For those of you outside the Irish Dance world here’s a quick summary of the solo dress. These are dresses worn for competition that are completely unique to each dancer. They are covered in traditional knotwork and are usually made out of velvets and covered with Swarovski crystals. Dresses made by the leading dressmakers can go for for thousands of dollars.
Now, Irish dance fashion is constantly changing so I feel that calling them ‘traditional’ is pretty much bull. They’re no more traditional than those Shirley temple wigs. But whatever, they’re beautiful and sparkly so who cares.
I have made several for myself over the years. The first were pretty awful, looking back. But trial and error teaches you more than anything else so when one of the girls in my school approached me about making a solo dress I felt that I was up for the challenge.
She wanted hers to be simple (remember, this is relative) in black and purple. She had a specific request, she wanted ‘lace up’ on the front of the dress. We sketched some ideas back and forth until we were both happy then it was off to find fabric.
While I waited for the fabric to come in I started working on the stencils for the knotwork. I don’t have a big fancy embroidering machine (Yet) so for the embroidery that makes a solo dress I have to get a bit creative.
First I cut the stencil out of a cereal box (The thickness is perfect) then line velvet and use the stencil to mark the design on the back of the lined velvet. I then cut the design out of the velvet and lay it on top of the fabric that will show through, in this case white satin. This is later satin stitched to the dress itself-every raw edge must be covered with the satin stitch. It’s a time consuming job but the end result is worth it.
This dress is decorated with only a tiny scattering of Swarovski at the dancer’s request.
We were both very happy with how the dress came out! And while my dresses probably won’t be mounting the podium at Worlds any time soon, I’m excited to continue exploring the possibilities of future solo dresses!
Next: Pictures of MY solo dress.