This final version of Arwen's Requiem dress has taken me almost a year to fully complete. It began in December of 2002, when I began my "inspired by" version for homecoming 2003. I wore my newest version (unfinished) to the Return of the King premiere on December 17, and then the fully finished dress to homecoming 2004. It's been a long trip, but I'm finally done! Below, I've chronicled my Requiem ver. 2.0 woes and victories, complete with pictures.
Pattern: Butterick 6630, a pseudo-Regency pattern for an empire waist dress with puffed sleeves and an *extremely* low, square neck. Altered heavily in the sleeves and neck. Basically, I snitched the bodice pattern, lengthened it, changed the neck, re-drafted the sleeves, and then attached the skirt from my old dress. This pattern was more a jumping-off point than anything. Though, I would like you all to know, the empire waist shape is very flattering, even to my shape (which is kind of like an apple with legs and arms.) Highly recommended basic style. Want to know why ladies wore empire gowns in the Regency for upwards ten years? Because they looked good on just about everybody!
Materials: Underdress--Navy blue Casa Crepe, JoAnne Fabrics.
Overdress--Navy blue stretch cotton velvet, Fabric.com
Trim and embellishment--Absolute scads of silver-lined bugle beads, holographic silver sequins (LOVE them), opaque silver seed beads, and enough silver thread to clothe all of Rivendell and Lothlorien combined.
Entries are in chronological order, beginning at, well, the beginning and ending with the most recent. I originally was going to take them day-by-day from my LiveJournal, but that got really long. Therefore, I'm summarizing them into chunks that (I think) are more fun to read. But rest assured, I'm taking my facts from journal entries that were written as things happened, so I really do know what I'm talking about. Or, rather, I do a really good job of pretending ;D. Anyway, enjoy!
P.S. Feedback is adored! Please head home and sign my guestbook! Comments, compliments, complaints, and lactose-intolerant gerbils welcome! ;P
Early in October, I began thinking about re-making my old Requiem dress. The beads were falling off, and it was really nothing like the real costume. Plus, I wanted something to wear to the Return of the King premiere. Then, Fabric.com had a sale on stretch cotton velvet. I shelled out almost $40 for four yards (plus shipping), and figured with that much money, I was committed to making the dress! Even though it turns out I have a TON of the velvet left over and needn't have ordered that much. Seriously, I could make a shirt or two out of what I have left. Anyway:
On October 10, I believe, I began working on the mockup for the bodice. It was hard to fit sewing in between school and managing the Cross Country team. I had the worst time trying to get the bodice to fit right. Darts just weren't working for me, I cut my original mockup too wide, things just didn't look right. Then, I had a breakthrough with the darts, and things went together more smoothly after that.
The sleeves, I had to re-draft. The pattern calls for a HUGE puffed sleeve, with an inside "sleeve-stay" to keep the puffed part from riding down the arm and flattening out. The sleeve-stay pattern is more fitted, even though it still called for taking two big old tucks in the shoulder. Why? I don't know. Anyway, I just tucked the tissue pattern and traced the resulting shape onto muslin, which gave me a nice, fitted basic sleeve pattern. I cut it to the length I wanted, and voila! ("voila," the exclamation for "and there it was" in French, is not, in fact, spelled, "Wallah." It is, indeed, "Voila!" Stupid French spelling...)
I cut out the crepe on October 29. Had no idea how to transfer beading pattern onto the sleeves. Originally thought, chalk? Too messy. Marker? Wouldn't show on the dark cloth. I wound up taking some regular gift-wrapping tissue paper and tracing the design onto that, then basting the paper to the sleeve. I started the beading on October 31, on the way to Ann Arbor for Cross Country State Finals. The design was too big, though, so I picked it out and tried again, after resizing the template on the computer.
With CC State, my managing career was over, freeing up nearly 15 hours a week to do...whatever I wanted! I spent hours beading and embroidering. The sleeves, from the very experimental start to the finish, took me 22 days, I believe. The beading went fast. The flowers were a bit slower. I took the sleeves to school on several occasions and worked on them during study hall. They folded up nice and small, so I carried them and all my supplies around in a little pencil box. Worked quite nicely, actually!
