Faith in the Youth of Today

by Erin on April 24, 2008

Last week I got this wonderful email from Clarissa, who wanted to tell me about her first major project: her junior prom dress.

Not just any junior prom dress: Clarissa, as so many of us are, is infatuated with Audrey Hepburn, and she wanted to recreate (on a scale appropriate for a junior prom) this iconic dress from "Sabrina":

Audrey in Sabrina

With some help from her mom (a former home-ec teacher — thanks mom!), Clarissa modified a Vogue pattern to get this:

Clarissa in Audrey

Isn't it lovely? The overskirt attaches by a waistband, so it can be removed for less-formal occasions. I love that Clarissa didn't try to completely recreate the Audrey dress (that way lies tears, I tell you — it probably took a team of people three months to make that dress) but concentrated on the essential elements: the sheath and overskirt, the colors, and the embroidery. (Clarissa had the front embroidery done professionally, as she doesn't have an embroidery sewing machine.)

And she was so smart to turn it into a sheath with straps; I wore a strapless dress to a prom once and spent the whole night tugging it UPWARDS. Not what you want to be doing at prom!

In short, well done! I'm especially impressed by any young lady who chooses to look so elegant, when there are so many options to look … not-elegant.

Also: those are really cute shoes.

{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 10:18 am

Bravo! Well done Clarissa, “class” as my beloved Grandfather would tell me. And love the picture in the background…

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Lisa @ the Vintage Fashion Library April 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

Fabulous! Tres chic. And the photo of Audrey in the background is a nice touch.

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Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 10:43 am

Beautiful young lady and beautiful rendition of the dress. Audrey could wear a gunny sack and have class! You are a classy young woman also!

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Marge, Born Too Late Vintage April 24, 2008 at 10:44 am

Clarissa and Clarissa’s mom made an absolutely beautiful outfit, classic, modest and tasteful. My girls are going to love this dress! Very very well done!

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colleen April 24, 2008 at 10:45 am

I was thinking the same thing about those shoes.Great photo of Audrey in the background, too.

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Jenny April 24, 2008 at 10:57 am

That is FANTASTIC! I love it!

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wundermary April 24, 2008 at 10:58 am

They really did a great job on the first major project! I’d love to do more sewing with my mom.

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angldst April 24, 2008 at 11:05 am

Clarissa, you look absolutely marvelous! What a lovely job you’ve done with your gown & entire look!I’ve gotten a prom commission this year, and I’m enormously happy with my client. She’d brought her own sketch with her to modify a couple of patterns to her liking. The end result is going to be a nod to the 80s, and it’s going to have little sleeves, a bubble skirt, the neckline won’t be cut down to *there* like so many of the dresses that are being marketed to girls for prom nowadays. It’s refreshing to see girls that like to leave a little something to the imagination. :) -d

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Missy April 24, 2008 at 11:09 am

Super job on the dress Clarissa! What an example you are…class, modesty and style. I hope you have a dreamy jr. prom!blessings,Missy

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Lucky April 24, 2008 at 11:11 am

This is a dress of which I’ve wanted to create my own interpretation for a while. If I do as good a job as Clarissa has, I will be very very pleased!This makes me happy.

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barbie2be April 24, 2008 at 11:11 am

absolutely beautiful! well done, Clarissa!

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Elaray April 24, 2008 at 11:13 am

Applause! Applause! I love it when people interpret dresses in their own way. Clarissa looks amazing!

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Becky O. April 24, 2008 at 11:16 am

Really well done! Very smart all around.I have a high-school intern right now that is also getting ready for prom. She also chose Audrey as her inspiration when designing/sewing her dress. I can’t wait to see..

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sixties sewer April 24, 2008 at 11:27 am

This dress is so elegant, so beautiful. The only thing more beautiful is the young lady in it. Wow, and wow again….I don’t even dream of attempting an Audrey dress.

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Lisa @ The Hem Line April 24, 2008 at 11:28 am

Appropriately elegant . . . in a world of cookie cutter prom dresses, you have the ultimate alternative! Great Job!

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Alice from Italy April 24, 2008 at 11:51 am

Absolutely lovely!Clarissa looks great.

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Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 12:04 pm

You look amazing! The shoes are perfect! Great job on the whole look!

