Belle's Domain

Glinda's Bubble Dress

I satarted making the bubble dress as a uni project. I had foolishly taken on too much at once, trying to get this dress made during school hours while working on Starlight costumes in my own time, for the open day. Ehhh, yeah, that didn't work. In the end I had to put the bubble dress on the back burner as it was being made for exhibition while the Starlight costumes were for performance, and so it didn't get finished.

The first step was to research this costume, how it's made, what it's used for - the easy bit! Specifically it's a bloody QUICK change costume, she's out of it and into her school uniform in seconds. Also it covers a flying harness as she flies in the bubble, and the bubble also shows the skirt is not built over a crinoline (hooped petticoat) as if it was, it would swing out in front of her when she backs into the bubble- not elegant. As I was working on this as a project towards my degree, not me independantly making a frock, I was under close guidance from my tutors. They were more interested in me making a dress rather than it being 100% accurate to the stage costume. In some ways this is good -I showed my tutor a photo of Glinda from the bows, as she's reaching up and waving there's a gap between her bodice and skirt. My tutor was not impressed and suggested I attach the top row of bubbles to the bodice to prevent this mishap happening to me. On the other hand, my tutors were not as aware of the demands on the costume as I was, so there's some elements of the skirt which I will re-make to work better.

This is very much an unfinished, work in progress costume!

Beading and Sequinning

The dress is encrusted in sequins! I started the shininess by taking the bodice shape from the toile, and picking it out on hand-dyed net to match the dress. This was probably OTT, the commercial baby blue net would probably have done, but I was doing this by the book. I stretched the net on an embroidery frame as seen here, and went at it with the sequins and beads. I worked outside-in, which was a mistake, as it became too regimented and formal. I broke that up later by adding more of the darker sequins at random, then the big beads. I just raided the fabric shop and my own supplies for anything blue and shiny! Once the bodice was completed I hand-sewed the sequin panel to the bodice. It still needs a scattering of sequins out from the panel to make it less of a block of shiny.

Then there's the bubbles, the crowning feature of this costume. I quailed at the thought of hand-sewing on sequins onto 40-odd bubbles, so I decided to glue them on. err. I should have experimented with this one first - glueing takes just as long, as you still have to place each sequin individually, but it also makes it a hideously sticky, messy process! I glued the top row of small bubbles, it's fine, but heavier and stiffer than hand-sewing would be.

The lower bubbles are hand-sewn, and with a lighter application of sequins. Each bubble is made of three layers - the irridescent organza, white dress net, and pale blue lining satin. These were all cut, layered net, organza, satin, overlocked around the edge (the fabrics fray as soon as you look at them) then turned so the overlocking was between the net and satin, with the organza on top. Being dyslexic that took me a couple of goes to get right in my head before sewing... :P Then the bubbles were pressed flat, and overlocked across the top. Then each was sequinned.

The next stage for the bubbles is to be tacked onto the skirt. However as I'll go into below, the skirt needs sorting first. I've folded two darts into the top of each bubble that stops them hanging flat, they curve and bounce nicely.

The Skirt.

Ohhh boy, the skirt. No. 1 reason why you shouldn't start a major job on a monday morning. Basically, I need to completely re-do the skirt. following my tutor's instructions I made the petticoat as a "sylphide" tutu, it's 25 metres of net gathered onto a cotton girdle (think low, wide belt round hips). It does have a lot of pouff. It stands up on its own. However the top skirt, which the petals are attached to - made on monday morning. Made without thinking, just following general instructions. As anyone who's seen the show might remember, in the cornfield/catfight scene, Glinda kneels down to mourn Nessa, and her skirt flows out around her. To do this is much be near enough a full circle skirt. But I didn't think of that, instead I used the historical skirt method of 3 rectangle panels, pleated onto waistband. Makes a nice, practical skirt, lovely pleated back... totally wrong for Glinda. Not only will it not move correctly, I can't attach the bubbles over the pleats without it going very odd. It's a perfectly valid method of making a skirt, just wrong for this project. *sighs*. so.... start again.

Also, since I made this, a photo has got online showing the underside of the German bubble dress. It's completely different - more like cancan dancer! layers of wide ruffles sewn to the underskide of the skirt. I'm tempted to either scrap the existing petticoat and start again using the cancan method, or maybe try using both. Since I'm starting the skirt again anyway, might as well do it properly this time!

Attaching the bubbles is the easy bit. They're all ready to go. But I need to get the skirt right first.

The Bodice

Bodices are a staple of costume making, and something I need to perfect. This one was made from scratch - I took Mazz's measurements, drew up her pattern block (following instructions from text book - involves more mathematics than is comfortable!) then altered the block, made a toile from calico, boned toile, tried it on Mazz. Then altered it, and fitted it again.
Once I was happy with the toile, I cut it from first white cotton drille, then layered with blue lining satin and the irridescent organza. these layers were flat tacked together - this is where I didn't do so well, they layers aren't perfectly flat together which is why the bodice is wrinkly. Or "shimmery", as I prefer to view it! I then overlocked the panels with a wide seam allowance - again, the satin and organza just fall apart - and then added boning channels. On the next fitting it turned out I'd made the bones slightly too long, so needed to trim off the immaculate caps I'd made to stop them digging in. Boning's made from double layers of Rigilene zigzagged together, with cotton tape binding the ends to prevent them digging in and wearing through the fabric. I then herringboned the seams open - makes it nice and neat and flat, and added the hook and eye tape fastening. Since this costume is not actually going to be used onstage and change out of in 5 seconds, I felt I could make it that bit neater.

The sleeves are simple oval shapes of organza, overlocked in blue, and with a channel top and bottom running the gathering elastic. They're just sewn to the bodice at the underarm. It would have been nice to make them wider to get more pouff, however we'd run out of the organza by this point.

The top layer of bubbles are tacked to the underside of the bodice to make the seam from bodice to skirt smoother, unlike the photo I'd seen. However they were put on before the edging of the bodice was finished due to time. The top and bottom of the bodice are currently just tacked down, that need undoing and proper piping added to edge them. This will give a much smoother, neater line than it currently has. Also there needs to be more beading at the back and sides of the top of the bodice.

What Next?

Well, the skirt needs re-making completely. Bodice needs trimming and more sequins put on, and some of the petals would benefit from more sequins too. I need to make the jewellery and wand. And then, I'll have a fabulous Big Frock for Mazz to wear!