Thursday, 1 November 2012


You might have noticed that I have not been posting. Well, at least I have noticed this. The reason for lack of posting is the slow, slow progress of a major project, on which I am still working (13 days to deadline).
This is what I have been doing during my valuable sewing time.


This is some of the 10m of bridal tulle in the understructure of my daughter's formal dress (for high school graduation).
I started with a corset foundation from this Belville Sassoon pattern


(I bought the pattern for the corselet pattern, I am not making this dress, although the overall silhouette bears some resemblence to it)
I then made the corselet pretty much according to the pattern, underlining it with silk organza, and self lining with the firm weave silk coutil (actually mysterious silk fabric from my grandmother's silk painting stash- it could be coutil). The fitting has to be skin tight, so there were 2 toiles involved.
Inside the corselet is boning, inside ribbon casings.


At this stage I was fairly pleased with myself, the corselet fitted well, was comfortable, etc, etc. However, the dress pattern then just has you attach the corselet inside the lining of the dress, and says "wear with a petticoat". Hmmm. My daughter was adamant that the dress could have no horizontal waist seam, but wanted a BIG skirt, so the puff factor below the hips needed some help.
I went to my copy of Couture techniques by Claire Schaeffer.
She has several pages devoted to understructure,which would have been more helpful had I read them before making this corselet - to start with, she says that corselets have 14-16 bones (mine had 8). Fortunately, my daughter is slender and elegant of bosom, so I thought she could probably get away with the minimal boning I had already included.
Claire Schaeffer shows a photograph of the corselet for a sleeveless dress with a deep bias band of the dress fabric finishing the corselet, so that it is not noticeable at the dress openings.
I used this technique to finish the upper edge.


Reading further, she describes how many corselets are attached to underskirts, so I made a cotton organdy princess line gored skirt, and added 3 overlayers of gathered bridal tulle to the skirt.

Unfortunately, this was not big enough in the skirt once we put the toile of the dress over the top.
I added another two layers of bridal tulle.


My daughter said it was a pity she wasn't going to a Halloween party, as she looks like a Manga character (I can't remember the name) when she wears the underlayer over her jeans.

Next I had to find some sheer or light fabric for the bias edge on the lattice smocked bodice (worked out in our trial dress). I could not find this, so dyed some white silk organza using a procion dye I had bought in New Zealand (one of only two shades I own which I had purchased for no particular project) and this technique from Dharma fabrics.


(I also dyed a merino rib top of my husband (success) and my daughter's cotton top (fail) in the same batch)
Through some incredible luck, as clearly I have no skill at dyeing, this shade of silk organza matched the silk duchess satin beautifully, and I attached it to the bodice section within a rolled seam, and spent a few evenings doing some lattice smocking.

That piece of fabric used to be 150cm wide and 75cm in height.

Here is the bodice on Genivieve the dress form (she is not the same shape as my daughter), awaiting draping before being attached to the 7gore skirt.


 The bodice is then attached by hand to the upper border of the corselet, and with stab stitches throughout the lattice bodice to the underlying corselet, particularly at the centre front and centre back.

I am currently beading the hem of this dress, as any attempt at an invisible hem is doomed to failure.
I am really enjoying making this dress, but I am also looking forward to it being over. I can feel a t shirt marathon building up.


velosewer said...

Wow. That's a lot of work but it's a great project to work on. You're using lots of great skills.
I look forward to seeing the finished product, and a marathon of t-shirts to finish it off too.

liza jane said...

Amazing. I can't wait to see it all finished.

Carol said...

Oh, I don't know what to say. This is magnificent. The colour is gorgeous, the work is amazing and you are incredible. I can't wait to see the finished dress! What a true labour of love.

Summer Flies said...

That is looking really good so far. The foundation garments are fabulous and I love the tip of putting the dress fabric on the top of the undergarment.

Anonymous said...

That smocking is looking pretty damn fabulous! :)

Steph A said...

Oh, it's going to be amazing! I love the deep green, it's so rich looking. And the lattice smocking looks great. I'm really looking forward to seeing it modeled!
I can understand about the T-shirt marathon, lots of quick pieces! Great idea.

Sharon said...

Oh my, this is gorgeous,love the colour and the lattice smocking, it will be an amzaing dress.

Carolyn said...

Wow! So far it is looking absolutely stunning! You are so clever!
I know it is too late, but my suggestion for making a very full, full-length skirt would be to have a hoop skirt/petticoat, and then with just a few layers of tulle over the hoop to soften the look from the outside.
I'm sure your daughter is thrilled with how it looks and I cannot wait to see this masterpiece finished :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Karen. I'd be saying, "and, you're also getting married in this dress, so don't lose your figure."

Is she helping?

It's a beautiful, beautiful dress so far (given it's not a dress yet). The colour is fabulous, what a great result with the dye. I can't wait to see the end.

kbenco said...

He, he, I will not mention that she is getting married in the dress, as she might find that a little frightening. She isn't helping, as this period in the life of a young woman finishing high school in Australia barely leaves time for sleeping, if she has acadaemic aspirations :). I am making it for a graduation present.
Carolyn, I wish I had thought of a hoop, but when we started, the skirt was not going to be quite so big......

Ruth said...

I hope DD wears this more than once! It's fabulous, even at this stage

Karin said...

Your daughter is very, very lucky.
Not many people would have the skill, patience, or generosity to tackle a project like this!

Janine said...

This is so phenomenal and amazing. I had thoughts of wedding dresses as well reading this . You really do deserve mother of the year .

Selective Fine Fabrics said...

Your daughters dress is going to look amazing, that bodice is a piece of art in itself. Look forward to seeing the finished product.

Gabrielle said...

That dress is already looking incredible as a wip - and it sounds so challenging to combine all these interesting sewing techniques AND dye fabrics AND do a frankenpattern at the same time! What a generous mum you are, I hope your daughter loves the finished dress!

Marie said...

Wow, wow, wow. The foundations is looking incredible and the smocking is to die for. Such an elegant piece for sure.

Selective Fine Fabrics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tigergirl said...

It will look great, of that I have no doubt but better you than me (I'm way too impatient for such a huge project).

Kyle said...

holy cow that is a LOT of work!!!!! love the first pic of the tulle and your machine.

prttynpnk said...

Oh you are creating an heirloom- this is lovely and amazing!

fabric epiphanies said...

Gosh, you have your school formals late. Ours are in August/September. My daughter starts end of year exams next week. The poor thing is soo stressed at the moment, her hair is falling out in lumps....roll on December when it will be all over!

I hope you and your daughter enjoy graduation and good luck with the dress. I am sure it and your daughter will be stunning!