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.
On Monday, during a Girl Scout meeting (during a time when the girls were doing an activity we adults couldn’t help with), I saw that the ball ensembles from Labyrinth were in Seattle, and I screamed and freaked out my troop. But…Labyrinth! And since there are stunningly few photos available showing Sarah’s ball gown in any detail, I knew I had to go. So on Tuesday, after our ballet classes, my daughter and I started the 6-hour drive (stopped for the night after an hour and a half, then the next morning, we hit rush hours traffic through several cities, including Tacoma as well as Seattle, though the return drive was a mere 4.5 hours) drive up to the Museum of Pop Culture. One membership purchase later…
All photos open larger when clicked.
And these weren’t the only ensembles of the day. Stay tuned for Princess Buttercup’s wedding gown from The Princess Bride, and Dorothy from Wizard of Oz (yes, this has been done before, but I got information I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere), among others! Subscribe to this blog at the bottom of any page to get notifications when those go up I will also do a separate study on Jareth’s ball ensemble. This study will stay focused on Sarah’s gown.
If you need a refresher, take a couple minutes and enjoy this video.
I suspect that designers Brian Froud (father of Toby Froud, who played the baby in the movie quite by accident) and Ellis Flyte had a lot of fun with these pieces. I’ll save a bit of trivia about Jareth’s ensemble for the study on his at a later time.
To start, how about a couple videos I took?
Spoiler alert: You can skip all the text and go right to this Facebook album I set up for this gown to look at pictures, but surely you wouldn’t want to skip reading all this information. 🙂
Let’s begin this discussion with the skirt. Not including the pannier under it, this skirt is six layers. The bottom layer-sandwich is a lining of cotton muslin with an iridescent layer that looks like yellow-tinted cellophane (certainly not the iridescent fabric we can fine easier today), with a layer of soft white, almost a very soft dove grey, and silver lace. The cellophane is scalloped at the bottom. Each scallop is about 4″ wide. The lace is a synthetic fiber, and also has a scalloped edge. For the 80’s, back when everything was higher quality, this was a cheap lace. These days, it’s a higher quality lace. How ironic.
The top layer-sandwich is similar. It’s backed with muslin, and the cellophane is the sort that is pinkish green. In photo 2, you can see that the two cellophane layers are different shades. This cellophane is scalloped at the bottom, but I couldn’t see the edges in the lifted part to tell if it’s also scalloped, or cut straighter there. The pinkish cellophane is topped with a fabric I haven’t seen since the 80’s, and haven’t been able to track down yet. It’s not quite a crinkled organza, more puckered similar to seersucker, but in wider, irregular stripes, and it has silver threads running through it. I’m not even sure if this exact fabric is even made anymore, though I do recall having a dress made with it when I was a kid.
An interesting thing I noticed is that on the far sides, additional stripes are added at the very bottom, about 3″ at most, and tapering down. At first I saw it only on the right side, but upon closer looking for quire a while, I was able to make out the extension on the other side. I speculate that the reason for this is that the fabric, which was used lengthwise around the gown instead of in panels, wasn’t wide enough to go from the waist, over the panniers, and to the floor, or wherever they decided to hem it (could have been ankle length, I don’t know since I don’t know Jennifer Connolly’s height). Had those sides been left shorter, it would have been noticed, and shortening the entire gown 3″ would have been noticed. The extensions are sewn on with zigzag stitching. In photo 4, you can see a darker line from the right side that angles down. This is one of the extensions. In my first video, at 44 seconds in, I point it our clearer, and for the one on the right, it’s at 2:19 on my second video.
The hemming on the muslin and topmost layer are just zigzag-stitched, which is very, very, very, surprisingly common on film gowns. It’s not like viewers are going to see the hem or inside seams, and rarely do these gowns have to last for months on end, of not years, the way Broadway and opera gowns need to. I doubt anyone noticed the repair to the hem in the back, and I’m going to include people who go to see this gown in person. Even in person, these small details are only going to be noticed by people who are looking for them. Like me, and the people who are interested enough in this gown to find this post about it.
