Part 2: Sarah’s Labyrinth Ball Gown: A Costume Study

NEW HI-RES PHOTOS and updated information! Click on any photo to see a ton more detail.  The photos shown here are large, and will get much larger (thousands x thousands for the resolutions) when clicked.

As promised, I returned to MoPop with my real camera instead of my iPhone camera.  I already gave a good deal of information in the first post on this gown.  So this post will be mostly photographic, with commentary on new information or things to pay extra attention to beneath some photos.  Some shots will be close to the same, but sometimes a lightly different angle shows something just differently enough for it to be clearer.  I’ll upload more of these photos to this Facebook album today, though the resolution might get squished.

This one shows the necklace very well.  Through studying the beadwork, I was able to determine that I was incorrect on the neckline missing trim.  Let’s look back at the gown on Sarah:
She has a yellow flower on her right shoulder, but there isn’t one on the right shoulder on the mannequin. BUT! Through studying the beading and lace pattern, I was able to see that this photo of Sarah has been flipped. So that flower isn’t missing. It’s on the mannequin’s left shoulder, and In the film itself, it is also shown on her left.


If you look hard, on the left sleeve you can just barely tell that there’s a larger opaque poof just at the top. It looks like a floating ball of pink. Below that is cellophane with a lace overlay.


Starting just under the big shiny spot toward the top right by the right sleeve, you can juuuuuust past out the beginning of the front bodice seam.


The ground of the lace is in a diamond pattern.


The back of the necklace is seed beads on wire with a basic spring clasp and a chain hanging down the back.


The bottom edge of the bodice is piped.


The neckline of the bodice is piped. You can also see how the lace is pieced on and stitched down rather than being a solid piece of shaped lace. If you look closely at the left arm, you can see the shadow of its outline.


The bodice closes with what appears to be ten hooks and eyes.


The fullness of the sleeves is concentrated toward the top.



In the following pictures, pay special attention to the edges of the lace.  Two types were used, an eyelash lace for the front half, and a different lace in the lack.

This photo shows the two types of lace. This is from the back on the right side. The lace father away, which looks to be our left, is the eyelash, while the lace on the right that comes back toward the camera, isn’t.


The edge of cellophane!


The piecing on the skirt edge is easy to see here.


Check out the zig-zag edge.


Here is that repair I mentioned in the last post.


I was incorrect about the lace last time. It looks irregularly crinkled, but upon closer look, it looks like the organza was pulled and pulled until the fibers were all pulled out of shape.


A pretty decent view of the front lace pattern.



I hope these additional photos are of some help to some of you!  I’m already sourcing fabrics for a couple inquiries as my schedule allows me too, and my daughter wants one as well.  Because of course she does.  She loves fancy things.  Like mother, like daughter. 🙂

Up soon…Jareth! Subscribe to get notified of the one.  It’s a few weeks out yet.  My commissions schedule is too busy for me to start breaking that one down!

29 thoughts on “Part 2: Sarah’s Labyrinth Ball Gown: A Costume Study

  1. Sa`ida

    You are my absolute fabric detail hero!! It’s almost impossible to get good close up pictures of movie wardrobe. Thank you so much for sharing! Love love love it!

  2. Paiton

    god bless you for posting even more glorious stuff about this dress! normally I can never find any costume analysis as in depth as yours, but to see one that goes over every nook and cranny and every possible angle, you’re probably a godsend to Labyrinth cosplayers everywhere that are brave enough to try and conquer this beast of a dress (including myself)! and as for the pulling method used to warp the organza on the top layer, I’m willing to bet money that my Granny knows how to do that. She’s got almost 70 years worth of sewing experience and knows tricks you’d never thought existed or that would actually work! I plan on asking her about it when I go over to her house tomorrow afternoon and if I can get such glorious info I’ll definatley be posting it on here in another comment.

    • Angela

      @Paiton, did you ever find out the trick from your Gran to get the pulled organza effect? I would love to know the best way to achieve this 🙂

      • Paiton

        unfortunately, no. she argued with me for hours that it wasn’t possible. so i decided to discover the trick on my own and I quite recently did! Turns out you just get crushed organza and pull it with your fingers! and boom! you get those weird waves in the fabric!

  3. Laura

    Man, I wish I came across this post when I was trying to find shots for my recreation! Now I know what to go back and fix. Thank you so much!

  4. ally

    this is amazing! did you upload an entry for jareth’s costume???? im working on his costume for a contest and it would be a great reference! as im doing sarah’s dress with your help! thanks!

  5. ValeofShadowsCosplay

    You’re an angel. I have spent 27 years obsessing over this dress. I’m embarking on a journey to transform my wedding dress (already substantially similar) into a Sarah cosplay and this is just what I needed. If anyone has an incredible leg-o-mutton sleeve tutorial or pattern to recommend, please tell me!

