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Diana Chapdelaine's "Iron Dress"

One of our entrants in the Iron Dress competition was Diana Chapdelaine, (Dhannti on Margo's Yahoo list) who also has pictures of her green court gown elsewhere in the Gallery.

Making this costume was an adventure for Diana, both in materials and in time, as she describes:

"I chose the fleur pattern fabric because it was the only piece I had long enough to make the bodice, sleeves and overskirt. This piece I had for a while thinking some day I will justify the purchase. The first bodice I made I had to toss aside. I used some upholstery lipped cording I had which made all the seams too thick. It was awkward and most uncomfortable. Made the second one without the lipped cording.

"The bodice is lined in a creamy taupe antique drapery satin I had. There was just enough for the bodice, forepart and sleeves. Boning I keep on hand since my first corset from Ms. [Drea] Leeds' class. I added 27 freshwater pearls purchased for another project. At this point cost is 0.

"The fabric is an upholstery cotton blend. I have no idea of its contents other than the cotton. The drapery is another cotton blend. Since I had washed it and it turned out well I didn't hesitate to use it. I used the more satin side as the right side not the nubbed side. It felt smoother and cooler on my skin.

"I used two 1⁄4" boning down the front instead of one. All the boning used is spring steel. The rest are according to the pattern instructions. I did flatline the bodice and sleeves with muslin I had on hand. Some were scraps I had left over from my green gown. I stitched the boning channels on the two pieces of muslin I used to flatline the bodice. Once the bodice was completed I hand stitched on the 10 yards of gimp trim. I had to purchase 10 yards at .99 per yd minus 15% = $8.40.

"Next I made the overskirt, not a single problem with layout or fit . Went together like a breeze. I used the four panels with the four gores for the skirt. The cartridge pleating took a deal of time. I mark every inch with a chalk pencil. I had used pleating tape before and did not like the results. I measured the fabric waistline, marked it, and ran the button twist thread though my markings getting better results. For the closure I used white hook and eyes. Over skirt is done except for the trim. I tried to use some of the trim I had on hand. Nothing worked well. The color of this fabric is odd at best.

"I can't tell you at what lengths I went to avoid using any of the miles of gold trim I own. All I could come up with was the satin ribbon at $2.99 per spool. I used two spools. It was discounted also. I should tell you I work for Jo-Ann's fabric stores. I get a 15% discount on all I buy. The satin ribbon cost me $2.54 for a total of $5.08 for both spools. Now my cost is up to $13.48.

"The hard part came with the forepart. Nothing I owned would work. I tried yellow brocade I adore, it made the fleur look peachy. I tried ivory damask, that didn't work -- it made the fleur look dirty. Patterned pieces I have clashed or made it all look too busy. I was nearly going to sew a seam up the front of the over skirt and let it go like that. Then it happened: I saw the perfect creamy white damask with a matte and satin finish in scrolls. This fabric cost me $3.88 per yard, used one yard.

"Total cost so far: $17.36.

"I used silk twill that I had on hand (for a planned chemise) for the underskirt. I flatlined the forepart with the remaining scrap drapery fabric.

"I took all of this to my weekend visit to faire on September 27th to return home the 30th. A friend helped pin the skirts for hemming. I used a blind hemstitch on the machine since I was down to the wire. I still had the finishing touches to do on the sleeves. On October 1st, I was covering the rings with matching thread for the sleeve ties, covering as much as I could without making the holes difficult for the lacings. At 9 pm on October 1 added the last bit of trim to the sleeves but had the buttons to add. Since I had so many buttons I put it aside. I was sure I would have buttons that would work. I cut out the partlet pieces from the scraps of silk twill I had remaining. When I looked at the clock I panicked. I was out of time for sewing. I had to find the buttons. At 11:00 pm I discovered I had one right button and I needed six. I still had to get the rings attached to the shoulder of the bodice. I was able to get five done on one side when the clock struck 12. Midnight, the deadline, I was incomplete, unfinished. I knew with all that happened I was running behind, I couldn't give up. I wanted to make this deadline so much it hurt.

"I am still submitting what I have managed to finish up to the deadline. The chemise and hat are not included in the competition. This includes the bodice, the two skirts and the narrow curved sleeves. (I chose the narrow sleeves because I didn't have enough fabric left for the wide sleeves.)

"I don't think the two months from start to finish is unrealistic. If it weren't for unexpected events in my life the gown with all the embellishments would be finished.

"I work, go to faire on the weekends I don't work, take care of my daughter and granddaughter, plus play on line with my friends and sew. The three weeks running back and forth to the hospital, and having a two-year-old in my care did make things rough. However I gave it all I could. I am most pleased with the hand stitching I did on this gown. Yes, the machine is faster; no it doesn't make it look better. None of my trim is machine sewn. The waistband is hand worked on the back, each one of the 27 pearls is individually sewn on, the tabs on the bodice are hand stitched. Total out of pocket expense $17.36 plus tax. The experience is priceless. I am looking forward to the next one."

We'd like to extend our compliments to Diana, both on the beautiful costume she created, and on her rigorous honesty regarding the deadline.



Margo Anderson - One Tough Costumer!