The Making of Winter Belle: Part Two, The Dress

A winter photoshoot  was coming up and I decided it would be the perfect reason to make a Belle costume. I decided to make her pink dress and red cloak that she wore for one scene outside in the snow. This post will be about how I made the pink dress. You can read about how I made her red cloak here, and more on my inspiration for the costume here.

5e5f2374122ac262ea52921f25225fb2My first step when creating a costume is always research. I go to Google and browse for as many pictures of different angles and movements of the outfit as I can. I also see if anyone else has done the costume before and posted pictures or advice from their experience. I love to read about other people’s tips, hardships, and victories before I begin my own creation. They have often inspired my designs and saved me from mistakes or disappointments. The picture to the left is one of very few I found of the dress without the cloak. Even here, she has a book blocking most of the view of the bodice. I could not find anything of the back of her dress. Fortunately, since it is from an older Disney movie, the design is relatively simple and I can fill in the blanks fairly easily.     Belle Pink Dress1

The next picture is the only close-up I could find of the bodice that wasn’t covered by her cloak or a book. It is also a great view of her face, makeup, and hairstyle. Cosplay is not just about the outfit, it’s about the whole look. I am not getting a wig for this one, as I have long, light brownish hair. I will curl my hair and then pull it back into a twist ponytail, finishing it off with a pink bow. Her makeup is thankfully very simple with light pink lips, a little mascara, and natural-looking eyeshadow. I already have everything I need for the makeup, which is a nice relief. The cost of makeup can be one of those expenses that gets overlooked in creating an authentic costume.

1327729_1389299936730_fullI was pleased to find this last picture for inspiration because it showed that Belle’s skirt has a hidden layer underneath, and the light and darker pink in the top skirt are all one piece, including the bottom ruffle. This was what gave me the idea to essentially make the dress in two layers, an overdress and an underdress. I really like the look of two-part style dresses and feel that it adds a nice dimension of depth and movement to the garment.

I decided to play with the different shades of pink in this dress and make a light pink underdress for the sleeves and base, then make a darker pink overdress that closed like a corset in the front of the bodice and had a slit down the middle of the skirt to show off the line of the lighter pink dress underneath. The hem of the overdress would be shorter than the underdress to show off the light pink “ruffle” at the bottom. I decided to leave out the actual ruffle, the one element of the dress I really wasn’t fond of.

12312107_10156257101325517_1940962553_nI was very excited to find this pattern already in my stash. It’s almost exactly the style I envisioned. It’s Simplicity 2573 and the largest modification I would have to make was in the sleeves. The overskirt and bodice were made in two parts, so making them different colours would be wonderfully easy. The light pink fabric and thread in the photo were the beginnings of the underdress.

The following are a lot of pictures of my process for the underdress. Unfortunately, I was rushed to finish the overdress and didn’t have time to take many “in-progress” pictures. If you just want to see the final result, you can scroll down to the bottom of the post.

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The underdress was composed of a large front and back piece sewn together at the sides. I love how easy it was to make. The large pieces are pictured on the right, all cut out, with my matching scissors. Times like this have made me very grateful for having a large dining room table to work on.12666507_10156454363480517_1838572806_n

The sleeves were where I had to make some minor modifications to the pattern. Belle’s dress had sleeves that stopped at the elbow in a ruffle, but the pattern called for long sleeves. I measured the length from my shoulder to my elbow and cut the sleeve short, leaving a bit of room for seams. Then I tackled the ruffle, which was what the light pink organza in the photo is for.

12647870_10156454363765517_1090787747_nI started off with the idea of adding a mini full-circle-skirt to the “elbow” of the sleeve. I drafted what I wanted on newspaper and slid it on my arm. The full circle was far too voluminous and instead of a nice cone-like shape I ended up with a floppy mess. So I decided to use a half-circle instead and you can see my improvised pattern in the photo on the right.

These three photos show the making and attaching of the sleeves. First I turned up a very thin hem around the edge of the organza ruffle, then sewed the straight edge of the half-circle together to form a cone. Next I attached the cone to the sleeve edge, right sides together so when I flipped the cone right-side-out the edge of the sleeve was nicely finished. I added a zig-zag stitch next to the stitching on the seams, then trimmed them for a finished look which you can see in the middle photo. Lastly, I sewed the sleeves to the body of the dress and then finished the neckline.

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The neckline turned out to be my surprise snag. It was very simple in concept. Sew a casing, insert the elastic, and done. The dress was made to slip over your head and had no closures. Unfortunately the elastic I had on hand was old and the light pink fabric was stiff, which was the perfect combination for broken elastic and much frustration. I went through three different elastics before I found one that was strong enough to not break under the weight of the fabric and the pressure of being fed through a snug casing.

Once that headache had been dealt with, all that was left was the hem. I tried the dress on and it fit wonderfully. The sleeves ended right where I wanted them to at the elbow and the cone ruffles held their shape nicely. I had to cut a good five inches off the bottom of the dress, but that’s just the life of a short person who works with generic patterns. Better too much than too little, I suppose.

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This was the only photo I snapped of the overdress before I went into panic mode because it was the day before the photoshoot. The red fabric was for the bodice and it was stiffer and thicker so that it would provide a corset-like feel and support. I went for red with the bodice over another shade of pink because I wanted to, and the reference pictures I could find did not give a good guide for the colour.

12140938_10156286671795517_535476015656289161_oThis is a selfie I snapped while getting ready on the day of the photoshoot. It’s the only photo I have of the upper bodice of the dress. you can see the pink underdress and the red bodice over top. I used some of the leftover organza from the sleeves to drape over my shoulders as a last-minute touch. I really like how the lacing down the front turned out and love the red and pink contrast.

You can also see my hair done up in a ponytail and bow here. It’s a similar hairstyle to one I wear a lot, but I usually braid the “tail” part.

Finally now, the finished shot. This photo was taken at The Forks, Winnipeg. Melissa was the one who captured this photo. You can check out her other work at MTK Photography.

The weather was perfect and I am rather proud of how the whole thing turned out. The costume is incredibly comfortable and very fun to wear. I am looking forward to making more appearances as Belle in the future.

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