Monday, September 7, 2009

The Debutante Dress - Ruffles, organza, beads and the strict dress rules

How I created a Debutante Ball gown for a sixteen year old girl named Melissa

Miss Melissa's wish list: Coty, all I want to wear is a red dress with a top hat!!. Well that's Melissa! my son's great friend and partner for the Debutante Ball. It was a little hard at first to explain to Melissa that it was just not acceptable for a girl to wear red when everyone else was wearing white. I know you want to be different, but here are the rules and let's do it the right way, I said. I know you will be very happy in the end.

The Debutante Ball Dress Rules:

A debutante dress must be pure white not cream.

Full Length - The dress length must be between below the ankle but above the floor. It should allow for ease of movement when walking and dancing. Splits are permissible at the back of the dress only and no higher than the knee and the dress should be one piece with bodice attached to the skirt and Straps must be 3cm wide. The dress must be fully lined or a full length petticoat must be worn.

Gloves are compulsory - long sleeve opera gloves and all shoes must be white

Neckline - No plunging or revealing necklines - back not lower than the shoulder blade.

All trimmings & decorative accessories must be white and jewellery must be dainty.

Melissa had decided that she wanted a very full skirt..... so off I went to create a dress. I found three gorgeous gowns. Two of which were vintage and I pulled them all apart to retrieve the fabric I needed for Melissa's dress. The first dress had a wonderful bodice with a gorgeous lattice style glass beaded tight fitting top to the hips. This was just the beginning, then I found the amazing two vintage gowns with about 40 metres of organza ruffles between them. I needed lots of ruffles for my design. Melissa's mum Sue and I unpicked all the ruffles from the dresses, soaked the fabric in Nappy San then I designed and created the skirt. I pinned all forty metres of ruffles around the dress, layer upon layer, upon layer. The widest ruffles at the bottom and the little baby ruffles at the top of the skirt on the hips and then it was all hand sewn together by Sue. (as she has better eyesight than me, I think I need to get glasses) Then finally we attached wide organza straps over her shoulders and made new lining.

Melissa's father Paul was hysterically funny when he first saw this dress as it totally covered a queen size bed. "How the heck is Melissa going to fit through the door ? Paul said, the dress is so wide and how will Thomas be able to walk on the red carpet with Melissa, her dress will take up the whole runner. Coty, isn't it too heavy for Melissa ? and how will she be able to dance in this dress? Why do men worry so much!!!

This dress is as light as a feather and Melissa is also a ballet dancer so she knows how to carry herself in a gown like this. The dress flowed beautifully on the night, as she walked the red carpet and danced.

This is me under the dress above and with my camera photographing Melissa with the blossoms.

I spent many hours under this dress pinning and sewing the ruffles together. Trying to get the dress perfectly even on the floor was not an easy task. But we did it!! Mel looked just beautiful on the night complete with her long gloves, little white cape for her shoulders and a tiny little tiara in her hair.