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libby April 24, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Clarissa, I predict you have a lifetime of satisfying creativity ahead of you. Well done!

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Kelly April 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm

What a lovely dress Clarissa!! Very classy. You did a fantastic job for your first major project. Have fun at your prom. k

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Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Terrific job. This will be thestand-out dress at the prom, for sure!

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evalyn April 24, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Clarssia, lovely interpretation of a designer dress. You and your mom are a great team.

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Cherie April 24, 2008 at 1:23 pm

So lovely, Clarissa, you are one of a kind! Just a wonderful dress for a lovely young lady.

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Jill B April 24, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Fantastic! I was inspired to have my mom make a non-Audrey dress (although I could have maybe seen her wearing it) and it was strapless and lined with satin. HEED MY WARNING – it was so tight I couldn’t breathe, and yet it still wouldn’t stay up for all the tugging in the world – a miserable Junior Prom.

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geogrrl April 24, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Absolutely lovely! I also applaud her choice to look elegant as opposed to, uh, not elegant.

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geogrrl April 24, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Absolutely lovely! I also applaud her choice to look elegant as opposed to, uh, not elegant.

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geogrrl April 24, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Absolutely lovely! I also applaud her choice to look elegant as opposed to, uh, not elegant.

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geogrrl April 24, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Absolutely lovely! I also applaud her choice to look elegant as opposed to, uh, not elegant.

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geogrrl April 24, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Whoops! Sorry about the multiple comments, Erin. I’m impatient and blogger was slow to respond.

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enc April 24, 2008 at 2:04 pm

She looks great, hooray for her originality and creativity. No one else will have that dress! Lovely.

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Zazzu April 24, 2008 at 2:40 pm

That is one beautiful dress and Clarissa looks positively lovely wearing it.What an amazing sewing and fitting job Clarissa and her mom have done! This picture really does look better than what I’ve seen in the fashion/sewing magazines this year.And, I hope this doesn’t come off strange, but doesn’t Clarissa have very nice legs for this dress length? And great shoes too!

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Eirlys April 24, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Nice interpretation, Clarissa! Have a wonderful prom – you look a million dollars.

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Alexandra April 24, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Absolutely beautiful! I like Clarissa’s interpretation of the dress.

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Lucelu April 24, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Fantastic redesign! I had to do alterations on two dresses for prom this year for the same young lady and they both were strapless! They both needed taking in on top to stay up. One was a size 6 to a size 0. The other was a size 1 to a size 0. Sigh. The newer one had layers and layers of tulle and I only hope I cut it even enough (it needed shortening about 6 inches worth–even with the petticoat/crinoline.Both dresses were similar in style/color as well. She looked very sweet but I bet by the middle of the evening she’ll wish she had less skirt–something similar to Clarissa’s dress. Clarissa’s is very fashion forward.At the prom dress charity event I attended, most of the girls wanted strapless gowns. I much prefer the straps.

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Adaora A. April 24, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I love SABRINA! That dress makes me green with envy. I’d probably throw a black and white party again after prom to keep that beauty of a dress in circulation. Atta girl, good show.

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Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 6:12 pm

What a beautiful young lady! The thought of her her loving & talented mother making her special day even more special makes me happy. Is it possible to be loved by anyone the way a mother loves you? -Negative Nancy [I keep trying to post using a Google or Blogger account but no matter how many times I register and select a password, it won't recognize me. Sorry to keep poting anonymously.]

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Cel Petro April 24, 2008 at 6:30 pm

What a just right and gorgeous interpretation–lovely young woman in a truly original dress. Congrats!

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patsijean April 24, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Clarissa is beautiful on many levels. What a classy, brilliant way to be truthful to herself and pay homage at the same time.

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Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 7:08 pm

What a wonderful dress. It suits her well. And I like the wear ability it has later on.I second having straps. I wore a strapless dress I made myself to my senior prom and all night I was pulling it up.

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Linda April 24, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Clarissa, wonderful job on this dress. You look great and very stunning.

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dulcet April 24, 2008 at 8:22 pm

At my sewing group last night, one of the ladies said that her mother made her prom dress, and ran out of time at the end. She’d put on all the buttons, but didn’t have time to do button-holes. So her mother sewed her into the dress, and afterwards had to cut her out of it. We wondered if that had all been part of her secret plan!

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nicolecprevost April 24, 2008 at 8:34 pm

One thing I noticed years ago when watching the movie – long before I began sewing or stepped into my new life as a designer – was the genius of having the black embroidery on the side of the bodice, forming an inverted V. Can’t really see it from that photo, but it’s very slimming. (As if Audrey needed that effect.) But for us mere mortals, it’s a good tip.

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astrojen April 24, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Wow, such a pretty dress,I can’t imagine taking on a project like that at her age. It is so nice to see a young woman appreciating such an era of elegance and femininity. Audrey Hepburn was certainly the standard for grace and elegance. I absolutely love the overskirt.Terrific job!Oh, and Sabrina is one of my favorite movies ever.

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cc April 24, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Beautiful! Practical! Elegant!!!!

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lorrwill April 24, 2008 at 9:36 pm

This is a lovely dress on a lovely young woman.the story and photo both give me warm fuzzies!

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Duchess April 24, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Wow, the dress is beautiful. You looked lovely, and of course what fun it must have been telling everyone that you MADE that wonderful dress!

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. April 24, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Straps: Nature’s way of preventing the Funky Chicken.(You know, the move where the fingers grab just in front of the arm pits, the elbows go up like a baby chick.)I DO NOT EVER WANT TO SEE A BRIDE/PROM GIRL DOING THAT AWKWARD MOVE ever again.Amen.

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CountryMouse April 24, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Great job Clarissa! You look beautiful. Just lovely.

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susan April 25, 2008 at 7:06 am

The dress is fabulous-what a pretty girl you are! Hope prom was a blast. I love, love, love to see young people learning to sew. Her life will be more rewarding because of it.

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Janie V April 25, 2008 at 7:42 am

The dress looks totally perfect. That removeable skirt is genius on so many levels – wearing, storing, reusing (wouldn’t the skirt look fab over black tank top and a pair of very skinny black satin pants?) SUGGESTION: I tell every person who has a strapless dress to invest in a long line boned strapless bra. At least when the bra wants to droop it can only go so far and the waist sort of acts like a stopper! If everything shifts during the evening, go to the bathroom, pull down the top, take off and then put on the bra again. Just scooting it up isn’t as effective as removing it and then totally putting it back on. Don’t know why (and I have been known to do this myself with a regular bra, too!). Also, you can use two face tape, safety pins or a needle an thread to make sure the top of the gown doesn’t gap away from the bra.

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Jennifer April 25, 2008 at 8:26 am

Wow! She’s making us all look bad with her precocious-ness. I would like this dress for myself…

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Dr. Julie-Ann April 25, 2008 at 10:49 am

What a statement to elegance and grace–everything that Audry epitomized!A beautiful young woman who values herself enough to create a beautiful dress instead of opting for the crass and “un-elegant” dresses at the department stores and teen shops.Brava!

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Cookie April 25, 2008 at 11:13 am

That’s a great dress…very impressive!And while a white evening dress will never go out of style, should she ever tire of it (granted, hard to imagine with a Givenchy style) or should it eventually grow dingey, she can dye it a color and have a whole new dress.This will only work if the fabric was pre-washed, though. The garment should be put in the washing machine wet, on a cold gentle cycle — to be safe — in a big lingerie bag so the item doesn’t get pulled out of shape. Use liquid dye before putting in the bag, as the powdered dye doesn’t always completely disolve, and you get flecks of more intensified color.If the overskirt takes the dye differently from the dress (almost guaranteed) you can put whichever piece is lighter through again, with more dye. And put the machine through a hot water cycle with detergent and bleach afterwards, to remove traces of dye.I mention this only because with white clothes, you have an option to give them a second life later, which can be fun. You can do it to pastels, too.

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jen April 25, 2008 at 11:33 am

good for her. i agree, it is often better to create something that was inspired by something else, rather than try to recreate it exactly. (It probably did take forever to make the original.) she looks so elegant – well done!