The fabric in both front and back are gathered in deep Kingussie pleats, 11 to each side. The best way to describe these pleats, since this type isn’t often called that, is knife-pleating where the edges all point one way on one half, and the other way on the other half. On this gown, the pleats on each half point toward the center, either back center or front center. They aren’t very regular in width that can be seen, and that’s likely due to the fabric being pulled over those panniers, and then gathered on the left in front, further pulling on the fabric. I highly doubt that the creators of this gown would have just gone willy nilly on those pleats.
The top layer is hitched up at the left hip, with the bottom 6″ or so left to drape down. The decoration acting as a clasp is very unusual and almost rough for a gown as ethereal as this one. It looks like large beads and those glass stones used in fish tanks gathered in fine gold netting, and is something I’d expect to see on a mermaid gown. If you click on photo 6 to make it larger, you can see a bit better than the gold mesh is just a mishmash of beads and glass stones. It’s interesting, but seems out of place to me. I’m guessing this is to represent gems and such mined from the earth by goblins. That’s certainly why I used real pearls on the Goblin Queen gown that my daughter and I created.
Now to the bodice. Oh, where to begin with this one. The sleeves. These giant fluff balls are a combination of the pinkish cellophane from the top layer-sandwich of the skirt and the lace used on top of the bottom layer sandwich. They are so perfectly balloon-like that it’s easy to think that there are balloons in them! However, they didn’t use balloons. I’m sorry to burst any dreams of balloons in sleeves. What was done instead was to make a very full and stuffed short sleeve as an inner sleeve, and a big huge puff outer sleeve consisting of the cellophane and lace for the puff, with a fitted lower sleeve (I hope it was lined with cotton, but can’t be sure). When sewn together and to the bodice, the stuffed short sleeve supports the outer sleeve. Believe it or not, this was a common sleeve method using sheer fabric for the outer sleeve during the Romantic era of the 1830’s!
A few more details to note:
The bulk of the gathering is kept to the top of each sleeve. This gives the effect of the sleeves being ready to fall off of Sarah, yet are supported enough to still puff hugely.
The right sleeve has a frill of tulle. The left one didn’t, but that could have been lost. The sleeve lace was tucked upward in the center, and the frill inserted into that. This was then sewn to the bottom of the inner sleeve.
Also, if you look in photo 8, you can see added lace at each sleeve cuff. This lace is silver, and the only other place I saw lace this silver was at the neckline and waist, which I will cover momentarily.
The bodice itself, which is definitely boned according to the plaque accompanying the ensembles, appears to have seven panels and has princess seams in front and back with seams at the side. These panels were really hard to see on the gown in person, though slightly easier to see in photos. I searched for seams in the lace, but found none. So what must have been used is a couture method of shaping lace to conceal seams. How this is done is by assembling the rest of the shell, in this case, more of the pinkish cellophane, and at least one supporting layer, which could be cotton muslin or something more substantial to handle the boning that was used on this gown, and taking a large piece of lace over the front. In areas that need to be shaped, carefully cut along motifs where needed, lay and manipulate flat, pin, and baste into place. Do this on all the areas needing to be shaped. If need be, add more lace and conceal the joins the same way. When all basted and smooth, hand-sew the edges down. You shouldn’t see lace seams at all now.
Yes, that’s time-consuming, and yes, the margin of error is high, and yes, this requires top-notch hand-sewing skills to be able to sew invisibly, and yes, this requires being extremely flexible and being willing to work with unexpected behaviors in lace. This is why it’s a couture method and so often skipped in favor of visible seams and calling it part of the design. There’s nothing wrong with visible seams when they’re genuinely desired (and sometimes they are, especially for bodices we want to have the visual appeal of a corset), but for when a magical fit with lace is desired, enter lace-shaping!
The bottom of the bodice has 1/8″ piping with the lace over cellophane, and, though not visible, that had to have had some of the muslin lining it. Making piping of cellophane and lace alone is asking for it to tear. The back closure can’t be determined with any certainty. It looked to be hooked-and-eyed. However, it’s not unusual for actresses to be sewn into their gowns. Just recently, Lily James was confirmed as having been sewn into her blue ballgown as Cinderella. So either of those are possibilities for this gown. Definitely no buttons and definitely no zipper.
As for adornments, there are very few. Motifs of silver lace are applied over the neckline in front and back, as well as some around the bottom of the waist, which is pointed in back as well as front.
Speaking of the front, getting clear photos of the beading just wasn’t happening, no matter how hard or how often I tried. I suppose it’s some consolation that the studio headshot of Jennifer Connolly, which are clear enough to show individual strands of hair, couldn’t photograph it clearly either.
There’s a single large plastic gem front and center, with some rocaille bugle beads, but as for what the yellow is, I couldn’t tell in person, and still can’t tell. At times they look like silk ribbon, and at other times, yellow beads. I hate to have to take a wild guess on something I got to see in person, but I think that the yellow on top and bottom (refer back to photo 6) are a combination of silk flowers and crystal, with a few pearl beads scattered in. The yellow in photo 11 looks very bright, but that entire photo has been lightened. It’s much softer in person, much lower contrast.
The neckline has a couple asymmetrical details, only one of which is still present on the gown. The ruffle on the left shoulder (right side when viewing it straight on in photo 11) is still there, and it’s more lace. The detail on the other shoulder has disappeared. Photo 12, which is a screenshot from one of my video, lacks it. But photo 11 shows a single shabby yellow that appears to be made of feathers, with a small fall of some sort, possibly other feathers. Something I learned at the exhibit is how much Jim Henson and his crew, including Brian Froud, loved to use feathers. This was so, so incredibly amazing to get to learn through personal observation of Fraggle puppets and several there iconic pieces. So if I had to wager on that flower, it would be feathers.
More photos will be posted to this Facebook album. I will be heading back to the museum rather shortly as my husband wants to see the indie video game exhibit (and it’s just plain an amazing museum). If there are other details you want to see that I didn’t capture, or there are any questions, please let me know and I will be glad to try to find out the answers for you!
*SPOILER-FREE* This movie has barely been out a week, and many people haven’t had a chance to see it yet. So no spoilers, not even going to say what led to this scene or what’s going on. This article focuses just on the gown. Clicking on any photo will take you to a larger version. For now, this is more of a miniature study as there aren’t make photos out yet. And yes, TWO of this gown, one in royal silk and the other in gold silk, are officially on my agenda already.
When Diana (who is never called Wonder Woman in the movie, which wonderfully implies she wears the clothing rather than the clothing changes who she is) enters this scene, she steals it. That gorgeous royal blue gown is just jaw-dropping. It’s a confection of very thin silk charmeuse (edit: after more research, I found that it is 10mm in weight, which is pretty hard to find), used doubled. The drapes over her thighs are highly reminiscent of 1914-1918. I think it goes without saying that this movie takes place during WWI, which was during the transition years between the Edwardian and flapper eras. The asymmetrical neckline leads into a low-backed cowl.
Make note of the length of the shoulder drape and of her train. I will be returning to those.
Of course she carries her sword, which almost fits in as a design element. Almost. This photo of the back shoes that the drape is on just one shoulder, and that photo 1 doesn’t have a second that happens to be hidden. The left shoulder that is wider than the right evens out in the back, and if the drape, which is attached underneath the cowl, were removed, you’d never be able to tell that the front is asymmetrical. This actually has me wondering id the shoulder drape isn’t cut as one piece with the down, and the cowl back being a thinner piece of fabric…. I will play around with this idea, and report back. We never got a clear view of her shoulder from her left side.
A detail I have not yet managed to make out is if the gown under the sword is bunched due to the weight of the sword (the sword hidden behind her in this scene is plastic, and only about 4″ according to Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film), or stitch lines of the hidden holster, or if there’s some sort of rosette there. I’ve seen this movie multiple times, and we do not see the back with the sword. Since Hollywood loves to make it appear as if closures don’t exist, and there is a way to close this down without one showing and that wouldn’t disrupt the flow of the cowl, I will hedge my bet on a holster for the sword being sewn there.
To get back to the shoulders, the photo 3 shows that the left side is wide wider rather than the right side merely being scrunched on her shoulder. There’s not enough fabric for the right shoulder to be so bunched. Photo 2, again, shows the drape to be sewn from underneath.
