As promised, Courteney's ball dress!
Last year's version featured a full skirt and a strapless top. It was the first time Courteney had worn a strapless dress and I suspect that given she is a girl more comfortable in football boots it may well be the last. While the dress looked gorgeous, she found it less than practical and spent a good deal of time hitching it up. We certainly weren't prepared to go there with a full length, and heavier dress! Traditionally at the year 12 ball, the girls wear shorter length dresses and the year 13 ball they wear full length dresses.
Once we settled on a colour, a lot of Internet research was conducted before trying to source a pattern. I must say the pattern was really the most difficult part. There really isn't a lot of choice. I was drawn to Vogue 8360 because of the shoulder straps which were part of the brief. This combined with a narrower silhouette and a princess line would suit her shape and petite stature. I was also drawn to the keyhole type of opening in the back as it added interest to an otherwise quite plain dress.
This year's dress was not to be beaded or sequined like last years but still required an element of bling. I found the glitter chiffon which became our starting point. Courteney wanted the skirt to also be in chiffon for its 'swishy' tendencies but the chiffon we sourced in the fabric stores seemed to crush badly. We then settled on Georgette backed with light weight satin. However, after reading reviews of the pattern, it became apparent there were issues. The back was too low cut and the bodice was drafted a little skimpily.
Based on Courteney's measurements, I drafted a bodice pattern. The fitting of this was quite extensive and I think the pattern would have benefited from ABC cut type fitting options. Eventually though, I settled on a fit I was happy with and set to work in my real fabric. My stresses were only just beginning as it turned out. I hadn't bought enough fabric so had to return to the shop a month or so later and fortunately they still had it in stock. I bought a skirt length in satin and Georgette.
After partially completing the bodice, I discovered that the drapey satin and glitter chiffon was not the deal choice for the bodice as it lacked structure. I also decided I wanted to raise the back bodice to enable Courteney to wear a bra underneath. I whipped down to Lincraft and purchased some party satin which was much more stable than my drapey satin. This mean't the pleating in the bodice sat nicely instead of collapsing as in the original.
Based on reveiws of this pattern, I raised the cup height 1.5cm and also the back cut out by 2cm. I am pleased I did. The back opening now sits at the small of Courteney's back. Any lower and it would be quite underwear revealing. A word to the wise about the back opening though, it is probably best suited to girls without a sway back. I had to add a length of elastic in belt like fashion under the dress to secure the opening to her back. It is an unorthodox solution but it works! If I was to give advice to anyone making this dress, I think I would close the opening up. That being said, it remains one of my favourite features.
Increasing the cup height on the bodice was also a good idea. It mean't that a bra can be worn under the dress without being noticed. I simply added 4 bra stays made out of ribbon and snaps ad hey presto, instant comfortable, non revealing dress!
So what did I learn through this whole process? Well, simpler design does not equate to easier! Every seam on this dress has been pulled out and restitched at least once despite making a muslin! The hem was no exception. Just when I thought it was straight it would move again one me! Oh the perils of a fluid dress! My solution to the hem was to baste it, then press it before basting close to the press line. I then trimmed the hem back to my second basting line after removing the first row of stitching. I then folded my hem up one more time before sewing my final row of stitching. I am pleased to report, with this method it sits perfectly straight with no puckering...she says breathing a sigh of relief.
Now trials aside, I have really enjoyed the challenge of making this dress and the results certainly justify the effort. Courteney loves it. It is exactly what she ordered. I have a happy daughter and I think she looks beautiful....mission accomplished!