Embassy Ballgown Recreation Series – Part 3

Continuing our dressmaking tale of recreating the Embassy Ballgown, we move on to the production process.  After spending roughly 50-70 hours on research and development on the gown recreation, Jennifer was ready to begin.  The dress was deemed to be in two layers.  One – a slim underdress to be made of 4-ply silk crepe, lined in silk charmeuse.  Two – an overlay to be made of diaphanous silk gauze with custom beading and embellishments.  Jennifer began draping up the layers according to the bride’s measurements. 

Jennifer hired colleague Patty Robison, a Master Bridal Tailor from Washington State, to consult on the beading and embellishments for the gauze overlay.  They met through the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, of which they are both members.  They had many discussions via email and phone, trying to decipher the complex design from stills from the film and archival photos.  Patty created samples of the beadwork, including the beautiful beaded fringe on the edge of the collar and sleeves.  She recreated the small silk embellishments found on the skirt and helped in so many ways. After several weeks of communication, sample making, and mailing samples to Jennifer, Patty flew out to Maui for a week to assist with the sewing process.  

A paper pattern was created to determine the layout of the beading and embellishment.  All the work was original, meaning every bead and detail was sewn on by hand.  There was no existing beaded fabric for this project.  It had to be created from the ground up by applying the beads and embellishments on the silk gauze overlay.  The only piece that came ready-made was 5 yards of a vintage beaded embroidered trim that Patty had in her stock.  That piece was placed on the hem of the dress. 

Maui-based Cindy Wilson assisted Jennifer in creating this gown as well.  With over 20,000 beads, crystals, sequins and other embellishments needed for the gown, we needed some extra hands to help sew these on. Three friends, Melinda Neuwirth, Cheryl Tipton, and Kathy Baldwin, volunteered their time to hand sew beads onto the dress.  It was a labor of love with friends and colleagues who value beautiful design.

In our final blog in the series, we will see the finished gown.

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