Nancy from Oliver!

Based on the Broadway versions, but with some requested modifications, I bring to you this Nancy gown! This gown is a two-piece. The skirt is a dual-layer circle skirt. Each layer forms a full circle! It sounds heavy, but is very light. The bodice is the focus of this piece. It’s moderately boned and does constrict like a corset. Our Nancy received the bosom of doom in this.

While it appears to be two pieces, it is in fact one. The main body is a lovely soft velvet, and the sleeves and inset are of the same red as the skirt’s top layer. The sleeve cuffs are made from scraps of the Whore Madame’s corset from Les Mis. The buttons on the front are decorative only, but the grommets in back and lacing is real. On our girl, this bodice closes entirely. Once again, look on the dress form is affected by dress forms being rigid whereas bodies fill them out.

See more photos of this gown in its Facebook album.

Bet from Oliver!

This was another gown was for Metropolitan Performing Arts’s production of Oliver! in 2014. This was for Bet, Nancy’s younger sister. This gown is three pieces. It starts with a vintage chemise with a couple alterations. The sleeves were shortened and the neckline ribbon was replaced with a light purple instead of the original red. This neckline is more square. The bodice on this one is just so pretty. The rich purple with the gold trim is just so rich! Keep that in mind. Like Nancy’s gown, this one laces in the back and can lace tightly. Unlike Nancy’s, this one is lightly boned.

The skirt on this one is where this gown shines. It has the look of a petticoat and two layers of a skirt, but is two layers. The top layer is corduroy and is a full circle. The pleated edging was several long strips of corduroy hand-pleated, but not sewn end to end. The rest is all one layer. The top of the bottom layer is a gorgeous lilac brocade, and there wasn’t enough to do the ruffle in that as well. So I used left-over corduroy. I hand-pleated it in the same manner as the other, but with the addition of a layer of a slightly off white voile. On the seams between the circles and the pleated edged I sewed gold gimp trim. I knew I wasn’t going to have enough, but no matter.

See, these are not rich characters. They are wearing cast-offs from the rich, and these dresses were distressed further before show time. So I cut the trim into several pieces, left spaces between then, and tattered the edges to give the appearance of trim falling or being ripped off.

See more photos of this gown in this Facebook album.

Sari regency gown

Once again I had to miss the Oregon Regency Society/Washington Regency Society annual retreat, but once again I have gowns there instead. ūüôā I took over this gown when Nora was drowning. It happens to us all from time to time, especially when an unexpected move happens, as it did for her as well as for me. I received this with a couple pieces on the bodice seamed, but otherwise in pieces, mostly one big uncut piece.

In regency circles vintage silk saris are very popular. Ladies in the regency era loved them too. Unlike then, regency saris are fairly affordable now thanks to, according to an Indian friend of mine, a strong cultural desire to stay with current fashions in India. Vintage saris are no longer fashionable there, but are still very beautiful and so sold to people in other countries.

Saris require some creativity. Since the quantity of fabric is limited generally to no more than six yards, sometimes less, and the decorations on it can be done in numerous ways, making the most of any beading, embroidery, etc., can be tricky. It’s just not the same as buying six yards of another fabric and embellishing it afterward. It’s also tricker to make sari gowns for us ladies over 5’6″ or so due to the width. But it can be done.

This sari had an end that was eggplant with embroidery and beading that became the bodice, and part of an edge the sleeves. The other narrow end had a narrower decorating strip. To preserve that strip, I made the skirt a cross-over skirt. No sense in cutting that pretty piece off. Originally I had added bias strips of gold silk dupioni to the bottom to make it a little longer, and used the same silk to bind the neckline. But the silk was too stiff in the end and took away the swingy flowiness of the skirt. So off it came, a tricky feat when dealing with the sheer silk chiffon of the sari, and I rebound the neckline with a strip I had left of the olive. The sash is just a remnant of the dupioni pinned on.

More photos are in this Facebook album.

