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Belle Danseuse "BERNINA 3 Series" contest entry

Added Nov 23, 2010

by damianadesigns

Sandpoint, Idaho...






I was first intrigued by Toulouse Lautrec’s paintings of the dancers in the Moulin Rouge, but as I searched for images, I came across work from Degas with his beautiful ballerinas and found the colors very enticing. The more images of ballerinas I saw from the nineteenth century the more I loved the silhouette; the lush sleeves, tiny corseted waist and full blooming skirts. The painting of ‘The Prima Ballerina’ in her red costume by Comerre Leon Francois was a major source of inspiration in this garment.

I found ladies undergarment’s from the Civil War era to have a very similar shape in general to the ballerina costumes that I was drawn to. I used a traditional Civil War era corset pattern (which I altered a bit for fit and curve) and draped the rest of the garment on-form.

Material Notes

Hand-dyed Muslin, grommets, corset-busk. Thread-Gutterman.

I dyed two colors of muslin in each dye-bath (there was 4 or 5 dye baths), natural colored and tea-dyed. This gave me a lot more colors to work with and enabled more depth and hue variation throughout the garment in a subtle way. I love the muted tones.




Fall, Winter
Garment Type
Bohemian, Romantic, Victorian, Vintage



39 Comments Sign in to add a post

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    Dec 28, 2010, 07.42 AMby zeegang

    it’s very beautiful.

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    Dec 16, 2010, 01.44 AMby nevouch

    Amazingly gorgeous! Will you post a pattern?

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    Dec 15, 2010, 06.52 AMby kraftykatina

    This is AMAZING! Congrats on winning, you definitely deserve it.

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    Dec 15, 2010, 04.33 AMby funnymuffin

    Beautiful! I would so wear this.

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    Dec 15, 2010, 04.22 AMby Heidi McClellan

    Love it!

  • Bethsprofilepic_large

    Dec 14, 2010, 11.11 PMby damianadesigns

    Thanks for the love to everyone who this garment spoke to! This was a super fun contest!

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    Dec 14, 2010, 10.57 PMby diha

    awesome i love it

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2010, 10.55 PMby diha

    if only i had that talent what a genius i cant make a pair of shorts haha

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    Dec 14, 2010, 10.07 PMby etchedinthread

    This is absolutely amazing! Gorgeous!

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    Dec 11, 2010, 07.30 PMby indigoeve

    I love the variations in tone and the layering in the skirt and sleeves! When your photo came up in the slideshow I thought “Oooooh” immediately :D. Muslin is certainly not a material I would have thought of to construct such a creation but the matte look of the fabric is a surprising change from what would be expected (sheen and sheer I would think) and I Really like it. I also like the continuity in texture that is provided by using only the muslin, the variations and layers provide enough interest for my eyes. Beautiful, I wish I could see it in real life :)

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    Dec 9, 2010, 12.13 AMby kahreen

    This is a very stunning piece. You inspired me to get online and find a corset making tutorial- i’m going to buy the materials this weekend (i think i feel an addiction coming on :), and to try to dye my own fabric- i love the natural gradations of color you’ve created. Someone made a comment about muslin not being the “proper” fabric for the skirting, but you clearly don’t follow anyone’s rules and i think that’s why this dress has captured so many peoples’ attention and admiration. Nice work.

    1 Reply
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      Dec 12, 2010, 09.00 PMby mlssfshn

      The reason the muslin isn’t right is for movement of the skirt. The muslin is to stiff and heavy, to flow and move with the draping that was created.

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    Dec 8, 2010, 05.19 PMby mlssfshn

    Great concept, but that’s about where it ends. The corset is well done. The muslin is not the proper fabric for the skirting and the garment is incomplete. Not only is the muslin showing raw edges but it’s to heavy for the flow of the draping you were trying to achieve. In the close up you can see pins, the eyelets are pulling, and the stitch lines are very uneven.