I decided to cannibalize my old dress in order to save on fabric. I used the skirt off the first version, and the lower petal sleeves. I also cut my sleeve lining from the original upper sleeves. Basically, the only part that didn't get re-used is the upper bodice and shoulders! The fabric cost a mint, originally, almost $40, so I didn't want to get more. Especially since I had more than enough left over for everything I needed. I spent almost that much again on my velvet, even though I could easily have done with less. Anyway, the point is that I felt guilty about the cost and decided to re-use as much as I could. Strange combination between stingy and extravagant, I am! :D
For the trim base, I used white organza layered over more navy blue crepe. The design is the one that Michaela sketched from an exhibit, so it's very close to the original dress. I should add that all this embroidery was REALLY enhanced by the holographic sequins. I did all the silver beading and embroidery for the sleeves and trim, but without the sequins it just sort of looked silver...plain vanilla...kind of boring. Then, though, as soon as the sequins were added, the whole thing just really popped. Suddenly, it was more than just pretty, it was eye-catching. I'm SO glad Michaela reported that the originals were holographic, because it just added that sunburst quality that makes everything come together! :D (Plus, they were cheap. I got like, five yards of h. sequin trim for less than $2. Can't beat that! Also, they sparkle fun colors in photographs. Whoohoo!)
I am immensely proud of how I managed the neck trim. Dilemma comes when you have two feet of wide, straight trim to fit around an almost circular curve. Uh-oh. Yeah, just try it sometime. Not a pretty picture. Then, I had a stroke of genius, or something. Whatever it was, it worked marvelously. I layered my trim template in photoshop to make one really long template. Then I did a fliters>>polar coordinates, and it bent it in a circle for me. Now, yes, the shapes got a little stretched, but they still looked pretty and I was *not* about to go with Plan A. Plan A was to lay the bodice neckline out flat, trace it, somehow get something 2" below it with the same curve, and hand-draft the trim pattern curvature by scooting my little flat template around underneath the traced curve and fudging it. Not a pretty picture. So, this means my trim is a little less dense (er...a lot less dense) than the original's, but it still looks pretty, has a nice sparkle, and is in pretty much the right shapes. I can live with it. For now, at least.
It began to be clear about Thanksgiving that I would not have the trim done by December 17, but I tried my darndest!
A LOT of beading and embroidery went on in the first half of December. I finished the sleeve trim and started in on the neck trim on the 13th, a mere four days before the premiere night. During this time, as well, I was working on two more costumes for my dad and sister for the premiere.
Yes. I am a nut.
No. I did not finish.
But we had fun anyway! :D
Holly was Eowyn, with a maroon sweater under her Refugee jumper instead of blue. Dad was...some curly-haired dude with highwater pants. ;P He really enjoys those hobbit britches waaayyy too much. And I? I got to wear my dress (mostly done), and, after a lifetime of wanting them, pointy ears! *beams* Yes, I am a dork, and I've always wanted pointy ears. Hey, Cate Blanchett took Galadriel for the ears, so I'm allowed, too.
For the premiere, I cheated and used the trim to face the neckline, and pinned the bottom edge down. The overdress covered it well. THAT wasn't even hemmed. I ran completely out of time. The night of the 15th, I pulled an almost-all-nighter, going to bed at 6:30 and getting an hour of sleep before I had to go to school in the morning. I was giddy that day. Managed to cut and hand-sew most of the velvet dress, finish Holly's jumper construction, and put hooks and eyes on the underdress that night, and take a sneak peak photo, though. That day, on the 16th, I came home from school and sewed like a madwoman all afternoon and evening, until about 11:30, when we left for the theater. I ran out of time to hem the velvet dress. We were scrambling around to get ready, so I snagged Pat and made him hold it up to my height and then just tore it straight across the bottom. It was also about 6" too long, so that I could hem it later. I also forgot to put on the sleeve trim, but that's all right. It looked pretty snazzy anyway! Also, the ears made everything awesome, as far as I was concerned. He said, "Where did you get your ears? They're nice; they don't look totally fake." :) That and the girl who came up to me afterwards who loved my dress and wanted to know where I got it pretty much made my night. Our whole group got lots of compliments for coming in costume, and it was absolutely awesome.
Of course, the day after, I fell asleep in almost all my classes and just generally wanted to go into hibernation, but it was definitely worth it :D.
Here, I thought my Requiem saga had ended. I would finish the gown at my leisure and perhaps wear it to Faire a time or two before retiring it and maybe displaying it at my graduation openhouse.
Boy, was I wrong!
