Becoming Gene Marshall: Filigree

These past couple of months have been so dance-heavy for me, which has been great. Loads of classes, social dances and a couple of balls (don’t be rude). Most recently, I attended the Lewes Grand Ball, which had a piper, a live band, and a grand march to kick off the event. It’s been years since I attended a ball with a grand march, and it was quite refreshing to just be directed for a few minutes.

Held at the Lewes Town Hall, we had a lovely venue – though it would have cost an extra £60 (!?!) to go through the main entrance. Hence, we all went in through the kitchens. Not as glamorous, but at least I can save the money and buy some fabric.


This Gene Marshall feature is for the dress called Filigree, which she wore to the Monolithic Black and White Ball. It was a good starting point for my own creation, though there were things I changed to suit me.

Image courtesy of Ashton Drake.

After the state of Destiny by the end of the evening, I knew I wanted to make a shorter dress this time around so it wouldn’t get dragged through the talc again. This was the perfect combination of swingy skirt and fitted bodice for an evening spent dancing.


For the bodice, I used Butterick 4443 – just a basic strapless top, interfaced and boned. Afterwards, I stitched the guipure lace on top to add some interest that wasn’t the strange moustache bow that Gene sported. The white fabric is silk dupion, which I was glad to use in something layered: the fabric had a large snag right in the middle that would have made it unusable in most other circumstances. However, I was able to patch it up and then the black lace hid it.


In the end, I was able to get all of the fabric from eBay – silk, lace and guipure lace trim. The silk had been in my stash since December, just awaiting the right garment. So chuffed with that. Why is it that shopping from others’ stashes is more satisfying than going to the fabric store?


The skirt was a full circle skirt in white, then the black lace cut in the same pattern but three inches shorter. The lace on the outer edge was the same as at the bodice, but I clipped it to make it more flexible; that straight edge wasn’t going around a circular hem easily enough, and I also liked the idea of having a larger white border. In the interest of full disclosure, my petticoat is from Banned, the belt is vintage Next, and my dance shoes are Bloch.

Of course, thanks go to Alex for photographing, and to the Laird Hamilton for supporting this rather eccentric hobby of doll-based dressmaking.

Becoming Gene Marshall: Destiny

With as dramatic as the name for this dress is, I almost wish I’d led the series with it. However, occasions to wear something so formal are few and far between, even in this glamorous life I lead. Gene apparently wore this gown in a film of the same name, though it was never completed. Though I had intended to include the original story cards in my posts to give the dress context, the one for Destiny just came off as creepy. I expect the cards were written by men expressing the idea of an ideal woman, but I don’t have time for that these days. Anyway, courtesy of Ashton-Drake, the original ensemble looked like this:


As the first formal gown I’ve made in a long time, I was quite daunted by all the fabric and the gathers at the waist that Butterick 4918 recommends. As we shall see, I did not comply with the latter suggestion, but rather pleated the folds in a way that was more flattering on my waistline. That’s not to say I didn’t try it, but I felt like Anne Boleyn in The Tudors.DSC_0005 09.28.34

The hand-dyed silk fabric at the neckline was a remnant from eBay. Though I ended up with enough to do the chiffon boa down the side, I just wasn’t feeling it after some initial testing. Hence, chiffon only lives on the neckline. The taffeta was from Midland Textiles. In the interest of full disclosure, the amber necklace and earrings were from Warsaw, and my dance shoes are from Capezio.


I added the chiffon by draping the fabric by hand, then tacking it on with the help of these lovely Swarovski crystals.

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For this event, I was at a formal ball in Cuckfield near Brighton, and I attended with my dear friend Alex. He was also kind enough to take most of the photographs. I started doing Scottish country dance when I was at university, and am once again involved after a two-year hiatus, during which time I was doing burlesque in Kent (I told you I was glamorous!).

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Now, a special thanks to Shelagh and Sarah for arranging this photo when I was too shy. Just look at all that tartan!

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Overall, the dress held up fairly well despite being stepped on twice (once by me, once by my dancing partner) and then sweeping up all the talc on the floor. Just look at that hemline! I’m still not sure if a quick rinse will get rid of it, or if I’ll have to take it to the dry cleaner’s.

As it’s Valentine’s day, I just want to wish everyone lots of love and sun and chocolate.

XO, Lady Hamilton.

Becoming Gene Marshall: Afternoon Off

Goodness, it’s been a Month. My little brother got married, the Laird Hamilton and I went to the US for a week, my baby dog had to have an eye removed, and I’ve been at a bit of a loss with a piece I’m writing. The last item will sort itself out, I’m sure. For now, there is great relief to be home under a blanket with all the pets safe and sound.

But the main purpose of my post today is to display my recent sewing and knitting projects. As per my last announcement, I am recreating Gene Marshall‘s wardrobe for my own use. The outfit at hand is a simple top and skirt as pictured here, courtesy of Ashton-Drake, as is the following story card.


At last!  You have a chance to take an afternoon off from your ever-busy film and promotion schedule to do whatever suits your fancy!  So what will it be?  Shopping for a new gown to wear to that upcoming gala?  Consulting with the florist to fill your home with custom arrangements?  Perhaps a test-drive of that darling little silver roadster with the red leather interior?

Gene has done all these things, as genuine stars do…but she is determined that this afternoon off will be different.  She manages to slip away to a local grocery store, incognito, to pick out the ingredients for homemade vegetable soup, a favorite from her childhood.  Then later, when the pot is simmering and the aroma of home cooking fills her home, she relaxes in a favorite easy chair and flips through a fan magazine in which she is prominently featured.  Oh, my…just when she thinks she’s read it all…can you believe what they’ve gone and written about her now?

My film schedule isn’t as busy as Gene’s, so I’ve managed to sneak in some hand knitting. For this outfit, I have used Paintbox’s (free) Cool Cropped Top knitting pattern and Simplicity’s 8462 vintage reprint. So, let’s get to the construction details! But first, a picture of a cat doing what cats do when confronted with delicate tissue paper. It’s a wonder anything survives.

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The yarn I used was leftover silver from the Bevin+Creative Cables project, with grey on the neckline when I ran out. I knit a size small. As this pattern is based on the number of rows knit rather than the length of the garment, I feel it came out rather longer than the Paintbox model. However, this was fine by me. The beads are glass, and I bought them at Hobby Craft in their bulk bins. Knitting the pattern was straightforward, and I learned a new technique: knitting through two needles to bring two panels together at the back. Overall, I’m really happy with the construction, and the silk feels lovely.

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Now for the skirt. Rather ambitiously, I decided to make this yesterday afternoon so I could wear it to the cinema. Because it was my afternoon off, you see. And my dear friend, Anna, agreed to photograph me in their midcentury lounge. Um, score.

So, the fabric is a wool blend, which I bought as a 2 metre remnant on eBay. There’s still quite a bit left, but I have plans for it. The sheer size of this remnant made me decide to go for a fuller skirt than Gene wears, but they’re both from the same year: 1947.

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Construction-wise, the skirt was very straightforward. Single-piece waistband, front and back the same. I shortened it a bit from the pattern so it hangs just below the knee. This is because I am still only wearing flats, and I prefer a shorter length when my legs need to look long on their own, rather than relying on heels to make up the difference. I cut a size 10 and all was well.

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Lastly, as per my previous resolve to clear out items as I create new ones, I can confirm that one skirt and one top were donated to a breast cancer charity.