Burda Magazine 11-2011-124: Captain’s Ball Gown

Even after my hectic week, I still managed to get my Captain’s Ball dress sewn. I didn’t take photos at the ball and was hoping our photographer would come through. Here are some from my house just before I left.ย I swear our photog is psychic. I give up waiting and the photos appear in my inbox, LOL.

How do I feel about it? I would never sew this dress again. It came out fine. Even beautiful. But, for me, the draft was fraught with pain-in-my-ass. The main problem was the bodice length. The straps didn’t situate well on me and required lots of futzing to get them to work. I don’t know if I cut off grain or it’s a design flaw. It’s possible this could have been alleviated with a muslin, but if I had muslined, I never would have bothered to finish this dress.

Also, I kind of felt like I was wearing a second-wedding wedding dress, LOL. I do LOVE that I was in silver. There was a lot of navy blue and black that night.

Initial Alterations: 1/2 FBA and 1.0 inch swayback adjustment.

  • I took about 1.5 inches of length out of each shoulder
  • 1.5 inches in width taken out of the straps
  • 1/2 inch scooped out from armscye
  • Raised the center front by 1 inch
  • Took in upper center back by 1/2 inch (to help keep straps up)
  • Shortened hem by 1.5 inches (so I could, you know, walk)

All this to get the dress to stay on my shoulders. This NEVER happens to me and Burda! Now that the tech is out of the way, let’s talk about the dress.

The fabric is silver silk taffeta underlined in silk organza in the front and bodice and cotton batiste for the back skirt and godet. This served two purposes. It provided the dress with stability, especially given the weight of the godet and helped minimize wrinkling.

You can see in this photo that the silk has little plaid patterns on it. They are so subtle I didn’t need to match. And, if they did need to match, it wouldn’t have mattered because I didn’t have enough material!

The dress uses starburst pleats for interset. Sadly, not interesting enough for me! By the time I pulled all the extra length out of the top shoulders, the starbust effect was all but gone from the bodice. That, and there wasn’t a lot of room / shaping in the bust so my boobage is kind of just squished and there. Because of the underlining, everything was so thick that the seamline was also not very attractive. I called Trena via Skype and she suggested adding something to the seam line like a belt or pin. I remembered this pin that came with a coat I once owned. Brilliant. Everyone needs a friend who sews. Everyone.

The godet is a beautiful element. But, I do not think any this did much for my backside. The weight of the godet pulls the dress down at center back. And, I have a huge butt. My dress could have been more fitted at back waist. Below, you can see what I mean about the weight of the godet….

If you decide to make this dress, note that the underside of the godet will show. And, since I underlined my dress with white cotton batiste and it would be dragging on the ground (getting dirty) I knew I had to line to the hem of the godet. The original just has a knee length lining. So, to line the dress, I sewed the bottom hems together (right sides together) for a clean finish. I turned it out through a lining opening in the godet.

The dress was VERY popular at the Captain’s Ball! But, I think that’s because everyone knew I was going to be sewing to the wire. It was more of the ‘I can’t beleive you made a formal’ vs ‘that dress is amazing’.

Here you can see the lining / underside of the godet showing

And, I spent so much time focused on whether or not I’d have a dress, that I didn’t think through my accessories. It made me realize I don’t own a formal bag (I always borrow). My shoes are just something I wear in the summer (I figured they wouldn’t be seen) and I pulled out my Princess Diana ring and necklace with my every day CZ studs. LOL. For real. I put no thought in to it.

My friend Liz brought a little hair clip for me so I could rock a Billy Holliday look the rest of the night.

Overall, I am glad I got it done. I’m proud I made it myself. I’m *really* happy the fabric was $5 a yard and already in the stash and the lining was $40. My dress looked expensive. That makes this $65 silk formal with crazy structure that I couldn’t buy off the rack. And, in the end we made it work.

Don’t I have the most attractive friends? We are the United Colors of Benetton of our office.


  1. You looked great! And since I hadn’t seen you a billion years and didn’t know to anticipate a gown you had made yourself, I had no clue. That’s double points. So impressed.

