What is it about getting dressed up? Why do girls love it? I have been sewing for my girls since they were little. I liked making what I had in my mind was a classic style. (Someday I'll post their First Communion Dress. It was made out of a lovely white cotton that I smocked. I think it was the only dress with a collar and sleeves!)
There was definitely a point in which they preferred the dresses Grandma bought them over my handmade ones, but when we were searching for an appropriate dress for Confirmation, I was dismayed at the choices for a 12 year old. Everything dressy was strapless or skimpy. We did eventually find one that we all agreed upon, but at that point I realized I would continue sewing for them.
At the same age my daughter started playing piano for a Cleveland youth chorus. They practice weekly, up to four times a week, for a Christmas show and a spring show. The new show is debuted at the beautiful Allen Theater and then they continue to perform at many other venues throughout the area ranging from nursing homes and local community theaters to outdoor tree lightings and summer gazebo concerts. (My son has been playing for the chorus just a bit longer than my daughter - he plays piano, guitar, drums and sax.) The chorus members have very strict uniform codes - even when they travel or arrive at an event out-of-uniform, so I wanted to be careful to select something appropriate for my daughter.
Her first concert was in the spring. We chose this pattern:
Since I felt a pianist should be in black, we decided to make a simple cotton dress which was black with white polka dots. It had a fitted bodice and gathered skirt. She accessorized it with a red belt, shoes and necklace.
She, being practical-minded like her parents, continued to get plenty of use out of the dress. She wore it for Easter (matching her little sister), to her 8th grade graduation, and to many other events and concerts that year.
For the following Christmas, we decided to step it up a notch. The pattern was again simple:
I wanted to keep the color black, but selected a silk dupioni fabric to add a touch of glamour. We also went from sleeveless to a narrower, gathered sleeve. We made two wide belts, one in blue and one in green, that she changed for the various concerts that season.
The following spring, eyelets were all the rage. We decided to go with a simple eyelet fabric in a turquoise color. We used a brown, polka dot sash and brown accessories. To me, although not elegant, it was still appropriate for a 14 year old girl. (I can't find an image for the pattern. It was Butterick BP214)
That summer, she turned 15. That was the summer we fell in love with James Mcavoy in "Becoming Jane" and she fell in love with Jane Austen. My husband and I (my daughter was not allowed) watched "Atonement" with Jame Mcavoy and Keira Knightley. The movie was somewhat disturbing, but I absolutely fell in love with this dress:
The kelly green shimmered, the bias cut flowed - everything about it said 1930's glam. So that winter, in preparation for the Christmas concert, I had in mind a retro-style, bias-cut dress in kelly green. My daughter shared my vision (of course, we were going to try to find a pattern that was not skimpy and backless on top). We struggled to find a bias-cut pattern, but eventually found this "retro" pattern. It was not a true bias-cut, but it shared the feeling of one.
The outcome was what we were trying to achieve: a glamorous, elegant, floor-length dress.
The dress is greener than these photos show. (My photos suffer because they are taken late at night, usually after the concerts, and I simply do not have the camera and/or photographic skills to capture these dresses properly.) The dress was a hit. She looked so elegant on the stage. Who says a pianist must always wear black!
Keeping in mind that the musician's are not the focus of the show and balancing that with the motto: "it's better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission", my daughter wanted something with more color for her spring show. We have steered toward short dresses for the spring concerts and this time chose a vintage 1950's look.
She selected the color and I, again, chose silk dupioni. I love working with silk. It has a bit of give in it and lays so nicely. It has a sheen, but is not shiny. I think this is my favorite dress.
This year, Grandma (whose passion is to shop) found some fantastic formal dresses for $15. They looked beautiful on my daughter and, being the tired, old, mom that I am, I thought one of them would be perfect for her Christmas concert. But, "it's tradition, Mom." And I agreed. This year, my daughter wanted something girly and poofy, so she selected this Jessica McClintock pattern.
She chose a deep, cobalt blue and wanted the fabric overlay version - not the tulle version. It took oodles of yards of fabric and, with a bejewelled overlay, was not easy to gather. I added ribbon straps because she plays piano and also turns pages and it's completely appropriate. And, it peeves me to see girls wearing strapless gowns always fussing with pulling them up. (I can't tell you how often I see this at weddings.) My type-A-ness finds some flaws in this dress and the photos do not do it justice, but my daughter thought it was the "best one ever." All the littlest girls in the chorus kept coming up to her and touching the dress. They thought she was a princess.
After all, didn't we all want to be a princess at one time or another? Even this talented, smart, well-spoken, confident, daughter who wants to be a doctor, enjoyed being a princess. (I think this is why I enjoyed watching Kelly Osbourne so much on "Dancing With the Stars." She seemed to transform into a princess throughout the show.)
Indeed, the sparkles on the overlay glittered like jewels. Here she is, along with my son and the other musicians taking a bow. (Yes, it's blurry!)