I have never been happier to be done making a batch of doll clothes. I pretty much spent the whole Summer making only two outfits from the film "Rear Window". The green suits weren't so bad to make, but my batch was larger than normal. I was very ambitious when I originally decided to make ten of these dresses.
I had made this costume before, back in 2006 . I hadn't made myself a copy though, and I knew there were many Gene fans interested in this design. It is a very popular costume and I have seen other doll clothes designers make it and they are all beautiful.
I briefly entertained the idea of making the bodice with set-in sleeves, but I decided against it. I couldn't really tell in the movie if the sleeves were set in or not and I knew they would be a pain to do in miniature. I have seen them on a Barbie sized version of this dress. All I can say to Natalia Sheppard is I am beyond impressed.
I think I got the look I wanted doing the sleeves my way, and I needed to save my patience for the skirt.
I originally wanted to make the bodice of the dress in a black silk crepe, and the skirt in silk organza lined in dupioni. After several failed attempts with the crepe, I decided it couldn't hold the shape I wanted, especially in the neckline. I also couldn't find a good source for silk organza, and the full circle skirt is a real fabric hog, which would have made the dresses really expensive to make.
I ended up using casa satin and organza. The casa satin is not very shiny and has a lot of body to it. I also like the way the organza skirt shimmers. I tried using a matte organza, but it was kind of boring. Tulle was also considered for the skirt, but I didn't think it would work well with the embroidery. The underskirt is casa satin, I tried a stiffer satin at first, but it was too stiff to me.
I suffered a few setbacks with the skirts. My original batch of organza ended up having holes in it, so I had to exchange it. Thank goodness I caught it before I had sewn the dresses (or so I thought).
I wasn't sure how I should hem the organza skirt. Super narrow hems are hard on circular skirts for me to do perfectly. I did some research in my sewing books and chose a fine zigzag. I ruined two dresses trying to sew the hem using clear nylon thread. Ordinary white thread ended up working better.
The worst setback though was when I thought I was in the home stretch. I had sewn up my second batch of dresses, the snaps were even done and I was starting my third embroidered "leaf" on one of the dresses. That is when I noticed a d_ _ n hole in the organza skirt. It must have been cut from the first bad batch of organza and I had missed the hole when I inspected the skirts because it was a lot smaller than the others had been. I was devastated! So much time lost! I went through my new batch and found another dress with a bad skirt. I didn't have the heart to make two new dresses or pick apart the bad dresses and replace the skirts. I ended up making only eight dresses.
The embroidery on the skirt was my biggest challenge. It needed to look good from both sides of the fabric because the organza is sheer. I used satin embroidery floss and used a stem stitch backstich. I passed the floss through the stitches on the wrong side of the skirt to hide the threads and to back track on the leaves.
French knots or beads were my choices for the other part of the leaf. I ruled out French knots because I knew that they might look bad. The thread would show through from the underside, and the knots risked being pulled through the fabric. I used the smallest beads I could find. Some of the dresses had two groups of beads on each leaf, and others had one. I was experimenting with my technique with each dress.
Each leaf took over an hour to do, and each dress had seven leaves. You do the math.
I wish I had seen this photo earlier. It is the best picture of how the beads look on the skirt.
Only my last two dresses have the beads like this. It took me that long to figure out how to do it!
Blue Parasol is perfect as Grace Kelly. She was meant to model this dress.
All the dresses have been sold.