Sunday, November 17, 2013

Putting the Gala Gown to Bed

I have finally put this year's Gala Gown away! 

First off, I had to find a hanger that is strong enough, but plain plastic just seemed sacrilegious.  Once upon a time, I made myself a covered hanger for every hand-stitched dress.  Somewhere along the line I stopped – probably because I wanted to start sewing the next project and not worry about a silly hanger.  But it does look nice, and prevents things from slipping around.  There was a bit of chenille yarn left in a drawer, so out it came, along with a sturdy plastic tube hanger.

Because the front section of the skirt waist is not attached to the bodice, I needed to figure out how to hang the garment without creating unnecessary strain at the side seams.  

I ended up adding two ribbon loops to the skirt waist that loop over the hanger.  This helps to re-distribute the weight.  

Most beaded items are not supposed to hang, but since this fabric is upholstery weight, very sturdy, interfaced with hair canvas, and the beads are not completely covering the dress, I think it will do just fine on a hanger.

The belt also needed a ribbon loop so I could tuck it inside the dress.

And, of course, I needed to make a cover to prevent snags, dust, and who know what else from marring my lovely lady.  My Ceil Chapman Gown from a couple of years ago was hanging on the back of the sewing room door waiting to be put away and narrowly missed being leaked on during the first big rainstorm of that season.  That will teach me to leave things unprotected (although, to be fair, having water come through a smoke detector was not something I could have foreseen).

Here are a few stats:
~ 6 yards of fabric (between the fashion fabric, lining, and hair canvas)
10 Buttons
~ 300 yards of silk thread (I went through at least 3 spools with all the beading and hand basting!)
~ 19,500 seed beads
Too many stab wounds to the fingertips to count
A whole bunch of Pad Stitching
~ 10 yards of Hug Snug
1 yard of horsehair braid for the peplums
1 yard grosgrain ribbon
1 yard belting
5 hook & eyes
3 snaps
1 zipper
Plastic Canvas (for belt "buckle")
Cotton Batting (for shoulder pads)
And that is just the dress!  There were also feathers, buckram, felt, purses and shoe clips to contend with.

Although I stopped keeping track of my time during that last week (and I know I missed some of the early tracing/fitting hours) my total time spent on this project over 2.5 months is . . . ~ 156 hours!! 

Actually, I am not sure I wanted to know that.  But the next time someone asks how long my projects take, I guess I know the answer!  Only taking into account my time, and paying myself minimum wage, would price the dress over $1,200.  Next time I hear of a red carpet gown that costs more than I make in an entire year, I will think twice about rolling my eyes.

I have to admit that this weekend was the first time I have used my sewing machine since the end of October, and now that I have done the math, I understand why.  But it feels good to be back!


  1. You are not counting the years of dedicated sewing and learning that have made you the consummate seamstress that you are today. Your skills are certainly worth more than minimum wage!

  2. As always, I love seeing your posts, especially the ones where you show how to do what you do. It is very much artistry as opposed to craft. I'm clearly not so schooled about sewing as you are, however, I would love to see how you made the covered hanger. I may never have a life that goes with the beautiful wardrobe, (or the figure), but I can dream. Would you mind sharing that also? Thank you.

  3. Loved reading this "recap" of the gala dress project. I think you should multiply by 10 (at least) to get a more proper assessment of the "worth" of your dress. Or, actually, "priceless" is probably more appropriate!

  4. Goodbye pretty Gala Gown! I hope Laura takes you out again soon! :)

  5. That's an excellent point regarding the pricing of red garment gowns. Granted, most of them will still have a very decent mark-up, but there is a great deal of work, time and material that goes in to many. They're not (usually) mass produced in any capacity and the public shouldn't expect them to cost little more than a prom dress from the local mall, when they're exquisite works of art, labour and creative love, just like your stunning gala gown.

    ♥ Jessica

  6. An haute couture gown like that would be well over $100,000. So you can price your time accordingly. And you have to figure in the pleasure of creating and wearing, which is priceless.