Friday, August 27, 2010

Alice Dress

Stomp, a charity Dance event held three times a year, is a big deal within the Canberra dance community. People go all out with their costumes (and, I have to admitt, so do I most of the time) The most recent theme was 'Winter Masquerade,' and was a chance for over the top opulence. I loved the costuming in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, and the Stomp Winter Masquearde gave me the perfect opportunity to make my own version of one of the costumes I fell in love with - the dress Alice wears while she is in the Red Queen's Court.

I love the stripped fabric that is in the original dress. However, I couldn't find anything similar, or red bridal tulle, so I inverted the colours.

Okay, so now how I actually made the dress.

You will need
Base Fabric
Bridal Tulle
Organza / Netting / Other thin fabrics for overskirt
Long Necklace / Costume Jewellery (Optional)
Step One:
I made a basic princess line dress, cutting it longer than I needed. I wanted a pleat detail on the bodice, so I inserted an extra panel between the front left side and front centre. Rather than putting the zip in the centre back, I cut the back piece on the fold, and put the zip on the left hand side. I used an invisible zip becuase I find them easier to insert than normal zips, but if you prefer a normal zip, use that instead.

To fit the dress, I put in a series of pleats using the extra fabric from the left panel. These pleats got wider near to my waist, as I didn't taper the extra panel. I secured the pleats with three seams: one over the nipple line, one over the waist line, and one in between.

To finish the neck line, I faced the dress. You could choose to line the dress, but as I wanted this for a dance event, I didn't want the extra layers of fabric.

Now that the dress is fitted, I can cut the hem to the required length - just below my knees. You can do this one of two ways. Either putting the dress on, and having someone mark the length with a hemming guide, or marking the waistline, and marking the desired lenght below the hem line. Cut along the line, and finish the seam either by overlocking (serging), or using a zig zag stitch.

Now my dress looks dress-like, I added the embellishments.

Step Two:

I cut my tulle into strips about 15cm wide. Because I wanted a slightly rough, been sewn quickly by a mad hatter look, I didn't join any of my strips, but you could choose to do this if you wanted.

I wanted tiers of ruffles on the dress, so I marked circles from the hemline, each about 10 cm wide. These became my sewing guides. Starting from the hemline, I added my gathered tulle.

Now, I hate gathering tulle. Organza, cotton, corduroy, they are fine. But I hate gathering tulle. So, I cheat. Rather than gathering, I pleat the tulle. This gives the same puffy look, and takes about the same time. I must stressed, either method is labour intensive.

To pleat the tulle, I took two (2) layers of tulle, and pinned them to the hem of my skirt. Then, by hand, I made a pleat. to do this, I place my thumb over the tulle, then fold the tulle back over my thumb, and hold this in place before pinning it. These pleats don't ahve to be totally even, and if you pin them so that the flappy bit gets to the sewing machine foot first, then they will be pushed back a touch, adding to the 'gathered' look of my tulle.

When the tulle ran out, I simply placed another strip of tulle about an inch before the end of the last peice, and pleated it into place. To join the start and end, I undid the last first pleat I made, then pleated it together with the last pleat.

I had originally meant to have nine (9) layers of the tulle, but I found this cute ribbon. So, I decided to swap every second layer of tulle for a layer of ribbon.

I repeated the gathering process until I reached the top of the dress, and sewed a layer of ribbon around the waistline.

Now the skirt is looking all puffy and poofy, I can add the overskirt.

Step Three:

This is the point where I add the overskirt and overbodice.

The overskirt is simply a rectangle that is sewn onto the waist at the back of the dress. To get the measurements for the rectangle, I put the dress on, and draped a tape measure around my waist, to the lenght I wanted the overskirt to fall. The width is simply the measurement from the waistline to the hem of the skirt.

I finished the edges of the overskirt with a narrow short zig zag stitch, and sewed one of the long edges to the back waistline, from hip to hip. I then caught the bottom edges, to keep them sitting where I wanted, with a few small stitches on the lower hemline.

The overbodice was again a rectangle of fabric, with the length being my bust measurement, and the width being double the measurement from from the neckline to the waistline. Once again going with the slightly rough look, I pinned and gathered the overbodice along the zip, and along the side seam, allowing the fabric to pool at the back waist. I used a short narrow stitch to sew it into place.

Step Four (optional)

As I was wearing the dress to a dance event, I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to fall down while I was dancing. The easiest way to do this is to put straps on the dress. I decided on one strap, on the opposite side to the zip.

You could do a simple spaghetti strap, but I wanted something a bit... flouncier.

To make my strap, I measured from my shoulder to the hem of the dress, and doubled this measurement. I then cut a piece of wide ribbon the right lenght.

Using the overskirt fabric, I cut strips about 10cm wide, and gathered them onto the ribbon the same way as the tulle. I then folded the ribon in half, and sewed along the edge to secure the gathers in place. This became my strap. I sewed it into place on the back, then sewed it into place on the front. With it on, I also pinned it in place at the waistline on both the front and the back, and sewed it into place.

Step Five (Optional)

I fell in love with these two costume jewellery necklaces at a retail clothing chain, and the key just seemed perfect for the Alice dress. I love butterflies, and so the butterfly tied into my hair accessories and the embellishments to my mask.

I figured out the length of hang that I wanted to have for the necklaces, and sewed them onto place by hand at both hips (if you do this, remember that you will have to sew on the front of the zip, otherwise you won't be able to get in and out of the dress.

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