Wearing my handmade gown to the theater was one of the best days ever.

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Mary Martha Henderson

Florida, USA

For nearly 4 years, I have been attending the Metropolitan Opera's "Live in HD" broadcasts of live opera performances transmitted into the cinemas worldwide. What started as a casual hobby of dressing up for the operas turned into an even bigger passion of sewing costumes for each performance to match the main character or theme of the opera being shown at the time. I taught myself to sew on a machine when I needed to make a kimono for Madama Butterfly (that was only 3 years ago!). From that point, I've been crazy about sewing costumes and upscale garments for formal wear as well as opera dress-up.

When I knew I would have to make a ball gown for Massenet's Cendrillon (Cinderella), I didn't know where to start, but began looking online for cost effective ways to sew such a high end garment and have it look professional. It was here that I stumbled upon the Corset Academy, in particular the course on the Princess Wedding Skirt. The picture of the skirt was outstanding! It was exactly what I wanted. I was hooked. I was dying to jump in and test myself at creating a luxurious skirt. The process was surprisingly quick and my finished skirt was fairly decent for my first time. In addition, I used the tutorials for the Simplified Corset to make the ball gown bodice and it was beautiful!

Wearing my handmade gown to the theater was one of the best days ever. Everyone flocked to ask me where I bought my dress. Imagine their shock when I revealed that I made it myself! This was my first taste of success and I have the Corset Academy to thank.

Cendrillon -- front view (lake side)

I joined the site and began working on a funky 1970's inspired gown using the Wedding Dress Without Side Seams course. While there were several fitting mishaps along the way, I was pleased with my end result and felt like a desert goddess wearing my Swarovski crystal-studded gown to Saint-Säens's Samson et Dalila. The colors were thrilling!

Dalila -- front, hand on hip

For Carmen, I used the Quilted Cup Corset tutorials for the base of my outfit and had great success with the shape and fit of the sweetheart neckline. Easing in the fabric under the curved bones was a huge help in achieving the proper cling to the bust.

Valkyrie -- ax

Valkyrie -- front left side, wings

In an unconventional manner, I took your advice when crafting my armored bodice for Wagner's Die Walküre and only boned the pattern piece up to the underbust (as well as putting a thin horizontal bone along the bust line for the front half of the bodice). On top of each Rigilene bone, I placed a fabric strip to make a boning channel and slid plastic heavy duty cable zip ties into the tunnels for bones (that's a tip that can be used for other sewers as well). I used the corset pattern with shoulders and deepened and squared the neckline for the desired look. After several mock-ups and alterations to the pattern, I had a good foundation for my bodice. After I had attached the mesh sleeves (borrowed from one of the courses on the Bare Skin Wedding Dresses) and zipped up my bodice for a fitting, I noticed that the neckline was wider than I wanted and the straps were almost coming off my shoulders ! I thought about what could have gone wrong and I have to think that it was the last minute adjustment made to the neckline that threw off the proportions. But this is a progress report, right ? The metallic taffeta wrap skirt was fashioned in accordance with some of the skirt tutorials in the Dressmaker's Treasury for Skirts. Overall, the outfit looked spectacular and was an identical replica of the costumes worn in the opera.

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