I loved The Ugly Duckling as a little girl.  The idea that an awkward young one who was considered ugly by everyone around them would one day grow into a beautiful swan… who should never have been judged by the same standards as their former peers.  I often feel like that ugly duckling when I look at couture creations.  So many of the style elements that they emphasize simply don’t work on a woman of my build.  But every once in a while, there’s a dress or outfit that just screams ‘I’m perfect for you, just the way you are!’

I fell in love with this design, which is appropriately called “Swan”.  It was designed by an American couturier Charles James in the early 1950’s.  I first saw the design in the March 2012 issue of Threads magazine (p. 60) and I fell in love with it.  I kept flipping back to that design, and I knew that I’d have to create it for myself.  Now, granted, I don’t really have anywhere to wear a ball gown to.  But I think it’s perfect to be my future wedding dress.  In ivory, not black and purple, of course.  And I don’t even have a fiancee yet, so it’s not like I need it next month.  This is going to be a long term project for me, and will definitely stretch my sewing skills.  I don’t have a pattern to work from.  Just me, a few photos I found online and in Threads magazine, my dress form, and a few hundred yards of muslin and tulle.

I’ve been thinking about how I’ll go about making this design.  Stage one involves modifying my dress form so that it matches my figure exactly and making appropriate foundation garments to fit the dress over.  That will also involve making my own strapless long-line bra/corset.  Stage two involves making the bodice and figuring out how to make the pattern of tucks that covers the bodice.  Stage three is the underskirt and drape, which gets a little involved at the back as you can see here:

The dress is said to have more than 30 layers of tulle and 100 different pattern pieces.  Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it?  But what an amazing challenge.

I’m also excited about the things I’ll learn along the way.  I’m going to start with bra-making, because the bodice of this dress is going to need it’s own built in bra, and for a woman with “ladies” as large as mine, some serious construction goes into proper support.  In a few weeks, I’ll start sharing this process as I go along.  This won’t be my only project, I’ll keep sharing my other projects as I go, but I’ll be sure to reference this project when something I’m working on applies.

Image credits:

First photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Website

Second photo from Encyclopedia Britannica Blog