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The first time I saw The Princess Bride a few years ago, I knew I'd be making at least one of Buttercup's gowns for my sister in the future. We've been going back and forth as to which one to make for about a year now, until we finally settled on the red gown Buttercup wears in the first half of the film. My sister loved the simplicity and color, and I loved that it looked like it wouldn't cost and arm and leg for trims. ;) We're planning on having this gown done by the end of October. A little bit of a squeeze, but I've cleared my sewing schedule of any other projects and will devote the next month and a half to this project only.

For the gown, we've purchased a ruby-red cotton sateen. It's very close the original gown's color, but not quite as much of an orange-undertone. The Juliet-cap will be made of various gold laces and cords (pending purchase), possibly accented with some small pearls. We also need to find suitable boots; but red boots being scarce, we're probably going to paint them instead. The belt we're just using a metal belt we already have, for simplicity's sake.

The plan is for me to drape the bodice and skirt pattern. I may possibly also drape the sleeves on my sister (which is what I did with the Eowyn gown I made last year, quite sucessfully I might add). Make up several muslins, making corrections along the way. Cut the gown out, sew it together, and finish it. At that point I'll acsertain where I am on the schedule of things to do, and may take a small break before doing the Juliet-cap and boots to work on a costume I need for early 2005. Hopefully this gown will be on the simple side, since it doesn't have a lot of embellishment and such.

But, this is not where it ends! Later in the year, we plan to overhaul the gown and transform it into a Pheonix-style gown for a party we're going to. Plans are still very sketchy at this point, but our prelimiary plans include adding red, orange and yellow feathers (most likely we'll dye them) at varying points on the dress to suggest feathers. The costume remake will also include a mask, molded from paper-maché to suggest plumage and a beak. Very fun, and very theatrical! :)

There has been a little delay in the whole gown process; having company over and being sick all weekend didn't put me in a mood to work on this thing. However I plan to get some serious work done over the next week.

Earlier last week I draped the first bodice toile. As most who have read my previous dress diaries know, I much prefer draping over flat pattern drafting. As I like to put it, with the draping I get an 85% sucess rate, with the drafting I get an 85% failure rate. ;) One of my tricks to draping for uncorseted figures is to dail the form at least 2" larger than the measurements require (larger if more ease is needed, but I usually just fudge this); this larger dialing isn't needed if the garment being draped is being worn over a corseted figure. I've taken a few pictures of the draping for this particular bodice.


(From left to right: front before draping; front after draping before trimming; back after draping and seamline is marked, before trimming.)

The fitting went very well, and the toile only needed a few minor changes. Here is the bodice after the corrections, before I took it apart to transfer the new markings:


I need to make up a new bodice toile to double check everything, and then draping the fitted sleeve pattern is next!! I've decided that draping a fitted sleeve pattern and then using the slash and spread method on the bottom half to create the bell shape sleeve will be much easier than trying to drape a bell sleeve and include all the fullness.

I made another bodice muslin, and except for the shoulders needing to be slightly adjusted, it was perfect and my sister was very excited with how it looked:


We draped the sleeves last Saturday. As you can see from the pictures, what I basically do is pin one end of the muslin to the shoulder seam (to mark the center of the muslin, I either thread baste a line or, as I did here, iron a sharp crease down the center). One tip that I haven't had to use yet, is if the arm is larger and has some irregularities, basting a horizontal line across the upper portion of the muslin isn't a bad idea either (to keep parallel to the floor). I start by pinning along the armhole, going under the arm (a little tricky; this is where you really have to play with the fabric). Once I've got that to my satisfaction, I pin the arm of the sleeve. Because this is only a base pattern (sloper, if you will) of the sleeve that will eventually become a bell shape, I really only paid attention to getting a good fit from the elbow upward. After pinning everything in place, I next used a pen to mark all the seams and the cap curve. The sleeve is then taken off, unpinned and traced onto a piece of pattern paper. At this point, I'll slash and spread the sleeve (haven't done that yet; will provide plenty of photos of that process!) to creat the bell shape. I may cut out a full sleeve muslin after that, or only cut a half-musling (only half the sleeve) to test the cap fit without wasting excess fabric.


I slashed and spread the sleeve toile to create the bishop sleeve shape. Below is a little photo gallery of the steps. From left to right: the sleeve after the draped shape was transferred to pattern paper. The sleeve marked at 3/4" intervals for slashing. The sleeve cut up the lines; within 1/8" of the top edge (I had removed the 1/2" seam allowance at this point to make it easier when the pieces were spread). The pieces spread and pinned to the pattern paper beneath. The spread sleeve shape has been traced and seam allowances added to the top and bottom.


Now I just have to create another bodice toile and cut out a sleeve muslin, fit it and we'll see how it goes from there!

