There are few things I know about Irish dancing dresses,
1 -they are an acquired taste,
2 -solo dresses are very very expensive even second-hand, and
3 – I now also know that it is worth getting the dance instructors opinion before you commit to buying a dress.
The dress was bought second hand and it pretty much fitted my niece Donna, so the deal was done, and then shown to her dance teacher. The dance teacher wasn’t crazy about the dress (understatement) and said the skirt definitely ‘had to go’,
My sister Eithne, suggested to the dance teacher could she just get her sister (me) to do it and the teacher (horrified) said that doing dance dresses is not like regular dressmaking and they should look for the a person who did dance dresses………………… which was fine, except it was difficult (impossible) to find someone to alter a dress they didn’t make, and I said I would give it a go if they were stuck, stuck they were, so I got to do the dress, and then I got a bit (lot) nervous!
My sister had gotten the loan of another dress for me to inspect how they were made, and there was a big difference, as this dress was made by someone with future alterations in mind, whereas Donna’s dress wasn’t (Donna’s dress is a manufactured one which is done in pieces and then skirts matched to varying styled bodices, and then decorated, which is effective for the manufacturer but not for the alteration, as among other things, the crystal decoration at the end of the bodice and the embroidery meant that the skirt would also be hand sewn back on). We were also changing the style of the skirt, which with hindsight was foolhardy at best.
I cut the skirt, and underskirt, the underskirt took 7 metres of net which then had to have 7 metres of bias binding cut from the skirt fabric, pressed, and sew on. The underskirt was probably the most actual work, whereas the overskirt was the fiddliest, and the scariest! The original idea was to go with gathers, but they would not behave correctly so I made them into soft pleats. If I knew this ahead, I would most definitely have done it differently I would have done the soft pleats and machine sewn them down to just before the bodice join. Its hard to know really as I fitted the skirt in the way the manufacturer originally had it (it was an actual skirt at a few inches up from bodice seams at sides and one inch up from bodice seam at front – , but as I changed the amount of fabric in the skirt so it was harder to ‘control’. The fabric is a dance fabric, its not satin and won’t take a crease, and happily springs back into shape whether you want it to or not, but has an iridescent shine with orange running through, and is very light, so it was vilene backed. The pink in the group photos is the correct shade.
In the end, it ultimately has worked out fine, and it was a steep learning curve for me, and it seems to have gotten the dance teachers approval – so alls well that ends well (except I have volunteered to make a new solo dance dress for next year……………. oops!)