Well, another Opera Ball has come and gone, and while I swore last year that I would not be making another gown, somehow I did. And I actually kind of enjoyed it, and I actually kind of like the finished dress. I attribute most of my success this year to using an actual gown pattern, instead of haphazardly lengthening a short dress pattern. Getting the proportions of a gown right is more difficult than just extending a skirt, and letting the experts figure it out is definitely the way to start.
I used Butterick 5710, a blatant copy of that most famous bridesmaid’s dress, made out of navy peachskin from JoAnn. The fabric was actually perfect for this dress – not too shiny, substantial but not stiff, and inexpensive. I raised the neckline by 1.5″, but otherwise made the dress straight from the envelope, omitting my usual petite adjustment because the pattern doesn’t provide guidance for where to shorten or lengthen in the bodice. That was a mistake. Because the dress is close fitting in the back, it will fit the curve at the small of your back no matter what. This means that if the bodice is too long you will end up with a big hunchback over the shoulders. I was able to do a quick fix by pulling the shoulder seam up an inch pull the shoulders up by an inch, but if I make this again I will try to figure out the adjustment under the bust.
With the side view you can see a little of the hunchback problem… I don’t think it was quite so noticeable in real life. I hope not, anyway. These relatively minor issues aside, it was a fantastic gown for opera ball and I loved wearing it! It was great to have my shoulders covered, the cut is flattering but actually there is quite a bit of ease everywhere, and I LOVED having a train. It felt so special and swishy, but it didn’t get in my way at all as we were running all over City Hall. I didn’t even have to lift up my dress when going up stairs!
The last important feature is the drape. I have only recently come around to cowls and draping, and while this one is a little on the big side it did make the dress feel special. I love the layered v-neck underneath, and because of the two layers this drape did double duty as a handy phone pocket. All told this gown is very much a success, and it makes me want to make another for next year!