  2. OMG – This looks fabulous on you…better from the front….let’s just count the ways…it hits you perfectly on the waist and hips – that raised waist look is just so hot now; the straps look great (sometimes patterns get a little carried away and there’s extra ease or something in the front that you have to take out and you only know this if you muslin), anyway you can’t tell that you had a prob there; love the broach in the middle; adore the color – it’s great to wear something besides the safe black or navy; love the flare on the front of the dress – the line is excellent; you did a fabulous job with that godet in back which can be a real nightmare – sometimes if I know the lining’s going to show, I will face the godet only – sometimes part of the lining if it will flip too, in a contrasting fabric – hot pink, wild purple, sapphire blue – something like that which will add a little snap to the bottom where no one expects it to be (die-to-match shoes can really carry this off but I know you have a time constraint.). Think about cutting this off, if you haven’t got another formal even coming up and you will have a stunning gown for when you need something short and formal – much more useable.

    Love the whole look – kudos to you!

    • That is SUCH a good idea Claire! I was so salty when I realized the underside would show and would look terrible with the underlining. Because the godet is one piece, I had to use 60 inch wide fabric to cut the lining too! I wish I had thought of that (or posted the problem).

      I have one annual black tie event in May, so I’ll cut this after that one. That’s a great idea too! There aren’t a lot of places I can wear this dress ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. wow – what a beautiful dress! it looks fabulous on you, very flattering. i can imagine what a pain it was working with the silk ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. It is a fantastic color on you and you do look so pretty in it! I’m sure you stood out in a good way in the sea of navy and black!

  5. Wow just lovely! You looked super in your dress :O). You should be really proud of it, its really pretty.

  6. This dress is beautiful and you look stunning in it. You are so brave to undertake such a project on a deadline, and it definitely paid off.

  7. From the front, this dress is gorgeous, though I’ll confess I have similar feelings as you about the back. But! You made a formal dress, worked through some issues with it, were under time constraints, and still had an inexpensive (and really nice!) dress at the end. So, I would totally count this as a win. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I think I’ve I’d had known how ginormous my tush looked, I would have thought twice, LOL. That being said, it’s pretty fitted. I have to hike up the skirt to sit and get in and out of cars.

      • Nah, no one pays that much attention to the back, so I doubt anyone else even noticed unless you pointed it out. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve seen people wear RTW formal gowns that don’t fit as good as this one.

  8. There’s still time to put in a vertical stay for the top of the godet: take a piece of sturdy ribbon, cut it to the length between top of godet and waist seam, add seam allowances. Attach it firmly to the top of the godet (inside the dress, duh). Sew the other end to the waist seam. This will allow the top of the dress — which is supported by your shoulders — to help support the weight of the godet. You’ll get less dragging down in the back, and you’ll be way happier with the dress. You may even want to go with two stays, separated at the top by several inches … pin fit this first to see which you prefer. I agree with all above that the silver is lovely against your skin.

    • oh my goodness. What a GREAT idea! Thank you! I will do this ASAP. I have to resew the lining anyway (the pieces were different sizes). I didn’t know how much this pulled until I saw the pics.

  9. You look beautiful in our gown. Great color choice, and I love the brooch in the center front. If you do the stay for godet support, please post about it. I’d love to see the technique and result.

  10. Well I think you look beautiful! The struggle was worth it. I’d second the advice to cut it off if you don’t need a floor length gown again. It’d make a lovely cocktail dress and the color looks lovely with your skin tone. Great work!

    P.s. I you cut it off you can make an evening bag and fascinater from the scraps so you’ll be all set to cocktail at the drop of a hat.

  11. Love it! You were really looking at it with “I’m so OVER sewing this dress” eyes. I think when you look at the pictures in a few weeks you’ll realize it’s fabulous.

  12. So pretty! I know I loved this dress when it came out. I think I still want to make one (eventually) but I will totally muslin first! I love the silver color with your skin though, and the jewels at the center of the starburst look great. Looks awesome, you should be super proud of your gown.

