperation move.

The finished dress:


In the show:

in the show

in the show

When this cast member tried her dress on she loved it, and when I asked her if she recognized the dress she brought she couldn’t believe it was the same dress.  I really like how the brocade fabric shows texture even from quite a distance.  I’m not sure the white ruffles really added anything to the dress, but, I don’t think they detract either.  Looking at the back of the dress, I think that if I had spliced in a similar color in the center back of the bodice, that it would have been hardly noticeable.  I actually looked for a picture of her back and couldn’t find any.

This project will encourage me to look at specialty fabrics a bit differently.  I have often tried to figure out how to use those wonderful dresses that have all-over beading on silk.  I have tried washing them, and not only does the silk lose all body and shape but the beads also tend to start pulling out.  But . . .that is another project for another day . . .


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