    4 Replies
    • Rio_m_large

      Dec 14, 2010, 09.10 PMby macgirlver

      really? i am not sure this is a constructive comment, its rather nitpicky and assumptive (i will makeup this word.) and forgetting individual creative license. the whole point was the concept. i think you need a hug. :)

    • Fairy_goth_large

      Dec 14, 2010, 10.00 PMby fyrefalcyn

      I disagree with your comments. Muslin can be very soft and obviously drapes gracefully in this gown. Historically, muslin was commonly used for those lovely Napoleonic Empire gowns in the late 1700’s and they certainly ‘flow’ nicely. Besides, taffeta and chinz are even more stiff than muslin and were commonly used for this style in Toulouse-Lautrec’s period. Fabric can look very different in the hands of a talented designer.

    • Edna_1981_large

      Dec 14, 2010, 10.16 PMby etchedinthread

      Are you kidding? It’s a piece of art and since muslin is often found in different weights, I don’t believe it was too heavy for the draping. Any softer and it would have been a flat, floppy thing. Any flaws in the stitching are outweighed by the beauty of the finished piece. I love it!

    • 3864138084_1fb5db6c00_large

      Dec 24, 2010, 12.06 AMby Ruffles Gazebo

      wow, im shocked at this response! It comes across quite intentionally harsh and it upsets me that you would so clearly try and bring someone down. The raw edges are clearly deliberate considering they are all like that, which i think is great and creates texture and contrast. It also kind of reminds me of a fairytale ending…like Cinderella, from rags to ritches! It also fits in with the civil war theme i think, giving it a rough edge.
      The reason this outfit did so well is because of the overall concept and design. Most of us here are still learning and are working to becoming better sewers. Thats what this whole site is all about!! I think that really needs to be kept in mind here.

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    Dec 8, 2010, 09.08 AMby nuning

    woooowww….love it

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    Dec 8, 2010, 02.38 AMby calendar

    This is so beautiful… I hope you win!

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    Dec 8, 2010, 12.46 AMby janetbernasconi

    As soon as I saw your creation my mouth dropped. You have no idea now much I love the Victorian era. I admire the beautiful dresses the women wore during that time. I have created many dress pillows and my clients love them. I voted for you and hope that you win. You sure do deserve it. And one more thing.. I just love the corset! Absolutely gorgeous. Good luck!~

    Janet Bernasconi Janet’s Creative Pillows

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    Dec 2, 2010, 06.22 AMby luxihere

    Gorgeous!!! i voted for this!

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    Dec 2, 2010, 01.08 AMby gonewandering

    This is a fantastic dress! It sounds like you had a lot of fun making it, and it shows!! Well done.

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    Dec 1, 2010, 05.10 AMby sewmyway

    beautiful work! i would love to see it being worn out to a party!

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    Nov 30, 2010, 08.12 PMby oyukichan

    I love your dress so much! Absolutely beautiful.

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    Nov 27, 2010, 12.30 PMby nehmah

    Lush colors; this took hours of work, and looks effortless. Nehmah

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    Nov 25, 2010, 02.00 PMby mayadaughterofsun


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    Nov 25, 2010, 09.29 AMby dana-88

    stunning!! love it

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    Nov 25, 2010, 02.42 AMby lepetithoot

    This is absolutely stunning! What beautiful work.

  • Bethsprofilepic_large

    Nov 25, 2010, 02.20 AMby damianadesigns

    Thank you thank you, I am so glad you guys enjoy this garment! Making it was a wonderful experience from start to finish.

    1 Reply
    • Fairy_goth_large

      Dec 14, 2010, 10.02 PMby fyrefalcyn

      I love your vision! The colors you chose sing with warmth and are so appealing. You did a great job! Thank you for sharing it – it’s apparent you’ve inspired a lot of people to try something similar!

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    Nov 25, 2010, 12.10 AMby mcarotorress


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    Nov 24, 2010, 01.35 PMby Claire .

    Amazing !

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    Nov 24, 2010, 12.09 PMby sewella

    I wish this one was mine! Fabulous!

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    Nov 24, 2010, 09.29 AMby zaarissima

    it is absolutly beautiful! WOW!!!

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    Nov 24, 2010, 06.20 AMby cantare

    This is both darling and sophisticated-ly beautiful! We can see it is so well-made, I hope you get further recognition for this!

  • Charlie-deeshadows1_large

    Nov 24, 2010, 05.23 AMby smallone

    ok hands down yours is head and shoulders above the rest….and there are some very good entries to this contest.

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