Monday, January 20, 2014

The Edwardian Gown : Welcome to the Night Circus



The dress everyone in the costuming community knows, a gown so stunning it must have left the original viewers speechless as the wearer stepped into the room. Swirls of black velvet trailing like an iron gate across an ivory white ground, the fabric cascading into a train. I can't imagine discovering that Worth gown, you know, that one, without falling in love.




In some ways this was an untouchable dream dress for me. That one costume I would never be able to recreate without spending countless hours fay checking individually cut velvet pieces (kudos to Samantha for doing so and her dress is amazing!) or thousands of dollars finding someone who could weave me some incredible fabric. Then, when I decided I wanted to make something for the Your Wardrobe Unlocked competition, I knew I wanted my entry to stand out and I took the opportunity to leap into a gown inspired by this gorgeous House of Worth creation. There was only one thing for it, I had to find a suitable fabric. Finding a silk velvet was never going to happen, nor would have it been in my price range. So much of the flocked taffeta's out there are so obviously curtain fabrics and have that pretty but recognizable wallpaper-ish motif. I wanted something scrolling, art nouveau if I could manage it and in keeping with the feeling of awe that the original Worth dress inspired in me. After hours of searching I found the fabric!

Ahhhhh! the skirt piece cut and draped on the form to see how it would look
I of course had left myself a roomy two weeks to construct the entire gown from the shift to the outside. I was working full time all fall and would have had all of January; if I hadn't decided to stay at my job part time this month and book a vacation the last week of January, forgetting that was supposed to be sewing time! As I have detailed in my last post, I managed to make the shift, corset and petticoat last weekend, which was a crazy enough feat but then I had to start on the gown. The fabric was coming from England as I had found it on etsy of all places, and I had to pay extra to get it here in time to use it! But when I unfolded the fabric and laid it out to cut the skirt it seemed well worth the cost and wait. 

I owe a huge debt to Natalie of Frolicking Frocks as I have been reading her dress diary for her Gibson Girl dress over and over to gain any insight I could from how she made her beautiful dress. There was no way I could afford enough fabric to make the skirt in panels and match patterns at the seams so I used her method of cutting the skirt like you would a circle skirt and it worked perfectly! If you ever read this Natalie thank you!

as you can see my machine is having some tension troubles, as the messy line of stitches on the waistband reveal
So, making the skirt, I cut it in one piece which made things easy. I just sewed up the back seam as the only seam in the skirt. For an explanation of how this style of skirt is cut check out Natalie's post about her skirt that I referenced when cutting mine, I ended up not having enough room for darts at the side of my skirt though after I had cut mine. The only change I made to her directions was to cut the back side of my skirt much longer than the front to give myself a bit of a train. I finished my skirt almost exactly as she did, with a placket and snaps along the back. I added the waistband and then it was time for the hem! I used two entire packages of cotton single fold bias tape as hem facing meaning the hem is nearly exactly 6 yards around! I sewed the bias tape to the right side, turned it under, ironed the whole thing and then hand sewed it around the inside.

Then I was truly swimming in the deep end, for though I had a pattern for the corset, and a fellow costumers diary guidance for the skirt, I had less to go on for the looming bodice! But more on that tomorrow...


P.S. I have decided to call this the Night Circus gown as I have just finished reading The Night Circus and for those who have read the book it is probably obvious why it fits but for those who haven't, firstly go read it it's super great and second, the circus featured in the book is magnificent and entirely black and white so I think this gown would fit in perfectly!

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