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6 Feb 2013

Venice Masked Ball - my costume


So I've been quiet on the blog front as of late.  There have been a number of reasons for this, full-time work, and bootcamp classes in the evenings, a trip away to London for work, a couple of product launches, and working on my very own lipstick!  All exciting things, but it's been absolutely mental.

There's another reason too.  I'm hosting a birthday in a couple of weeks' time - my own ;-)  It's one of those mumble-mumble birthdays, one of the ones with a zero at the end of them, one of the ones we're never happy with reaching.  I wanted to do something monumental for it.  I toyed with buying a "thing", however expensive, something so ridiculously OTT that I'd always remember the occasion.  But that idea just didn't interest me.  I don't want things.  I want company, and memories, and experiences.  I want family around for dinner and my friends out to the pub some night, and my husband to accompany me somewhere special.

Special, in this instance, was something I'd always wanted to do - go to Carnevale in Venice.  Go to a masked ball.  Dress up in silly finery and have a blast.  Looking into it all, I realised just how crazily expensive it all was.  Without going into the detail, suffice it to say that the ball tickets alone, although expensive, are only half the cost of the night - you pay about the same again to rent out a costume for 24 hours.  And the ball has a strict dress policy:  period costume.

So I decided that I would make my own - both to save some cash and to have the fun of creating.  So that's what I have been doing for the last couple of weeks;  crazed sewing, trying to fit in making a costume with everything else ongoing at the moment.  I finally finished it last night.  Well, early this morning really!

If you're remotely interested in a mainly picture-based post to see the evolution of fabric-to-frock, read on (I should warn you, it's completely unrelated in any way to makeup :-))

(Warning: image-heavy post)

The best fabric shop in the world :-)
The best fabric shop in the world - it's in Rome, it's called Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti.  It's in the area of Roma I love the most - the historic centre, around the corner from the Pantheon, on Vitoria Emanuelle II.

The fabrics I settled on using
Ribbon, organza, fabrics, pattern
Bassetti Tessuti is where I bought this fabric many years ago - ostensibly for a wedding at the time that didn't go ahead.  Waste not, want not.  I had some 50 metres of Italian silks, silk taffeta and silk organza going to absolute waste (Armani silks, if you're not offended).

I think I have a problem...
I can't visit Rome without visiting this shop; it is a literal Aladdin's Cave... rooms and rooms of floor-to-ceiling fabrics of every type and shade imaginable, and more besides.

The pattern
This is the pattern I used - I bought it from ebay and luckily it arrived in reasonable time.

Starting to design...
Starting to come up with a rough design idea using the fabrics I have

I hate using patterns!
Oh how I hate using patterns.  I am completely and utterly unused to it - I usually make my own patterns up, so following one like this drove me insane (some patterns are more easy to follow than others - this one had some nonsensical additions that really were not necessary).

Startign to cut out the contrast (grey) fabric
I have had to re-educate myself in the ways of pattern usage, making a few minor mistakes along the way.   Anyhow, I persevered. 

Contrast fabrics and linings are cut out and...
... fabrics and linings are cut out - ready to go!
At this point, the pattern was cut out and all the fabrics, linings and interfacings.... time to just get on with it!

How I love this little machine :-)
My trusty sewing machine.  It used to be my mothers - in a rush of sh*t to the brain she kindly donated it to me after she got an even fancier one (this one I have is leagues better).  This machine has made my wedding dress, my mother's wedding dress, a lot of clothes, ball dresses, wedding and flowergirl and bridesmaids' dresses, school uniforms, outfits when I couldn't afford to buy clothes, household stuff (curtains, sofa covers, you name it).  It's seen a lot of action.

Sewing all the skirt pieces together
There's a LOT of fabric in the skirt, lots and lots...

Pleat detail, side of skirt
... obviously though, when it's pleated it looks a lot smaller :-)  Thank goodness.

The skirt, finished (well, before hemming)
And you have the finished skirt... minus any underskirts, minus the bustle (at the back), minus the train (at the back), and minus the hemming and hand finishing.

Blurry picture of the bustle
And now we have the bustle, finished; this was a nice discrete thing that could be made in one evening.  It attaches to the back of the skirt with snap fasteners.

