Having a Ball

The end of the year always keeps me busy. So as quickly as I got started on this blog, I drifted away from it. I finally have some time again, so here is something I am only a month late in sharing!

November was the month of the US Marine Corps Birthday Ball. As an attendee several times, I have loved making my own gowns for this event. My most recent masterpiece started with the Kristen Dress from Designer Stitch** as a template. It had the main features I was looking for: princess seams, pleated skirt, and pockets (naturally).

The dress needed to be lengthened. That would simple. But I had a vision for the bodice: an illusion neckline and back with appliques placed such that they looked as if they could have been glued onto my skin. It’s a popular trend right now, especially in bridal gowns.

Finding the fabric took much longer than finding the right pattern. It needed to be the perfect “royal purple.” I wanted it to be lightweight but still have some volume, so the crispness of taffeta would be a good fit.

Searching for the perfect taffeta. Neither of these is THE royal purple!

And then the illusion netting — that took some time to find as well. There is plenty of stretch mesh on the market but I found it to be too thick and very obviously… there. I finally found a light nude netting (almost like tulle but softer) that matched my skin tone and had a slight stretch to it. Despite its delicate appearance, it is actually quite durable. Perfect! I found my appliques from Glory’s House.

As I said, changing the length of the dress was easy. I got that out of the way quickly. The bodice took several tries to decide how best to separate the bottom (taffeta) and top (netting) so the “neckline” would look natural and there wouldn’t be any puckering in the “V” at the center of the sweetheart shape. I moved the zipper to the side seam instead of the back.

WP_20171019_21_49_03_Pro (2)
The full length skirt of the dress. The left side seam is unfinished, waiting for zipper insertion.
Perfecting the bodice.

I also decided that I didn’t want to have all the weight of the dress placed on the delicate netting at the shoulders. So an internal support system would be needed (and with such a low back it would be my undergarment as well). This support replaced having a bodice lining. I used the same taffeta fabric and the same bodice pieces. I then cut a second set of those bodice pieces from a power mesh I already had, but slightly smaller so the stretch would help to pull it tight. I created channels for boning at the seamlines, plus some others for good support. And I added some padded cups for bust support and a waist stay so there would not be any slipping down.


In assembling the bodice, the illusion netting was sandwiched between the exterior bodice and the interior support. When attaching the zipper, I treated the support as if it were a lining and attached it right to the zipper. I used a two-inch horsehair braid on the hem and hand-stitched the appliques into place using a clear nylon thread. And done!

Horsehair braid is attached to right side of hem by machine, then flipped to wrong side and attached by hand.
Lovely appliques! I had help from a friend to get the best placement for these.
This dress is done!
Beautiful, royal purple illusion-back evening gown with appliques
You can see the effect in the relfection in the background. Sadly, the lighting isn’t great so it didn’t capture the true royal purple color!

Beautiful, royal purple illusion-back evening gown with appliques

Have you ever made heavy alterations to a sewing pattern? Have you made a special occasion dress? I’d love to hear about it!

**This is an affiliate link. If you purchase something through this link, I make a small commission. Your support is always appreciated.


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