Tag Archives: Dancer’s Ball dress

FO: pink leopard rock and roll dress

31 Jul

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m stoked to be able to share my pink leopard rock and roll dress with you!

Bedroom eyes!

Bedroom eyes! Or psycho eyes. We weren’t sure. Photo courtesy Sarah

Like my skull and roses dress and flame dress before it, this was my annual make-the-most-crazy-dress-I-can for the Feet With Heat Dancer’s Ball (see here and here).

I first found and fell in love with the fabric at Global Fabrics (now The Fabric Store) a few years ago, but managed not to buy any. Then the fabulous MrsC gave me a remnant for my birthday a few months later!

Skip forward a couple of years and I’m planning my ball dress. I decided I want pink leopard and am hunting for a quilting cotton in the perfect shade of hot raspberry when I get a text from MrsC – “Global still has the pink leopard, and it’s HALF PRICE!!!” Although not the shade I had imagined, one does not look a pink leopard gift horse, err, leopard, in the mouth, so I strode in. As luck would have it, I ran straight into MrsC who was also succumbing to the sale (although, not on pink leopard) so she supervised as I took the bolt to the counter.

“4m please” I said. That’s plenty for a rock and roll dress.

MrsC cleared her throat. “She’ll take 10m thanks.”

“10m! Have you lost your mind!” I screeched.

“Trust me. This is like a SIGNATURE print for you. I’ve never forgiven myself for not buying more of that rose printed silk-cotton that I made the dress out of that I wore until it disintegrated. You’ll use it. Or you could sell it if you change your mind later. And it’s such a good price. Trust me…” she wheedled.

I have many mottos but one is never argue with your Wise Woman Advisor. I asked for 10 metres.

The assistant unrolled the fabric. At 4 metres we discovered it was cut. MrsC gave me the gimlet eye so I ask to to take the 10 metres in two pieces. The assistant measured out the remaining piece and there was only 7 metres on the bolt. MrsC now turned her gimlet eye to the assistant and suggested they give me the entire 11 metres – but only charge me for 10, due to the cut.

They obliged. And THAT is why you never argue with your Wise Woman Advisor. You want her on your side.

Dainty shot

Dainty shot. Photo courtesy Sarah

The fabric is cotton spandex blend, but heavy, more of a twill weave than a sateen weave. I settled on Butterick 5033.

Butterick 5033

Butterick 5033, I chose View A

First up, the mock-up. I did my normal trick of finding the finished measurements (for Butterick, printed on the bustline and waistline on the tissue paper) and graded between the sizes that looked the best, completely disregarding the size chart. After a hilarious episode where I attempted to teach Mechanic Man to pin the centre back closed (honestly, the man can strip and rebuild an engine, but explain to him that the pointy bit goes in and comes out parallel to but 1.5 cm away from the edge and he’s completely lost), I got into the bodice. And WOE! Woe is me! The bottom wouldn’t even touch.

My first bodice toile. Oh no!

My first bodice toile. Oh no!

I mournfully looked at the photo that Mechanic Man took for me and started mentally calculating the potential-faffing-about-factor, and resolved there was only one solution.

One does not have a Wise Woman Advisor in the family just for fabric peer pressure. I took my bodice to MrsC.

I’d already resolved the shoulder seams needed to be reduced to 1cm, and did this on arrival. Then I got pinned in (with much more efficiency) and waited for the diagnosis. MrsC, in the magical ways of Wise Woman Advisors throughout the ages, clicked her tongue, produced a ribbon, tied it around my natural waist, cut off the fabric under the ribbon, and pronounced it fixed.

No, seriously. It was a perfect fit. Just Like That. (Wise Woman Advisors – you should get one).

Swishy shot

Swishy shot. Photo courtesy Sarah

It was a piece of cake after that. I lined the bodice with some hot pink stretch cotton poplin I fortuitously bought at the same time I bought the black stretch cotton for the bodice of my flame dress with the startlingly acute realisation that pink would feature in my future (and likely will over and over again). I measured the seamline on my new bodice and the skirt and they were so close I decided not to adjust the skirt, but to make as per the pattern and take in the side seams if needed to meet the bodice. It’s not like the skirt of that volume would suffer.

I did however discover the underarms sagged quite unattractively. So I used MrsC’s taping method and eased it on quite aggressively. Perhaps too aggressively, there are some little puckers when I’m not wearing it, but I’m totally pleased with the effectiveness of this technique.

Armhole before taping, You can see that much of my bra because of the gaping.

Armhole before taping, You can see that much of my bra because of the gaping.

The other side, already taped, and fitting close to the skin

The other side, already taped, and fitting close to the skin

The skirt was a bit of a deliberately brave move for me. It has a centre front seam and three knife pleats either side. Did I really want pleats in the centre front or should I stick with a circle skirt? Did I need the extra bulk right of pleats and all that additional fabric right over my prominent tummy?

