Costume Breakdown: Belle’s Ball Gown

At the beginning of 2017, I wanted to add a new princess to my cosplay portfolio. Originally, I had planned on that princess being Ariel, but when the live-action Beauty and the Beast was announced I quickly changed my plans. Snow White and Cinderella This is how the long journey of creating Belle’s ball gown began. Belle is actually not my favorite princess, but I think it would be hard to argue that her yellow gown is not the grandest of Disney dresses. This is a dress that was designed to make jaws drop and beasts weak in the knees. Deciding to make this dress was no light undertaking for me.

If you’ve listened to my opinions on the live-action Beauty and the Beast then you’ll know that I felt that dress left a lot to be desired. The inspiration from this dress was taken mainly from the original animated film. Below are the two main images I used for reference. I will say I spent more time than I should admit re-watching the scenes with the dress in the original film to full understand what I wanted. I also really love Designer Daddy’s many Belle designs, but this dress especially spoke to me.

Reference Image
Reference Image

The Making of Belle

So when the Cinderella live-action came out I loved her dress, but I also wondered why the made it look so much like Belle’s dress. Today, I’m not complaining because it made it super easy to choose a pattern for my project. I used Simplicity Pattern 1026. I didn’t really know how I was going to make the modifications I needed, but I knew it was the perfect base.

I don’t even know how to begin to tell you how much fabric I bought for this project. I think I have enough left over to make a second dress. It’s a bit embarrassing, but it was so hard to find the right yellow fabrics. I didn’t want to chance not having enough. I always saw her dress as more gold than yellow, but I wanted elements of both in this creation. All of the material for this dress was purchased from JoAnn Fabrics. A hoop skirt was purchased from Amazon for the base of this dress.

I began with the skirt because I thought figuring out the ruching on the skirt would be the hardest part. I was so wrong. It was the easiest. I made the first layer identical to the pattern. I believe I lengthened it at least 4 to 6 inches longer than the pattern called for. The second layer I think I made the same pattern pieces about 20 inches longer than called for, and simply gathered them upward at the seams. This created the draped effect. In total this took about 10 hours.

I started this part of the dress in February, and didn’t touch it again for about 8 months. It was a very overwhelming project, and I started to second guess my fabric choices. Don’t leave pins in fabric for 8 months; they rust. I decided to order new fabric for the bodice while finishing the skirt. Getting the waistband sewn in properly probably took me another 10-12 hours, and all I did was follow the pattern. After the waistband I got to add the details.

I purchased about 6 yards of lace with a scalloped edge to create the lace detail at the bottom of the draped layer. The width of the lace is probably about 6 inches. I simply sewed it to the bottom of that layer. This finished the top layer of the skirt. For the bottom layer, I wanted to add some sparkle. Using the GlitterBug organza I created a large cylinder of fabric that I gathered at the top edge. I stitched it onto the bottom layer making sure that it was hidden by the top layer. I learned how to use my serger for this layer, so I could finish the edge of the organza. After this layer was attached I hemmed the main fabric, and serged the bottom of the organza and ironed it under to finish the skirt. Adding each of these details and hemming the dress probably took another 10 hours with the hemming itself probably taking about 3-4. Hemming large skirts sucks.

I ordered two different colors of velvet to substitute for the original bodice fabric, but ended up going with my original choice for color purposes. I followed the instructions for the bodice all the way up to the sleeve ruffle. I think the only difference is the way I chose to have the fabric lay, but it would require playing around with it to get it just right even for the Cinderella dress. If you’re following this pattern take your time with it to get it how you want it to look. It will pay off in the long run. To finish the bodice, I added an embellishment to the center of the ruffle. It is simply a large button that I found at Hobby Lobby. I actually used a safety pin to create a brooch with the button rather than sewing it onto the dress permanently. The bodice took about 15 hours total.

The wig used for this costume was Arda’s Grace Classic and a Classic Curly Clip in chocolate brown. Wig styling is definitely a skill that I need to improve upon. I wasn’t able to achieve the volume that I wanted in her bang style, but in the end I think it looked good in the pictures. I cut this wig to be just longer than shoulder length. I pulled the bangs back into a half ponytail. I used a rotary tool to cut the clip in the curly clip in half, and clipped that on top of the band pulling the bangs back to complete the hair style.

Her accessory for her hair is two ribbons, one gold and one rhinestones glued together into a tear drop shape. I sewed an elastic band across the bottom of it, so that it could be placed under the ponytail clip. This kept it in place, and the tear drop shape helped to give the “bun” look without actually styling a bun (I will try to get more pictures of this to add later).

The final accessory to make for this costume were her gloves. I simply traced my hand and arm, and cut the fabric with seam allowance from the pattern I made. She has a pair of gold flats if you watch the movie enough times to catch a small glimpse of them. I purchased a pair of gold flats from Amazon for this. She also has a pair of gold earrings, which I used a pair of dressier posts that I already owned.

Between cutting out fabric, sewing, creating accessories, and wig styling I have over 50 hours of work in this dress. I now understand why people charge $1000+ for creating gowns of this caliber, and no, I don’t think they are crazy for asking this much.

Photoshoot

I won’t lie, I was motivated to finish this cosplay for an amazing photoshoot opportunity. We were able to take photos of this at a true American castle, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Here are a few of my favorite shots of the dress so far. For those interested in what it takes to be able to take photos at a location like this they do have very clear photography rules on their website. Professional photos were taken by Scott Thomasan. 

Being able to spend a day feeling like I was living in a fairy tale after the emotional and financial investment of creating this masterpiece was truly amazing. I spent quite a bit of time trying not to cry in order to not ruin my makeup. The most magical part of cosplay is being able to bring fairy tales to life, and I know that six year old Sadie would not have been disappointed with my efforts. Thank you so much to everyone who supported me through the making of this dress.

I learned so much from creating this dress, and it definitely is my greatest work to date. I am so excited for 2018 and the new projects it will bring. Do you think I did the classic dress justice? If you have any additional questions about the making of this cosplay please leave a comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe via email or Bloglovin’ to never miss a post! 

 

3 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Kylareply
December 28, 2017 at 03:12 PM

I can’t get over this dress – the level of detail is amazing. 50 hours?? You go, girl! I never would have guessed that the skirt was the easiest; it always looked like the hardest part of her dress, but you explained it in a really simple way – if I ever end up making this dress I am definitely coming back to this post!

sadie.geerligs@gmail.comreply
December 28, 2017 at 03:12 PM
– In reply to: Kyla

The hardest part for me was really making sure not to take shortcuts, and actually taking time to do things the way they should be done rather than what will get them done the fastest.

Jackie Minixreply
January 02 at 12:01 PM

Absolutely stunning, Sadie!! Very proud of you and thankful you enjoy doing this!!

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