The making of the Poison Dragon

Ballgowns! Who doesn’t love ballgowns? The more elaborate, the better, in my case!! Have you ever wondered just what goes into a detailed and extravagant design? Here is a little look behind the scenes at the making of the Poison Dragon gown.

This gown was a commission for The Goblin Ball 2015. Planning started straight after The Goblin Ball 2014. My lovely client Zoe had commissioned a Sunset Dragon for the 2014 ball (which was fire themed), and upon hearing that the 2015 ball would be earth and voodoo themed declared instantly that she simply must be a poison dragon next!

The original design was a Hemlock dragon, to be done in green with lace and flowers of white hemlock. However, after much discussion and sketching of designs, we decided that hemlock was not terribly well known or recognisable, and so a poisonous palette of purples and greens and an assortment of deadly flowers was the final design.

Sourcing materials was a challenge. We were very particular, especially about lace. We wanted nothing too pretty and floral, but rather more leafy, and in the right greens. However, when we found a white lace with gorgeous whorls of leaves, we swiftly decided to use that, and I would dye it myself. This had multiple advantages, as I could then ensure we had the perfect colours, and could gradient dye it to fade through a range of greens and into purple. Everything then fell into place; we chose a dark purple silk for the corset, an interestingly textured satin in matching purple for the skirt, delicate purple and green lace for the hip details, and a white leaf trim that would also be dyed.

All the pieces that required dyeing were pre-cut to size, and carefully laid outside. To achieve the gradient of green to purple, the colours were sprayed on by hand, using a spray bottle. I had quite the colourful yard! These are close ups of the overskirt, the bell of the sleeve, and the wings, which were crocheted from white wool by my lovely client.

Now that we had the perfect materials, the gown and corset could be constructed. The gown was in fact a skirt and top, with three layers to the skirt; dark purple underskirt, dyed lace over skirt, and elaborate green and purple lace features at the hips. The top was dyed lace over the dark purple, with dyed leaf trim at the neckline and banding the sleeves at the elbows.

Next was the really fun part, embellishment!!! Since the design was inspired by poisonous flowers, this was an incredibly important part of the gown. I wanted the flowers to drape off the hips of the corset, and to be entwined in the dragon horn headdress. I spent some time researching deadly flowers in our colour scheme of purples and white, and decided on hemlock, foxgloves, lily of the valley, datura, larkspur, belladonna and hensbane. The flowers were individually hand sculpted from thermoplastic, and I made 118 of them in total. Here is the sculpting in progress, with the flowers divided into piles for each hip, the headdress, a necklace and earrings.

The flowers were then hand painted with a mixture of matte and metallic paints, to give them texture and shimmer. Each piece was wired together with silver wire, and crystal and glass beads.

The finished hip flowers were carefully hand sewn to the hips of the corset.

The horns for the headdress were also constructed from thermoplastic, and painted in metallic purple and pink. They were mounted on a headband, then entwined with more wired and beaded flowers.

Hmm, still one thing missing. What else does a dragon need? Scales! We bought 200 small titanium scale maille scales in iridescent magenta, which were hand sewn onto the corset and sleeves, and embellished with more dark purple crystals.

The remaining crystals were used on five small brooches to pin the wings to the shoulders and elbows, and everything was finished! This gown was a lot of work, but entirely worth it to see the look of delight on my client’s face, and to hear her say (multiple times 😉 ) “Carly!!!! I am a DRAGON!!!!!”

Here are a couple of candid photos from The Goblin Ball. We did a full photoshoot a few weeks later, so click here to have a look at the beautiful photos, and here if you want a sneak peek behind the scenes on the photoshoot.