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Aspen Gala Dress 2.0

Yes, I did it again. I put a foolish amount of work into an outrageously formal dress that I may only ever wear once. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE
FROSTING.

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Where last year’s dress was big, structured, sturdy, and above all very time consuming to construct, this years is soft, delicate,  and deceptively simple, but no less dramatic.

Dress: Me Made; shoes: ; belt: vintage
Dress: Me Made; shoes: Bandolino; belt: vintage

Somewhere along the lines I got it into my head that I wanted to do a 1930s Madeline Vionnet inspired bias cut full length gown.  I spent some time looking through big art books of her designs at the library, including one which had some recreations of her patterns.  I had thought about purchasing the book and attempting to use one of the patterns, but ultimately I chickened out.  This wasn’t a print and tile or trace it out situation- it was tiny scale drawings of quite complicated designs (and of course it didn’t help that the book cost $50, either).

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After trolling around the internet for further inspiration, I kept coming across Keira Knightley’s green silk dress from the film Atonement.  The dress speaks for itself, really.  I had already planned on a full length bias cut skirt, I decided to copy the loose fitting bodice, high front slit, and lighter-than-air silk satin. Obviously I didn’t go full on backless with it, which ultimately I think was a wise choice.  I don’t have quite the same ah, body type as Keira Knightley, and I thought that what looked fantastsic on her might look a bit trashier on me.

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I actually love that it manages to be revealing while still covering a lot of skin. Sure, a micro mini gets the job done- but a figure hugging bias cut skirt is just as sexy, even if it’s full length.  And the loose bodice has a high neckline.  But the open back and sides are more subtly sexy.  Can you tell yet how much I LOVE how this dress turned out?

To construct it, I used the out-of-print Vogue 7851 for the skirt.  I had considered using the bodice as well, but I reconsidered after reading the funniest review I have ever encountered on patternreview.com,  which includes gems such as “[I wouldn’t] sew it again unless I was forced to at machine-gun point – and even then I would seriously consider taking the bullet! ”  and  “It is about now, that the instructions should tell you to open the whiskey bottle.”  So I decided to let that one pass me by….

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The bodice is a Ralph Pink pattern- my first!  His newest collection is totally flapper inspired, and I love it.  I used the Deco Blouse pattern, with slight alterations. I cut a wedge out of the center back to create the deep V, and I sewed the bodice directly onto the skirt rather than onto the waistband, which I turned into a sash instead. The blouse is self lined, and the skirt is not lined at all.  That was a little risque, since the silk is very sheer.  I was afraid of messing with the beautiful drape of the skirt by lining it with anything, and I didn’t have enough fabric left to self line.  Instead I wore it with a body hugging slip to avoid accidental exposure.

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I used Katy and Laney’s gelatin tip to stabilize the silk, and it was a real lifesaver.  Gelatin is the most effective stabilizer I have used yet, and it also happens to be the cheapest by leaps and bounds.  I used 2 packets of gelatin in about a gallon of warm water to treat  5 yards of silk.  The fabric was pretty crispy after it dried, which made it immeasurably easier to cut and sew.  The gelatin did leave some strange marks on the fabric, and I was worried that they might not come out, or the fabric would be water stained after I rinsed it, but it came out beautifully.

The silk is so lightweight that it feels like wearing water.  I’m quite afraid of damaging it actually, so much so that it was kind of nerve wracking to bring it across the country to Colorado.  I hemmed it on the airplane, but I didn’t want to risk anything spilling on it, so I put it away as soon as the other people in my row ordered drinks! Just like last year, I didn’t manage to get any good photos on the day of.  We took them when I got home,  on a VERY cold New Year’s Day.  So I’ll leave you with a chilly outtake….

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