Emma’s (“Belle’s) yellow gown from Beauty and the Beast: A Costume Study

If you’re here for the pre-release film caps, they’re near¬†the bottom.

I will also touch slightly on the wedding/”celebration” gown toward the end. ¬†You can now see Beast’s ball ensemble and Provincial Belle, and Gaston’s¬†wardrobe,¬†as well as¬†my post-seeing-the-movie costume thoughts. ¬†I’ll also post a bunch of extra photos to my Facebook page, specifically in this album, that didn’t make the cut for this post as I sift through them, as well as follow up on March 17th, after seeing the movie while keeping in mine that post-filming CGI can affect appearance. ¬†The week following the movie release, I will start detailing recreating this gown, but embroidered instead. ¬†Follow this blog (sign up at the bottom of any page) if you’d like to get notifications of those posts.

When four photos of the yellow gown from an exhibit in Los Angeles were¬†leaked, my earlier concerns were confirmed. It fails both at invoking another era, and at invoking Belle. This doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful gown in its own right (keep in mind that my criticism aren’t about whether or not the gown is objectively pretty, since I think it very much is), but costumes have a job to do. They need to help transport us to the world and time of a movie. Cinderella’s ballgown in 2015¬†did this well. It helped take us to the ball with her, at an earlier era. The many colors in thr skirt moved like water and smoke, and the butterflies were little bits of magic about her breaking out of her cacoon.

(Editing to add: I recommend clicking my links to confirm my claims about this gown. ¬†In at least one location where this post has been shared, movie-fans are arguing that this gown can’t really be film-worn since surely they must have used embroidery. ¬†One of my links below confirms that they did indeed use…well, you can read what they used below, as well as the link to prove it. ¬†When the costumer says a certain method was used, and the photos of the film-worn gown on display back that, then it’s hard to insist that a different method was used.)

Unfortunately, this yellow gown is pretty modern. In fact, the skirt is unsettlingly similar to the Cinderella Ballgown skirt I made (mine had four layers, and lacked the mellow waterfall) that I joked a few times should be remade in yellow for the movie.  Eerie in a way.

This skirt is painted and glittered, which gives it the look of a glittered print, instead of embroidered. This works for a modern gown, but does it really work to take us back to the mid-18th century (1740, to be precise)? The closest any of this comes to historical is that there were full skirts like this in the middle of the Victorian era. But a full skirt itself does not historical make.

Notably, Emma Watson, according to the costumer in several interviews, was ultimately given creative control over this gown, and that she designed is a gown that is very Emma Watson, especially when considering the lack of gloves and the currently fashionable stick-straight hair. Emma was dressed for this scene. Belle was not.

The big difficulty I’m having here is that, while it’s a beautiful gown that I love in its own right, and it’s already in my schedule, it doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to do. If we were to see this dress on its own with no idea where the pictures were from, how many of us would think of Belle (unless you’re one of those who thinks of Belle every time you see a yellow dress) rather than a modern prom gown or modern yellow wedding gown? How many of us would get the feeling of mid-18th century France?

Let’s take a look at this gown. ¬†(Images will open larger.)

Without a doubt, as a gown on its own separate from the movie, it is lovely. ¬†I may be slightly partial due to the similarities to the skirt of my Cinderella gown (the photo to the right isn’t over the many petticoats it takes to support a 15-pound skirt). ¬†But aside from my gown, the yellow one is quite pretty. ¬†I’m a fan of that type of waterfall, so similar to one I did on my daughter’s Phantom of the Opera Wishing gown. ¬† I love big skirts. ¬†I like sparkly things.

But…I don’t see Belle. ¬†I see something very modern, something that, if it wasn’t in silk, really would be at home at a prom, complete with the skirt being glitter. ¬†I will come back to that.

Let’s take a close look at the bodice front and back.

Wait, I may have one better.

That’s better. ¬†I’m not sure, by this pic, if that’s tinsel under the fabric, which I’m presuming is silk organza, though it could be chiffon, or if the tinsel is part of the fabric. ¬†I seriously doubt it’s gold lam√© (unlike the fashion fabric sold in chain fabric stores, gold lam√© is strips of real gold woven into fabric), but I’m not quite sure what it is. ¬†Mylar, perhaps. ¬†Well, a photo farther down will answer this.

The edges of the organza/chiffon are not hemmed or bound in any way, and this is actually fine.  Sometimes the proper finish is pinking or scalloped, and that is scalloped.  The slight fraying is normal.

The sides and cap sleeves are applied over a sleeveless bodice, similar to…again something I’ve done…the Titanic tea gown, shown to the right. ¬†The yellow gown’s sleeves are narrower and has a different angle in the back, though the method is identical. ¬†When I replicate the ballgown, I will demonstrate how this is done.

This show if the back isn’t so clear, but that’s not so important here. We can see the angles, and know what to expect from the front. ¬†What this picture does show is that the opening is in the back middle, as evidenced by the break in the top edge, and that the edges meet instead of overlap. ¬†This indicates an invisible zipper. Also just visible is a tail of silk, which appears to be silk chiffon here. ¬†The flow says to me that this is silk chiffon.

Here we have a profile shot, and the skirt top layer clearly has a fold. ¬†Unlike the live-action Cinderella movie, this gown was meant to be more streamlined. ¬†Pleats are smoother than gathers. ¬†This angle also shows that there’s some mild boning in the bottom part of the basque to keep it flat, but not enough to smooth Emma’s small bust. ¬†It almost seems as if the goal is to make sure we can tell she’s not wearing a corset. ¬†I’m not sure if the appearance of a pseudo-bustle at the back was intentional, or if that’s just the way this displace was set up. ¬†Either way, it’s a reasonable way to work in extra fullness, and is really the way I usually prefer.

Onto the skirt. The three-layered skirt has been confirmed to be silk satin organza. ¬†Right off the bat, let me reiterate that I am irked beyond words that they used glitter and paint. They have access to industrial embroidery machines, and an embroidery file made for sheer or delicate fabrics won’t make it stiff. ¬†Take a look at this photo. ¬†You can see the glue on the underside. ¬†All that white is glue. ¬†This doesn’t look rich. ¬†It looks novice. ¬†Yes, sometimes glitter is used, but it definitely shouldn’t be when the underside will be visible.

That photo also answers what was on the bodice. ¬†Click that photo to enlarge it, and you can see the tails from the bodice flowing down, and that it’s rows of gold paint. ¬†Painting fabric isn’t new, but was done here because…I don’t know. ¬†I seriously can’t figure out why they painted and glittered this skirt. ¬†Embroidery would give it more dimension.

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. ¬†The glitter is deposited in stripes.

And that segment of the skirt isn’t glittered at all aside from some dots. ¬†It does, however, show that the layers are sewn using a decorative edge. ¬†The bottom later is narrow-hemmed, as seen in this next photo.

Want to see closer photos of the glitter?

I just can’t get over the glitter, nor how modern this gown is for a historical piece. ¬†I can suspend disbelief and era-bending, as for Cinderella, but there has to be a purpose for blatant¬†era-bend. ¬†The gowns of Lady Tremaine and her daughters highlighted their eccentricity and made them seem out of place in such a genteel world. ¬†Moreover, their aesthetic was consistent. ¬†Belle is supposed to be a part of her own world. ¬†She is supposed to exist in it, and find her place in it with a man who learned a very vital lesson about not looking for beauty on the outside, but rather on the inside.

As for how this looks on screen? ¬†It’s not substantial enough. ¬†As embroidery, even standing at the top of the stairs in her reveal, we’d see something more than a mass of yellow.







This gown is one that is meant to take our breaths away with how it twirls, which it does nicely, but that’s not enough. ¬†Cinderella’s blue gown has enough color variation in it to add enough interest (though, I openly admit, I think that gown needed more detailing as well), but the “impress us by spinning” was already done. ¬†The game needed to be stepped up a notch, to both take us back to mid-18th-century France, to take us to the castle, to match the opulence of that amazing ballroom and Beast’s ensemble, and really WOW us with something we haven’t seen before. ¬†In its general simplicity, this gown is too similar to Cinderella’s, and yet manages to be plainer, and by being so inconsistent with the aesthetics of the movie, and the incredible job at historical accuracy for other ensembles, this one doesn’t work in any way for Belle.

So, while I do love this gown aside from that glitter and paint, the modernity of it prevents me¬†from seeing this as a Belle gown. ¬†It doesn’t transport me to her world, or invoke her time. ¬†It succeeds in being a nice dress for a prom (the glitter…), but just plain fails as a gown for Belle. ¬†I will enjoy it for what it ultimately really is, but can not call it Belle’s gold ballgown.



Now I also said I’d touch on the wedding/”celebration” gown. ¬†Publications from Harper’s Bazaar to Refinery have called this both her wedding gown, and a “celebration” gown, which seems a rather generic term for it. ¬†The Disney Store calls it a “celebration” gown.

This also appears to be a lovely gown, but when I first saw this photo, I thought it was a 1940’s-1950’s-inspired glamor shot of Emma Watson in a trendy wedding gown. ¬†In fact, it bears a resemblance to…

Sheer sleeves, floral decoration, similar seaming… ¬†It’s very much like the wedding gown at the end of Cinderella in some key ways(this is another gown I love, but that is troublingly modern without any good reason to be, whereas the Tremaines’ gowns had a reason).

At first, I didn’t believe it was from the movie, at least not until I saw this on the Disney Store’s website.


Confirmation that this gown that would be in place at a trendy wedding in 2017 is indeed from the movie. ¬†The child-version would be sweet for a flower girl dress, or Easter, and I admit I’m tempted to get it as an Easter dress for my daughter if the fabric I ordered to make her the young Cinderella dress from, yes, the live-action Cinderella, doesn’t show up.

I’m guessing we’ll see this one available from Alfred Angelo the way we saw¬†the Cinderella wedding gown¬†available very soon afterward.

There’s not too much else to say about this gown yet aside from it being another currently-fashionable style that says “Belle” even less than the yellow, and that, despite that looks beautiful in its own right.

Thoughts on the live-action Beauty and the Beast

Before I post a study on the yellow ball gown from Beauty and the Beast, including some incredibly close photos that show startling detail, I want to air my thoughts on this movie so far. ¬†Yes, I’m aware that it’s not out yet, but enough information has come out that I’m bothered by some things that I can’t shake.

Like most fans of Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast, I was excited to hear that a live-action version was being made, and like many, my excitement has dwindled into something akin to dread. ¬†The more I’ve heard about it, often through quotes from Emma Watson or others confirmed involved in the production, the less I’ve looked forward to it. ¬†While many images are stunning, I just can’t get over how they didn’t think that Belle being a bookworm was enough of a reason for her to be an outcast.

This is personal to me since I, as a child, was an outcast solely for having an insatiable hunger for reading anything and everything I could get my hands on, whether it was a medical textbook, the encyclopedias, Babysitters Club books, or the ingredients on shampoo bottles.  When the animated movie came out and Belle was an outcast for her love of reading, I instantly identified with someone who was just like me, and suddenly, at least for a short time, a book in hand was an awesome accessory.

Belle’s insecurity also endeared her to me. ¬†Though she was very far from weak, she was still insecure, as I was. ¬†I could have been Belle. ¬†So many of us could have been Belle. ¬†Insecure bookworms. ¬†An insecure bookworm on the big screen whose ability to love and critically thing ultimately saved the day. ¬†How wonderful!

Well, in the new movie, Belle, instead of her father, is the inventor, and this is from Emma Watson herself, and Belle is nothing like the Belle we know and love.

‚ÄúIn the animated movie, it‚Äôs her father who is the inventor, and we actually co-opted that for Belle,‚ÄĚ says Watson.¬†‚ÄúI was like, ‚ÄėWell, there was never very much information or detail at the beginning of the story as to why Belle didn‚Äôt fit in, other than she liked books. Also what is she doing with her time?‚Äô So, we created a backstory for her, which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead. So, yeah, we made Belle an inventor.‚ÄĚ

Sorry, but no. ¬†Merely being a reader is plenty for people to not like you (not to mention the jealousy of the women in town that Belle was considered the supreme beauty who made their husbands drool), and making her the inventor of the washing machine would make her incredibly popular as everyone would want to be her friend to get their hands on one. ¬†She would be a desirable woman to have as a wife as she’d be a cash cow if she can invent something like that. ¬†So rather than answer the question of “why didn’t the town like her?”, which was already answered, we now have a reason for them to all love her, and for Gaston to have a reason, other than her appearance, to want to marry her.

So it should come as no surprise that Emma refused to wear corsets in this production, as she is personally opposed to them.

“Watson was determined to play a princess who had more agency and would be able to take action, and a corset just didn‚Äôt fit in with that story line. Watson worked closely with the film‚Äôs creators and costume designer Jacqueline Durran to create a new look and personality for Belle. She‚Äôll star as a skilled inventor whose interests include horseback riding.”

This is actually problematic. ¬†How does wearing a corset prevent a woman from inventing or horseback riding? ¬†It doesn’t. ¬†Throughout history, women wore corsets for two primary reasons. ¬†One is to support the weight of heavy gowns by keeping them from digging into the hips and spreading the weight over the whole torso. ¬†The other is they provide back support for working-class women. ¬†You can bet those working-class women did more than horseback riding without being hindered by corsets, and even upper-class women enjoyed riding. ¬†Leisure rides, and even accompanying men on hunts, were popular activities. ¬†And as for hindering inventing, the last time I checked a corset wasn’t even worn on your head.

Okay…continuing on:

“Her decision to forgo the corset is a major deal for a few reasons. First, it sounds like this will be one of the first Disney princess movies where the woman is seen less though the male gaze, and more through a modern and realistic interpretation. Second, it shows women everywhere that the film is prioritizing personality, skills, movement, and actions over appearances‚ÄĒsomething we can definitely celebrate.”

Except that a problem Belle deals with is how beautiful she is, and how no one bothers to get to know her. ¬†Gaston’s sole reason for wanting to marry her is her looks, even though she hates that she reads. “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas, and thinking.” ¬†When Beast first meets her, he is intimidated by her, and doesn’t care to get to know her. ¬†He hardy cares about her other than as a way to break a spell. ¬†But he gets to know her as intelligent and interesting, and she teaches him to read. ¬†He learns that the real beauty in her is beneath her exterior. ¬†(This isn’t even touching on the lesson of seeing beneath the beastly exterior of a scared, angry young man, which is a whole other, controversial, topic.)

This is something to celebrate. ¬†Don’t stop at physical appearances. ¬†Get to know someone. ¬†It definitely sounds like this movie has the goal of putting it all out there up front. ¬†Animated Belle had personality and skills, movement, and took a lot of action, though the men in her town only saw her as beautiful and hot. ¬†Is it really going to be a good move to change that?

Emma wants to make this Belle into a role model. ¬†But…but…the original Belle IS a role model. ¬†She is that bullied, outcast, shy, insecure bookworm so so many of us connected and identified with, and she showed up that what mattered is who we are, and that we can be shy and love to read and to think and still be strong and independent. ¬†What is a Belle who is already strong and secure and confident right out the gate going to teach us? ¬†How is she going to connect with today’s children? ¬†Today’s adults may think she’s awesome through adult eyes (“Woman power, YEAH!”), but what if the Belle we all grew up with was made to appeal to adults more, to be what adults thought would be a good role model based on our adult experiences? ¬†Are today’s children really going to be able to see themselves as Belle the way we did?

