In Kansas City at the Romantic Times Convention!
We did it!
The dress and coat are both done, no thanks to me since I got sick the last couple of days and couldn’t even help with the handwork. The best I could do was show up for fittings, pose for pictures, and eventually, pack up the car for the 1200-mile trip from the Florida retirement community to Kansas City. I still feel a bit like the wicked stepsister, taking off for the ball while leaving Cinderella at home to prepare two houses (mine and hers) for the summer while we head back to Ohio. I seriously owe you, Mom!
My mom’s a genius! Not only did she do a fantastic job on both garments, but she sewed on hanger loops and outfitted me with a needle and thread in case something goes wrong. She really deserves to be here at RT on Wednesday night when I wear it to the Ellora’s Cave disco party (not going to do any disco dancing, however) and the 30th Anniversary Ball on Thursday. I’ve promised photos, and they’ll be posted here as well.
Observations on the entire process
- This is not a project for an amateur. I could never have done this myself, and I do have some sewing experience. The fitted bodice required a LOT of pattern alterations, since we couldn’t use any sort of stretchy fabric and still remain anywhere close to authentic.
- The gown my sister had made had two separate drawstrings in the bodice to make it more fitted, since she was not available for fittings. That turned out well, but I’m not sure that would have worked well with the pattern we used.
- We had to fudge on the back closings, since we could not get the eyehole punch to work through two layers of fabric and interfacing. In the end, we used hooks and eyes and snaps, and yes, I do need a lady’s maid to help me into it. (Any volunteers?)
How much did I spend on this project?
- As to that, I’m not sure I really want to know. The most costly trip to Jo-Ann’s was $143, and that was mostly for the fabric and lining (for both the gown and the coat). The price for the trim and lace was another $100 or so (and totally worth it, I think you will agree), and there were several other trips to Jo-Ann’s in various towns for things like interfacing and other sewing notions. A few things (like the eyehole punch) got returned too, so I can’t tell you the final cost. But I would guess it was at least $350, and that does NOT include the hours and hours my mother put into it. But that’s not all! I also invested a considerable sum in accessories, including:
- Regency slippers with “diamond” clips, plus clockwork stockings, from American Duchess
- ringlet hairpiece
- three different tiaras (couldn’t make up my mind)
- long white gloves
- brooch to wear with the coat
- special “undies” (not authentic, but who’s going to know?)
It’s never been about the money.
It started with my friend Ellen’s idea for promoting Susana Ellis the author at conferences like this one (although I suspect that I will not be the only one in costume here.) But it became so much more than that. I never could have guessed how much my mother and I bonded during this process—from the first days of discussing the project to the difficult decisions about fabric choice (would you believe we originally intended the blue satin to be the gown and the cream pintuck taffeta to be the coat?) and many setbacks (like when the sleeve had to be redone and then we had to abandon the project for a few days to head north for a funeral) and wondering if it was possible to finish both garments in time for the conference.
Surprisingly, even my father became invested in this project. During the times when he seemed to have some health setbacks himself and Mom started worrying about having to head north earlier than planned and not being able to finish the coat, he told her to quit worrying about him and just finish it! He wanted to see the final product as much as we did, and thus, he started working harder at his physical therapy exercises (he has Parkinson’s).
Today’s the day!
I’m writing this on Wednesday, so by the time this goes live, the first event (the Ellora’s Cave disco party) will be over and hopefully I will have some photos to post. I’m planning to wear the gown for a Club RT appearance at 3:30, and then comes the stage walk with the Ellora’s Cave caveman. Oh yeah!
On Thursday I’ll be wearing it for the Expo from 4-6 and then the RT ball in the evening. On Friday morning I have another appearance at Club RT. By then I’m sure it’ll be ready for the dry cleaner’s and the next opportunity, probably the RWA Conference in Atlanta.
If you are going to be at any of these events, please come up and chat with me and check out the gown in person. I’m looking forward to making lots of reader-author friends while I’m here, and I do hope you will be one of them! Warning: don’t be surprised if I ask you to be “lady’s maid” for me! Regency ball gowns were generally worn by well-off young ladies with abigails to assist them in dressing, and unfortunately, my first choice in lady’s maids—my sister Gloria—had to stay home with her cat. Where is a hunky Ellora’s Cave caveman when you need one?
Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Mom is NOT interested in taking this up as a profession or a hobby. Being retired in itself is a very time-consuming activity. Once is enough…and I’m the lucky one!