story of a prom dress
Earlier this month the Kiwi girl graduated high school, wrapping up an overly full senior year of activities. Though I have tons of pictures to wade through and a special book in the works, there is one particular story that just might define this year for the rest of us: the story of her senior prom dress.
Kiwi always has very specific ideas about what she wants, and for her junior prom she made it happen fairly well with a princess-ey dress in a deep, gorgeous color. For her senior year she knew that she wanted a dress with less fullness so it didn’t interfere with her dance space, and she really wanted something in white. The search was on before her junior year even ended, and several ideas were tossed around before landing almost definitely on a dress worn by Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie Country Strong. Her grandmother (my mom) actually saw that dress first and suggested it to Kiwi, who loved the idea of bling and feathers creating a bit of drama. There was much discussion for many weeks about how to make that particular dress a reality, and my mom took it upon herself to create it from scratch, if necessary. I lost count of how many times we all viewed Country Strong, and the one concert sequence featuring the dress was replayed over and over in slow motion just to capture each little detail that such a creation would entail. And just as Mom was deep into research for materials, the Homecoming activities began and suddenly Kiwi realized that everyone was wearing sparkly, feathered dresses. She nixed the Country Strong dress right then and there; her prom dress had to be original and never-before-seen. So the search began anew.
A color was determined fairly quickly – royal blue, because Kiwi knows it’s her best color – and it had to outdo her junior prom dress and it had to be, in her words, “just as amazing in the back as it is in the front.” Having already determined that Kiwi’s dress would most likely need to be created from scratch (yet holding out hope that one could still be purchased as is), my mom began searching the internet for royal blue prom dresses. In December 2011, she found the perfect dress at a prom dress reseller’s online site. Kiwi’s response: “OMG!”
Mom and I had a bit of discussion about whether the dress should be ordered straight from one of those sites and shipped, thus calling the entire saga “done,” but the custom-fitted dress would have to come from China and too many questions arose in that scenario. Ultimately, my mom – the best grandmother in the world! – chose to take this inspiration dress and build it herself, from hand-drawn muslin pattern to full-on crystal-embellished masterpiece. Along the way, Kiwi guided the process by asking for more bling here and more structure there, plus fuller straps and better support, so as not to worry over the dress as she danced. Kiwi wanted her prom to be worry-free and her dress to be a showstopper. In Kiwi’s words, “I want a ‘Wow!’ when I come in and a ‘gasp’ when I walk past.” For the most part, I think she got all of that and more, thanks to her grandmother.
By the end of the process – entirely created, I must add, in the living area of my parents’ 5th-wheel RV, which is their only home – this incredible dress featured 6 yards of deep indigo satin with 52 yards(!) of black ruffles creating a petticoat, mounds of silver sequins and beads, plus 800 individually-placed Swarovski crystals that required five steps to place each one onto the dress fabric (repeat, times 800). And if you look closely at the front of the bodice (below) you’ll also see a rhinestone necklace that was disassembled and placed along the V-shaped straps until the strands met a single rhinestone earring that had been turned upside-down at the “V” center.
The entire project took 5 months, numerous fittings, and much brainstorming with a new friend my mom met who is a deconstruction/reconstruction seamstress working for a costume company in Dallas. This woman proved invaluable to Mom, and it was only by chance that she even met her when a friend of a friend suggested she be contacted for locations to buy the Swarovskis. In essence, Mom (with the help of her new friend Val) worked tirelessly to make this vision of Kiwi’s prom dress come to life. And Kiwi was a real trooper throughout the whole process..
Along the way there was a constant search for the perfect accessories to pair with this perfect prom dress. Later in this post you’ll see a feathery hair clip created by hand from Val’s imagination, as well as an awesome garter purse that my mom made for Kiwi to store her cell phone and lipstick without worrying over a purse. Kiwi herself embellished an umbrella with rhinestones in case the weather turned to rain. (The girl was prepared!) But, as always, the shoes were a key component of the night’s look: sparkly silver heels (shown here with her everyday socks), and a second pair of sparkly silver Vans to serve as dancing shoes (which were actually given to Kiwi by her prom date!)
And then came the jewelry. A blingy dress needs little embellishment, but my mom really wanted to gift Kiwi with a special ring that put the icing on top of the look. Only one ring comes to mind when we think of “sapphire” and “rhinestones”… Princess Diana’s, and now Princess Kate’s, engagement ring. My parents presented Kiwi with her own “sapphire” ring a few weeks before the prom, before the dress was even complete, and she was surprised but absolutely in love with it.
When the day finally came, on May 12, 2012, our Miss Kiwi was never more ready and never more radiant. She prepped all day – as the best glamour girls will do – with hair styling and makeup and a pre-weekend manicure, and though she felt her hair turned out a bit more “Marie Antoinette” than planned, she was quite happy with the final look. Head to toe, Kiwi turned herself into the princess she wanted to be on that night.
Before heading out to the big event, there was, of course, the requisite photo shoot by her own mom as Kiwi posed with her girlfriends and their dates. And then it was finally time for everyone to set off for the night. Kiwi looked great and she had fun, too, making Senior Prom 2012 a big success! (Big thanks to my sisters for sharing their photos from prom day since I was not able to be there with the girl.)