Monday, January 23, 2017

FO: Regency Gown (and Singing at Disney!)

All of Soliloquy just before we sang our first show. Top (L to R) Karen, Sherry, Nancy. Middle (L to R) Me, Vicky, Lisa. Bottom: Peggy. I love how this picture turned out!
Before I start blogging what I've been making this year (which has been pretty good so far), I need to go back and blog the things I wasn't able to around Christmas. The big project was undoubtedly making this dress:
I made this costume to sing with my singing group at Disney hotels this Christmas :) The others have done the same routine for several years now, and as this was my first year and I am able to sew, our director gave me an old dress from a previous group member along with a pattern and some eyelet material and asked if I would make my own dress. This was months ago and I happily said yes (which I came to regret later, lol). At first all seemed well, but what a saga making this dress turned out to be! Being me, I put off the actual sewing of my dress until December - the worst possible month for me to have to sew something on a deadline. It's undoubtedly my busiest month of the year not just with work, but with other obligations plus gift making. It's craziness every year, and I had months and months to make this, but procrastinated until a few weeks before. Ugh.
This is what the dress looked like when it came to me. It was perfectly fine, and it even technically was my size as far as width goes, but it was about 2 feet too short, lol. Maybe not quite that much, but it felt really doofy to wear. The previous wearer (who it was made for) was much shorter than I am, not just in the legs but apparently also in the bust. I was able to use those over skirt pieces to cut my new bodice from, and I salvaged all the trim to reuse. The pattern I was given was the Regency Gown by Sense & Sensibility Patterns, which was apparently chosen for it's historical accuracy. I had to grade up the pattern to a size 20 for my muslin, but ended up taking out quite a bit so I'm guessing it was actually a size 18 when I finished. In my muslin I noticed how short the bodice was - I know I'm longer than average from shoulder to underbust, but I had to add 2.5 inches to the bodice length just to get it to go under my boobs! That's pretty crazy. I had some excess fabric bunching up on my back along the princess seams, so I shortened the overall back bodice side pieces, which worked, but it caused the armscye to be problematic. I made the sleeves several times, letting them out and whatnot, but to no avail. In the end I just reused the previous sleeves off the finished dress since they were still intact and then at least fit my arms. Our director (who also sews) originally told me to just make up the bodice and replace the skirt with some new cotton eyelet material he bought. He said to just gather it up and sew it to the bodice. This became a problem just on its own since the bodice piece is gathered to the waist PLUS now the skirt would be gathered and there was no waistband to secure them to. I had to gather things to what seemed to measure right and then hope for the best as I stitched it up. This was the result:
Ugh - this picture. This was the photo I sent my director after an extremely frustrated sewing session. It looked much worse in person and I felt like a house. That's 3 yards of crisp cotton eyelet gathered under my bust, completely obscuring my narrowest area and poofing out at an extremely unattractive angle. This was originally what he told me to do, so I did it even though I had my reservations. Gladly he agreed that it needed to be changed. I asked if I could add a waistband, and he thankfully said yes, lol. Man did that simplify things. He also told me to sew the front skirt on with no gathers and gather up all the rest in the back only. I was skeptical, but it worked out great. I was so much happier with the fit with these changes and no longer felt like the fat, frumpy group member. So here is the finished product:
The bodice is some kind of poly satin taffeta material that played nice until I cut a piece on the cross grain, which caused it to fray like the Dickens. I still find wispy blue threads around my sewing room. The bodice is fully lined in a white poly cotton, and the skirt is an embroidered eyelet that has lines of embroidery going across with a cut out border along the bottom edge. I used the full width of the fabric for my skirt and thankfully it was just long enough.
Pardon my hand in the shot - this dress closes with 4 buttons and since I live alone I wasn't able to fasten more than 2 of them by myself, lol. I'm glad I had help the days we needed to wear these out. I was pretty proud of how neat my back bodice turned out too. I machine stitched button holes and reused the old dress's blue buttons
Here are proper views of the front and back. The back is open beneath the buttons, but the button overlap covered up any unsightly views of my petticoat (gasp!).
And up close details :) Here you can see the waistband up close. I decided to put the trim just under my bust so it would stand out against the blue  instead of disappearing on the white skirt, and I'm happy with how it turned out. And here's the lined bodice - I had to overcast every edge in there to prevent more fraying. That blue stuff was no joke!
And a little flash of my petticoat :) I didn't sew the petticoat itself, but I did add that blue lace to the bottom edge. You couldn't see it when I wore the dress though - that would've been too racy :)
And here's a Sound of Music pose for no reason, lol. This project made me realize that I find it frustrating to sew something to match other people's expectations with only a few instructions. I'm much more of a free bird with sewing - making what I want and when I want, and I'm able to adjust on the fly and no one is the wiser. But when you have to fit in with a group of 7 others and look cohesive - that gets things so much trickier. Also I should never, never, never procrastinate a project like this and do any such sewing in the month of December. Woof. Now that I've had a bit of time to reflect, I'm not as mad at this dress as I was, lol. I blame my frustration on working to others specs as well as my complete lack of experience in the last year with fitting my bodice in woven fabric. This past year has seen only stretchy tops for me, which take far less actual fitting than this did. This dress required 2 muslins, so it took much more time and effort than I was used to putting into my sewing. This is what mainly lead to my goal of slowing down this year and making new patterns that require more work. I need to get away from always wanting the quick and the stretchy :) I'm working on it.

So now for the fun bit of this post: The actual reason for making this dress :) My singing group, Soliloquy, was selected to sing at two of the Walt Disney World Hotels as part of their annual hotel entertainment program. We sang at the Port Orleans Riverside Hotel on Monday, December  19th at 8:30 am (oof) and 9:30 am. We sang our set list of Regency Era Christmas carols outside the lobby on a little deck area as guests passed by. We had quite a few stop to listen - one man in particular stayed fro both of our shoes with a big smile on his face the whole time :) This is a selection of what we sang that day:
It was a struggle to sing outside, but overall it went really well :) And don't worry - I smiled much more the second show. Believe it or not I thought I was smiling quite a bit in this first show, but my director told me I needed to smile more for the second and boy was he right! I hardly smiled at all! Ah well, I promise I was much better for the other performances.
Our second gig was at the Caribbean Beach Resort on Tuesday, December 20th at 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm. This one was inside a lobby area with lots of shopping and snack grabbing going on around us. We had a lot more traffic and even had some dancing kids at this venue :) I don't have any video from these performances, but hopefully our director posts them soon :) Instead, here are some pictures just because I feel like posting them, lol.
This was when I first pulled up to the Port Orleans Riverside Hotel before we sang. Notice the self made Seven Dwarfs Sorrel Top (#killinit).
And this was me all dressed up and ready for our first show :) Notice the awesome hat! I didn't make that - I didn't have the mental strength at the time, lol. I dig the feathers, though not so much what I came to call my "mother hubbard ruffle". I had to tuck all my hair inside the bonnet since my new hair cut is not quite in line with regency era fashion.
 Here I am with the lovely Sherry from my group :) This was when were were hanging out in the back stage area of the hotel. The had us in a sort of conference room to change and whatnot. They even had big bakery cookies for us.
And this was how I looked for the performances at the Caribbean Beach Resort. Again we were in a conference room, but this time they had to actually drive us to our singing location (ooh la la).
 And this was just after I got home on that Tuesday, showing off the major perk to singing for Disney - free park tickets! We each received 1 ticket per performance, so we ended up with 4 tickets a piece. I was seriously so excited, lol. This was the retail equivalent of being paid almost $500 each to sing. I call that a pretty good gig :) I haven't been to Disney in years even though I live so close, so this year I get to enjoy it twice (with a friend in tow). And you can bet your butt I'll be wearing my Seven Dwarfs Sorrel when I do (or another top from another Disney fabric). I can't wait!

In spite of the frustration at the time of making my dress and December being such a crazy mess, this whole experience was a total blast. I mean ... I got to sing at Disney! As a private group! How many people get to say that?! Now that my dress is made, I'm all set for the same thing next year (fingers crossed we are selected again!), so it should be a bit less stressful next time around. We had our little issues during performing just like every singing group does, but I'm just taking away the fun and honor of it all. Here's to many more years of singing at Disney with Soliloquy!

Fabric: salvaged blue poly satin stuff, 3 yards of white cotton eyelet, white poly cotton lining
Pattern: Regency Gown by Sense & Sensibility Patterns
Notions: salvaged silver trim, salvaged buttons, blue thread
Time: probably 15 - 20 hours or so total

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