The rough shape of the bodice
Starting to piece together the bodice (ie the top).  No lining or trims etc at this point.  The eagle-eyed will notice the centre panel is different to the end result; I ran out of time and when adjusting it down for size, just took it in at either side of this panel, slightly changing the side.  To hide this fact, I added piping down the front (evident in later pics :-)).  In an ideal world, I'd have had time to take the bodice apart and re-size and re-shape, but I didn't have the time.  This is a once-only-wear item, and no-one is any the wiser, so what odds!

Detail on the bodice back
OK ignoring the fact that the train and bustle are snap-fastener attached, I wanted the back of this to be authentic - so I went with the old eyelets-and-cord approach to the back bodice (instead of zips).

The sleeves, work-in-progress
Time to start making the sleeves; two of these with silk taffeta on top, silk organza on the bottom and trimmed with gold lace...

Attaching the sleeves and adding more detail
Attaching the sleeves to the bodice, adding some flower and ribbon detail...

And now for some pearls!
Now for some detail; I bought these glass pearls online and sewed them into place between the taffeta and the organza. They're a kind of pewter-mink colour; slightly pearlised warm pink, slightly greyed.  Exactly what I wanted.

Nearly there now...
The bodice is starting to take shape.  I had to fix it to fit correctly, then camouflaged the taken-in darts with some piping (the same cord as is used at the back).  Added the lace trim to the bodice and did some more handsewing...

Extreme close up!
Starting to add flowers to the front panel of the bodice.  It just didn't seem "finished" to me.  I wanted these to look random and scattered.

The finished bodice
Now, finally, the bodice is done, complete with re-sizing, trims, lace, sleeves, back closures, ribbon, etc...

Done!  (Front view)
The completed frock (well, it's a top and a skirt) from the front - it's a little less pink and a little more of a peach-gold champagne in real life (pic taken very late at night)

...and from the side (this is closer to the real colour)
The completed frock from the side (you can see the bustle and the train at the back).

....and from the back (featuring the train and the bustle)
The completed frock from the back (it's not hanging well on this mannequin, but you get the rough idea).  In addition, the hoop/underskirt is not the final one; it will look a lot bigger on the night :-)

Some stats

Fabrics: champagne pink/peach/gold silk taffeta.  off-charcoal grey water silk.  pink silk organza.  antiqued gold lace trim, gold silk cord, 
Meters of fabric used: approx 12m in total
Amount of trim used: 5m lace trim, 2m pink ribbon trim, 7m gold cord, 24 tiny roses, 2 large roses, approx 88 pearls
Number of thread spools used: 1 large, 1 small (champagne/peach/pink).  Ditto (charcoal grey)
Amount of times I swore every time I stuck yet another pin into yet another finger: thousands!
Mistakes that had to be fixed: 1 major (bodice needed re-sizing).  3 minor (some interfacings had to be cut out again as were cut the wrong way)
Time to cut out pattern: 2 hours
Time to cut out fabrics (fabric, contrast, lining and interfacing): 3 hours
Time to make the skirt: 10 hours (8 hours machine sewing 2 hours hand sewing)
Time to make the bodice: 12 hours (including lining; all machine sewing)
Time to make the sleeves: 8 hours (6 machine sewing, 2 handsewing)
Time to fix the bodice (large hack, but I ran out of time): 3 hours (0.5 machine sewing, 2.5 handsewing)
Time to make the bustle: 5 hours (4.5 machine sewing, 0.5 hand sewing)
Time to make and attach the train: 5 hours (2 machine sewing, 3 hand sewing)
Trips to the fabric store for stuff I'd forgotton (trims etc): 2
Late nights: too many to count
What I had to give up on: the petticoat - I had to spend an extortionate amount of cash buying a hooped petticoat underskirt because I simply ran out of available time to make one (this still bugs me)

Oh - and here's where I'll be wearing this frock, at the Mascheranda Grand Ball, on the 10th of February, along with a gorgeous black mask I bought on my last trip to Venice, and silver/grey sequined slipper shoes.

I simply cannot wait.  Venice here I come!

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