This has been a dream costume for me for some time. So for this 2011's "magnum opus" I finally decided to tackle it.
This started with months of outlining, planning and playing the ballroom scene in Labyrinth over and over to make sure I had all the details and inventorying what was possible to emulate and what I'd have to fake. I bought several patterns, trying them out with bulk muslin before I found the correct combination to get the dress and sleeves correct.
The first thing was finding a hoop skirt to make the skirt poofy. I came across a cheap Southern Belle costume at a neighbor's garage sale. The costume looked... bad, but the skirt part was pretty solid. All I had to do was chop off the top, make a waistband and take off the cheap green stuff that was all over the skirt. The hoop skirt turned out to be a life-saver, since it holds the skirts out and away from my legs and circulates air under it to keep me cool.
The bodice and skirt came from an out-of-print bridal gown pattern from Butterick. The bodice was very easy to alter and the boning placement wasn't terribly difficult to execute. The bodice in the movie has a gold design and I wanted to emulate that. I found a gorgeous pre-beaded vine trim on Fabric.com. Because of the beading and the leaves going everywhere, I spent 14 hours hand-sewing it to the bodice.
The sleeves proved to be the biggest challenge. I used a pattern from TrulyVictorian.com to get the ridiculously poofy Gigot sleeves that Sarah sports in the movie. I also did some research on how to get them to stay up and out, which makes me wonder how the Victorian upper classes did anything with the amount of stuff they put on these dresses. I settled on sandwiching prom dress netting (the stiffest I could find) between the base satin and lining. I cut the forearms a little narrow, so I ended up cutting out an inch at my wrists and adding a hook-and-eye closure. I found some beautiful double-tiered lace with the same metallic threads running through it as the overlay for my bodice, so I put that the end of my sleeves.
Attaching them to the bodice proved another challenge, since I had to proceed backwards from the directions. I added the top strap first, then gathered the sleeves and sewed them in. Then added elastic for the top strap. The lining for the armpit I had to handsew because the sheer amount of fabric bunched into such a small area claimed the life of a sewing machine needle. It even proved to be a trial for my sturdiest handsewing needle. I needed a thimble to force it through.
The biggest challenge for the skirts was finding enough fabric to accommodate them! While the underskirt was easily covered by the excess of bridal satin I bought, the six overskirts required a whopping 36 yards of fabric and no less than three trips to the fabric store and online orders as my suppliers got more in. The pattern called for eight overskirts, but I realized no one would notice the shortcut of making only six. To make it slightly easier on myself and provide a neat contrast, I decided on layering different types of fabric on top of each other.
The first overskirt is three layers: organza, pearlized sheer and crinkle pearlized sheer. The second: shimmer organza and two layers of crinkle pearlized sheer. The first two layers are pulled up and pinned with a sparkly floral brooch to show off the pretty shimmer organza, which is my favorite of all the fabric I used.
Each overskirt took three hours to make, due to the double-stitching and the rolled hems on each individual skirt. Pinning took the most time and emptied three stashes of pins! Finishing the lining to seal in the skirt and bodice edges took more awkward handsewing and wondering how in the hell seamstresses "back in the day" did this for a living without going insane!
For the jewelry, I figured Sarah's dress is a bridal-syle gown, so why not look at bridal stores for jewelry! I found a nice floral necklace and earring set of Austrian crystal to go with my gown on eBay. While a little expensive, the gorgeous jewelry was worth every penny.
The wig came from Cosplay.com's offerings and required a little fluffing of the curls and cutting off the straggling curls. The hair ornaments turned out to be the easiest creation of this costume. A couple of clear hair combs, some floral and leaf decorations and ribbons and I was ready to go.
I've never felt more like a princess!
ConCarolinas '11, Craftsman, 2nd Place;
Ichibancon '12, Craftsmanship Advanced, Honorable Mention;
Nashicon '12, Advanced, Best in Show