That was the thought that did it for me.  As a body positivity enthusiast, but not yet very experienced self-practitioner, I decided to give a silent SCREW YOU to whoever decided that women only look good with tiny waists and wear the skirt because I like it and that is the only opinion on the face of the planet that matters when it comes to what I wear. Plus, you know, I’d never made pleats before.

The pleats were easy, the skirt sewed up really straightforward (although I did get worried at one point as I attempted to maneouver the entire skirt across my sewing table that I was going to get trapped under it and weeks later they’d finally find me buried under 3 tonnes of leopard print) and the dress was done!

More swishing. Big skirts plus petticoats demand it.

More swishing. Big skirts plus petticoats demand it. Photo courtesy Sarah

I had originally decided to do the cutout, for a few reasons. First, it’s on the pattern. Second, I like cut-outs on principle. And third, I need lots and lots of ventilation in a dancing dress. But after putting the bodice together, I was worried about attempting the cutout. What if I hated it? What if I cocked it up? I certainly couldn’t undo it! So I made a sample to test out the method and the look. I wasn’t convinced.

So I took my sample along to the WSBN meet-up at the Home Sewn exhibtion at The Dowse Museum (which I never blogged about but others did). The conclusion was pretty universal. Cut out plus pink leopard might just, well, go in a direction that I didn’t want to go in. So I abandoned that. But one day, I will make this dress (or a variation thereoff) and the cutout WILL happen! (Entertaining side story, as well as passing my sample around, MrsC did an impromptu bodice fitting in the middle of The Dowse, in a room filled with hundreds of people, to the entertainment of the WSBN members watching.)

Twirly!

Twirly! Photo courtesy Sarah

The weekend of the ball I had my regular monthly craft day at my house, and my lovely friend Miss La Belle attended. A couple of days before, at class, a fellow dance student asked if Punk Flatmate and I would be wearing matching outfits again, as they’d loved the matching flame outfits, and almost the same day Collette released their tutorial for a men’s necktie. Miss La Belle was looking for a project to do and volunteered to make the neck tie out of the scraps of my dress, and it came out AMAZING. But her awesomeness doesn’t stop there. Inspired by the pink and chocolate combination, she also made me two pairs of earrings and a necklace in that colour combo! I wore the studs on the night.

Lots of skirt!

Lots of skirt! Photo courtesy Sarah

The day of the ball rolled around, and as I normally do, I booked the skilled Claire of The Vanity Case to do my hair and makeup. Miss La Belle decided not to stop her awesomeness just with a necktie and jewellery and came over on the day to day Punk Flatmate’s hair pink to match and also painted my nails for me. IN PINK LEOPARD. Hell yeah!

Oh yeah. Pink leopard fingernails!

Oh yeah. Pink leopard fingernails!

I think it was one of the best hair and makeup jobs Claire has done yet, and I couldn’t believe it was really me in the mirror when she was done. Unfortunately, she’d had a really slim window to come over before I had to leave for the ball, so I skipped photos at home, thinking I’d use the event photographer to make up for it. She did take this snap on her phone though.

Hair and makeup by The Vanity Case

Hair and makeup and photo by The Vanity Case

Unfortunately, there was no event photographer! So Punk Flatmate and I asked some friends to take some snaps, but none of them really turned out spectacularly, but I’m still pretty sure you can get the idea that WE LOOKED FREAKING AMAZING HELL YEAH WE DID.

We're looking at two different cameras, whoops! But check out that awesome tie and matching mohawk! Isn't he gorgeous!

We’re looking at two different cameras, whoops! But check out that awesome tie and matching mohawk! Isn’t he gorgeous! Photo courtesy Julian. Or Chris.

But the lack of event photos means no action shots of my skirt and petticoats flying and flashing my hot pink knickers I bought for the occasion. But I can’t leave you without a twirling pic at all can I!

Obligatory mid twirl photo

Obligatory mid twirl photo. Photo courtesy Sarah

Guess what! There are two more items for this ensemble to show off. But given my complete inability to blog in 50 words or less, I’m saving them for the next post!

The flame dress – fancy photo shoot

23 Nov

Wow, thanks to everyone for the fantastic comments on my last post! Considering that I’ve only just recently started posting, and sporadically at that, I didn’t really expect anyone other than my close personal friends to ever actually read it let alone comment. But then all the bloggerati showed up and said amazing things! And then the lovely Scruffy Badger went and mentioned it on her blog! Oh my goodness! It’s all a bit much to believe really. I came over positively faint. Really. So thank you everyone for your comments and kindness and for giving me the taste of the warm glow that comes from interacting with the blogging community. What awesome people.

