Things haven’t quite gone how I wanted them to and I had to make an executive decision about how I was going to make my birthday gown happen. I don’t want to make the time to try to pull off any of the first designs I had in mind. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would need a lot more time develop the concepts and then of course execute: lots of hand sewing, material sourcing, pattern fitting. And so now, I’ll be adapting an existing commercial pattern that I’ve been wanting to make something with, I just didn’t anticipate it being my birthday gown.
I’m not too upset about it. I thought I would begin working on the gown last summer. I didn’t think I’d be moving into a new place and having to reset my life. That was a huge factor in what I could reasonably accomplish. Then came the last three months of the year and I knew I was under a crunch with all the obligations the end of the year brings. I only started sourcing materials six weeks ago. It’s just not enough time. Which is okay. I’ve had to postpone or shift gears before with birthday gowns. I wanted things to be different this year. I wanted to design a completely self drafted garment and use lots of fine handwork. But even more than that, I want a dress I will be happy with and time to enjoy my birthday season. Yes, season. I don’t want to be stressed or rushed and I want to be proud of what I’m wearing.
The New Design
I reframed and adjusted and now I’ll be adapting McCalls M8037 for my gown instead of developing one of my previous sketches. I’ll be using a gold stretch sequin fabric and expanding the sweep of the skirt for more dramatic effect. I also anticipate adjusting the front bodice to omit the tie detail shown on Views A and B. I also should have time to design and make a parure to wear with it. I’m envisioning a headpiece, earrings, and ring for this one; possibly a necklace or face veil too. The concept is to drip in gold and I think I can emphasize that with the jewelry design. Lastly, I want to create a faux fur stole and possibly an adorning brooch. I have a winter birthday after all and I’ll need a little something to keep me warm.
This will be my second sequin project in as many months and a fun addition to my growing closet of sequins. The last sequin project was an outfit I made for New Years which I’ll share in a later post. And it will be first time sewing with faux fur
All was not lost in my preparation for creating my 2024 gown. Along the path I discovered and rediscovered techniques and designers I haven’t paid attention to in a long time. Elie Saab and Alexander McQueen were those I kept revisiting; particularly the FW 2022 Elie Saab couture show and McQueen’s behind the scenes reels on social media of various collections. I went down a rabbit hole studying McQueen’s technique for developing sheer corselets/bustiers. I was taught a different technique that has many similarities but doesn’t allow for the use of sheer fabrics. This article from Show Studio about McQueen corsetry is impeccable.
I familiarized myself with various meshes for making strong but delicate looking foundations like cotton bobbinet and power mesh. Bookmarked a few vendors where I could buy the fabrics I needed. (They’re listed under Resources at the end of this post.) I found what I think is the exact machine Elie Saab uses for hot fix rhinestones as you can see in the above video – I learned that they use adhesive rhinestones in couture – which shook the foundations of my understanding of “acceptable” couture techniques. I studied how McQueen developed motifs for applique and their method for visualizing concepts. It made me remember that couture embraces technology and pushes technique to new horizons. As long as the quality is superb what does the rest matter?
I found a beautiful gold organza that I’ve not yet tired of playing in. Marveled at the beaded laces I found at Lace USA when I visited L.A over the New Year. And thought long and hard about what it would take for me to incorporate all these ideas and techniques in a gown. It meant that doing it in time for my birthday would result in me hating the process. I want to build a beautiful gown using these techniques and be able to take my time, practice, and test techniques. I want to give myself the gift of satisfaction so I’ll be taking what I learned in this process and will develop projects to help me build the skills I need to ultimately make something truly divine. I don’t know if that will be my next birthday gown or a just because gown or both, but I’m excited for what’s to come.
Eventually, when I realized I was running out of time, I thought to myself, “Just buy six yards of charmeuse and ten yards of organza and see what happens.” And then I thought, “No, girl don’t do that.” Instead I picked up a beautiful book I have Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke (foreward by Issey Miyake) for inspiration. Inside the book there are scans of the patterns of the garments which is incredibly valuable to any designer or fashion enthusiast, but I didn’t want to make a Vionnet gown. At least not for this occasion. But I did think, “I have something that is in a similar vein as Vionnet in McCall’s M8037.” Let’s just do that but put our spin on it.” (I do in fact talk to myself as if there are two of me.) “Let’s embrace the bombshell vibe and go for bold glamour.“
I’ll be sharing the finished garment toward the end of the month and my impressions of this McCall’s pattern. I’ll also be resuming the fabric stash challenge beginning with the burgundy faux snake skin fabric and sharing more about how I’m go about accomplishing my creative goals without shame and making room for rest and exploration.