The Making of the Gown

I have enjoyed sewing since a young age when my Grandmother taught me everything from laying a pattern properly to the finer details of tailoring.  Over the years, that love of cloth and needlework has become a passion of gown making and design. I am not alone in this endeavour.  On numerous occasions, when life has been over scheduled, I have had help of the hands and mind of Terri Achmann. We have spent hours draping material, discussing necklines and hammering beads! A number of these dresses would not have come together without her.


Black and Blush are the colours used on the latest creation, which appeared on the stage of Carnegie Hall this past Christmas.  While I usually go into the fabric store with an idea, I am often swayed by what the material says.  This time was no exception.  My favourite shop is European Fabrics on Ottawa Street in Hamilton, Ontario.  John and Alicia have a keen sense of style and source beautiful fabrics from around the world.  I spend hours layering laces over different textures until the right combination "sings"! I decided upon black sequined French lace over blush peau de soie.

The design of the dress became clear as I watched how the material looked from afar.  it was obvious that the edge of the lace would be the neckline and the hem and that the skirt needed gores inset from just above the knee to allow for movement.  I also decided that i would make this gown on my own.  It was my way of slowing a busy life down a bit! This dress has many layers; a built in corset and 6 tiers of crinoline under the skirt to keep the shape. I like to sew many things by hand like the zipper and any finishing - but that sometimes takes a bit more time than one expects....truth is, I was sewing at rehearsal and the day of the performance!


The pattern for this dress had to be made up as I could not find one that fit the bill exactly. Using paper, I drew the pattern pieces and put them together a bit like a puzzle.  After measuring and remeasuring, I lay the pattern on the fabric, pin it down, cross my fingers and cut! Since the dress is lined and has a corset, those pieces were cut first and put together to ensure a good fit.  Once that was in order, the same process was done for the outer layers.  The dress took about two weeks to complete and as I sat and sewed, and life slowed down just a bit, I was once again able to hear my Grandmother Love's instruction on how to construct a garment.