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Designing the Beast

Design-wise, this dress was possibly the most intensive thing I've ever made-- the Reconstructing History (hereafter "RH") notes contradicted each other, and the more intricate parts didn't even have accompany pictures from the reconstruction that they made, so there were some things that took hours to puzzle out, and things that were just ultimately dropped from the design altogether, as they didn't seem to matter much in the final fit.

The bodice was where basically all of the alterations happened-- RH stated that the bodice self-lined with seven extra inches of fabric, but failed to even indicate where the skirt attached in that mess. It described the bodice as being "lightly tacked," which seemed absolutely impossible in terms of supporting the weight of a 22 1/2 foot wide skirt (which is heavy on its own when done in light cotton, much less wool). I opted out of that and ended up doing rolled knife pleats all around the bottom of the bodice. (The pleats took nearly four hours to simply install and sew in-- a machine needle exploded in my face! Twice!) It looks fine, it hangs how it's supposed to, and it doesn't affect the assumed fit in any way.

Another alternative that I chose was to double hem everywhere but the lacing edges of the bodice-- the fabric I used for the bodice was trying to shred apart just by looking at it, so I took all the steps necessary to keep it intact. As the front of the bodice called for a whipstitch, I zigzagged a size 4 stitch over the front edges as decoration and as stability, since I have a history of making corsets, and lacing doesn't sit well unless it's got some sort of support. There is no indication or evidence of any sort of boning in the Shinrone gown.

The eyelets were not part of the original design-- this gown in particular was assumed to have silver buttons running up the front, which I had purchased and had prepared to sew on over Thanksgiving, but ended up leaving all of the buttons there quite by accident. The eyelets were on hand and the budget was gone, so I went with what I had. I used Festive Attyre.com's page to situate the eyelets and figure out just how spiral lacing worked.

I don't even want to talk about the sleeves-- they attach to a triangular gore in the back that keeps them from sliding around the front of the arm, but even with following the precise directions, they still seem to hang strangely and fit weird. There was no evidence of a closure-- it was assumed to not have survived on the Shinrone gown-- so I attached an extra inch of blue and green plaid, and created wrist closures with brown plastic buttons I had in my stash.

The skirt is huge; it measures 22.5' around the bottom, with twenty-three individual panels. Each panel measures 10" at the top and 12" at the bottom, which allows the dress to flare out. The pleats...the pleats took forever. I mentioned it earlier, but I clocked in at a grand total of nearly four hours installing the pleats. First, there was no clear evidence as to what sort of pleats they were, but suddenly my eyes latched onto the description of "tubular," and I immediately realized that they were meant to be rolled pleats, which are basically double knife pleats (the kind found in schoolgirl skirts). This allows the skirt to hang in its nice and even folds down the front.

Next: Construction Photos
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