Prom Dresses

Summer; traditionally the wedding season – bridal, bridesmaid, mother of the bride, with perhaps the odd race day here and there, but not this year, this year things are a little strange, there is a distinct lack of weddings in the air (although it could be said there is a distinct lack of summer in the air too, but I won’t dwell on that now).

Last month the Eliza Wyke studio was in full prom swing.  Like everything else we’ve adopted from our American cousins (fast-food, big screens, language – OMG, Awesome, Whatever…), it seemed it was only a matter of time before the prom arrived on our shores.

And boy has the prom arrived.  Now it’s a huge industry, and expanding each year. And it’s all about the dress… (and possibly the tan, manicure, highlights/extensions and of course mode of transport).  However for my part, it’s definitely about the dress.  This year I was lucky enough to work with four young ladies, three of which were attending their first proms (yes this isn’t even a one-off for parents as proms occur at 16 and 18!), and it was definitely about the dress.

So why is the dress so important?

Whilst a woman’s wedding dress is still arguably the most important dress of her life, the first prom dress is the first step into the adult world.  The dress needs an air of sophistication, but should equally retain a young, fun and flirty feel so as not to look like lamb dressed as mutton!  Like the wedding dress it also has to make a statement about the wearer – she’s young, sophisticated and dynamic enough to wear something different from the rest of the crowd.  To quote the words of one mum who emailed me the day afterwards telling me she’d been overcome at seeing “My baby all grown up!!!!”

To start the process I asked each to show me ideas of the kinds of dresses they liked.  Following which, I then drew our requirements for the dress. As I’m generally a fabric lead designer (I draw inspiration for my designs from fabric rather than finding a fabric to suit my design), the fabric sourcing was most is the most important stage.

The next stage was the design the dress.

However, simply designing a dress isn’t the end of the process.  Sometimes during the design and manufacture process the dress can organically evolve.

Ellie’s dress (finished and shown below) is an example of this process.  The dress was made of silk chiffon with a satin finish, over a silk satin lining.  Following our initial discussions Ellie wanted a gathered bodice and skirt, but after the first draft the gathering looked clumsy as the gathered chiffon added too much volume to the dress.  After a little thought, I decided to remove the gathering.  I then manually pleated the fabric (hot iron, lots of steam and a borrowed pair of fingers in the form of Significant Other who complained bitterly for days afterwards about scorched fingers and steam burns!) before reattaching to the bodice.  The result was a sleeker, smother bodice which suited the sophistication of the dress.  To complement the bodice I removed the gathering in the skirt and instead inserted several deep pleats.  The final touch to the bodice was to add the diamante trim.  I sourced several trims, and finally found the perfect trim in small shop off Berwick Street in London.

Pleated bodice… three hours of hot steam pressing to pleat the entire bodice but the results are stunning

Several fittings and a lot of patience on Ellie’s (and mum, Anna) part, she looked every bit the sophisticated young woman as she departed for the ball.

Elli looking splendid as she departs for her prom

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