Now let’s get back to those notes I told you to take. What is something you notice different in this photo of Diana dancing with Steve Trevor? Take a look at the train. It’s gone, yet it’s not draped over her elbow. It’s hemmed at the bottom. We don’t see this moment full-length, and so it’s not a detail at all noticeable in the movie.
In fact, as far as the train goes, if you’ll refer back to photo 2, you’ll see that the fabric is gathered beneath the gown in the center back. This gives a nice chance to make two trains and to swap them. But the movie wouldn’t do that. No movie ever relies on just one costume for a character. Ever. No matter how detailed. One rip needing to be repaired could shut down an entire production for a while while that one costume is repaired. Multiple versions allow for one to be cleaned to repaired while the scene is continued.
The other detail I said to note regarded the drape over her shoulder. It ends here in the region of her mid though rather than closer to her ankle. As with Steve, we don’t see this moment with General Ludendorff. There’s no real functional reason for this aside from possibly to save money in a film that was given an insultingly small budget compared to other films. Batman V. Superman had a budget of $410mil (link contains spoilers). Wonder Woman has a cap of $150mil (same link). This resulted in just one scene being able to be reshot, and absolutely no deleted scenes for us to drool over on special features later.
Something interesting and entirely off topic: General Ludendorff is loosely based on a real person, General Erich Ludendorff. You can read that. It won’t spoil the movie for you.
Now a few more observations: The underskirt is lined in a fabric of the same color. This detail can just barely be seen in photo 6.
The underskirt also appears to be pleated at the sides in photo 4. This would be a good place to conceal any potential bulk of the fabric as the draped fabric over her thighs and hips would camouflage it.
The overlay that is draped is smooth across the back, as can be seen in photo 4, and the fabric is gathered in just a few inches. This method will take a good number of yards on its own. Presumably the right side will be the same as the left, which we can see.
To make it more complicated, the bodice under the cowl has no waist seams. The bodice is cut as one piece with that overlay. The fitting is limited to darts. Photo 7 shows this nicely.
Chances are the overlay/bodice extends over the shoulder as thin straps, and the cowl a separate piece. The front of each side include being gathered to a small point.
I have two complicated ideas for how this gown may close without having any visible closure, and both take just two hooks and eyes. Rather than try to describe them, I will share photos of the method I figure works better.
Since I will be making two of the gown for the same person, I will draft and drape this pattern using muslin, and use that as my pattern for both gowns. I may make my pattern available as a one-size pattern. Frankly, this gown in silk charmeuse is advanced and complicated enough that if someone can’t figure out how to scale a pattern with sizing guidelines, that person won’t be able to handle this gown yet. It is not one for the feint of heart, but will provide advanced seamstresses with a nice challenge.
I admit I’m not a fan of the movie (Andrew Lloyd Weber called it the biggest mistake of his career), but the gowns are gorgeous! **This is the standard version of this gown. The deluxe would have more starbursts in tiny Swarovski crystals. The ultra-deluxe would be in all silk, including silk tulle, which would give the softer bustling effect in the back.**
Oodles of tulle and sparkle! Boned corset-bodice with pink tulle detailing, floofy skirt over a (client-provided) hooped petticoat. Starbursts on the skirt, and the silver-blue tails are easy to overlook… So much more work than it looks like it would be! About 2,000 rhinestones, over 50 yards of trims on those tails (since they’re layered over each other, some of the trims look like one trim), all sewn on.
This dress is made of a crisp, taffeta-like fabric. The vertical stripes are somewhat iridescent. The crystal buttons are decorative, and this dress closes with a side- zipper. Unfortunately this dress didn’t work for the actress, so wasn’t used. Still very pretty.
I managed to find a remnant of this fabric that I intend to turn into a corset at some point. The colors are just so beautiful. More photos are in this Facebook album.
This dress came with a specific pattern request that I ended up not using, and it demonstrates why I hate using commercial patterns. This one is clearly for completely-flat-chested ladies (I’m not kidding, completely flat-chested), and the designer has information on her website on how to make this pattern work if you actually have a chest. While patterns usually require a little tweaking, altering several pieces to accommodate even the slightest amount of bust that most women have shouldn’t be one of them. Altering the pieces would have taken more time than drafting from scratch. So in the end, I decided screw it, and did my own thing to get this one to work, including leaving out the boning so it can be altered.
