A few years back I had an amazing opportunity to design & create the costumes for a Beauty and the Beast production with a local musical theater company. I’ve been wanting to write a blog about this experience for a while, but the task was a bit daunting since this massive show took up nearly 6 months of my life! I decided it might be more manageable to make this a “mini-series” of several posts detailing a few specific designs from the show. Today I’d like to share with you one of my favorites- Belle’s ballgown! I am so proud of this creation and I think it turned out even better than my vision. Isn’t it wonderful when that happens?! This dress is actually two pieces: the top Bodice and bottom Skirt are attached with hooks at the waist. I chose to do this so that most of the weight from the skirt would sit directly on her hips instead of shoulders… after all, ballgowns are HEAVY!! She also wore a hooped petticoat to create the classic “bell” shape we’ve come to know and love.
Initially, when I was thinking about how to design this dress, I knew I wanted two things: a unique look that had never been done before and I wanted it to be GOLD. We’ve seen so many yellow versions of this dress from the ones at Disney parks to many amateur theater companies and for some reason the color always made me cringe! I always imagined this dress was supposed to be gold and the Disney animators simply didn’t have the capabilities to transfer that to the screen when they made the beloved movie. Or perhaps it really was intended to be yellow, but gold is so much more exquisite, isn’t it?? Luckily after shopping around I found this gorgeous ivory and gold jacquard fabric that I knew would be perfect. Then, I found a matching gold lamé for the gathered overskirt. You can see a picture of my pinned draping sample below. I just LOVE how the ivory stands out against the brighter yellow-gold lamé.As for the shape, I stumbled upon an image of a dress created for Angelica in the ever-popular Hamilton (this was before I even knew much about the show myself) and fell in love with her unique style-lines! You’ll see in the image below that the dress has a pointed shape directly under the bust that is reminiscent of a corset. Well this gave me the idea to use the same sort of style lines on my Belle bodice, but at a softer angle which, when paired with the sweetheart neckline, created a sweet heart shape! I added the gathers at the bust in the lamé as well to make her more feminine. But of course I couldn’t just stop with these two fabrics… this girl needed some SPARKLE. So I went out again and found this gold sequin fabric that I layered with a similar color in order to soften the sequins. You’ll see below how I used this as the shoulder drape and at the ends of the lamé overskirt. Lastly, I added a few layers of ivory tulle between the skirt layers to give it a soft glow.. I wish I could remember where this idea came from, but I love how it turned out! Of course, she needed the iconic roses, so I decided to hand-stitch 12 fabric roses that snapped on to each gathering point of the skirt as well as one on the center of the bust. I made these in both gold and red with the idea that she’d wear the gold during the ballroom scene and then switch to red for the final bows. This is something that only a costumer might notice, but I sure love those little touches!Speaking of little touches, I was very fortunate to have a team of ladies that helped me with little sewing tasks here and there. I gave several of them a stash of teeny crystal rhinestones and told them to go to town on all the visible jacquard fabric areas. As they began gluing literally HUNDREDS of tiny rhinestones, we wondered if they would even be seen. The light in our workshop didn’t seem to make much difference after all and it would be such a shame if they did all that work for nothing! However, this ended up being my FAVORITE part of the costume and there simply isn’t a way to show you why via photograph. The instant she stepped out under the stage lights, she sparkled. And I mean truly SPARKLED!! It brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t cry when her father was captured, or at the end when the beast nearly died, but I definitely had tears in my eyes every single time she came out with hundreds and hundreds of rhinestones glittering! Yes, I’m a sap, I know. I also adore how the dress looked different under various types of stage lighting. One moment she’s a radiant gold, then the scene shifts and she’s darker and richer, then the next moment, she’s a more subdued softer yellow-gold. It also helped that we had the most perfect actress ever playing our Belle, lovely inside and out!Despite the months of stress, it was a magical experience for which I am incredibly grateful. I will cherish these photos and memories for the rest of my life!As always, thank you so much for reading! Please feel free to subscribe below to see my updates on new posts. I’ll be writing a few more on different characters for this show in the coming weeks!Cheers!