Red Carpet Ready

Just this week I have completed a rather exciting project. I was contacted about creating two skirts for two very glamorous red carpet appearances, and was given a month to complete both. My initial instinct was panic, as something this important I would typically love more time to fuss over. However, this client had an airplane-shaped deadline and a bit of heartbreak as her previous dressmaker had passed away suddenly. So I said yes. Life, similar to improv, can often only find success when you say yes and embrace what you’re handed.

So, onward and upward with two inspiration pictures. The first is a voluminous black tulle floor length skirt. She wanted this to wear to the more glamorous of the two events, essentially an awards show similar in prestige to the Oscars, but in her industry.

The second was a shorter pink organza number. This event was also an award event, but more like the Grammy’s with an edgier, more fashion forward feel.

As both events are heavily publicized and photographed, it was important that the client both felt and look amazing in both skirts.

So the first step was fabric selection. Red carpet fabrics can get very pricey, very quickly. We wanted to find a balance of expensive looking without breaking the bank. With a budget of around $500, including my time, we opted for less expensive linings, inexpensive tulle but lots of it and then splurged on beautiful silk organza for the pink over skirt.

My client was concerned about too much bulk around the waist being unflattering on camera so I opted for circle skirts as the pattern for both. If you’re unfamiliar with circle skirts, they are a fantastic creation made famous in the 1950s by designers like Dior. They are essentially a giant doughnut of fabric where the centre hole is your waist measurement, and the width of the doughnut is the length of the skirt. The result is a very voluminous, floaty skirt without gathers or pleats at the waistline. The floral ballgowns from Dior are a perfect example of the wonderful simple drama that this type of skirt creates. It is as dramatic and eye-catching as it is clean and simple.

The downside of circle skirts is the math. I’m not big on math, and it makes my brain hurt fairly quickly. So figuring out not only the measurements to result in a 110cm length, but how to cut a nearly 300cm wide circle out of tulle to create little to no seaming…let’s just say it took a couple days to sort it out. I did use some online calculators, however most told me that my circle was too wide for regular fabric bolts. Which is true, but I didn’t have time to order extra wide fabric. But here’s how I resolved it. The main issue was that the width of the fabric would not accommodate the length of the skirt as well as the waist radius. (If you’re unfamiliar with how to draft a circle skirt, there’s a good tutorial here which will help the rest of this make sense). So I cheated a bit. I wouldn’t recommend this with anything other than tulle or other grainless fabrics, but I skewed the waist circumference circle. Typically your pattern ends up with a pizza slice shaped cut out for the waistline, or a triangle with a round edge. My waistline still had the round edge but was more egg shaped than circular. I created this by drawing the correct circle skirt waist line on a piece of brown paper using a standard method, measured that line with a flexible tape measure, and then used that measurement to create an oval shaped opening for my waistline using the space I had. Essentially one leg of my triangle ended up shorter than the standard pattern, and the other longer. This gave me a half-circle skirt with one seam down the back. It has less volume than a full circle skirt, which the client preferred, and only one seam.

And here’s the final skirt! The lining is a black stretch satin, followed by 6 layers (or 20 yards!) of black nylon tulle. The waistband is 3″ black elastic.

The pink skirt was a straightforward circle pattern, since the shorter length fit well on regular width fabric. It is made of a really beautiful rose-coloured stretch satin lining, two layers of pale gold silk organza and a 3″ elastic waistband. The lining is cut a few inches shorted than the organza which adds a really nice ethereal quality to the bottom of the skirt. The organza floats around the calf in an elegant way, reminding me of old Hollywood and the lady-like dressing of yester-year.

My client is thrilled with the result. She will accesorize with purchased elements such as some great lace up flat shoes she purchased. Once hair and make-up are on she will be an absolute rock star on the red carpet. I had a huge amount of fun playing in the 30 yards of fabric it took to make these two skirts and got to use some new toys such as a rolled hem foot on the organza. I’m excited to see the professional photos of her appearance, which she has given me permission to post, so check back end of January to see these skirts in action.

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