  6. Leanne Mitchell

    Hi there! Thank you so much for posting these fantastic pictures!!! I plan on recreating the gown, and I’ve managed to find fabrics based on your photos and notes. I have a question – may I use your photos (absolutely with attribution) when I make the gown and post the pictures of my own work? Or would you prefer for me to just link to your site? Since I often compete in recreation competitions, I hesitated to embark on the gown until I found your photos!!!!

  7. Paiton

    @Angela unfortunately, no. she argued with me for hours that it wasn’t possible. so i decided to discover the trick on my own and I quite recently did! Turns out you just get crushed organza and pull it with your fingers! and boom! you get those weird waves in the fabric!

  8. Paiton

    I think I know what kind of silver lace that was used on the sleeves and the layer of lace under the top layer of the skirt! I’ve spent the past two days researching and its a certain kind of lace called Chantilly Lace. and you have to look for it in metallic silver. Unfortunately I’m still looking for the right kind, but at least this will get you in the right ball park. But be warned, guys this stuff does NOT come cheap!

  9. Paiton

    ok a little clarification, I didn’t mean crushed organza in the first comment. Its actually the iridescent cellophane fabric you can find at joaans but its more textured and not completley smooth. most of the time its called “Fairy Organza” or “Crinkle Organza”
    here’s a couple of links to some
    and here’s a link to an entire pinterest board I found for it!

    • aria

      I’m actually about halfway finished with the first post. 🙂 I had them both finished and posted, then they disappeared. I never found out what happened. But yes, Jareth’s will be posted, and part 1 will be up within the next week. I’m trying to see if I can get a hold of Brian Froud.

  10. Angela

    @Paiton, you’re right about looking for the “metallic silver” as a lot of “silver” Chantilly lace is actually pale grey … not the effect we’re after! I gave up my global online search and found a combination ivory and metallic silver Chantilly which will have to do for my Sarah. Oh, for anyone who doesn’t know, this skirt and bodice are two separate pieces. I’m doing the bodice lace overlay and hand beading before I set in those massive sleeves (which I hand drafted and mocked-up in calico last weekend!), which should make the whole handling process a little easier! I’ve also managed to find a darn near perfect black fabric with tiny snakeskin print for Jareth’s trousers and a nice pale grey satin for his shirt, so I’m well on my way! My deadline for my duo is our New Zealand Labour Day holiday weekend, 20-22 October, when we have Auckland’s comic-con festival “Armageddon”. Gosh I hope they turn out ok … there are far too many ‘bad’ Sarahs and Jareths out there!

    • aria

      The trousers in the ball scene don’t have a print on them. I’m in the final proof-read of part 1 of the posts (I never did reach the Frouds), which covers the trousers. They’re stretch velvet, solid color.

      And in defense of the bad cosplays, there haven’t been any good photos out of these ensembles. As far as I’m aware, I’m the only one who has taken and posted any at all. So people trying have had to do so based on a few stills taken from VHS takes or blurry images from vintage books. Usually I’m a bit snarky behind closed doors and don’t defend the badness, but that’s because most things have a ton of clear reference images and little excuse to get major, defining details wrong. The ensembles are really an exception to that.

      • Angela

        Hi Aria, I absolutely do agree with you and please forgive my hasty criticism of others’ previous attempts of these beautiful costumes. We are utterly spoilt by your dedication to share your observations and photos in your blog, and it was mean-spirited and selfish of me to say they are ‘bad’ when, as you reminded me, until you generously posted your photos, everyone only had poor quality images to work from. It is very bad form of me to ‘diss’ other cosplayers’ work, so to all who took offense, please accept my humble apology; I am a little ashamed 🙁 of myself.
        With regard to Jareth’s trouser fabric, I too own a vintage copy of the beautiful “Labyrinth Ultimate Visual History” and if you allow me to draw your attention to page 144 where, may I quote ” … and tight black leggings, overprinted with a subtle snakeskin print.” This snakeskin print is so very subtle it is virtually invisible in the film and photographs, but still, it is there. Thank you again Aria for all your work and generosity sharing with us, your fans. If I had the means I would certainly offer a patronage; unfortunately I am not in a position to offer much at all, certainly not after the $NZ to $US exchange rate! But please do keep up the amazing work … I’m looking forward to your posts on Jareth.

