Live Action Belle Costume Tutorial

Whilst watching Beauty and the Beast (2017), I fell in love with the all the increadibly intricate costumes. I learned a lot while making the live-action ballgown so I’m passing on all the techniques and tricks to you, through this tutorial. With a lot of planning ahead, I made this dress in just a week. Buying the dress off Etsy costs you £300 to £4000! Making it from scratch will cost less than £150, and fit exactly to you. Of course, if you don’t feel like making your own dress you can always message me and we can discuss commissions.

Things you need:

  • Twenty meters of a yellow silk that suits your skin-tone (I got an imitation silk that was only £2 a meter from Shepherds Bush, this is extremely cheap and the fabric was very difficult to work with).
  • A meters of a yellow chiffon (make sure that this is a semi transparent fabric that matches the colour of your yellow silk so that when you layer it, it will match the fabric of the rest of the dress, This cost me £3 per meter).
  • A meter and a half of a strong cotton drill fabric (this will be the base of your corset so make sure it is strong, a non-stretch fabric that will be able to be pulled in tight and keep together without ripping as well as support boning. This cost me £6 per meter).
  • Boning and boning tape (I got three meters of 5mm spiral steel boning, the same they use in ballerina bodices to give them a free range of movements, the same length of tubular boning tape and metal end caps to make sure that the boning doesn’t poke through. I got all of these online from www.sewcurvy.com and it cost me £6.59 altogether).
  • Netting (I got a wide range of netting as to build up the layers of this dress. For the first two layers of netting I used a high-quality soft net to make sure it did not scratch my legs, I got 5 meters for £3.15 a meter however this was 3 meters wide. I then got a lower quality netting that is also much stiffer to add volume, I got 15 meters for 99p per meter).
  • Golden thread (I got this from my local haberdashery and I had to buy about 4 rolls of it because embroidery requires a lot of thread, they were £2.50 each).
  • Fabric paint (for the detailing along the bottom of each layer of the dress. £5.99 per bottle on Amazon).
  • Gem stones (I got some yellow 3mm hot stones from Amazon for £7.50).
  • Fabric glue (I also got this from my local haberdashery and it cost me £4.99 for a big bottle that I can use on many other projects).
  • Eyelets (I got a packet of hammer on 40 eyelets for £4 online).
  • Ribbon (I got two kinds of ribbon for this project, one was a binding ribbon usually used for knitted blankets, I used it because it managed to get the layers of netting or fabric together to make it easier to tie around your waist. I also used a thin yellow ribbon between 5mm and 10mm wide to tie the corset together. Make sure this ribbon is extra strong).
  •  Finally I got simplicity pattern 1728 (for the corset and top layer of the skirt) and pattern 1427 (for the layers of tulle that add volume) these are optional as some people like making their own patterns and in the time since I made my dress Simplicity has released an official Disney pattern for the dress.

Step 1: 

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To begin I used fabric weights to pin the pattern down to the fabric and trace around it marking out everything that I would need (things like placing of the boning and match up lines. I did this on my strong corset fabric, my yellow fabric and for my skirt and tulle pattern pieces. To make the three layers effect on the skirt like Belle has I started by folding the skirt pattern pieces in half (when doing this only do it for the side and back panels as there is no need for the front) and make sure they line up. For the middle layer, I just worked out halfway between the bottom of the pattern and the end of the top layer to make all three layers evenly spread out. I cut out two bottom layers of the yellow fabric so that when I spin it will still be yellow and not tulle as well as adding volume.

To make sure you have all the right pattern pieces, I had cut out one set of bodice pieces in my strong fabric, one set in my yellow fabric, two bottom layers of the skirt in my yellow fabric, one middle layer in my yellow fabric and one top layer of my yellow fabric. I also cut out the full tutu pattern in my stiff netting and the half of the tutu pattern (as in half the amount of pieces) in my soft netting.

I then went along with a pencil and drew in the seam allowance on the wrong side of the fabric to make sure that I was sewing every piece together accurately. These patterns had 1.5cm seam allowance already added but if you are using other patterns make sure you check how much seam allowance they have.

Step 2: 

If you look carefully at the original dress you see that the middimage 2.jpgle panel of the bodice is made up of these squiggly pieces of sheer fabric layered over each other and embroidered over to create a beautiful effect. I made this pattern myself with a ruler (to make sure I got all the bumps the same height and evenly apart) and then repeated the pattern until I had cut enough strips of it to fill up the central bodice pieces as well as have six left over to layer up for the sleeves (three per arm) and on the last two make sure the bumps were on both sides to make sure that it ended evenly and looked right. I spent a lot of time cutting these all out delicately with small nail scissors to make sure that I was accurate.

