Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Alice in Wonderland Inspired Dress

This week's Sew Weekly challenge was to make something inspired by any movie that's ever been nominated for an Oscar. I decided that and movie ever so much as nominated was too broad; I do better with limited choices. I decided to stick with movies that had actually won for costume design, and with that in mind was able to narrow it down to a few recent ones whose costumes I fell in love with: The Return of the King, The Duchess, and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. As I mentioned before, I figured that ROTK would involve something slinky, which I didn't feel like tackling just yet, and The Duchess would require proper undergarments first. So that left Collen Atwood's Alice. I love all of her light blue and black dresses; I think it's a genius color palette. I knew I didn't want to make an exact copy of her main dress; I wanted to keep mine a wearable length and use one of the patterns I already had, and most of all, I didn't want to do any embroidery. So the aspects I decided to keep, beside the colors, were the tiered skirt, the princess-seamed bodice, and the little point at the waist.

I really, really didn't want to do my normal tiny hem, but I just didn't have
enough fabric for a nice, deep, two inch hem.
I had a pale blue twin flat sheet for my fabric, which was unfortunately stained in a couple of areas (both questionable brown ones and a couple neon pink blotches), even after washing on the hot cycle. This necessitated some tricky cutting, and I still had to use a couple of the less questionable parts for the pockets, which nobody is going to see. To capture the original dress hem's idea of delicate black work, I chose to use black lace, both large and small trims, as well as a giant applique piece that I've had sitting in my stash since my first trip to the fabric district. For the pattern, I went with my trusty princess seam bodice, New Look 6723, and modified the neckline to fit the applique. New Look 6723 also conveniently includes puff sleeve pieces. The skirt is just gathered rectangles, sized appropriately for the tiers. As an afterthought, I also piped the waist seam for more emphasis and to bring in a line of black somewhere in the middle, too.

I was so glad that I bought two sizes of black lace trim...the tiny one was perfect for the sleeve cuff.

This is a dress of firsts. It's probably the first really embellished dress I've ever made. Normally my dresses are really simple, mostly because the fabrics I choose are already crazy enough. It's also the first "real" sleeve I've ever put in; previous dresses have all been sleeveless, cap sleeved, or so ineffectual at covering my arms they hardly counted. Unfortunately, I didn't muslin these sleeves at all, so...I can't lift my arms. Or move them forward much. I think it's because my sleeve cap is too high? Hmm, time to consult my sewing bible, the Reader's Digest handbook. At any rate, this dress is just for standing around in and looking pretty (and confused and in awe in turns), so it's kind of okay.

The buildings really spoil the effect, don't they?
Going for the classic pose Alice has in all the promotional pictures.
My husband got down into the mulch to get this "Alice looking down the rabbit hole" shot. What a stud :)

Out of the bushes, so you can see the poofiness of the petticoat from the side.

Fabric: thrifted poly-cotton twin flat sheet
Notions: zipper, ~3/4 yd black piping, ~1/2 yd narrow black lace trim, ~2 yd larger black lace trim
Techniques used: My first time using piping! It looks so good; I want to pipe everything! And then the usual hand-picked zipper, but no waist stay. The waist seam got so thick, I didn't want to add in more bulkiness with a grosgrain ribbon.
Hours: Hard to say, since I interrupted work on this with making last week's corset. I'm guessing ten hours? Enough to watch a good portion of The West, Sense and Sensibility, and two episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs. 
Will you make this again? Not this exact costume, no, but seeing as how I've already made a good handful of dresses with this pattern, I don't see stopping any time soon.
Total cost: The sheet was $3, the applique $2, the zipper $2, and the laces a whopping $0.15/yd! I also managed to use up an entire spool of thread on this, so the whole thing was probably about $10. Much better than this $40 polyester monstrosity.
Worn with: My thrifted-skirt-turned-petticoat, and black wedges with white socks to mimic the look of Alice's boots. Am I resourceful or what?
Final thoughts: Aside from the not lifting my arms thing, I really, really like this dress. I was so excited, I talked my husband into doing a slightly more involved photo slightly more involved, I mean we didn't just step outside. I went poking around our very manicured apartment complex trying to find an area that looked slightly more overgrown, like the landscapes in the movie. Granted, these nicely shaped bushes aren't exactly giant mushrooms, but oh well. There was a family having a barbecue about ten feet away, so I certainly got my share of side eyes, poking around in the bushes with my frothy petticoats. Their little girl gave me a wide-eyed look, and I'll just tell myself that she was thrilled to see a character step out of a story, and not because there's a crazy lady peering out from behind the bushes.

Walnut did NOT want to pretend to be the Cheshire cat.


  1. Oh, wow. Wow, wow, wow! It's trendy, bold, and classic all at once. I love your clean palette mixed with the feminine details. It stands out without looking costumey at all. Pinning right now.

  2. Awww...its so cute! What a fabulous inspiration! I do love the palest blue and black together. And Walnut makes a fabulous Cheshire Cat.

  3. WOW u are so creative!!! I love reading your blog, I check it everyday hoping to see a new creation.. and i am never disappointed!!!!! I hope to be as creative as you one day! LOVE ITTTTTTT!!!!!The dress is really beautiful. Also pls tell your hubby his photography skills are ace, love looking at the photos :)

    1. You can use bloglovin and it will keep you up to date re blogs. Saves you having to check everyday. I love it.

    2. Hey Tina, yep I already use Bloglovin, but some days on the train the internet is slow or I don't have enough time to browse, I'll go straight CationDesigns :)

  4. I love it. You never know when a bit of lace trim will come in handy. I also clicked on the link to see the 'polyester monstrosity' and yes, I did laugh out loud!

  5. Great dress! I love that it's perfectly wearable yet, still says "Alice.". Very cute photos too. Your husband is quite a good sport.

  6. i love all of the embellishments you did! it gave the dress so much extra character, obviously inspired by the costume, but still keeps everything easy to wear.

    and walnut is a perfect stand-in for the cheshire cat!

  7. The address is absolutely stunning. Very Alice in Wonderful. You are so talented.

  8. Beautiful dress! Wonderful take on the Alice dress :)

  9. Aaah! Don't you hate it when you can't lift your arms in a dress?!? Do you have any fabric left over to re-do the sleeves? Maybe if you cut them on the bias? Or made them bigger, but put elastic on the bottoms to keep the look trim, but give you more ease?

  10. Oh my god this is beautiful! You look so perfect, I love it! Shame on Walnut, doesn't he know that's the role he was born to play?

    I often have that arm-hole sleeve issue. If you come up with any insights, please let the world know so I can shameless copy you and improve my own sewing.

  11. That is a beautiful dress. I just found your blog and it is fabulous!! Love your cat, too. I am definitely a cat person.

  12. Wow, Cindy! This is a very special dress! I absolutely love the black applique! It adds such an exquisite touch! You never cease to amaze me! Great work!

  13. Totally gorgeous and I can completely see the Alice in you (in that dress). I adore that lace applique at the front!

  14. This is really, really gorgeous! You make such wonderful dresses.

    I can't believe they have the face to charge that much for an incredibly ugly dress... Oh well!

    (When you watch Upstairs Downstairs, do you feel like the writers stole some of Downton Abbey's rough drafts and never really completed the writing process? I love the show, but...)

  15. You look so beautiful and the dress looks stunning on you! I love all the dresses you make and you are one of my inspirations! I think you are so talented and I aspire to sew like you one day... I don't know how you do it! Almost every time I check your blog you've made something new!! x

  16. I love reading ur Blog. U are so refreshing. Thanks for sharing. The dress is lovely though am not a costumey person. Making the kaftan real soon. I love one ur creations. (:

  17. Beautiful dress and beautiful photos!

  18. Wow! What a beautiful dress! I can't believe you crafted it up so affordably. Well done!

    P.S. Would you please consider disabling your word verification?

  19. I love your lace embellishments and the piping! It looks fantastic!


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