A dress fit for a highland fling

Who doesn’t love the glamour of a ball?  It’s infectious whether you’re attending it yourself or merely working with someone who is, it is an  opportunity to step away from the norm, and the humdrum and to dream that for one night, and sometimes one night only, you can behave like a glamorous  star.

I love the glamour and am always thrilled when my customers want to share their glamour with me.  I adore a ball and what better than a Scottish ball; the jigs, the reels, and of course the tartan!

Three weeks ago, I received a call from Alice who’s doormat  had received the sudden thump of an invitation.  Whilst the event was  two-day event, the second night required a  bespoke ballgown, and in the strict traditions of Scottish balls, we had a list of criteria the dress must meet.

Firstly the ballgown had to be white, it must cover the ankle and, if ancestry allowed, the family tartan sash must be adorned.

Alice had recently visited the exhibition at Kensington Palace, finding inspiration in a whole host of royal ballgowns.  She had taken a particular interest in an beautiful gown designed by David Emmanuel for Diana, Princess of Wales (currently on display) and we used this as the inspiration for the design.

The original dress, designed by David Emanuel and worn by Diana on her first public outing. The right hand picture shows the dress on display at Kensington Palace

The original is made from black silk taffeta but for our version we used James Hare’s silk dupion which has a similar drape to the original and comes in a wide range of colours.  Knowing that a pure brilliant white isn’t the most flattering of colours to the European skin tone, those talented people at James Hare have varying shades of pale.  We opted for the Indian Dupion in Light Apricot which is softer than white and gives a hint of a glow whilst still maintaining the purity of white.

The original Diana dress is a strapless gown, however in this instance practicality had to prevail, a strapless dress would be a little impractical for an evening of energetic Scottish dancing, so we added a thin strap for extra security.   The final modification was to make the dress hover a whisker above the floor, so that she didn’t catch her foot or, worse still dirty the dress, but with a large enough hem this could be cunningly lowered when Alice attends another event should she wish to wear heels.

Our (my) only moment of concern was the length and width of the tartan sash, everyone we asked (Alice asked family and friends, I my old friend Google!) gave differing dimensions – in the end we decided to go with what suited Alice and looked best on her petite figure.

And now, a mere three  weeks later, I’ve been reliably informed that the  dress (and Alice) danced ‘til dawn on the Isle of Skye.

Alice’s ballgown created in James Hare silk dupion and shown in my studio earlier this week
Close up of the gathered bias-cut frill on the bodice
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