There had been talk years ago of dressing up for Halloween tango events as a matched set, as Gomez & Morticia Addams. I started planning out the sewing of my Morticia costume after I found Vogue 2931 sewing pattern. I look fantastic in halter dresses and I had already decided to sew a shrug to simulate the correct silhouette. I found Style 1054 sewing pattern (see next sewing blog entry) in my stash and decided the stretch bolero pattern would work fine for my needs. The resulting costume would resemble Morticia’s enough so that I could pass as an elegantly-dressed Morticia, but no so identically that I’d keep stumbling against the limits of the “mermaid-cut” gown and super long trailing sleeves.
You’ll notice the original gown had a v-neckline and godets inserted into the skirt. I’d have been able to dance tango in that ok, but at the shorter length I chose for myself (no trailing fabric on the floor for myself or my dancing partners to step on!). The neckline on Vogue 2931 I found to be much more flattering — oh, you’ll notice that I left off the bow (ew!) — and although the seaming is more visible, I think with my velvet panne bodice, the touchable-ness of the look works rather than a more ornate bodice. The kind of Argentine tango I dance is close embrace and social tango/milonguero style, rather than show style with the open embrace where it’s more about being seen. The kind of tango I dance is more an internal feeling that you share with your dancing partner (if they’re sensitive to that layer) or with the music and the mood (if they’re not); it isn’t really flashy or perhaps even interesting to watch. Anyway, it helps to have unfussy garments that don’t have beads and buttons (or in this case, a big ironic bosom bow) for you to catch on your partner’s clothing.
So that I could move in tango, I had already decided to slit the dress up to my mid-thigh. For easier movement, I could have slit the dress up even higher, but I’m actually a bit conservative in my tastes. Right now I’m in the best shape that I’ve ever been in, but I don’t really feel like a milonga (a tango gathering) is the place where I want to show **all** my assets to **everyone,** if you know what I mean.
Here’s Anjelica Huston’s version of the Morticia Addams dress. It’s quite pieced together of different items — so good for a close-up, yes?
This tutu from “Mr. Lugubrioso and the Too, Too Tutu” — a modern dance I’d set on myself and a friend back in December of 1998 — was dismantled and the bodice given away to my friend and ballet dancer/studio owner, Monique Delhaye, and the individual layers of tulle and net separated. Part of the net became these hoods for the August 2000 version of “Triptych: A Simultaneous Life” while a good portion of it became the internal “fluff” poking out the mermaid portion of my skirt.
I sewed the pre-gathered net to my lining and then just seamed everything closed shut at the side-slit. Perhaps it’s a bit poofier than I expected, but I’m so relieved to have finally used up this netting that’s been pre-gathered and sitting around, gathering up dust and taking up space in my tiny, tiny live-work studio that I didn’t mind the extra “poof.”
Being short, I’d already decided not to bring the “mermaid”/dove-tail portion of the skirt up high to mid-thigh as it tends to be for this style of dress. I realized it’d make me look even shorter. Instead, I left the lower edge bodice/skirt pieces unaltered in terms of length and only altered the upper bodice, the foundation corset to fit my short-torsoed, flattish figure. The result is a bit less fish-tailed as the pattern is designed, however, it was the best use of my limited amount of dress fabric.
I actually had no remaining fabric and also had far less fabric than required — probably only 2.875 yards of peached polyester stretch twill. The upper bodice had to be cut from remnants from a panne velvet curtain I had sewn to divide a non stage space from the ticketing/concessions foyer and the house/seating area and performance space (Angel’s Gate Cultural Center, Studio H, back when it was rentable to all and sundry, instead of just one artist at a time like it is now).
The dress was cut at a size 12, but as I dropped down sizes to about a 8-10 in sewing patterns (probably 6-8 in junior petites in ready-to-wear clothes), a girlfriend and I ended up spending about an hour refitting the whole dress down smaller and smaller and smaller so that it would fit, though not tightly, as my continued training regimen seems to keep me smaller.
I used a black cotton calico fabric to line the dress and as the foundation corset for the dress. The calico had been intended for a cathedral quilt for my sweetheart, but since we weren’t together anymore, I decided to use it as needed for other projects.
I used very heavy weight interfacing I had inherited from my grandma (still alive but no longer wants to sew anything). The pattern frequently says to sew in the interfacing, rather than fuse, however, I opted to fuse to the cotton foundation garment. It made things a bit easier to manage for me.