I hope you don’t mind if I carry on with the theme. I thought of including these in the last post but decided that this story, and Sarah in particular, deserved its own separate bit of space.

As I’ve said before, I decided in my teens that I HATED being photographed and would happily spend the rest of my life avoiding cameras. And I succeeded in this for the next decade. Then something strange happened. Firstly, I decided that I wanted to have a few more photographic records of things as I realised that a decade with virtually no visual history was actually kind of sad. Secondly, I decided to confront a bunch of my fears and uncertainties head on and decided to include photos in that. Both of these meant making friends with cameras.

A professional photo shoot in 2010 broke my habit of running in terror when I see a camera lens pointed at me, meaning I started showing up in candid shots from social gatherings. But I still feel pretty awkward being photographed.

I got lucky and met Sarah shortly after my professional shoot. Sarah is amazing. As well as being kind, smart, and witty, she sews without fear, creates beautiful things, and is a very passionate and talented photographer to boot. And she’s actually a real astrophysicist or something like that. Sarah is the delightful friend who pinned flame appliques to my bodice, and then late at night tacked flames onto my flatmate’s shirt just because. She blogs her photos too.

Sarah quickly became the photography lynch pin in my amazing circle of friends (about to get their very own post) and between her camera and the amazing costumes my friends create there has been more than one photographed dress-up day.

I’ve found these awkward but have done my best to learn to get comfortable around the camera and Sarah has been great, letting me screen photos before she posted them. Sarah is keen to improve her portraiture, and I’m keen to progress from no longer being uncomfortable to actually being photogenic, so we decided between us to get together and practice. Photos from some of these shoots will show up soon!

Recently Sarah decided to hire a photography studio for an afternoon and get a lesson in using fancy-pants studio lighting. And she asked me to be her practice model for the day. And she asked me to wear the flame dress.

And she produced some amazing photos.

Trying to be ladylike

Is it just me or does this look like an old-fashioned school photo?

Trying to show off the skirt

A bit of leg

Playing with movement

I twirled so many times to capture it in a photo that I got dizzy

Rosie the riveter inspired

As well as these, Sarah took some arty photos of me in various costumes out of our mutual curiosity to play and experiment. This is one of my favourites.

I love how she created such amazing lighting, especially for her first time playing with fancy lights! Might be a bit of a naughty shot but it was all about skin and light and learning 🙂

She also kindly took some family shots of me with my mum and her partner, who were staying with me at the time. I don’t think there are many photos of me and my mum together, which is a shame as we are so close. I won’t share them as I don’t think Mum would approve!

Really, I can’t say thanks enough to Sarah for her time, her generosity, and her friendship. And these photos.

Now I’m awfully worried that I’ve set the bar too high and showing you all ordinary clothes in ordinary photos will be somewhat of a let down. I’ll do my best though!

Finished object: the flame dress (or, things MrsC tells me to do)

12 Nov

I was going to write about some regular projects first, but at MrsC’s request I’m sharing my most recent make, my flame dress. I’m worried I’m peaking early, but what MrsC wants, MrsC gets. So here is this year’s dress for the Feet With Heat ball.

Posing at the ball. Photo courtesy Julian Thomson.

After last year’s skull and roses dress, I wanted this year’s dress to be suitably subversive and in your face. Subtlety is so over rated – for me at least. Despite my pledge to sew from stash, I decided that I had Nothing To Wear and hit up my old trusty eQuilter. I started my search by looking for Alexander Henry designs. It wasn’t long before I found a fabric covered in hot rod flames, fell instantly in love with it, and knew this was it.

Showing off the skirt before I left for the ball, and getting a good eyeful of the hot rod flames. Unfortunately the photo is lousy. This is what happens when it suddenly occurs to you to get a photo so you give your boyfriend your phone just before you walk out the door and don’t pay any attention to where you are standing. The things blogging is making me learn!

Next was picking a pattern. MrsC demanded suggested I try Sewaholic’s Cambie, thinking that its pear-shaped block and the way the sleeves attach to the back might help with my fitting issues. Despite a dislike of gathers, I duly ordered it (along with Minoru), thinking I could always do flat sleeves, and waited for everything to arrive.

The dress in action out on the dance floor

I had already decided that the super busy print would work well with a contrast black bodice with flames flickering up from the skirt, so while I waited I bought a black cotton sateen with a hint of spandex ( I may accidentally have bought much more than I needed for this dress, just in case, and also some in white and some in pink, because you know, I could.) I also used the wait to start making my bodice toile out of an old sheet. Not one to let circumstances, like no longer working together, get in my way, I hauled my completed bodice into to MrsC’s shop so she could, in her role as my fitting minion mentor, pin and draw my alterations on. Not quite the same the ladies’ loo at our old work but still effective.

