Cinderella – The Ball Dress

With the Beeb doing it’s usual and rolling out Cinderella over Christmas, I got the usual messages of awe and questions of making of the dress that follow from friends and family. This year though, my niece Amy understands a bit more of what her auntie does and suddenly I’m a very interesting and dare I say it, cool auntie. Cinderella was such a huge part of 2013 and I have so much to say on the matter, I’m going to have to break it down into a few posts. So this one is about the ball dress.

The video below is about filming the ballroom scene. It has some great footage of the dress in action, especially some good views of all the dreamy frills and close ups so you can fully appreciate the work involved in this dress and the ball scene as a whole.

There are some other great youtube videos from behind the scenes which I’ll share in another post at some point about the fairy godmother and the sisters’ dresses.

My part in the making of the ball dress

I started on it in June 2013, the team had been going at it for months with screen tests for potential actresses and prototypes before the final design was reached. When I joined the team, the final design had been established and numbers of multiple elements decided. As the dress was going to be in a large part of the film and doing various action sequences several were needed. Lily James also had some for dance rehearsals, which slowly disintegrated. We made skirts of varying lengths depending on what she was doing in the scene, so there were longer ones to cover her feet for when she was sitting serenely on a swing and shorter ones for running down stairs (something I would’ve been terrified of in that dress!).

With a dress that size, the various elements get broken up amongst small groups of the team. There were two petticoat teams, a crinoline team, bodice, corset, skirts and gems. We all tended to be part of a couple teams depending on our skills and the sheer volume of work. I worked on the crinoline and the second petticoat mostly. Once you start on doing a certain thing, its your job to do all the multiples for the rest of production because you know that bit so well. This means that every single duplicate is identical and you also get quicker.

When a crinoline is constructed, traditionally it would’ve been whalebone, but now they’re made with steel sewn into channels. Each channel has to be carefully measured and labelled for each steel as they’re all different measurements to create a smooth bell shape with more fullness at the back. The crinoline for the ball dress crinoline had some handles added so that Lily could easily lift her skirts for climbing into the carriage, walking up stairs, etc.

The images above, are stills from IMDB.com or my boss Jane took, which I’ve pinched from a Daily Mail article. The full article can be read if you click here.

A frilling time

The inside of the crinoline was highly embellished with various layers of frills so that when the camera shows Cinderella’s slippers, the background is beautiful frills. Each frill was different to give it lots of texture and richness but as the duplicates had to look the same, we had to be very methodical to make sure each frill was the same in each duplicate. In the workroom there were hangers and bags full everywhere, all carefully labelled for each frill and prepped for each layer. We all joked in the workroom about having a “frilling time”.

The dress took up so much space that it exploded out the workroom and into poor Jane’s home. It was high summer when we were making Cinderella and there was so much fabric for all the frills, which needed ironing before being cut into lengths for sewing. We all had to take shifts to iron the fabric, it was so mind-numbingly boring to be doing it for more than a couple hours and there was so much of it; and also the massive ironing board was set up in Jane’s conservatory so we needed to do as much ironing as possible before the sun came around and made the heat unbearable!

Being involved in Cinderella was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It has become my biggest calling card, even if you haven’t seen the film you are aware of the dress. When production finished, Sandy Powell sent a package of left over butterflies that didn’t get used for each of us to have as a souvenir. Each butterfly on the dress was individually embroidered and gemmed with Swarovskis at the film studios. There was such an array, they were beautiful.

This is the butterfly I chose which I have in a frame at home

Thanks for reading and to finish off here’s a little fun facts video about the film.

Rosie xx

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