  13. Holy cow, you look FAB! Love the color, love the style, love the fit! LinB’s idea for a vertical waist stay sounds amazing– if that works, you’ll have a PERFECT dress! Good job, gal!

  14. I think it looks wonderful! And I like it way better on you than on the dress form. And the pin is genius.

  15. Good job making it work! You look beautiful. The silver color looks great on you, and I really like the neckline. The brooch is fab.

  16. I’ve been following this story with fascination. The dress is lovely. You look beautiful. Now… what am I going to do for blog -related cliff hangers this week?

  17. I’m so sorry you can’t see what we see. Its stunning. Simplicity has great effect here and the color and style suit you. I do see what you mean by the weight of the godet in the back, but other than that, gorgeously well done!

  18. You look lovely! While I am sure some people were giving you your props just for having made the dress, I am even more sure that most people were simply thinking how lovely you (and the dress) looked. Really nice job.

    Also, I love LinB’s suggestion above for the vertical stay(s) to support the weight of the godet. Do let us know if you try it!

  19. The dress looks great on you and although you had to put such effort into it, it was worth it! I also love the idea that you didnยดt invest too much money into it! This is always so enjoyable when sewing for yourself!

  20. Love the colour and the pin was made for that dress. I was a bit like you for accessories. However I had enough time to make a little evening bag, which will probably get more use than the dress!

  21. Well, I think this looks stunning on you, my dear. Job well done. You must be exhausted from all your service to the city of Baltimore.

  22. I just made an evening dress with a godet. I did put in a waist stay out of grosgrain which helps lessen the weight on the shoulders, but never thought of putting in vertical stays. Great idea and I will do that before I wear it again! My fabric was a stripe, so I faced the visible part of the godet with a matching fabric. I love the way godets look even in shorter dresses, and loved your dress too! Will make it next time I need an evening dress!

  23. That fabric color is beautiful on you, and the gown is so sophisticated. The brooch is perfect. Goodness, you look absolutely fabulous!

  24. The dress is stunning on you. I wonder if you could stitch a keeper from the waistband at the back to the top of the godet? That might take some of the weight. Silver is a great choice for evening wear.

  25. This turned out really beautiful, especially after your struggles! I actually really like how the neckline looks on you, and the broach takes it over the top. So glad you got it done in time! ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Oh dang wow!!!! I wish you were for hire. I’d be so PROUD to have made that. It is absolutely magnificent. Looks like big bucks!

  27. You look beautiful (as always), the dress looks beautiful. Great save on such an ill
    fitting pattern

  28. Maybe you just didn’t enjoy making this because it was a bit rushed, but it looks stunning on you. The brooch is a brilliant idea too and adds just the right amount of bling. You and your friends all look super glamourous.

  29. You really do look smashing! You know what the problems with the dress are because you made it, but I will share with you what my mother used to say when she sewed for me. She would obsess for a few minutes when something didn’t go her way, try to fix it, then say, “oh well, it will never be seen on a galloping horse” and carry on. Good advice, I think. The dress is lovely (as are you), you have ideas from these smart readers to improve it, and the Billy Holliday look is something you carry off very well. It draws attention to your beautiful smile. What a great look!

  30. I definitely prefer the silver on you over navy or black, it just suits you perfectly. I agree, the back of the dress didn’t make as much of a statement as one would have thought, but the front of it is AMAZING! Absolutely cut it and make a shorter evening dress out of it, the shape of this dress is wonderful on you. Alternatively, if you need another long dress, make it a column and remove the godet (even though you worked so hard on it!). All things considered, it does great things for you from the front, which is really where you want to be noticed!

  31. I know the dress was a pain in the ar*e but you look absolutely stunning. And the fact you wasn’t in navy blue or black makes you the official Belle of the Ball lol.

  32. Stunning. Perfect fit and fabric! Worth all the hitches. Now you have a one-of-a-kind couture dress!

  33. Great job wow you got it done fast and it looks great and love the broach!!

  34. Beautiful & Sexy! You may not have liked the view from the back, but I’m pretty sure there are others who did. Its kind of a Pippa look. You’ve got the body to rock this look.

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