I understand the desire to make women strong. ¬†This is part of why I also write books, two which are available on Amazon right now under my pen name. ¬†But why remove the challenges Belle would have faced? ¬†There were many women in the time of this story (and the era is indicated very clearly by the costumes of almost everyone else in the production…this is the mid-18th century), many scientists and inventors, who were what we may see as modern women, strong women who, despite the conventions of women being submissive to men, pushed against the challenges. ¬†That is a lot stronger, and a lot more empowering, than removing obstacles. ¬†If you think I’m overthinking this, then consider how overthinking the character of Belle led to some significant fundamental changes to Belle, and ultimately the story (if Belle is the inventor, what is Maurice for?).

Now you can say to wait and see the movie before having opinions on anything, but these are fundamental changes confirmed by Emma Watson herself. ¬†The very things that made me love Belle and feel better about myself as a bullied kid have been changed since she doesn’t see staying true to oneself as being a virtue worth celebrating. ¬†She doesn’t see that as a strength in itself. ¬†In changing Belle so fundamentally, we are being told that you need to change who you are to be okay, to alter everything about yourself to be accepted and to be a role model, that if you are shy or insecure, you’d better buck up and change or else you aren’t good enough, even when the story is entirely about that kind of person staying who she is and people learning to get to know someone.

I will be seeing this movie March 16th. ¬†It’s released on this coast the night before the official date. ¬†I took my daughter to see Cinderella when it opened, but I won’t take her to this until I see it first. ¬†My hope is that I will be pleasantly surprised and manage to see Emma Watson as Belle, though truth be told, all I’m seeing is Hermione.

The idea of Belle being a modern woman in a historical world is carried over to two important wardrobe pieces, which I will cover in my article about her yellow gown and her wedding/”celebration” gown.

Phantom of the Opera Slave ensemble (stage version)

The skirt alone used about 120 YARDS of trims and velvet ribbons. The heading for the bust and arm drapes used more than 2,000 beads, and each strand was beaded to match the original US versions. The cherubs on the “shield” at the bust were hand-molded by me. All the bits that look like appliqu√©s are actually various trims that I manipulated into position and sewed down. The twisted trim over the hips is made of gold cord that I twisted and sewed down, about 5 yards per side. I don’t want to think about how many yards of trim went into an ensemble that looks so simple!

Every other fringe on the skirt was painted in the same way as the stage originals. I’m not personally a fan of using paint and adhesive to hold on 24k gold dust, but it’s what was done for the original, and aside from using heavy plastic pony beads (good luck finding glass beads with very large center holes), there simply weren’t any other options, so I did what was done.

For stage costumes, certain aspects of costumes are designed with the knowledge that audience members won’t see them close enough to see the little things like this. But it sure presents a quandary for someone recreating it when it will be seen close up! Underneath the lacing in the back is a modesty panel of deep green velvet so that, if the wearer doesn’t want it all the way tightened, she won’t have to worry abut skin showing through.

Ah, but what about the “butt tiara”? Well that hooks on on each side, and there are a series of eyes on each side so that it can be repositioned to keep centered, and the modesty panel has trim fringes that match the front at the bottom to prevent a gap in the fringiest skirt. The entire thing is lined in black cotton drill with steel boning throughout. The cups are slightly padded by design to give the oomph shown on the stage dancers.

An IMPORTANT note about these photos: Corsets are difficult to photograph, at best, on conventional dress forms. They are even more difficult when the wearer-to-be is petite, but the torso length of your shortest dress form is not. The ensemble shown was made for a 5′ tall lady So the bust of the form as well as the shoulders are high for this ensemble, higher than the wearer’s own body will be. Also the form itself is stiff, so I was unable to satisfactorily adjust the waist. Therefore there is more slackness in the corset’s waist in these photos than they will be on the wearer herself.

I did make the matching robe, but the photos ended up too washed out.  Lesson learned too late: When using a new DSLR camera, check the photos on a computer before shipping an ensemble.

More photos are in this Facebook album.