Wonder Woman’s Gala Gown: A Costume Study

Wonder Woman blue gala gown
Photo 1

*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.

(To see more photos than used in this post, see this photo album on my Facebook page, and check back or follow this blog for other costume studies from this amazing movie.)

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.

Wonder Woman blue gala gown
Photo 2

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.

Wonder Woman blue gala gown
Photo 3

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.

Wonder Woman blue gala gown
Photo 4

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.

Wonder Woman blue gala gown
Photo 5

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.

Wonder Woman blue gala gown
Photo 7

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.

Some agenda stuff

So it’s 2017 and I’m getting back into the swing of things after more than a month with the flu.  My energy level is still low, but I’m kicking!

I have a few exciting things on my plate right now.  Up right now are finishing a spacey silver silk “school girl” corset for a friend’s birthday and a Goblin Queen gown that my daughter will have the end say over (by request of the Goblin Queen who shall wear it).  After that, two lovely regency gowns in black silk taffeta and an embroidered muslin.  Since Titanic is back, let’s add a pink wool coat to likely be followed with the Breakfast gown, and a Heaven dress for one friend’s wedding.  Not enough fanciness yet?  Toss in Cinderella’s ballgown in silk and crystals.  And a friend’s wedding gown that’s being custom designed.  Still not enough?  Though it doesn’t work for the character, that yellow ball gown from Beauty and the Beast in silk and embroidery.  This all doesn’t even touch on what’s going on later in the year!  More Disney, more wedding, more cowbell!

 

Salamandre renaissance-inspired gown

Flashback to 2007. An invitation late on a Wednesday night to a renaissance fair that following Saturday resulted in some turbo-sewing and lots of sweat and worry over ruining any of that brocade!

This gown was made in a fantasy-renaissance style with a reversible front panel and reversible sleeves using black silk velvet and a silk brocade in a pattern available at the time only from Scalamandre. This not-trademarked pattern has since been made available by other companies, which is fortunate as fabric from Scalamandre easily runs hundreds of dollars. The ten yards of this fabric used retailed for a staggering $280 per yard at the time (thank goodness I had a day-job in the pre-recession tech industry). Another ten yards of the velvet was used, seven in the overskirt alone.

The skirt is two separate pieces. The underskirt of brocade is pleated to a waistband at the front and closes in the back with a ribbon tie in a casing that gathers the fabric in the back. The overskirt is densely pleated to another waistband and ties in the front. This construction enables the skirt to be worn by a lady with a waist measurement between 26″ and 42″.

The bodice’s front panel is reversible. One side is velvet and the other is brocade. It has a thick busk and the bodice is fully boned. Reversible sleeves (see a trend?) tie at the shoulders with three black ribbons. Each point on the sleeves and bodice bottom have beaded tassels.

The “hood” is an entirely, 100% period-incorrect-in- every-way piece plucked from an overactive imagination. I constructed a base from buckram in a style I’ve never actually seen in paintings and covered it with silk velvet, and lined it with black silk charmeuse. I made a drape with five points of black silk chiffon, a fabric not invented until hundreds of years after the renaissance ended, and made the same tassel at each point as the sleeves and bodice. The “hood” itself features several hundred more black beads.

Another shoot will be done soon with a better camera.  These photos are nearly a decade old.

More old-fashioned digital photos are in this Facebook album.

Green silk brocade wedding corset

This green pure silk brocade corset is certainly a statement piece! It required drafting each half entirely separately.  This is a lot more work than a typical corset, whether overbust or under. The gorgeous fox clasps aren’t actually used to hold the side closed. There is a separation there, but a panel behind it holds it closed. The back modesty panel is in two overlapping pieces as the measurements provided to me were a off. Thank goodness for being local enough (two hours) to meet to pick up!   This corset also has a small pocket on the right hip.

This corset underscores the importance of providing accurate measurements, not the measurements you hope to be, as this bride’s now-husband informed me, in front of a seamstress-friend of mine, had happened.  The prevalence of dream measurements being given are a large part of why so many seamstresses point-blank refuse to work with brides.  Brides always, always blame the seamstress (which is why the bride’s now-husband disclosed what happened) when they set weight loss goals, and fall short.

You can see more photos of this corset, as well as the concept drawing, on this Facebook page.