Of course, being me, I can't just let anything go. I was planning on making something red to wear to homecoming. There was this gorgeous garnet-colored crepe-back satin that I was absolutely in love with at Hobby Lobby, and I really wanted a gown made of it. I went to buy it, though, and my mom freaked out at a)the cost and b) the complicated-ness of the pattern I wanted. She and I discussed it, and decided that I should finish the Requiem dress to homecoming. Her encouragement and the fact that none of my classmates saw it at the premiere made me decide, "go for it!"
Having decided this on January 3, that gave me 28 days to finish, completely, this time, the dress.
Happily, over Christmas break, I got a big chunk of the neck trim finished. However, since I'm kind of spacey sometimes, it took me ALL MONTH to actually get it done done, so I finished it like, two days before the banquet or something incredibly dumb like that. Procrastination is a BAD thing. Also, during this time, I was scrambling to complete my (*&@$!) online Spanish course, which I dropped like a hot rock as soon as I was done. I love Spanish, but I HATED the online class. Anyway, the fact that I was not allowed to sew until I finished the class meant I didn't really get rolling until January 25. Six days. Not a lot of time to finish a formal. Here's the original list of modifications I wanted to make to the dress after the premiere.
The zipper didn't end up being an invisible one, and I didn't end up setting it. My mom did that for me, since she's good at it and I'm not, and she's incredibly merciful. She also helped me fit a LOT of things, re-adjust the skirt b/c I had sewn it on crooked the evening of the premiere, etc. I could not have finished the dress without her. Especially since it's impossible to drape things on yourself. That is, unless you're a contortionist who can pin things behind themselves, but I'm not, and I can't, so I needed my incredibly competent mother to help me. She also added backing to all the trim pieces.
The dress is self-lined, which was a bear to do but is really nice to wear. The bottoms of the sleeves and bodice are whipstitched down by hand, another thing my mom helped me to fit. The week before homecoming was rather horrendous. Some people online were being impossible to live with, school was stressful, and in addition to my dress, I also got roped into hemming the ends of the flannel that the student council was using for their "Red Carpet" theme for court and banquet. Carting 25 yards of flannel up and down stairs in various pieces is NOT an easy thing. It looked awesome, though. The whole school was practically vibrating itself apart that week, and I was awfully busy. Friday night, I spent the entire evening at school, pushing the Pep Band uphill from behind. I didn't *ask* to do that, I wasn't *assigned* to do that, but nobody else *did* it. Well, actually, I just shouted out which song we were going to play, clapped out the tempo, gave them two measures to start, and hoped people started playing.
Except for the Star Spangled Banner. I have to mention this, even though it has nothing to do with my dress. We hashed together a pre-game show, basically playing all of our songs end to end. Then, Samuel, my fellow piccolo, turned to me and said, "What about the Star Spangled Banner? We need someone to direct that, not just start it."
"Do you want to do it?" I asked, my heart beating somewhere near the tips of my toes. He shook his head vehemently. Oh fudge, indeed. I stood up there, and, in the most terrifying moment of the entire
night week year up til then, I directed the national anthem.
Oh. My. Word. I hope I never have to do that again. No more bailing the director out, unless I get some big-time extra-credit for that one song. Seriously, the ONE song you *cannot* mess up is the national anthem. And nobody's explained to me yet why the actual director doesn't direct the pep band.
Anyway. Yes. No more bunny trails, back to the dress diary.
Ahem. Friday night, I stayed up til five. I still wasn't finished. In fact, I didn't finish until 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, half an hour before I was supposed to be at Elizabeth's house to get ready. Oops.
"Katie," my mom said. "This is called biting off more than you can chew."
Dude, you don't have to tell me. I figured that out about Monday
Anyhow, I finished, and that's the main point. I spent four hours or so at Eliza's house with my sister, doing hair and makeup and all that fun stuff. Then we headed over to Grandma and Grandpa Bunch's house for pictures, like we always do. We were joined by Jackie, Jessie Gumpert (nerr?), Ray Moss, Phil Webster, and Rebecca Deng. And here, folks, the pictures. The ones that I've been typing and HTMLing for HOURS just so I could show them off. Here they are.
Finally, the dress! Full length, no less. I'm wearing 4-inch wedge heels here, otherwise the skirt would have touched the ground and the sleeves would have been dragging. I actually rather enjoyed being tall for a change. :D The shoes were really cute, too. Also, I'm not wearing the velvet overdress here. Why? Because the underdress is so very much more flattering than the rather shapeless overdress, and for a banquet I was more worried about being pretty than I was about being movie-accurate.