At the same time as I sewed this costume, I was sewing an ivory colored one which I’ll describe in a different blog entry. The corset for that costume was intended to double as a tutu bodice for a piece I’m currently choreographing and rehearsing on myself and two other dancers. Never before have I sewn something so elaborate and complicated. Let’s just say, it’s been rather scary and has required me to exercise a great deal more patience rather than pleasure during the act of sewing.
I used to complain that sewing men’s clothing was a pain — the fly on the pants being the worst for lower garments and the collar on shirts being the worst for upper garments. Now I beg to differ. Women’s foundation garments are much, much worse. I also understand why, now, that a custom-made corset costs usually upwards of $450.– I think I’ve spent at least that amount of time on the ivory corset. This foundation corset is unfortunately necessary to hold up one very heavy dress. There’s A LOT of fabric used for this dress, even though it initially seemed like such a little tiny bit of my stash being used up (and nowadays I am ALL about using up my stash and repurposing clothing people have given me, rather than buying fabric and starting from scratch).
After researching online, I opted to buy flexible spiral steel boning from a couple Etsy sellers. One does rubber tips on her custom-cut boning; the other does the steel tips. I tried to order from the rubber tips, but it didn’t work out for some reason, so I went with the metal worker from Minnesota. For the boning casing, I purchased 1/2″ twill tape by the yard from M&L Fabrics in Anaheim at 49-cents/yard. Of course I went with a friend that needed to buy some gold sequined fabric to make a purse for her Halloween goddess costume. That way, I could concentrate on helping the non sewer navigate the store quickly and get myself out of there without spending money on ANYTHING besides the twill tape XD.
PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING BEFORE FITTING THE FOUNDATION GARMENT TOO TIGHTLY:
I fitted the foundation garment so that it fit, but it wasn’t super tight. I was a little disappointed that it wouldn’t fit like a glove, but decided that since I was so close to Halloween weekend and since it’s hard to get my friends to take time off from their busy schedules to help fit me in my costumes, I’d just go with it. Then I sewed Step 66 of the Vogue 2931 pattern. I’m so glad I didn’t fit the foundation garment tighter, as I actually fit it smaller than the dress and had to sew extensions into the garment to “face” the dress edges near the center back seams. In any case, once the foundation garment was attached, it fit VERY snugly and in a very flattering way.
Unfortunately, I had sewed my hook and eye tape on wrong so I had to take those out and resew them in, then re-sew the edges where I had to undo my foundation-to-gown seams. I’d also recommend over-estimating seam allowance when deciding on boning length. It’s better to have the bones a bit short than to run out of seam allowance!
Just as with my Simplicity 4923 men’s “great coat” or “pirate coat” or faux “Louis XIV” coat, the curved hem worked against my underdog sewing skills. My seamstress friend “I” again helped me to pin up the hem and the lining; she trimmed the tulle, too. I then whip-stitched/prick-stitched the fabric up and running-stitched up the lining. Since I didn’t intend to wear the dress more than a handful of times for special tango occasions, I didn’t bother to do a fantastic job on the lining. The hem for the outer fabric is finished with black lace hem tape (prick stitch for the top seam and running stitch where it connected directly with the base hem), but the lining hem raw edges I didn’t bother to finish. Not really great sewing, I know, but I wasn’t trying to win any prizes. I’m just happy to have used up a great deal of my costume repurposing and fabric stash.
I look really bad in the dress when you look at the iPhone photos taken without the camera person kneeling down and looking up to take the photo. Actually, the dress is not as unflattering as it appears on me, so give it another chance. I have thought about making it again in a floral print fabric someone gave me that looks like this dress by J Mendel for his Resort 2013 collection, but I don’t have enough fabric to make it this long. Also, I look better in halter necklines than strapless.
For your viewing pleasure, O DIY-Fashionistas, a series of Zac Posen Resort collection 2011 & 2012 mermaid-style skirts on beautifully-cut gowns. Yes, that’s Coco Rocha, who’s 5’10″ and in her mid twenties and looks poured into these lovely, hourglass-cut gowns. While I don’t have her particular figure — that nipped in waist and those long, long limbs — I have what I have and I enjoy wearing something that makes me feel beautiful and feminine (although the photos don’t show that! :D). And even more, I enjoy having made it myself. Thanks to all my friends that helped out ^_^,