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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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:

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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.

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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.