I would need a gala gown. This would be the first proper costume I had made for myself in a decade. That is a side effect of turning passion into profession—it is hard to find time to create for yourself. Even when you do, it can feel an awful lot like work. I decided this was an opportunity for a personal challenge beyond anything I had ever attempted in a single costume. I wanted to challenge myself, and quite frankly, I wanted to be remembered.
So I asked myself what would I make if there were absolutely no limitations? Worth's “Ironwork Gown” was the first thing that came to mind. It checked all the boxes. It was one of those ideas that was both scary and exciting, which usually means I must do it. I had six months, plenty of time...right?
Where to Begin?
First I had to bring the project down to earth in my mind. Someone made the original gown—so it has been accomplished once. That means it is not impossible. I think we can almost forget this about the really iconic extant garments! This was just another gown to the skilled dressmakers at Atelier Worth, who were churning out gowns at an impressive rate. If they could do it, so can we, right?
The gown fabric was custom made for the House of Worth. The black velvet is woven into the ivory satin ground. Barring custom weavers (cost prohibitive, if even possible...), applique was the only feasible way I could think of to replicate the rich depth of the original fabric. I had quite a lot of machine applique experience, so I felt confident about the technique. As a professor once said, “Cindy likes that tedious sh*t.”
The MET has another colorway? And there's a photo of the skirt LAID OUT FLAT? This began to seem doable. Another clue: skirt lengths were listed for both gowns. Even better: My waist to floor was about the same as the black and white gown. I was able to cross reference between the two gowns to determine the height and width of one motif repeat. I had the scale, and it happened to fit my height. I began to suspect that the original gown could fit me with very little adjustment. How thrilling!
Stay tuned for next week's installment, where I reveal my digitization techniques...
[this is part of an article originally published in full on Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. You can read the full version there, if you're a site member]