This is a tale of glamour, of burgundy and wine, a strand of blonde hair in the breeze, high heels and higher dreams. This is the story of Jenna, who desperately wished for a gown to wear to the ball.
Record scratch. Freeze frame. Ahem. My friend and client, Jenna, asked me to help her out with a dress for her matric farewell. That’s South Africa’s equivalent of prom. A fairy tale ball it is not, but I do hope her night was just as magical nonetheless.
This Swan Lake inspired wedding gown by Paolo Sebastian was the basis of what Jenna was looking for, but as seperates, not a gown.
The Design and Making-Of Process
Design: Client collaboration
Pattern: My own
- Burgundy silk satin
- Burgundy chiffon
- Ruby red Guipure lace
Jenna’s bustier is made from satin and Guipure lace. The satin is charmeuse/silk satin, which is super soft and slinky with a decent sheen. Jenna preferred to wear a strapless bra underneath. With this in mind, I chose to do a simple bustier shape without interfacing or boning for structure.
At the end of the day, this was definitely the best option, as I was about 6 hours away so I couldn’t fit it to her body until it was finished. Whenever possible, I prefer to do a fitting before doing the final finishes, especially when working with a fabric as pricey as Guipure! As it was, I trusted Jenna to send me her measurements accurately and prayed the final fitting wouldn’t require any major alterations.
The bustier pattern is self-drafted, originally to my own measurements for a previous project. I graded it down quite a bit to fit Jenna’s more petite size. The satin formed the underlayer, with the lace as a second unattached layer over it.
Positioning the lace
For the bottom of the bustier, the lace was cut a little longer to allow the scalloped edge of the lace to form a decorative hem. We took some time to decide if we preferred the same effect for the top edge. In the end we felt that a smooth edge would be better than the lace scallops. Satin binding in the same darker red as the satin underlayer closed the seam edges.
The lace layer and the satin layer were sewn up as seperate pieces, and only attached to each other along the top with the binding, and down the center back. I felt that this would better because the satin has a fair amount of stretch and would naturally twist and move slightly when on the body, whereas the lace has absolutely no stretch. Keeping the layers seperate meant that the lace wouldn’t bubble and bunch when worn, especially over the curves of the bust. Because the lace bottom didn’t need to be hemmed, the satin underlayer was folded in and hemmed seperately, leaving about 2cm of lace floating over the skin when worn.
The two bustier layers were lined up and tacked together along the top before adding the satin binding. I was lucky enough to find satin binding in the exact same shade as the satin fabric at the store, because I’m a lazy sod who loathes making her own binding. The completed bustier is one long piece with a detachable zip in the center back. This allowed it to be put on as one would put on a bra.
The skirt was perhaps something more of a challenge. We wanted the effect of lots of layers, while still being floaty and light and somewhat transparent on the legs. A high slit on both sides was also requested if possible.
I originally had the idea of simply layering lots of seperate rectangles attached to a waistband, but that design would be problematic in a breeze. Instead, I played around with wrap-around styles until I got a shape I wanted. I forgot to take pictures of the cut pieces, but basically I did a wide piece for the back of the skirt, which wrapped around from the back until mid front thigh on each side. Then, the front panel filled the rest of the space in the center front, but instead of joining the two pieces at the vertical seams, the front panel was extended by a few centimeters widthways so that it overlapped the back piece edges on the mid thigh. This meant that when Jenna walked her legs would peek through between the front and back panels of the skirt, giving sexy flashes of skin but only during movement.
So. Many. Skirt. Layers.
Now, the chiffon skirt fabric meant that a single back and front panel would be much too transparent. So I duplicated the front and back panels several times for additional layers. I think the skirt had 6 layers by the end of it. For the layering effect I made each panel a slightly different width, staggering the layers’ position.
At this point all these panels were just pinned to the dummy – I still had to sew them up! First I did a rolled hem on all three sides of each panel, rounding the corners slightly at the bottom. A zip closure would have ruined the floatiness of the skirt, so I stuck to my wrap-around plan. A short satin petticoat and narrow satin waistband completed the skirt. Small and subtle press studs fastened the waistband closed. The skirt could be wrapped around with the front panels overlapping. When the slits are parted, the petticoat sometimes peaks through too, as can be seen below.
The Final Product
Jenna paired her outfit with sparkly silver heels and an understated silver necklace, earrings and bracelet. I absolutely adored the silver nails that completeld the look. Her date also looked spiffing in navy suit and complementary burgundy tie. The couple looked like celebrities on the red carpet, and indeed, a red carpet was present!
Here are some more shots of Jenna and her dress:
If you liked this Creation Chronicle, contact us for your own Studio Brinnjal lace matric dress in South Africa.