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New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Welcome to my world where I try to figure out what I'm going to do next! These days, it is mostly quilting, but you never know what it might be... come find out with me!

Monday, June 21, 2010

a different kind of post!

Instead of showing my current quilting projects, this post is going to be about some of the Irish Dance Dresses I've made over the years. 
My stepdaughter started dancing when she was 9, after seeing the Riverdance video (she is now 21).  She was bound and determined that she was going to dance like Jean Butler (the lead female dancer).  After a bit of searching and a few false starts, she found a school where she was happy.  For the first few years she danced in a white blouse and black skirt with an embroidered cummerbund, but as she progressed through the levels, the need for a competition level costume grew.  Now these dresses were not cheap (some of these dresses cost in excess of $3000 dollars!), but me being the cheap soul that I am, and quite used to fashion sewing, figured I could make one for her and save us a bundle of money!  If you have never seen one of these dresses, at that time the skirts were very rigid - in fact the first several dresses I made have rigid steel braces sewn into the front of the skirt to keep the panels flat and straight!  These provided a fair bit of challenge in trying to figure out how to make them, but I persevered, and this was the result.first dress 
sorry its such a small picture
In making the first dress I learned a lot, and figured I had to try making another.  Unfortunately, I can't find a picture of that one, but it didn't end there.  I made one for a friend of her's
pale blue KF
and then she decided to try designing them herself (she was 15 at this point).  Here's the first one she designed


and a few progress shots while I was making this one
hand guided
We progressed on from there, with seemingly, a new dress each year as she continued to grow. From this point on the dresses made were her own original designs, which she would draw out on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and give to me and say "make this one!" Always being up for a challenge, I continued to accept. Here are the ones that followed. Luckily, her growth spurt had ended and I only had to make one every two years or so. 
green silk ID dress
If you think they are garish, you are not alone! I've always described them as Disneyland meets Las Vegas, and they are generally not combinations that I would put together! The ones we made are tame, by many accounts! As the years passed the styles changed, more sequins, more bling, more colours, until now they are actually much simpler designs, softer skirts, easier to make, but now covered in rhinestones! I make the dress - I leave the bling to SD!
blk grn gold
back and front
and then finally, this is the last dress I made - this one has been completely remade two times now as it was intially made with mutton leg sleeves and a white bodice.  It was determined after wearing it in one competition that there was too much white and the sleeves were too puffy, so the bodice had to be re-done, to minimize the amount of white.
Green Velvet
I think I have one last dress in me, although I probably have the fabric for several more! but SD is winding down her competitive dancing, and will only have half a dozen or so competitions over the next year, and no requirement for additional dresses.  It has been a fun learning experience, and has served to greatly improve my confidence and ability to figure out how to make something and have it fit well.
Sorry for such a long post, next one will be back to quilting, I'm sure!


Rachel said...

Holy moly, Janet. These are incredible. What a lot of work! They are quite stunning. I know what you mean about the cost. Some of the belly dance costumes the girls in my class buy are unbelievably expensive too.

aubirdwoman said...

I am too flabergasted to speak (and you know thats not like me)
there is no word to describe your daughters and your own fantastic talents. Thanks for the post.

welsh penny said...

How lovely your dresses are! Such patience and love shown. pst...I hope you realise that when she marries, she will design her wedding dress for you to create a final masterpiece! Gail

TheaMinPA said...

wow - Janet - I'm in awe!
I was at the International Folk Festival in Pittsburgh last spring - the Irish Step dancers were all aglittering and I wondered about those costumes! thank you for this insight.
Your sewing skills continue to amaze me!

Jan said...

Oh for goodbness sake Janet! these are truly amazing ,what a lucky Step daughter you have ,and what patience and talent you have ,
and however much money have you saved on these dresses over the years ,they are simply wonderful Jan xx

a good yarn said...

There is so much work in these masterpieces. The girls look so beautiful when they dance in them. Yu really are so clever! aNN :-)

Anonymous said...

Awesome dresses.

Iceni UK said...

Spectacular dresses Janet, your talent knows no bounds. The designs and rainbow colours are gorgeous.

Beth said...

Wow! The dresses are just stunning. My DD#2 did Irish step, but didn't want to compete so I was saved because I never could have produced those lovely dreses.
Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

the last one is my, you are a sewing talent......I love her designs too!

Melissa ;-) said...

I have always thought the dresses worn in Irish dance were insanely gorgeous and yours live up to that hype, for sure! Amazing! I bet she already knows this, but she is one lucky girl to have you as a mom!

Anonymous said...

I am left speechless...I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E!!!

Lynne (Lily's Quilts) said...

Oh my golly golly gosh, those are just amazing. We had an Aussie au pair for 18 months when my twins were very little and she was an Irish dancer as were all her brothers and sisters. They travelled the world in competitions, probably the same circuits as you've done and their dresses absolutely amazed me - and those hilarious hair pieces too. That most recent green one is my favourite of yours - the others are all equally amazing but garish as you say whereas the final one has a real Irish feel to it and it pretty and simple (by Irish dancing standards...!)