Ball dress

Back in 2014, when I first started planning to attend JAFA 2015, I bought two saris from – new ones, not vintage, and artificial silk, not the real stuff. My budget doesn’t stretch far, and I didn’t want to invest heavily in silk until I had more experience costuming my short, round figure.

One of them turned out to be darker than the mid-blue in the listing photo, but a gorgeous rich blue, shot with a maroon that gives the effect of a deep purple. The woven band along the edge has flowers in various shades of golds, tans and cream, and the decorative piece at the end (I think that’s the pallau?) is richly woven.

Detail of sari woven edge Detail of sari decorative end

For this year’s JAFA, I needed a new gown for the Grand Napoleonic Ball, and pulled this sari out of the fabric stash.

I used the Sense and Sensibility drawstring gown as a base pattern, but adapted it as described here and here.This was the first time I’d used the short sleeve pattern and I lengthened it about an inch (2.5cm); next time I’ll lengthen it some more.

Being short has an advantage when it comes to using saris: the border ran along both edges of the fabric, but I cut off one edge and still had enough width to cut the skirt with a border along the bottom. I also used the border fabric for the sleeve band, and I have metres left – plus the decorative end – to do something else with.

As with the block-print dress, I cut the front bodice across almost the whole width of fabric (minus the borders), and with the equivalent amount of skirt attached it gathered fairly well across the front – albeit a little stiffly as this isn’t the drapiest of fabrics.

I pleated the back asthma tightly into the centre back – here you can see the pleats pinned. I tack (baste) them down and take the pins out before sewing the seam as it makes it much easier than dealing with a gazillion pins through the machine (you can only see half of the pins here!)

Detail of back pleats, pinned for sewing

Here’s the dress finished, in a hurried photo at home with hair only roughly pinned up.

Finished dress, at home

It’s okay, but there were a few issues: the fixable one was that the dress is quite see-through, and my white petticoat didn’t bring out the best of the colour.  The issues I didn’t have time to fix included:

1) although I measured for the sleeve band, the sleeves don’t allow a great deal of movement – I need some help getting into and out of the dress;

2) the fabric is, as mentioned above, a little stiff, so it doesn’t drape well (and this is compounded by the fact that I need new stays that keep my tummy under better control. Or less tummy. I’m working on that); and

3) there’s not quite enough gathering in the front skirt, which pulled the gathering in the back pleats across to the side – next time I’ll do a couple of pleats in the side front and a two less on each side of the centre back.

Sari ball dress - back view

I did fix the fixable issue, and made a sleeveless purple satin underdress, and that worked to bring out the rich colour of the fabric better:

Purple satin underdress

I didn’t get many photos at JAFA but here we are at the Grand Napoleonic Ball – Katie, Jeremy, Lauren and I. I’m happy enough with the dress and will wear it again – with better stays and a few less kilos it will be perfectly fine  🙂

Katie, Jeremy, Lauren and I at the Grand Napoleonic Ball



This entry was posted in dresses, JAFA and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *