Saturday, November 19, 2011

“Ombra mai fu . . .”

I thought this dress (originally made for the 2009 Marin Symphony Gala) deserved another night out on the town, and the perfect opportunity presented itself this past Wednesday, when I attended San Francisco Opera’s production of Xerxes.  

I am embarrassed to admit that I am not very familiar with this Handel opera.  Although, lovers of the BBC's “Pride and Prejudice,” me included, will recognize the first aria as Mary’s clumsy attempt to gain recognition for her musical “talent.”  It drives me crazy when I cannot place a musical reference from a film, but this one only took me a few moments.  It is by far, the most recognizable aria of the entire opera.  Who knew a king singing about a tree could become so popular?!

The opera was quite good.  It was extremely campy and over the top, but it worked.  It has been quite a while since I saw a full length opera, and I forgot how melodramatic it can get.  Sing a few bars, head upstage to exit . . . pause, wait for a musical interlude, turn, sing, cross left, sing a bit more . . . and finally exit.  It often feels like the only motivation the characters have to stay on stage is the fact that they are not done singing.  But, of course, it is not about the acting, but the music, which was beautiful.  And the production was visually stunning – look at that set!

SF Opera's 2011 production of Xerxes

And guess what the lead soprano was wearing?  

Lisette Oropesa as Romilda in SF Opera's 2011 production of Xerxes

I promise I did not do this on purpose, but I was wearing a 1940s version of Romilda’s ensemble!  Blue, long-sleeved, full length gown with peplum – check!  I must admit I am very jealous about the yardage on those skirts and the petticoats.  How wonderful to flounce around on stage with yard upon yard of fabric.  I love when they drop to the ground and the skirt billows out around them in a picture perfect tableau.  Am I the only one who wants to work in an opera costume shop?  The wigs, the costumes, and all that beautiful fabric to play with.

My pattern was purchased from Eva Dress.  It is a reproduction of Vogue 6111, originally designed in 1947.  And look at the price - I know, I know, inflation changes things, but don't you wish you could go back in time with some of today's currency and buy up ten pairs of incredible 1940s shoes priced at 4 or 5 dollars?  And stacks and stacks of Vogue Couturier patterns, and fabric yardage . . .  

Image from Vintage Pattern Wikia

You may recognize the fabric – I had enough left over for a skirt (which gets a lot more wear then this dress!).  I absolutely love when I can squeeze two projects out of one length of fabric!  

The only thing that I was not happy with was the fabric knot that holds the neckline together.  The rayon jacquard is quite thick, and the knot looked a bit awkward.  So, I decided to do a little surgery.  Tuesday evening, I took a seam ripper to the knotted section and cut out as much excess as possible and folded the cross sections into themselves - dangerous, yes, but everything turned out for the best.  More information about the construction may be found over at Pattern Review.

Because the buttons are pronged rhinestones (from Britex), I use small squares of tissue to cover them while hanging in the closet to keep them from snagging on other garments.  And back in the closet she goes . . .

Dress:  Made by me, Eva Dress 6111
Coat: Banana Republic
Shoes:  Seychelles “Little Owl” in Navy Suede
Earrings:  Made by me (buttons from Britex with earring posts attached)
Envelope Clutch:  Made by me, Envelope Bag, free pattern from
Fishnets:  Marshalls

P.S.  And I would like to remind everyone that you can vote every day until November 30th for the Threads Ultimate Sewing Challenge - my Emerald Green Gown is one of ten finalists!  If you previously voted, it will only take a few clicks of your mouse!  Thanks for voting!


  1. This is a beautiful outfit and perfectly suited for the opera. I saw your emerald green gown on the Threads challenge page--->wow!

  2. Gorgeous work! Good luck with the Threads contest.

  3. You are so pretty and classy. I really like you're outfits! - wonderful -
    Following you right now!


  4. Your dress is STUNNING! The neckline is distinctively memorable and mesmerizing! Very nice work as always.