Tree Progress: SKIRT FLOUNCES!!!! (or – where one’s vanity can lead)

You guys, I think this was probably the most fun part of the whole project!  Huge, multi-layered tulle and silk flounces?  YES PLEASE.

I did not have any pattern pieces or measurements for the flounces so I had to wing it.  All I knew was that there was supposed to be a lot of fabric in these, so with “a lot” I went!  My math went something like this: guestimating that the circumference of the petticoat flare was in and around 2m (just over 2 yards) I figured 4x fullness should be pretty good.  So, each flounce layer is 8m (about 9 yds) in circumference.  Whee!

I knew there were supposed to be six layers of tulle flounces from the exhibition catalogue Tim Long gave me, and I also knew I wanted to try and re-create the effect from a couple of original examples:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - "Tree"

This version is at the MET Museum

News Photo: Evening dress Tree 1957 Silk taffeta by Charles…

This version is at the Chicago History Museum (and is the one I’m directly reproducing)

I had quite a bit of fun picking and playing with colours of tulle at Fabricland and finally settled on this arrangement.  Left to right = inner to outer layers:


I pieced each layer separately, then laid them on top of each other, in order, and machine basted them all together around the top.  This is the effect of the colours layered, pretty nifty, eh?


I used my indispensable ruffler foot to gather/pleat up the tulle into this:


I had decided to cut the layers of tulle all one length and deal with height change afterwards, it seemed easiest that way.  Just cutting, seaming and keeping track of all that tulle was fussy enough, but trying to figure out cutting and keeping track of pieces of differing sizes?  *ouch* my brain hurts thinking about it.

Instead, I pinned the gathered flounces to the dress along the basted stitching line, raised Maddy (the dressform) up so that nothing was dragging on the ground, measured an equal distance up from the ground all the way round using the back length of the flounces as a guide since they were cut to the longest length needed.  I pinned along the equal measurement all around and cut along the pinned line, like so:


And, voila! (hee hee hee, I love my tulle flounces so much!)





Here’s a (not awesome) close-up of the stitching.  I used the same type of hem/catch stitching as I did to affix the buttress petticoat to the innermost skirt layer at the waist.


Next up was the yoke to which the dress skirt flounce would be attached.  In the photo below, the left side is the centre front and the right side is the centre back.  This shows the yoke’s orientation on the dress, with the front low and the back high.


I made a little mistake when cutting the yoke pieces by not taking into account that I had added to the hip measurements of the original pattern and that this would have a trickle-down effect for the yoke.  But it was fairly easily remedied by adding in a little wedge-shaped piece at the back:


For the skirt flounce I did cut the pieces according to the height change around the upper edge.  I did this with the dress fabric, the white broadcloth interlining and the silver taffeta lining.  I figured out the cutting by dividing the lower edge of the yoke into six (the number of panels/fabric widths that would make up the flounce), pinning it to the dress along its stitching line and measuring the length at each point.  Once cut, I had to re-seam parts of the dress fabric layer about three times because I kept getting the order wrong. Ugh.  Once I finally got that all sorted I sewed the three layers together at the hem first then machine basted them together along the top edge:


I put the ruffler foot into action again to get this (yum):


I left in the pins dividing the yoke lower edge into six and matched them up with the six panels of the flounce to get the placement of flounce on yoke correct – also because I knew the ruffling of the flounce would not end up being the exact measurement of the yoke lower edge. Oh, and I bound the upper edge of the flounce with bias binding after I ruffled it because the pink silk was fraying like mad.


I sewed the flounce to the yoke with that same hem/catch stitch used before:



Check it out, big, gorgeous skirt flounce!




Now, you may be able to just make out in the photo above that the yoke is not actually sewn along the basted stitching line, but rather below it.  This is where the vanity in the post title comes in, lol.  So, I’ve not only been making this dress, but another ballgown for a friend who’s also attending and with whom (and her bf) my husband will be seated at dinner and spending much of the night.  This friend is a few inches taller than me and wearing shoes with about a 3″ heel.  I had initially intended to wear a pair of silver peep-toe pumps I already had that are cute and super comfy, even they’re getting a bit beat-up.  However, they only have about a 2″ heel.  This means that I would have looked even shorter than usual next to my friend and I just couldn’t have that.  So – I bought a new pair of silver pumps with a 4″ heel.  Yeah!  Silly reason for new shoes? Yes.  Worth it? Totally!  These are the new shoes:

Bridesmaids shoe possiblity:

They have the added bonus of being almost the exact colour of the taffeta lining the skirt flounce.  They are also beautiful (!), seem to be very sturdy and well made, and are pretty comfortable for their height.  So I call them a big win!

So, anyway.  Since I changed shoes after I’d made the flounces – but before I’d sewed them onto the dress, thankfully – it meant their placement had to be lowered.  Another slight inaccuracy compared with the original, but oh well, I can live with it. ;o)

Next up is the scariest part (for me) of this project: the draped and tucked bodice and upper skirt overlays – eep!


2 thoughts on “Tree Progress: SKIRT FLOUNCES!!!! (or – where one’s vanity can lead)

    • SO much fun to wear! This has definitely taken a lot of commitment to follow through on, but it’s been such an awesome learning experience!


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