Sunday, October 25, 2009

The swan dress

Do you remember the dress Bjork wore to the Oscars when she was nominated for best song in Dancer in the Dark? If not, here's a refresher:
Now, why am I thinking of Bjork's swan dress? Not only is it awesome, but it's a great Halloween costume. Every year for Halloween, I wait until the day of whatever party I'm invited to before I figure out what I'm going to wear. It's partly that I don't really want to be that person who has all the free time in the world to compose an elaborate costume. I'd rather do something creative and cheap. Last year, I painted my face and neck black, wore all black and a borrowed iPod to be an iPod dancer. This year, however, Lee and I are invited to a Big Deal of a party. Big Deal as in it involves a rented venue and is combined with a farewell-for-now for one of his closest childhood friends, and we are traveling to attend it. I can't put off the Halloween costume to the last minute. It took me a while to figure out what I'd be for Halloween, and decided that being Bjork in her iconic swan dress would be fun.

It turns out that it's also a lot of work. As you can see, Bjork is wearing an illusion net body suit with rhinestones with her dress. I'm not about to make a body suit, but I figured I could come close to approximating her look. I made a crossover front close-fitting dress from the 5/2006 Burda issue using white gingham and illusion net for the sleeves, one half of the front, and the back.
Then I gathered 10 yards of fine net tulle and 5 yards of wire net tulle. This took FOREVER. Tulle is a royal PITA to cut because it's not easy to see what you're doing, and cutting long strips up to 10 yards long takes forever. Then when you try to gather it on the machine or machine stitch it to another piece of fabric, you discover that there are a million little hooks around the needle area that will catch on the tulle... which is easy to do because tulle is full of little holes! The other thing about tulle is that it's voluminous, huge, giant, fluffy... and after the first few layers it's like having a tulle pillow stuck to your machine. In fact, after this experience, it will be FOREVER before I sew tulle again.

The head and neck are made from more of the white gingham, the beak and eye detail are felt. The whole piece is stuffed with fiber fill and the end was insert into the right shoulder of the dress. I originally thought to put a wire into the neck to pose it, but it wouldn't sit on my shoulders. Instead, I whipstitched the neck to the dress neckline.

I took one photo outside to show the tulle layers accurately. Yes, it is scandalously short.

The other photos are indoor because... I don't have Bjork's beguiling charm, and I'm not just talking about taking a Marilyn Monroe-esque pose. I just didn't want my neighbors to take notice that I was wearing about 2 lbs of tulle!
From the right side. I safety pinned the head to the net illusion bust piece. If I had sewn it to the piece, I would not have been able to shimmy into this dress. I suppose that now would be a good time to mention that wearing this much tulle is really hot. Perhaps that is why Bjork is playing with her skirt in the above photo; she needs to cool off! I will also say that with all this tulle sewn to the dress, and the swan's neck sewn to the dress neckline it's tricky to get in and out of. This may be a one time garment!

A view from the back. My hair is covering it, but the swan's neck is stitched to the neckline.
Now I just need to get some fake eyelashes and figure out how to squish it into a carry-on suitcase!


  1. Wow! This was very ambitious of you! You did a wonderful job!

  2. OMG this is absolutely hilarious. You'll definitely get the prize for best costume at the party. Have fun.

    (Great job on the construction of this dress, BTW. Really impressive and creative.)

  3. You look great, what an original halloween costume!

  4. this is fantastic melissa! in some of the photos, i couldn't tell if it was you or bjork ;)


  5. I really love your inspiration and your remake of the Bjork dress. Fabulous!

  6. Wow, I am so impressed! Looks like the real thing!

  7. Hey - in response to your comment about labels, I am thinking of just my first name with 'made in England' beneath... we'll see. Am quite excited about it now though!

    BTW, swan dress = amazing..

  8. Wow!!! You did an awesome job recreating this dress. Very original.

  9. Fabulous outfit. I can't believe you pulled it together in one day.