Its no secret I love all things mermaid- and like most people, Ariel is certainly my favourite one. I've already made her town outfit (write-up here) and I've been working on her tail on-and-off for the last few months. I fell IN LOVE with her re-design dress (the turquoise/green one) and decided instantly I was going to make it! The issue was: I'd never made a ball gown before. I was honestly worried I'd ruin it purely from insufficient knowledge!
So, I put in on my list of 'dream costumes' and left it there.
So, I put in on my list of 'dream costumes' and left it there.
Fast forward a year. I began staring at Ariel's pink gown.
It wasn't my favourite (pink with red hair?!) but before I knew it, I was singing a different tune. I actually fell in love with it! And I realised, it was probably a great place to start with learning how to make a gown.
And so, this project was started!
Ariel The Little Mermaid
I decided around April I wanted to make this dress, and to wear it to AVCon the third weekend of July. But construction didn't actually start until the middle of June! Which meant I had a month to make it... (Yes, I seem to put myself in these situations.)
(Please ignore the backgrounds in my pictures, my sewing room got progressively messier as the weeks went on because I didn't want to spend time cleaning it when I could be sewing! haha!)
The design I wanted to change, too, as I wanted a slightly-unique gown that was still recognizable as Ariel. I loved the pocket-hoop look that FireFlyPath did for Tracy Hine's dress- especially after drooling over all the dresses in Marie Antoinette- so I was going to incorporate similar into my own dress. The sleeves I wanted to keep closer to the movie, but the skirts I decided to change. I drew up a sketch and I realised it looked like a giant pink marshmallow. haha! (Not that I mind, I use to wear lolita, haha!) I've decided not to share the sketch because like most things, the design changed during construction!
First step, I did my usual find-a-pattern-I-can-alter search. Which came out easier than I thought!
Ah, Simplicity, like a paper knight coming to the rescue.
Pattern 1728 fit the general shape of the bodice and sleeve puff I was after. The only things I would have to make without a pattern would be the skirts (simple circle skirts) and the bottom half of the sleeves.
I wanted a different material for Ariel's pink bodice/over skirt. I decided on a pretty metallic brocade from Ebay International. The only issue was I didn't think there would be enough for the entire over skirt: luckily my initial design sketch incorporated a second chiffon over skirt, which should compensate for the length! (You will see later in this post!)
My petticoats were both from overseas- a small hoop skirt and a giant tulle petticoat. I wanted lots of fluff. I then added a third petticoat made from chiffon, so it could peak out while in motion.
Thankfully my friend Eden lent me her overlocker! Ah, it saved SO much time! I love chiffon but its horrible to work with if you dont have an overlocker.
Next step was cutting out the bodice patterns.
I made a mockup, which amazingly fit great first go! So it was straight into cutting out the bodice layers. I cut a coutil inner-layer, the fashion (outer fabric), a light cotton lining and some interfacing.
The fashion (outer) fabric panels.
I ironed the interfacing to the cotton lining, then sewed all the individual panels together. I pinned the lining to the coutil inner layer, right sides out, and marked where the boning channels would go. I sewed the channels, stopping about 1 to 1.5cm from the top of the bodice.
Mikey used the dremel to cut the right length spiral steel bones for me, as well as 4 white steel bones. (I hate the sparks it makes, so he's only happy to do it for me, haha!). I doubled up the spiral steels (7mm) for extra support.
I pinned the outer fashion fabric to the two inner ones, right-sides together, and sewed along the top. I didn't sew the inner-sleeves together, nor the back panels (yet). I then opened it out and sewed the seam allowance to the inner fabric.
Finally, I inserted the bones, and hand-stitched their channels closed so they wouldn't fall out!
(What the lining looks like with the boning inside)
Would you believe this is my first boned bodice? Its not perfect, but I am pretty happy with it!
Eventually I had to actually take a fair bit of material out of the back panels- as I tried it on and discovered it was rather big. The boning really gives a good corseted waist, so the extra material wasn't needed.
I did however add a modesty panel, just to be safe, and sewed the final white steel boning channels into the back. The eyelets were inserted first, then finally the last 4 white steel bones.
I made some white piping using old cord and scraps of satin from the under skirt, and sewed it along the bodice waist. And the bodice was complete!
Next was the white underskirt. I found a super lovely bridal satin, which just so happened to be only $9 a meter at the time (instead of $19! Bargain!) and I also had a voucher, so it really only cost me $5 a meter in the end.
To make the skirt I just cut a basic circle skirt (two halfs).
Here's the white skirt pinned onto the bodice.
Hemming would be a challenge. But I wasn't thinking of that at the time! haha!
Next step was making the pink over skirts.
I decided to do a chiffon layer first, then add a shorter fashion-fabric layer on top. The chiffon was a rectangular off-cut that I gathered into the waist and basted onto the white underskirt.
I spent a little while pinning the top layer on- just to see what it looked like. When a gathered rectangle the over skirt created the lovely hip-puffs I was desiring for the start! Perfect! But I wasn't sure how well they would hold up without any support- I didn't have time or the materials to make proper pocket hoops. So I found an old petticoat, cut it up, and created two hip-puffs to support the shape:
Improvisation for the win!
And finally, I added the last skirt layer:
Yay! Its starting to look like the way I imagined!
I pleated the over skirt layer, which helped fit it into the waist-size, but it still required a bit of squishing to get it that small. The end result was perfect! I was really happy!
Next it was onto hemming all the skirt layers.
No photos of this, as I spent one whole evening doing a rolled hem on the white underskirt, burning myself in the same spot at least 6 times with the iron. Ugh. Then I discovered the hem was super wonky. Luckily it was just really long, so I had to cut a new hem. Its still a little long (and most likely wonky) but it'll do for now! Haha! The chiffon layers were super easy with the over locker (gosh I love over lockers, I really have got to get myself one soon!) and the pink over skirt was a simple hem, as it would be decorated later anyway.
And that's it for Part 1!
Part 2 will show the sleeves, decorations, wig-sewing and hopefully some finished photos at AVCon! I'm still working on it, so fingers crossed I dont mess up in the next few days! haha!