Because my time is extremely limited (how many more days? 13?) I know my best bet to produce ball gowns is to convert wedding dresses. Scrap the veil. Chop the train. Then dunk the dress in dye.
If you’re working (or, in my case, volunteering) for a regional theater company, there’s always a tight (or non-existent) budget to take into consideration. So my best bet to find a dress that’s mildly affordable and workable will be a thrift shop.
I find the dress at the Quakertown Goodwill. Without close inspection, I can already tell that the lace is very dirty. It smells of turpentine and cigarettes. The train looks like the lower end of a mermaid caught in a fish net: it’s tangled and greater parts of it are ripped. But there’s an unwritten rule known to sewers, costumers and seamstresses alike: if the price yells, “Take me home, for Pete’s sake!” she has to answer “Yes!” So I take it home to give it a good bath. Already after two minutes, my bathtub looks like a giant bowl of frothy latte. Granted, most used wedding dresses are soiled, and I ‘ve seen most of them: dresses with cake stains and soiled hems and blood splatters and hot tears of regret, but never anything like this. I wonder what has happened to this poor woman. Did her fiancé force her to run a mud race in full bridal gear just so he could see what she was made of? Did he make her slither under barbed wire while he emptied his semi-automatic over her veiled head, just to measure her persistence? Did he consider only the toughest chick worthy marriage material?
With some scrubbing, dying, and drying, the foul-reeking obstacle course dress undergoes an amazing transformation.
But a costume will only work if the person who wears it makes it work. On stage, Becky carries it with such grace and conviction in her role of a 19th century bridesmaid that the dress is positively glowing.