Step 3: 

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Before I started this project I thought long and hard over how I was going to recreate the gold embroidery pieces at the front of the dress and I did a few experiments as well, and although this process takes longer than I’d like I found that it gives the best effect and recreates the look of the movie well.

On the left is some of my experimenting with the distancing of the panels, I ended up placing them farther apart than how I placed them in the image but it is good to get an idea of how many you need.  On the right is how I began to stitch it

image 5.jpgall together. I used a domestic machine and pinned the yellow sheer fabric to the yellow fabric in the way I would like it to sit and then sewed one straight line across to keep it in place. I then (and this is the tricky and annoying part) went back and forth over it to create the golden lines. I would sew about an inch and then press the button to backstitch and then forward again, I did this whilst trying to move it along a little at a time. I did a few lines shorter and some longer just to add some variety to it and make sure that it was not just a solid block.  TIP: make sure that you place it so that the solid yellow fabric has enough room for you to hem it later on.

Step 4:

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After you finish the first layer along the top keep adding to the layers. I have added an image on the left to try to show how I spaced them and made sure it didn’t look like a solid block of thread.

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WARNING: As you go adding layers the fabric will try to gather and crease, it is important that when this happens you unpick the stitches and go over it again whilst stretching the fabric. If you do not stretch the fabric it will become smaller and then you will no longer be able to line it up with the rest of the corset pieces.

On the right, I have added another image of how you should be going along and pinning before embroidering and how you need to place each new layer so that you feel the right amount of embroidery is peaking through. For this part, I didn’t use measurements as I felt it best to go with what looked right to the eye.

Step 5: 

Once you have finished step 4 and have gotten all of the embroidered pieces to the end you have to sew all the yellow corset pieces together leaving the back open. Then do the same with the strong cotton drill fabric. Once you have done this it is time to insert the boning pieces. The pattern specifies how long the pieces need to be as well as how many you need, I brought a roll of  spiral steel boning so I had to cut all my pieces as well as

image 4.jpgadd the metal end caps to them (to make sure they don’t rip the fabric and stab me). Once I had each piece I cut some boning tape to insert the boning into and make it easy to sew in, I left about half a centimetre extra fabric and each end of the tape just to make sure that I had room to fit the needle and sew it in. As you can see in the image above I sewed the boning into the wrong side of the corset (the side with all the seams) to make sure that when I put it all together the boning wouldn’t be seen. To sew the tape in I sewed one line at either side of the boning tape making sure that the fabric was laid out flat and there was no gathering. I did this for all the areas that had marked out boning lines.

Step 6: 

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Once you have added all the boning to the white fabric and have sewn up all the yellow bodice pieces together it is time to attach the white and the yellow parts. This was fiddly as I had to pin the frills from the central yellow bodice piece to the fabric to make sure it does not get caught in the stitches. To get the yellow and strong cotton pieces together you should place the fabrics together right sides facing each other. You need to pin them together using the seam allowance lines you drew on earlier, then you need to sew along the top making sure that you are sewing on the line exactly so that the bodice will fit as expected. I have added an image to show you what this should look like once you turn it back around. I then turned the pieces to face each other again and did the same along the bottom. After this, I turned it to be the right way round through the back open ends.

Step 7:

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Now that I have the bodice facing the right way round and looking like the image below you want to top stitch (a stitch that runs on the surface of the fabric a few millimetres from the edge) at the bottom and the top to make sure they lie flat, again this will be fiddly along the top but it does make a difference when it’s all finished.

Then you want to go to the back of the bodice and make sure that it fits as well as make sure the yellow and the strong cotton line up and if you have an overlocker go over the ends of the fabric sewing the two together. Now that they are connected you need to fold them over onto the white side twice over (as to hide the edge) creating a hem that is an inch thick. Sew this into place on both sides. This hem area is what we are using to put the eyelets in as the doubled up fabric will give us a stronger base and makes sure the fabric won’t rip. Following the instructions on the packet of eyelets, you got measure equal distances between the eyelets and hammer/punch them in. For my corset, I put 19 eyelets on each side but that is a lot and usually, corsets will have much less.