Here are the three senior girls from the photo shoot. Eliza's on the far left (and if you don't know her by sight after hanging around Shards of Narsil for a while, you're blind), Rebecca's in the middle, and I'm on the end. The dress really sparkled in that light, even if the photographs don't show it.
Jackie, Rebecca, Eliza, Jessie, Holly & Katie (standing), and Phil.
Sometime near the beginning of the evening, Andy, who had put in a lot of work on the event, sidled up next to me and sighed, "It came off."
"You did a really good job," I said sincerely. It would have been a lovely, sincere moment, except that one of my bobby pins, which had aparently been barely hanging on, went POING! at the exact second I continued, "You all did a really good job." My hands flew to my head. "Eep!" I gasped involuntarily. Receiving a truly strange look, I elaborated. "Something in my hair just popped!"
It's a good thing he likes me all right, or I would've had to be really embarrassed.
He did direct all his little remarks in my direction for the rest of the night, though, so I coudln't have weirded him out that much. Although why he was talking to me instead of his date, I don't know. *head shake*
Anyway, speaking of Andy,
I can see why Andy wanted to take her. She's only, you know, gorgeous. And I'm not talking about me, either. That would be Jessica.
Yeah, this is kind of turning into "Katie shows off her banquet photos" instead of "the Requiem Dress Diary," but hey! It was an awesome night, and they're good pictures. Here...okay, it's just another Katie & Eliza picture. I think we're going to make a Katie&Eliza poster and share it between our openhouses this spring, I mean, there are enough of them...;D
And by the way? The trim doesn't photograph worth a darn. Nor scan, either. I think I'm going to have to use the fancy camera to take some closeups, because it's really very detailed and was very labor-intensive.
While we were at the Amway, we met up with a bunch of people from school, who had also just come from the banquet. I think we were having more fun than they were. :D Just a guess, though Andy did run right over to talk to my dad for a while while Eliza and I ran around on the balcony. (Okay...so it's not a guess.)
And last, but not least, the best friends. :)
Neck Trim Center Front I call this the "feather-like" shape. You can see how the design got stretched when I made it into a circle. It's still pretty, though.
Neck Trim, Fleur Shape I know it's not technically the fleur-de-lyse shape, but it got named the "fleur" shape while I was working on the dress. These took a LOT less time than the feather shapes.
Sleeve Trim You can see what the feather shape looked like un-stretched. Actually, I kind of like it after it's stretched out better. I fell in love with the holographic sequins, too. I think I mentioned this, but the all the trim is embroidered on navy crepe overlaid with white sparkle organza.
Sleeve Embroidery I did a lot of the sleeves in study hall, and this was the only thing that was all the way finished for the premiere. Anyhow, This particular flower was done by hand, though some of them I did by machine just to experiment. The sequins weren't big enough to fill in the whole center, so I had to backstitch two rows of silver thread around them to fill them out. I think that was my least favorite part of the sleeves, going around the sequins.
This is like, one of those little trailer thingies embedded in the movie credits to make people stay and watch the whole thing. I love those!
Special thanks for:
~My mother, who bailed me out so many times it isn't even funny.
~Beth, the Green Sock Goddess of Thunder Rolls fame, who is my best bud online and offered moral support and good conversation at all hours of the night when I was up late with my beads and embroidery. And who made me feel better about That Dating Thing.
~Diana, my Study Hall buddy who didn't care if I beaded at school or not...and who never actually *saw* the dress and missed homecoming for college things.
~Iced tea, my drink of choice. And the fact that my favorite drink contains enough caffeinne to help me pull all-night sewing marathons. Woo.
~The TTT, POTC, and ROTK soundtracks. Best. Music. Ever.
~My sewing machine. Even though it hates my metallic thread.
~Ngila Dickinson's awesome costume designs, since I suppose this would count as something of a reproduction, as weird as that feels for me to say.
~The LOTR Costume Research website, where I got all my reference pictures, templates, and inspiration.
~That really nice manager that saved my butt at Hobby Lobby the day that Thanksgiving break started. Embarrassing situation all around, but he was SO nice...
~The premiere group--you're all awesome! Thanks so much for making it happen!
~The Posse. 'Nuff said.
~I'd also like to thank my mom, and my dad, and my brothers and sisters, and my cousin Ruth, and my dog, and my blender...okay, I'm done. Once again: