Dolley Madison reproduction gown

In early 2011, I was asked to make a reproduction of First Lady Dolley Madison’s favorite gown for Dr. Lynn Uzell, the official reenactress portraying Dolley Madison at Dolley’s former home in Montpelier, Vermont.  This would one one of my first entirely-hand-sewn gowns, and the first to be on television.  It was featured in the fifth and sixth episodes of the third season of the Emmy-award-winning series A Taste of History.

This gown has a somewhat interesting history to it.  It was one of Dolley’s favorites, but why?  Later in her life, when she was very poor (one of her former slaves lent her money, such was the degree of her impoverishment), and most of her belongings were sold, this one of of the very few things she kept.

When the original White House was to be burned in 1814 in an act of arson, Dolley ordered the drapes in the Oval Drawing Room to be saved, as well a the portrait of George Washington that so many of us know so well.  Historians now believe that her beloved gown was made from those drapes.

Photo from PBS.


More photo of my version are in my Facebook album dedicated to this gown.

I used garment-weight silk velvet (the information about the drapery-weight wasn’t widely available when I made this gown, which went on vacation with me to Missouri so I could continue to work.

Based on photos I had at the time, I replicated the same color scheme lining, as well as thread.


Charlotte’s Smocked Dresses

More photos at my Facebook album for the blue dress and my Facebook album for the white dress.


I’ve never been much of a smocker, and still don’t have a pleating machine.  Charlotte’s smocked
dresses were pleated entirely by hand.  This little blue one has Venice lace trimming the collar and sleeves.

The white dress is a replica of an English vintage smocked dress I saw on a vintage website. The majority of the bodice is simple white-on-white with peachy-pink floral embroidery and soft green leaves. The collar and sleeve cuffs have matching embroidery and are edged with pleats. The bottom of the skirt has six rows of pit-tucking with more embroidery between them.

Peter Pan and Wendy

More photos are in my Facebook album for these ensembles.

Cotton Wendy dress with felt Peter Pan tunic and hat for a mother and son. Based on the Disney version.

The tunic was made with proper seaming (felt shouldn’t mean a glue gun) and a ace back to accommodate a growing boy.  This little tunic probably wouldn’t last for years upon years, but it’s a const-efficient way to let a boy dream about never growing up.

The Wendy gown is made from cotton that I custom-dyed, and laces in the back. This easy-care gown is machine-washable, and suitable for wearing out to events or for sleeping.  After all, it was Wendy’s nightgown!

Said the mom: What a very special gown, for a very special day; Peter Pan themed party for my son’s birthday. So in love with this dress. Aria is very easy to work with, and the dress looks amazing on, and so incredibly comfy. The workmanship on the dress is impeccable. I wish I had several more in other colors. Thank you, sincerely Thank your Aria for this special dress.


Princess Catherine’s Wedding Gown


More photos are in my Facebook album for this gown.

Literally as soon as I saw the wedding on TV, I started drafting the wedding gown, and finished this prototype within 24 hours, which may be close to the record!   I couldn’t afford to go all out in silk and custom lace, and so settled on white bridal satin without lace.  I used an English embroidered netting I already had on hand, and made a mad rush to every fabric store within 75 miles to buy enough bridal satin.  That many full-length layers to the train takes a ton of fabric!  And it was still quite an investment for a prototype.  It’s not perfect, but my goal was to see how close of an approximation I could make before bigger names’ knock-offs of this Sarah Burton (for Alexander McQueen) gown could hit the market.  With more time now to research the original, it’s easy to see some overall design details that I missed, such as the shape of the overtrains, but again, this gown was finished within 24 hours, and before many detail photos had hit the internet.

The original gown cost the Middleton family a rather modest £40,000.  Of course that’s budget-breaking to most of the rest of us but reasonably low for a royal wedding.

Please pardon the photo quality.  My photos were taken with an iPhone 4.

Princess Catherine’s Reception Gown

More photos are in my Facebook album for this gown.

When I made this gown, we had very few official photos.  Literally as soon as I saw the wedding on TV, I started drafting the wedding gown (and finished a prototype within 24 hours, which may be close to the record), and then started on this one.  It was a no-sleep marathon!  So, so few photos to go on, even a day later.  Despite that, I came pretty close.  Rather than use silk duchess satin on a prototype, I used a white bridal satin over a crinoline, and a fur knit was turned into the cardigan. My cardigan closes with a handful of buttons.  The original is knit angora with pearls.  The sash is a simple crystal sash.  I would really rather not try to knock this gown out again so fast.  As a prototype, it doesn’t have the delicate couture touches of the original.  It’s still a lovely gown that would be at home in a wedding itself.

Please pardon the photo quality.  These were taken with an iPhone 4.

Guinevere belt

“Retro”post from 2008:


pic7105pic2ac4A grand total of eight days before it was needed, I received a request I couldn’t pass up, to make a lovely belt similar in styling to the belt donned by Lady Godiva in Sir Edmund Leighton’s portrayal of her, and based off a photo sent by the client.  From there, it was left up to my interpretation.

The end result is a belt I didn’t want to drop in the mail (oh, that was painful!).  I think I will have to make one for myself!

pic6007pic3e0bI used a silk/rayon brocade backed with cream satin, edged with gold-painted brain, and dotted with glass pearls (can also be made with cultured pearls).  The waist part is interlined for support.

The gown this is over is Eowyn’s “white wool” gown that is set to be complete by spring, for another client.  It worked so well for showing this belt!  It can be worn for Lady Guinevere, Lady Godiva, Lady Eowyn, any Lady!  It is a very substantial, rich belt, suitable as an heirloom or for a wedding.

The hooks/eyes are under the right side.


Edwardian infant Easter gown

“Retro”post from 2008:

This infant gown is based on pictures of a baby gown sent to me as inspiration.  The heirloom detailing is absolutely charming, the many yards of Swiss entredeux and insertion laces realy add to the antique feeling of this gown, as does the cotton and a couple of the laces being real vintage materials (the laces look nearly identical to the ones on the original!).  Before the addition of the gold ribbon through the beading laces and the floral pieces under the ruching on the front, this gown was very carefully tea-dyed to this soft vanilla color.  A couple of the laces didn’t take quite a much color, but this further lends to the antique feel.

The sleeves are each gathered with two gold ribbons, and the mauvey-pink flowers, green leaves, and gold bows backing them were each hand-made.  Each of the gold bows has 42 loops, which is only of significance to fans of Douglas Adams, but is a fun fact about this dress.

The back closes with five small mother-of-pearl buttons.

This gown was surprisingly time-consuming thanks to all the insertion laces, entredeux, ruching, and other detailing.

To search this blog, please see the categories and search feature in the footer of any page or in the sidebar to the right.  This blog does not contain everything I’ve made.  More can be found at my Aria Couture Facebook page.  As time allows, I will move some things from my defunct website here, as well as move creations from my Facebook page here.  I encourage you to follow both this website as well as my page!


If you’re here for my Beauty and the Beast costume studies:

To my surprise, tens of thousands of people are, and to make it easier, I’m going to post those here.

Emma’s (“Belle’s) yellow gown from Beauty and the Beast: A Costume Study
Beast’s Ball Ensemble:  Costume Study
Provincial Belle: A Costume Study
Gaston: A Costume Study
Pre-movie costuming thoughts about Beauty and the Beast
Post-Beauty and the Beast costuming thoughts

Dew Drops

“Retro”post from 2008:

I’d been dreaming about children’s dresses with flower skirts for quite a while, and finally had a reason to make them.  Earlier this past winter, I felt inspired to actively design a line of children’s dresses inspired by flowers and bugs.  These two are the first two prototypes.

I wanted a soft look to the skirts, almost a watercolor, a hint of color.  So each skirt is a full screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-3-59-05-amcircle skirt of a heavier bridal satin with four layers of white tulle.  The top most tulle later of each has glittered dots reminiscent of dew drops shaking down from the “flowers”.  One is a lavender pansy, and the other a pink rose.  Each is made of six petals cut in the shape of their respective flowers (though only a couple of the pansy’s leaves would be this shape, and there are five on a real pansy), and well as the sepals.  The sepals are on top of the petals.  The satin is narrow-hemmed, and the tulle pinked (cut with zig-zag scissors) for a soft look.  The bodices are simple to keep the focus on the skirts.  Each zips up the back with matching invisible zippers, and at the waists, contrasting ribbons.  Each includes a small posy of silk flowers to tuck into the ribbons, to carry, or to put in the hair.

The finished Pansy and Rose Dewdrop dresses:

The lack of smoothness in the bodice is due to the bushed behind not being smooth.  The “dew drops” on the skirts just wouldn’t photograph with my camera.

The insides are neatly finished, very smooth and with no rough or scratchy serged edge scratch against a child’s delicate skin.