Step 8: 

Now you have to sew the top of the armholes together, just do a regular seam for it and make sure that you overlock it as well to make sure it stays put. Now that you have closed armholes you can put your bodice on a mannequin or a friend who is nice enough to help you, pin it onto whichever you are using to make sure it’s closed but so that you still have access to it as you are about to sew on the final chiffon frilly parts. Place the first frill so that the frills are overlapping slightly into the centre panel and then sew it to follow the V lines of the bodice piece, follow it up around the arm straps and the around the back in the same V shape. Pin it in place first and then start stitching it so that it can not be seen as well as is secure. Do this on both sides and then add the second one over the top, overlapping it the same way you did with the embroidered ones. Finally, you have the last double ended frilly piece which you use to make the edge appear less blunt. Now all you have left to do is add the ribbon around the eyelets to give yourself a way to tie yourself in. For this start at the top and then make sure that the loose bits of ribbon hang out at the bottom (if you look carefully at Belles dress she has some ribbons hanging free at the back) before you cut the ribbon remember to leave enough to make sure you can fit in and out of the bodice. You are now done with the bodice/corset and we can move on to the skirt.

Step 9: 

Now we are going to take all the skirt pieces you cut out in the yellow fabric and sew up the matching ones, sew up the top and middle layers and remember to leave about 25cm at the back seam to add a way of getting in and out of the garment (also bare in mind that they are not closed around the top). When you go to sew the full length layers remember to leave the back completely open as to make it easier for the next step. Hem around the open fronts of the top two panels and then make sure you hem the bottom of all of the skirt pieces.

Step 10:

dress patterning.jpg On the left is an image of the pattern I made for the gold detailing along the bottom of the skirt layers. I looked closely at all the images available at the time and I thought that this was a good pattern as I can overlap it slightly at the bottom and it will make it look continuous. I printed out many of these and cut them out with a craft knife and scissors (there is no need to cut out the small dots as they are markings for gemstones). In the movie, you see that the bottom two layers of the dress have a much more visible patterning and the top one has a paler colour of patterning so I tried to replicate this by using a different technique for each layer. I had access to my school’s textiles room which meant that I could use gold foiling on the bottom two layers. To do this I put a layer of adhesive in the shape of the pattern all along the bottom of the skirt and then used a gold foil inside a heat press to attach it to the skirt. For the top layer I used a method that you can easily do at home and if you don’t have access to the heat press can use for the other layers. I used the template and a gold fabric paint to paint on the pattern (I used a mix of sponges and paint brushes to get as accurate as I could. Then I went around each section of the pattern and added the gemstones, I used less as I worked my way up from the bottom to the top and on the top was using hardly any (if you look closely at the design you see that the pattern fades a little as the layers go up).

Step 11: 

Now that you have added all the details you should follow the instructions on the pattern you used and gather/pleat the top to make sure it fits you. Now you can sew the back of the skirt together, again leaving the last 25cm open to get it on and off and then you have to sew all the four layers of yellow together. Following this you have to then use the knitting ribbon and fold it over so that it covers all of the ends of the layers whilst leaving enough ribbon at each end so that you can tie it around your waist. REMEMBER: If you have an overlocker go using it along the edges as you go along and if you don’t have one use the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine to make sure the edges wont fray and fall apart.

Step 12: 

Now all you have left to do is create the bottom layer that is used to add volume to the dress with netting. I also used a crinoline that I brought on ebay to add even more volume and make sure it had the full Disney bounce to it. With the netting layers first you have to sew each of the rows together, then you need to follow the instructions on   the pattern, if they tell you to gather it you need to sew two lines in a wide stitch and it is

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very important that you leave long tails and that you do NOT back stitch at the beginning or end! It is easier to do this with a mannequin but if you don’t have one you can ask a friend to help you, simply gather (pull the strings to fold the fabric up along the threads) until it is the size of your waist. Now using the same knitting ribbon you have to sew all the gathered layers of netting together and use the ribbon to cover the raw edges as well as be the way you tie up your netting skirt. On the left you have an image of how the netting layer looks when its finished. Now all you need to do is put all the skirt layers on together with the corset over the top.

 

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All together the dress cost me £133, it was not a cheap costume, but considering that this is a full ballgown which can cost into the thousands this is a very good price for the costume. Alongside the dress I also brought a wig for £30 on amazon which was styled by a friend of mine, some golden heels which cost me £4 on sale at New Look and the jewellery from Ebay (the necklace costing me £7 and the earpieces £2).

I hope this tutorial helped you and if you need any extra help or would like to commission something from me, feel free to message or email me.

 

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