Hannah was lovely. After it went to the theater, they decided to add some…I’m not sure what. Glitter dots? Rhinestones? I’m not sure, but for this gown, it works well. I did make a sash out of the contrast fabric, though the same silver ribbon for the blue swirly gown ended up being used instead.
This year I will be doing what I’m calling The Princess Project. This project has two gowns, one that will be my own, and one that will be Shirley’s. A rule I have set for mine is that it can’t interfere with anything else I have to do. This is motivation to me to keep on schedule. I’m not a fan of the sun, and love the rain and snow, but how much of it we’ve had is dragging even me down. So if my agenda for the day is to get X drafted and cut out and the shell assembled, Y’s skirt seams and hems, and Z’s buttons, all finished, I can only work on my own gown if those things are finished.
Shirley’s is pretty straight-forward. Hers will be made with over 10,000 Swarovski crystals on real silk crepeline and yumissima. A lot of fabrics labeled as silk crepeline are not actually silk crepeline, which drives me up the wall. This fabric is the finest silk fabric made. It’s ridiculously and unnervingly sheer, and the yumissima is extremely expensive, and I have a bolt of it waiting to be dyed. The underpinnings will be massively fluffy, and the bodice boned. All the supplies are in my sewing store room, and as soon as my garage is cleared out and we are done finishing it (in the next few weeks), I will begin. That gown will be too huge to fit into my sewing store room or my sewing room, and I won’t dare leave it in my sitting room where animals could get to it.
Now I think I’ve summed up why I don’t like the yellow dress Emma wore in Beauty and the Beast…or at least why I don’t like it for the role of Belle, and what I think should have been done differently to call it a ballgown of any sort. Since I like a good challenge, and sometimes like to put my feet where my mouth is (“if you don’t like it, let’s see you do better!”), I decided I would recreate this gown in the way I think it should have been done in the first place, at least within the design for the gown that was insisted upon. So I will stick with that design, but make it better, rather than recreating a properly historical ballgown that would have fit in better with the design aesthetic of the movie.
So within that parameter, I am using silk satin organza, as was used in the movie, that I dyed to a yellow shade more suited for me, and am using gold embroidery and Swarovski crystals. My bodice will be boned, and I will be wearing a corset. The underpinnings will include both a small hoop as well as organza petticoats. Another change is that the bottom layer will be on a separate waist band so that I can wear a shorter layer that’s the same length as the middle layer. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll embroider all of that, or just part. But either way, that will make this gown easier to wear in real-life situations, such as to the ballet, or Disneyland, where full ballgowns and costumes aren’t allowed (a tea-length version without tons of petticoats should be acceptable on a redhead in late September).
Last Wednesday, I started the embroidery:
And as of today, the top layer’s embroidery is finished. The edges are not, and the crystals haven’t arrived.
I’m not usually one to toot my own horn too much, but this just might be a project worth subscribing to my blog for. The Disney Cosplay for Adults group get first peeks, but photos of progress on both gowns will be posted here soon after, as well as some bonuses on my Aria Couture Facebook page in this Belle album, and the one for Cinderella will be posted here once it’s started.
This dress is one of five I made on very little time (one week). Since this dress is for theater, the seams are raw to make it easy to alter. Unlike the famed wrap-away dress (highly popular pattern in the 1950’s, known for needing only a couple yards of fabric and being easy enough to make that you’d cut it out in the morning and walk away with a new dress for lunch) that uses very little fabric, this one ate it up. The walk-away dress also had the outer layer close in the front. This dress is pretty simple in construction. As I said, it eats fabric like there’s no tomorrow, but it’s pretty twirly. The layer that wraps first is the back part. It closes in front under the bust. For this one, I used a piece of elastic to make that easier to adjust. The top layer is the front, which closes with ribbon. This is hard to describe. Hopefully the pictures are clearer.
