Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tiers and Tears: Jade Anna Skirts

With bodice assembled, the first, finicky par of the dress is finished.  I then move on to making the skirts.  This step is mostly difficult because of the volume--ballgown skirts are huge.  The amount of hugeness varies according to current trends, but bigger almost always has a place.  This means that making one requires cutting several meters of organza into half-circles and sewing some very long seams.

My dress's skirt has two major components, which I call the underskirt and the overskirt.  The underskirt is primarily responsible for all the volume here, and I built mine in a set of three tiers.  The first tier is a stretch mesh yoke (not the technical term, but that's what I call it) that attaches directly to the leotard at the high hip.

 The second tier is one full circle of organza, sewn to the mesh yoke.

The third tier is two more layers of organza.  The inner one is 1.5 circles, while the outer one is 2 full circles.  This was a little experiment of mine in producing more volume.  The pink grapefruit dress also has a tiered underskirt with two layers at the bottom, each 2 full circles.  I found that since both layers were the same size, they tended to nest into each other and weren't as big as I had wanted.  I hope that making these two layers different sizes, they will stand out away from each other more.

Organza is a fairly stiff fabric, so it does a decent job of holding up a skirt on its own.  More volume normally comes from stiffening the hemline some more, and I use 77 mm crinoline for that purpose in this dress.

So I spend hours with a giant puff-ball next to my serger as I attach the crinoline and finish the edge of the organza, and then a couple hours more with a bigger puff-ball next to my sewing machine as I sew the other edge of the crinoline in place.  I spent the entire time murmuring endearments to my serger, because my serger is fast.  Doing this without a serger would take three times as long.

Then I had an underskirt, and so I moved onto making the godets to insert in the dress itself.

Here is where my tale takes a dark turn.  The godets are made of satin chiffon, a lovely, slippery, easily frayed fabric that gave me fits.  It took me forever to cut out eight godets, edge them, insert them into the appropriate slits, sew the edges together, and hem the bottom.  This was happening in the two days before I left for my last and biggest competition of 2014.  At 2 p.m. the day before I was to leave, on a day I had taken off from work so I could finish this, I finished that hem and hung the dress in my bathroom to evaluate it.

I had this.

I sat down on my bathroom floor and cried.  Both the bodice and the overskirt had ended up taking much longer to put together than I had planned for, and the overskirt looked like crap.  I couldn't wear this dress like this, and there was no time to fix it.  I wore my trusty pink grapefruit dress for my last competition of the year, and banished the jade anna dress to the closet to think about its problems.

I am thinking of solutions for those problems already.  This dress and I and my seam ripper have a date after Christmas.  I believe this dress can be awesome, but I have to do it justice to the best of my abilities, and perhaps create a few new abilities in the process.

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