We had to significantly deepen the darts, raise the waist seam at the back a good inch or more, and redraw the side seam as on me it was wildly angled. I have yet to figure out if I needed to raise the back waist seam because I have a short upper back compared to my front, or if I’m just full busted enough to make the front of the bodice rise up in comparison. Things to think about in future. For now I just do as MrsC tells me.

Another action shot, showing a bit of thigh this time! I branched out this ball and wore a full circle petticoat with high waisted knickers and no slip, which is what competitive dancers wear, but I did feel a bit odd showing so much leg! And knickers! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

I made another bodice toile and again trotted into the shop for review. I’d always intended on replacing Cambie’s gathered skirt with a full circle skirt, but after seeing version 2 of the bodice, MrsC suggested I ditch the waistband as well and put the skirt straight on the bodice. I of course did exactly this.

With MrsC’s approval of the bodice, I set about making it out the black sateen. The Cambie bodice is a great construction method and comes together really quickly. I even kept the gathers! Again at MrsC’s suggestion I used cotton tape to strengthen the sweetheart neckline. I actually ended up constructing part of the bodice in her shop during a social gathering MrsC hosted there. Nothing like wandering around a shop after hours getting people to pin you in and out of your clothes while eating cupcakes and gossiping! Of course, the danger of this is that I also left with several metres of artificial horsehair braid and a promise to put it in my hem. That woman has the gift of the barrow.

And another shot from the floor. I love the way the flames are so vibrant when they move. Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The skirt was actually cut out by a friend of mine, The Sewphist. Ism renowned for my carefully organised stash, and The Sewphist had offered to sew for me if I organised for her. Knowing the weekend I’d put aside for my skirt sewing was the last chance I had to help her out for a while, I suggested we trade that weekend. Because of the directional print combined with the narrow craft cotton width, each half circle has been pieced, with a small section on each corner added on. The Sewphist did a great job of matching prints as best she could with the meterage I had available (something I hadn’t taken into account when ordering) and she finished cutting with only 10cm of fabric remaining. Perfect.

After she made up and attached the skirt, I took the dress home and put in the invisible zip. Normally I’m very proud of my invisible zips but I will admit that the zip in this is NOT my best work. I didn’t pay enough attention at the time or I would have seen that I hadn’t stitched close enough to the teeth, but luckily the black on black is disguising anyway. Still, every time I see the zip I get annoyed at myself.

Sick of action shots yet? This is the last one. I’m finally getting good at maintaining eye contact with my dance partner, but J here is particularly fun to make eyes at. As you can tell from this photo! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The Friday night before the ball, after the skirt had been hanging all week, my good friend Sarah came over to help me appliqué flames to myself. I decided it was better to position them with the dress on so I stood and gave artistic criticism while she shoved her hands in my bodice to best position flames over my boobs. She also positioned my flames on my back as well.

My punk flatmate, who also dances, was also called in for artistic opinion, which somehow transformed into an eleventh hour idea to dress him up to match. Sarah cut a couple of extra appliques and tacked them onto his shirt while I vliesofix-ed and hand stitched it all in place.

Me and my flatmate at the dance, showing off our matching outfits.

And a shot of the matching appliques on our backs.

And a close-up of our matching hair! I rubbed the red colouring into just the tips of Punk Flatmate’s bleached hair and it gave it a vibrant orange warmth that perfectly matched my orange and yellow flowers.

The Saturday was much like last year’s Saturday – getting my hair done in victory rolls (by a professional – I still suck) and hemming my skirt. Where it differed was using the horsehair for the first time, and helping my flatmate bleach out his green hair stripe and then dye the tips of it red so that it matched the flame outfits. He’s totally awesome and we looked… hot… together. Sorry, couldn’t resist!

A 1am self portrait of my hair and feather eyelashes before I dismantled it for bed.

The night was totally awesome and I had a great time dancing up a storm! The dress has since been worn to a Grease Sing-a-long at The Embassy, the cinema that is about to host the world premiere of The Hobbit. While there my studio-mates and I danced before the movie as ambient entertainment, and we taught the hand jive at intermission. I wanted to wear it to a burlesque ball the following night but couldn’t get it dry in time.

Punk Flatmate and I playing for the cameras.

Most people’s favourite photo of the night. I had to ask the photographer what we were doing as I couldn’t place it. He reminded me… that I’d asked Punk Flatmate to shorten my bra strap as it kept sliding off while I danced!

And my favourite photo of the night, Punk Flatmate and I posing together.

I love wearing this dress but it does leave me with two dilemmas. First, how often does an opportunity to wear a flame embellished dress come along? I don’t want to let this languish. And second, how on earth do I choose a fabric next year that could top this!!! Ideas welcome!