For my daughter’s last day of school before winter break back when she was four, I made this nightgown and robe. It was pajama day, so of course…. Every year for her birthday I make her a nightgown anyway, and decided to make a robe to go with it this time.
The gown is a sweet bunny print flannel with elastic at the neck, waist, and sleeves, and a strip of lavender at the bottom as well as neck, waist, and bottom of the sleeves. The back has buttons, but they are only decorative. I did fold the fabric in back to mimic a button closure.
The robe is her favorite part of this. It’s shorter in the front than the nightgown, and sweeps into a slight train. It’s edged entirely in lavender floral Venice lace (this trim was somewhat pricy at $22 for how much was needed), and closes in the front with a big decorative hook. I also made the hair clips she’s wearing over each pig tail.
Little girl nightgowns are the best bang for the buck. These gowns will last through years of washing and wearing. All seams are at least double-sewn (I do NOT use a double needle, which would use the same thread for both rows on the bottom, and just isn’t as secure as separately sewing each), and some triple. A day gown wouldn’t look so nice with so much stitching, but night things are different, and night things get worn more often than a day dress. She’s seven now, and though this robe is snug and short, she still wears it sometimes.
Several more pictures of this robe and gown are on this Facebook page, including without the robe and some detail shots.
This gown is entirely hand-sewn, every last stitch! I made this gown out of silk taffeta. While my mock-up was closer to the original gown, I wanted this one to appear slimmer from the front and to have a more fitted bodice.
The original is in the Greene Collection at the Genesee Country Village & Museum. Known information is that the skirt has three panels with slight gathering on the front and pleating in the back. The sleeves and bodice top each have two tucks. The wonderful pointed cap sleeves have what would have been white silk ribbon bows. The sleeves are long enough that they would have to be pushed up on the arms to use the hands. I’m not sure what’s going on on the bottom, if that’s trim or discoloration, but I made tucks, and closed this gown with buttons. Buttons weren’t common, but I used them anyway.
The VanDyke points around the neckline have been used a lot on old quilts. It’s the same technique, and it’s lovely. I’ve matched these details in this replica. This gown has the same tucks on the sleeves and neck, the same number of Van Dyke points across the front, and four tucks on the bottom. The long under-sleeves are detachable so this can be worn as a ball gown!
I made this gown for an Indiana stage production of Beauty and the Beast. This gown managed to steal my heart as I made it. The ric-rac around the bottom was a design suggestion my daughter made, and Sheree liked it. And sew…it was sew. *ducks from the tomatoes*
I used a mottled blue instead of a solid blue. Something about a solid looks like a costume. Perhaps that’s because a young lady living her life in that time in France wouldn’t stay so spotless. Of course animating smudges isn’t feasible for a hand-drawn film, but on a real person, it needs some variation for this type of dress to not look like a costume meant to represent a rich young lady. This gorgeous blue, which at first seemed an iffy choice, was perfect!
The overgown is two pieces for–what else?–versatility. The bodice is boned and closes in the back with a zipper (lacing is also possible, but zipping is faster for stage). This bodice can definitely be worn on its own with a pair of jeans or something else. The skirt closes with a large hook and eye. Between a couple rows of ric-rac on the skirt, in a thread color meant to be invisible from a distance, is a message from Beast to his Beauty. It’s embroidered upside down to someone looking straight on, but it’s not meant for you. It’s meant for Belle to see when she sits and looks at her skirt, and this was a surprise this Beauty didn’t know about. Sometimes a lady needs to be reminded that, no matter what anyone mean says, she it beautiful.
The skirt can be worn over or under the bodice, and the skirt can go over the bodice while the skirt is under, under the bodice, etc.
The blouse has dolman sleeves, buttons up the front, and to make it easier to pull on and off quickly, is both blousy (the blue shell controls that, and the sleeve cuffs have elastic (can be made with a standard cuff instead). The skirt is something I love, and I don’t know why, since it’s so simple. Two layers of white cotton, royal blue ric-rac, ribbon waist band. The skirt can be worn over or under the blue bodice, and the skirt can be worn over or under as well, with or without the skirt. The hair bow is on a clip, and included.
More photos and variations on how this ensemble can be worn is available in this Facebook album.