So here it is: the 2010 Navy Ball gown! I have to be perfectly honest that this dress isn’t quite the head-turner last year’s was, but I still like it and am pretty pleased with the final outcome. Especially considering this dress almost didn’t happen. It went through several different designs in muslin; most of which I wasn’t entirely happy with. The fabric wasn’t my first choice (I fell in love with a peacock blue silk online, but there wasn’t enough yardage available), and typically all the fabrics I liked were way out of my budget. After pretty much abandoning this project entirely and opting to wear a vintage outfit instead, I decided with less than 10 days from the ball that yes, I really did want to make my dress and was willing to give it a shot, even though the odds of it being a complete bust or not being finished in time were high. Yes, I’m aware that I am entirely insane and need my head checked!
inspiration collage. clockwise: 1939 fashion illustration, 1940-41 pattern booklet, Claudette Colbert, Lisbeth Scott.
The original design utilized a pattern I picked up in Augusta, GA this spring, but the bodice just looked too Forbidden Planet, and not in a good or flattering way. I like to look vintage, but not costumy in inappropriately dressed in relation to the event; the first couple of attempts of working with this design (and even modifying it) strayed far too into the costume camp rather than vintage/elegant. So I scrapped that. Then my second design I just wasn’t in love with; it felt forced and too plain, even though it wasn’t that different from what I finally went with. The third and final design was still simple, but I was inspired by designs of the late 1930s/early 1940s with the flowing, full skirt and classic halter and midriff detail. I actually toyed with the idea of doing self-fabric piping trim similar to what Claudette Colbert is sporting in the inspiration collage, but in the end opted to just focus on shirring as the main form of embellishment.
Fabric wise, I have to admit that this cranberry red crepe-satin was a good choice, even though it wasn’t my first. Although it’s a polyester (I’ll try not to hold that against it), it’s a good quality one, and the drape and weight are amazing–and I adore the color. (Next time I need a formal I must remember to start saving early enough to afford the good stuff!) The bodice is from this pattern, and originally looked like the halter on the pattern envelope. However, after a late-night fitting session and playing around with the neckline a bit, I added the long ties to the back of the neckline. The resulting bow softened the look a bit and draped down the back for some interest.
The skirt is a quarter-circle (and then some for extra fullness!) pattern I drafted myself. I added the shirring detail at the center front, which is evocative of a lot of detailing from the late 1930s/early 40s on both day and evening dresses. There are 11 rows of shirring, which yes, took a bit to do since the fabric is a bit of a pain to work with! But it was totally worth it; the way the front drapes is amazing. Because I’m a stickler for balance in design, I echoed the shirring at the bust at the gathered portions, adding 3 rows there. I toyed with adding something sparkly (rhinestones, sequins, beads), but felt that the fabric was shiny enough on it’s own and I was planning on wearing some sparkly accessories.
The final touches were inserting the zipper using my favorite method, and making a self-fabric belt. I didn’t have a buckle for because this was such a last-minute thing. So I pulled out the handy-dandy button tutorial I posted last week and just made a larger version with a sparkly vintage button in the center. Instant “buckle”! (The belt itself is just closed with a hook and eye and then a snap.)
A word about the hair: I was going for a 1940s curly-topped updo, so I set my hair in pincurls the evening before. The result was close to what I had envisioned, although I changed the front a bit (I was originally planning on reverse rolls, but found the overall look a bit too much like I just stepped off a costumed movie set. Considering the venue and event, it wasn’t appropriate.). But you would not believe how many bobby pins I used to keep it all up! lol. The fantastic part was that my hair was still super curly the next day…
Last year’s dress was definitely the “movie star”, while this one was a bit quieter and more subdued. But honestly there were some good things about this: I didn’t spend half the evening making sure a strapless top wasn’t budging in the wrong direction, or watching that the train wasn’t stepped on, and I could actually eat because I wasn’t wearing a tightly fitted bodice! So I guess comfort won out this year. Still felt glamorous, but a bit more practical. Which would be keeping with the era (early WWII) that I was inspired by for this dress, right?
more pictures here!
I know I left a lot of construction details out of this post for the sake of length, so if you have any questions please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer!