Sunday, April 18, 2010

Inside The Prom Dress (Part 1)

The Corselette
I'm using Susan Khalje"s "Bridal Couture" book and Threads Issue 145 as reference materials while making this dress.  The pattern is Vogue 2847 by Tom and Linda Platt.  I can't find a link to the Threads issue, but I did find this wonderful interview with Susan Khalje, who is an amazing teacher!

The corselette is the most vital part of this gown!  It provides a strong internal structure for the top of the gown to hang from, and must be tightly (but properly) fitted to prevent the dress from falling down and also from her yanking it up all night!  Strapless dresses really require internal structure, and I want to make sure that I'm doing it properly!

I started with a regular cotton muslin, and since there are 16 pieces for just the "foundation", I labeled them all with a Sharpie marker to make sure they were going in the right direction and connected properly.
The first fitting yielded a decent alteration of 2 1/4", as she is so thin and the corselette needs to be tightly fitted.  I remarked the muslin, rechecked the calculations, and altered the paper pattern.  Khalje recommends making a corselette in a double layer of medium-weight cotton, to be sturdy, breathable, and perspiration friendly.

Again, with so many pieces (now I'm constructing 2 corselettes for the double-layer), I had my labeled muslin next to me to refer to, and pinned & stitched the pieces in pairs, keeping a set of the same pair connected with a thread chain.  I kept the correlating pattern pieces pinned to one so that I wouldn't get confused, and it all pieced together very quickly.  I pressed all seam allowances open, to later create the channels for the boning.
I placed bra cups on the wrong side of one completed corset, and hand stitched them down to the seam allowances at the top and bottom of each cup, invisible on the right side.  I then pinned the two layers wrong sides together, and stitched the channels for the boning.  Each channel is about 3/8" wide, and I placed them on every seam line, extending them from top to bottom (except for the seams on the bra cups, the channel stopped at the bottom of the cup).
I basted the layers together along the seam line at the top of the corselette, and turned the center back seams inside, but left the seam open for placement of the hook and eye closures.
I found myself in a pinch with the hooks and eyes, not wanting to do all that hand-stitching and not having access to hook and eye tape.  I punted, and picked up "bra extenders" at Joann's in black, which worked perfectly!
There are 3 sets of eyes and 1 set of hooks (4 on each extender), so I cut the strips apart and placed them end to end inside the center back seam.  I machine stitched them down so they are very, very secure, and very, very little black actually shows (and this is hidden underneath the gown anyway!
To finish the bottom edge, I used double-fold bias tape folded over the bottom, and topped it with grosgain ribbon for the waist stay.

So, how did the fitting go?  Very, very well!  She was able to get into the corselette all by herself (but missed a few hooks and eyes in the middle) and it only needs one more adjustment.  The front is a little too wide, so I need to take the center front seam in about 1/2" (for a total reduction of 1").  I threw the gown muslin back on her, and pinned and marked it up accordingly.  We added 3/4" to the top bodice edge for modesty, so I'll have to add that to the gown bodice also.
My next job is to alter the gown top to match the measurements of the corselette top, which isn't too bad.  The gown itself is pretty simple, with 2 (very large) skirt pieces, and the fitted band for the bodice.  She will be stunning, I can't wait to finish and show you the final product!
I love red, and this particular red crepe back satin is such a deep tone of red, and it's wonderful on her skin tone.  Every new formal I make becomes my new favorite.  I didn't think I could love anything more than the Homecoming Dress this year, but the Prom Dress is going to be stunning!

Here's my earlier post on the 1st gown muslin from March.
Here's the initial post with her inspiration for the dress.  Gotta love Taylor Swift...


KID, MD said...

WOW! You are putting an amazing amount of work into this dress. IT is going to be a stunner!

Bunny said...

WoW! I'm impressed! I hope this young lady realized what a treasure she has in her seamstress. I can't wait to see it done.

alethia said...

OH MY GOSH! you are doing a fabulous job. You are constructing the dress in an orderly fashion. It reminded me of the way Susan Khalje help Ann build the corset for her gown. I am anxiously waiting to see the end product. The color of the gown is beautifulllll!

amber said...

I'm so incredibly impressed by all of the work that you're putting into this dress! The corselette looks completely professional and I cannot wait to see the finished dress. You should be so very proud of yourself!!

Handmade said...

It's a military operation! WOW - it looks fabulous! You are sew good!!! Clever idea with the bra extenders!

Summerset said...

Looks great - you're doing it just right. BTW, next time you need bra back hook and eyes, let me know, I do buy it by the yard to dye, but I'd be more than happy to send you whatever you need and I can cut it to length!