The Blue Morpho
When I saw that the theme was Insects, my mind immediately went to a gorgeous ball gown inspired by the Blue Morpho butterfly, created by designer Luly Yang. Since I don't have much occasion to wear ball gowns, I set out to create a cocktail version of the dress. The main design elements were, of course, the namesake Blue Morpho butterfly's wings, overlapped and draped to act as a skirt, almost reminiscent of petals. I made a total of seven blue wings, but instead of printing the design on the wings, I pieced blue and black fabric into wings, and embroidered the butterfly's veins onto the wings with my sewing machine. The skirt is topped off by a mysterious layer of black tulle. The focus of the bodice is the underbust corset, made from satin in a shimmering dark blue hue, and edged with black bias tape to match the wings and the rest of the simple princess bodice.
Construction wise, my entry is composed of a dress and an underbust corset. The dress has a lined, sleeveless bodice with princess seams, while the skirt is composed of seven overlapped wings with a tulle overlay, and multiple layers of tulle and crinoline underneath to give it volume.
The underbust corset has a synthetic satin as fashion fabric, and one layer of cotton drill as the strength layer. I used a two-part metal busk 20cm long at the front, with mostly spiral steel boning except for a pair of spring steels at the back. This was my first time ever making a corset; I've only sewn some dresses and coats before. I used Sidney Eileen's free underbust corset pattern and tutorial..
After measuring myself, I found that I needed to take about 1cm off the top and a couple of centimetres off the waist, which I was able to do thanks to Eileen's tutorial. Taking into account the fact that I was a corset-making novice, I decided to use the welt-seam method to construct my underbust, seeing as it was more forgiving of errors. The bones went into the welts smoothly enough, and I edged the corset with black single-fold bias tape, sewing the inside down by hand. Then I set in the grommets by hand, making the two at the waistline closer together. Laced it up, and the corset was done!
Then came the dress, which took me much longer than anticipated because I had to draft the whole thing from scratch. I found a shimmering bright blue fabric to use for the wings, and pieced them with a peach satin fabric to form the wing. I debated using fabric paints to draw on the veins of the wings, but felt that it wouldn't hold up in the wash, so I decided to draw the veins on using a dense zig-zag on my sewing machine.
I made two wing templates for the skirt, one from the top and bottom wings of the butterfly. The wings were supported by many layers of tulle circle skirts, lined at the most inside with a bemberg lining. I didn't want the bodice to distract from the underbust corset, so I drafted a simple sleeveless bodice with princess seams and made it from a slinky black polyester, lined with bemberg as well. The blue of the wings was a little too bright, so I took a tulle circle and gathered it into an overlay. Add the corset, and the ensemble is complete!
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
The rules and guidelines were just clear enough so I had an idea of what to make, but was not so restricting that it hampered creativity. To anyone on the fence, I'd say just do it! Although leave plenty of time for yourself to complete the project.