        • aria

          Oh no, I think most people understand. They’re “bad” in comparison to the actual things when we actually have a chance to see them. Before these photos, some of those that now seem “bad” only seem like bad versions because the differences are easier to see now, some of them glaring, many of them being details that were just plain impossible to see in video meant to be dreamlike and “in a bubble,” with some old low-res behind-the-scenes videos, and the rest that we have being stills from old VHS cassette tapes. Not considering my photos, many cosplayer did admirable jobs, especially considering the scant info. What stopped *me* from attempting this gown before was not having enough info. So bravo and brava to those who tried. 🙂

          There was absolutely no sign of any print. Since it’s velvet, whatever there was may have been worn off, or flaked off, or even been washed off. over time. I wish there was a clear photo from when any print could have been there, but they didn’t seem to care so much about taking detail photos for the public. That sort of thing wasn’t really seen as being of public interest at that time, and what we have now is what’s left over the years. I’m really curious to see what there could have been.

          And don’t worry about the Patreon. 🙂 I’m doing these regardless. It was just some people asking me repeatedly to set one up, and so I finally bit the proverbial bullet.

          • Brittany

            I know this comment is a few years old, but I must say THANK YOU so much for taking such detailed photos! From the films and screencaps etc, I wouldnt have dreamed her dress had so many layers to it, and for Jareths costume- Its amazing how they used hot glue and made it seem so ethereal!!
            I have been itching to make a 3D model of both of them in this scene, and boy did i not realize how much went into these! So I will probably never finish it lol.

            As for the leggings, the only ones in the film that have snake print are the ones in “Dance Magic Dance” Scene. I swear I dont spend most my time watching the movie, eyes glued to that area lol!

          • aria

            That’s what I thought until I read it in the book. I’ve got a couple busy days ahead of me, so this weekend, if I remember, I’ll dig through the book to find the page about it. It drove me crazy looking for any sign of snake on these leggings. It didn’t even make sense!

  11. Angela

    Hello again all, I’ve just taken a break from creating and uploaded some progress pics to my webpage, my work is far from perfect, but hopefully might inspire anyone who is feeling hesitant … just jump in and make a start! I welcome constructive criticism 🙂 I still need to go over all that gold organza and create the ‘crinkles’ by hand!

  12. Slip

    What stood out to me about this dress was the proportions – im currently in a pattern cutting geekery phase and have yet to think about fabric, construction etc very much.

    Somehow, the dress suits her and flatters her, BUT it also swamps her and looks “too big”, esp with the hair. It backs up that moment in the story where she’s supposed to be a little girl entering an adult world for the first time, as if she is wearing someone else’s clothes. It’s genius design – a dress which is both flattering and fitting and correctly proportioned to suit her, and yet which also gives a sense of her being very small & drowning in it.

    • aria

      I missed some reply notifications, or didn’t get them for a few days. I’m just seeing some replies I didn’t reply too, and feel bad. 🙁

      I think that’s part of the intention, but it was also the 80’s where the bigger the hair, the radder. I remember my mom standing over me with the ol’ Aqua Net and a big ol’ round brush to make my bangs as huge as possible (I’m dating myself, am I not?), one poof on top of another to really make ’em big. Sarah’s hair was spot-on fashionable for the 80’s, and her leg o’ mutton sleeves were also trés chic after the wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles. Throughout the decade, mega-puff sleeves were the absolute rage, along with those infamous butt-bows. If anything, her gown had the elements of a very popular wedding gown style, which made her look younger as she wasn’t old enough to be a bride, yet was dressed like one.

      I think it’s a shame that so much of the detail hasn’t been able to be appreciated in its full glory due to the lack of wide shots in the film (the only full-length of her in this gown is in an out-of-print book) and the lack of detail phots online. As far as I know, I’m the only one whose taken detail shots to share. It was incredible to get to see it, and when I found out it was on display, I literally canceled everything and was on the road the next day to go. This couldn’t be passed up!

  13. Michele

    I’ve dusted off my sewing machine and attempting Sara’s ball gown for my granddaughter. Thank you so much for posting your study on this magnificent dress. I’m trying to follow your breakdown description as close as I can ( some fabrics are hard to find even on the internet). So as I’m pulling/distressing the white chiffon fabric by hand for days!, for the top layer of the skirt, I’m not sure about the silver thread that you mention in the fabric. I can’t find a photo anywhere that shows that silver thread. Do you recall in which direction the silver thread is sewn into the fabric and is it a straight line or Willy nilly randomly? Any information will be greatly appreciated.

  14. Michele

    After the beautiful success of Sarah’s ball gown I made for my granddaughter, with the help from your blog, I followed your descriptive breakdown to the T, I attempted Hoggle’s outfit for my grandson, I must say it turned out pretty awesome! Thanks to your inspiration, I’m creating more beautiful princess gowns for my little one and fun outfits for my little guy. It was so much fun to dress them up for the renaissance festival and all the Labrynth nerds knew who they were dressed up as.

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