Paris Opera Dress: From Couture Dream to RealityThe long and joyful road to creating a custom special-occasion garment
My gifted mom taught me to sew, but I do not recall when. I also do not remember when I began dreaming of creating the beautiful dresses I found in magazines and movies. I lacked the skills and confidence to make those coveted dresses—until I met Susan Khalje and Kenneth D. King. With their couture expertise and enthusiasm for teaching, I hoped to fashion a dress I had been yearning for, as a birthday present to myself. In April 2022, I wore my dress in Paris for my 50th birthday (well, 50-3⁄4 with COVID-19 delaying everything). This is the story of how I made my dream dress a wonderful reality.
The inspiration for the piece was a photo I found on Pinterest of a look from the Giambattista Valli Spring 2013 Haute Couture show. The dress immediately captured my imagination: It featured the legendary couture characteristics of exceptional design, fabric, and fit. The coat-style dress was made of jacquard with large-scale vertical leaf and vine motifs, and featured a dramatic capelike Watteau back. Images showing the dress from many angles confirmed this was a work created by haute couture masters-—whose skills I did not possess. But that concern did not stop my dreaming. I had taken Susan’s in-depth couture sewing classes for a few years and, in 2020, I mentioned the dress and my milestone birthday. With her encouragement, I embarked on the project of creating this dress.
Patternwork and fabric
Susan’s suggestion for getting started was that I attend a Sit and Sew session of personalized instruction with Kenneth. Her comment that Kenneth loves a patternmaking…