I was trying to be good today and get some serious work done on the Buttercup dress. After I cut out the 'final' toile yesterday, and constructed it today, I sensed something was wrong--even though I hadn't fit it on my sister yet. My fears were confirmed when we finally did have time for a fitting session. The bodice had somehow become too big--everywhere. All I can think is that when I traced the last toile pieces on to pattern paper and added seam allowances, I either added seam allowances where they weren't needed or goofed somehow. So, it's back to the drawing board. At least I saved all my preveious toile pieces. I think I shall cut out a new one based on the 1st toile pieces, rather than the 2nd (the last one I did before this disaster). At least the sleeve fits beautifully! Ha, and sleeves are usually my sore point. Oh well. So, I'm taking a break for a couple hours as I could feel my frustration level rising to critical level. Better to take a short break than for me to tear up a project.

I made up the 'final' toile early last week, only to find in the process of transferring the bodice pattern from the last muslin toile to pattern paper, I made an error and added a few seam allowances where they weren't needed. Oops. I finally had time this afternoon to make another muslin, which I'm happy to say, fit. The sleeve muslin is almost perfect as well--I just need to add a little extra on the sides to give it more of a pronounced baloon shape where it gathers at the cuff.

I then cut out all the bodice and sleeve pieces from the red cotton. All I need to do is cut out the neckline facing pieces and skirt front and back, but that will wait until another day. I have a horrible sore shoulder from doing yardwork yesterday (annual fall clean-up), and bending over a cutting board just made it worse. Ack. My other problem is I neglected to previously buy red thread for this project. So tomorrow morning I need to run out and get that so I can get started.

I picked up the red thread this morning as well as some hooks and eyes (need those for the cuff closures) and red ribbon. As usual, my JoAnn's store didn't have any red cord that was the right shade or size, so I was stuck with ribbon for lacing up the back. Oh well--my sister isn't that picky anyway.) In the few hours I've been sewing, I've gotten through the majority of the bodice construction; I just need to understitch the facing and sew the side seams. It's been slower going than I could have wished for, but I have to zig-zag each exposed seam since the bodice isn't lined (I decided it would add too much bulk). After that, I'll get started on the sleeves. I'm aiming for having it totally completed by Thursday--if nothing sinister happens in the process...

I hate sleeves.

I loathe them.

I would like nothing better than to live in a warm, tropical climate (sans bugs) and go sleeveless the rest of my life.


I got basically the whole bodice finished and am slowly working on the eyelets down the back (I figure if I do 6-7 per evening (which only takes me about an hour), I can be done by Thursday). But now I'm onto the sleeves. Heh. After running the lines of hand-stitches along the bottom edge of the sleeve for the carteridge pleating, I'm wondering if the sleeve isn't going to be wide enough. I don't want to continue to swing the edges outward--the seams are almost horizontal at this point. So I'm thinking in order to preserve my sanity, fabric and the whole project, I'll add a wide gusset into each sleeve seam at the hem. Any thoughts? Then the plackets are giving me trouble as well...

Did I mention how much I despise sleeves?

I'm going to go work on the skirt. Hopefully that will settle me down. Do something nice and easy like math and figuring out how much I need to pleat the skirt with. Easy. Ha. Yeah right.


I formed a Plan of Action. I'm going to add gussets to the skirt sides and cb (to add width to the hem). Once those are cut out, sewn to the appropriate points on said skirt, skirt side seams sewn, and the skirt attached to the bodice, I'm going to see how much fabric I have left. If I have enough (and this does hinge on the great, all-encompasing 'IF'), I may just cut out new sleeve entirely. I wasn't that far along on the other sleeves anyway, so I have no feelings of guilt about totally redoing it--if I can get the skirt completely finished today as well.

It's official! The skirt of the Buttercup dress is now attached to the bodice. Imagine that!


Obviously it's too long right now (hemming is needed...), but you get the overall effect. The waistline is a little lower than I would like, but certain people are making me ignore that aspect... for now. *wicked grin* But I'm excited about this project again. Now onto the sleeves!

The Buttercup gown is now officially completed! It certainly was a marathon sewing project, and I admit at times in the past 72 hours I wondered if in fact I could finish this, but I did. My sister is delighted with how it turned out--I've never seen her this excited about a dress I've made her. It looks absolutely stunning on her--from the color to the drape of the skirt (which is about 6 yds. around!). This project also taught me a few valuable lessons in not being the sewing snob I usually am--especially when it comes to hems--when time is tight. The only thing that I really let get to me (and eventually redid) were the sleeves, which was a good choice in retrospect as the previous sleeves were way too narrow.

So it's completely done and I'm rather pleased with how it came out. Not 100% perfect, but what matters is that my sister likes it. Enjoy looking at the pictures!


Juliet Cap
Currently in progress...

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All Content Copyright © 2003-2004 Miss C.

Modified October 26, 2004



°   Blue twill, 2 yds.
°   Cotton cord, #3
°   Boning
°   Front opening busk
°   1" twill tape
°   3/4" twill tape
°   100% silk thread; white


°   Farthingale's


°   Antique Corset
°   Corsets and Crinolines

Books to Read

Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield

Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: 1800-1909 by Jean Hunnisett

Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh