Monday, November 10, 2014

A Closer Look at the Marine Ball Outfit? Gown?

As promised, let's take a closer look at what I wore to the Marine Ball here in Kyiv.  Every year around the world, the marines who guard our Embassies and Consulates celebrate the birthday of the Marines in early November.  This year it was the 239th birthday.  If you do the math, the Marine Corp was born on November 10, 1775, meaning it's close to a year older than the United States itself.  Anyway, enough history.  As a reminder- here is what it looks like on.  I was a dork and didn't take any pictures while at the ball, but I'm sure there are some out there.
I began the making of this outfit on last Saturday.  Yes, only a week before it needed to be done.  Bad planning on my part.  Originally for the bodice and waistband I used Butterick 6094, which I have already made twice.  On Saturday I cut and painted the waistband, and then re-cut and painted the waistband again.  Sunday, I spent making the bodice, lined it, and attached it to the waistband (including hand tacking the lining down at both the neckline and one armhole.  I stopped at that point, and decided I needed to try it on.  I had not inserted a zipper, and hadn't planned on it- as the neither of the first two version actually need a zipper.  I couldn't get it over my head.  So I unpicked a side seam and hand basted a side zipper.  I was then finally able to try it on.
I did not take pictures of it on me.  It looked tortured.  That's the only way to really describe it.  Terrible.  The darts were a pointy mess, the fabric pulled at the neckline and armholes, and it was way too tight in the waist.  I pre-treated the wool, but apparently not enough, as the waistband had shrunk almost two inches somewhere during the sewing process, but only at the bottom.  It was too small to even put on my mannequin, which is smaller than I am.  Honestly, I think it had to do with the painting, it somehow shrunk the fabric.  So I rethought the look.  My actual internal monologue went something like this:
"If I was on Project Runway, this would be the moment when Tim Gunn comes in and says something like why did you torture the fabric?  Then he would be all like make it work."
You can totally see the weirdness happening with the darts here.  (Please ignore the little piece of thread in the picture.) Anyway, I decided to make a top, belt and skirt. This was Sunday night.  I pondered it Monday at work and sketched out a couple things.  I knew I wanted a silk top with sleeves, but was waffling between one with a collar or a super simple kimono sleeve one.  I finally decided on hacking B5813 into a top.  (You can find it here.)
Line Art 
I cut out the pattern Monday night, and found the fabric I eventually used, but didn't think I had enough of it.  So on Tuesday, I went to the fabric store, first to find ribbon for the skirt waistband, and second to find a cream raw silk.  I only found the ribbon.  I didn't work on any of it Tuesday night, as I went to bed around 7 PM.  On Wednesday I started freaking out a little bit, because, I still hadn't finished any of it.  I went to the other fabric store, and found silk that would probably have worked, but wasn't awesome.  That night I made the skirt, which had been cut out since Sunday. 
To make the skirt, I cut a 3 yard long piece of the wool.  I used the curve from the Victory patterns Nicola.  When I was still going to make it a dress, I had cut a seam into it.  Even though it was a superfluous seam, it actually helped with the sewing.  It is fully lined, and the lining was all machined sewn.  
 I sewed the bottom and outside edge of each piece.  I then , flipped, undersewed the lining, ironed, smoothed it out as much as possible, and serged the top and the seam edges.  The smoothing out wasn't perfect, so it pulls a tiny bit, but no one noticed it.  Then I made the pleats- the waist is 31 inches with a 9 in overlap.  To do the pleats, I cut the ribbon 41 inches and folded over the edge 1/2 inch on each side.  I messed around with the pleats until it fit the ribbon.

I sewed the ribbon like bias binding with a half inch seam allowance.  I hand slipped stitched the inside.  I was careful not to iron it too much, as I wanted the pleats to be soft (and the fabric didn't like pressing).
The wrap is held together by heavy duty snaps.  They worked pretty well.  The next step was to make the top.  I ended up cutting it out of my original cream raw silk, but as I only had remnants, it was a tight fit, and the back was cut on the fold, versus with the seam.  The only other change I made was a cheater full bust adjustment.  I didn't need any extra width in the bust, but it was way too short, so I added an inch in the length.  I honestly could have used another 1/2"- 3/4".  I'll do that next time.  I used french seams for almost all the seams. For the front seam, I folded and stitched the seam 1/4" before I sewed it, so then the raw edge is turned underneath.  I also did that with the facing.  I used silk organza for the collar. 

I started the top on Friday and finished it Saturday morning.  On Thursday, I worked on the belt/waist piece.  I used black coutil for the the back.  I was going to use horsehair and boning to make sure it didn't collapse, but it was already really tight (even with making the side seams 1/4 inches at the bottom), so I just used the coutil.  To be honest, it was more that I didn't have any plastic boning, and didn't want to have to waste more time going to the fabric store yet again.  For the closure, I used four hook and eyes.  Which I sewed on Saturday at 2:30 PM.  Mind you the ball started at 5.  Cutting it close eh?  I would have had it done earlier, but for being sick on Tuesday and celebrating my birthday on Thursday.  Oh well!  Here are closer looks at he painting and the waistband.

You can see that it did wrinkle some, but overall it held up really well.  You also may have noticed something else.  I rearranged my sewing room once again.  It felt way too crowed as it was, so I sacrificed being able to walk around my cutting table to having more space.  It feels so much better in there now.  I'll leave you with some pictures of what the room looks like now.  It's about 80% done- I am waiting for the artwork to get back from the framers.  Until next time, happy sewing!


  1. Hi Nicole, I just found your blog and saw this post about the Marine Ball gown. I had no idea that you made your beautiful gown. When I saw it last Saturday I thought how original and was wondering where you found such a beautiful design!

  2. Wow. I am seriously impressed over here!