Jimminy Crispies! There’s a Charles James Gown in my living room!!

It’s finished! It’s finished!  Okay – so, technically it was finished almost 3 weeks ago.  Since I had another Garrison Ball gown to finish afterwards (for a friend), I’m pretty behind on blogging about this.  Oh well.

Before I get to the final reveal I’m going to take you through the bodice finishing, I’m really happy with how cleanly it turned out.

Oh, and if this is your first time seeing this project, you can go here for a list of the in-progress posts – if you’re interested.

I had one image of the bodice interior to go by, and tried to get it as close as I could (though I do wish I’d had pink silk satin, how pretty would that have been!)

Evening dress, Tree, 1957 (detail view of bodice interior). Silk taffeta by Charles James. Known as the 'Tree' gown, numerous versions of this dress were created in various colors between 1955-1958. Continue reading

Tree Progress: Bodice and Upper Skirt Covering – aka: Very Scary Part!

Draping is not something I have a lot of experience with.  So choosing a style to reproduce where one of the main features is a lot of draped tucks to create a very sculptural look was not a decision that was good for my stress levels.  This part was far more intimidating than any of the hard-core foundation work that came before.  I think a lot of my trepidation came from when I was working on my wedding dress.  I spent at least 3 months trying to make a one-shoulder draped and ruched bodice work and just couldn’t.  Ultimately I scrapped it and went for a much simpler design – ironically, it was taken from another Charles James gown!  Aha…ha….ha.

I was scared to start this, so I put it off as long as possible.  As part of procrastinating against the inevitable I decided to do a really nice finish to the upper edge of the bodice that would never been seen once it was finished.  Unfortunately, I only remembered to take pictures after the dress was back on Maddy and ready for muslining the bodice covering.  Putting the dress on Maddy and taking it off her again had got to the point of being pretty labour-intensive, so exterior photo of this only. Sorry!  There was only a 1/4″ seam allowance for the bodic upper edge; what I decided to do was sew a length of narrow double fold bias tape around it, turn it to the inside and hand-stitch it to the bodice foundation interior.  This did have the practical advantage of adding more substance to that edge so it would hold-up better when it came time to fold all the pleated fabric of the bodice covering over it.  At least it seems logical to me that it would.

NB: the shoulder straps are not sewn to the bodice front here, just pinned.  And no, you’re not seeing that wrong, they are not showing identical fabrics…..

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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" Continue reading

Tree Progress: Petticoat Flare

After the “buttresses” the petticoat flare was the most revelatory aspect for me of Tree’s foundation.  With support from the buttresses this piece really creates the base shape for the dress skirt and I found it a really interesting piece of dressmaking.

I didn’t take as many construction photos of this layer as I perhaps should have, but for such an odd-looking piece I think it’s actually pretty straight-forward once you see it made up and on the form.

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Tree Progress: Buttress Petticoat!

For me, the buttress petticoat is really one of the most fun and illuminating aspects of the structural design of this gown – and Charles James’ approach to couture overall.

This was also one of the trickier bits to get right … so far (I’m still terrified of the bodice and upper skirt pleated draping to come!)

This is one of the buttresses below with all layers quilted together – with pink silk thread, of course!

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Tree Progress

Since finishing the project that popped up and took over most of my November I busily got back into working on the Tree Gown.  I only had a week in which to go like gangbusters before heading out of town for another week (where I am now – in Quebec City, where it appears they will surely be having a very white Christmas! lol).  However, I pretty much got the rest of the muslin-ing done.  Hooray!  I was even able to start cutting and assembling parts of the foundation in their ‘real’ fabrics/materials, but I’m keeping this post focused on the multiple layers of muslin!

For reference, here is the post on the first muslined layers, the bodice foundation and the innermost petticoat.

I decided to be super-thorough and do up another innermost petticoat muslin so I could try out the ruffle at the bottom in terms of length and proportion.

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“Tree” Intro

Between now and March 29, 2014 I have two big sewing projects going on (in addition to other small and medium/everyday ones).  These are for the annual Toronto Garrison Ball – a big military ball.  Because I’m married to a member of the Canadian Forces, I get to go!  I’ve gone three times now.

2009:

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