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La BellaDonna April 25, 2008 at 11:51 am

Clarissa showed great taste, imagination, and great good sense with her choice. I hope she had the wonderful time that she and her dress deserved.I salute Clarissa’s Mom, as well – not just for the sewing, but for all the work that went into raising such a sensible, talented and tasteful young woman!An aside: I’m generally dubious about the wonderfulness of strapless dresses, especially if the wearer has Vast Tracts of Land. Unless the strapless gown has been built with a corset bodice, usually the top scootches downwards – the result being The Funky Chicken, as Thoughts on Life And Millinery pointed out; a move that never adds to the attractiveness or chic of the wearer. Even on a woman whose tracts are less vast, the top of a strapless gown always wants to be a belt – or so it seems. There’s a lot to be said for straps!!An Interesting Note: Believe me, Audrey’s gown didn’t stay up because she’s so slim (although she certainly was that); it stayed up due to some superb scaffolding. Audrey Hepburn, as it turns out, had the same proportions (although not measurements) as Marilyn Monroe; both of them were hourglasses, although Ms. Hepburn was always ferociously thin.

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TootsNYC April 25, 2008 at 3:07 pm

For those of you wishing for a strapless dress but not wanting to deal w/ tugging it, may I suggest:toupee tapeIt’s basically a double-stick tape that’s formulated for skin.I made my wedding dress, and got the shoulders a bit too long, so they kept falling off. I didn’t have time to go in and change the shoulder seam.My roommate the actress said: “double-stick tape.”Worked like a charm! Later, I heard about toupee tape, which is kinder to the skin.(Jennifer Lopez used it to keep that blue-and-green Versace number on)

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Anonymous April 25, 2008 at 4:43 pm

LOVE the dress and the girl, she did a supurb job, and managed to resist ‘over-do urge’ I would have gone with white shoes, but that’s just ME.Tru

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Anonymous April 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm

i personnally see it as the most awful dress!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why would any one wear it

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propriatress April 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm

awwww..I just wanna cry…..it’s all so sweet…. daughter.sewing.Audrey. mom.style.class.

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Anonymous April 25, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Out of 58 comments, one person had to point out to everyone their negativity. This only reflects on you miss anonymous. why would anyone care??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????what you think??????????????????????????????????????????

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astrojen April 25, 2008 at 6:58 pm

For some reason my name wasn’t posted on the last comment.astrojen

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Anonymous April 25, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Exquisite! Thank you so much for sharing such grace and beauty.

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Collins April 25, 2008 at 8:52 pm

So beautiful!!! I am so impressed by their sewing and taste. What a wonderful thing to do with your mother.

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CaRinn April 26, 2008 at 1:49 am

HOW WONDERFUL!

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Caremel April 26, 2008 at 10:38 am

That is absolutely adorable. I would not personally wear that dress, but there are so many dress from movies that I would have love to have worn. Now I’m so inspired! That said, now I feel bad that I don’t have the sewing skills not to wear a dress from a store to my prom :(. It’s classy though, I swear.

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dawnrenee April 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Beautiful! Great job!

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Anonymous April 26, 2008 at 7:52 pm

This is beautiful! It looks so well made, and the fit is perfect. And the black shoes are just right.It also reminds me of one of the dresses that Grace Kelly wore in “Rear Window.” The one with the black bodice and white skirt with black embroidery. I believe Edith Head designed it. Wow, I need to get a social life so I can aspire to such creations! Could I wear this to a PTA meeting? :-DDawn

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Anonymous April 27, 2008 at 10:14 am

The combination of this beautiful dress and this beautiful girl is enough to take any mans breath away.~A silly goose

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Theresa April 27, 2008 at 10:27 am

I am reading this blog too much. Last night I dreamed La belladonna had a syndicated newspaper advice column.

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EmilyJ April 27, 2008 at 2:46 pm

This is fabulous! I wish I’d had such taste for my own prom – wore a red velvet sheath that was perfectly ok but really nothing special about it and didn’t particularly do anything for me. This will be a dress that Clarissa can keep forever and treasure!

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Meg April 27, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Very few have so much style and grace at that age. Or ANY age!

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Defrost Indoors April 27, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Everyone’s already said just about everything I wanted to say, which leaves me with this:*standing ovation*

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ambika April 27, 2008 at 9:16 pm

What a fantastic, sweet story and I adore the interpretation. She looks fantastic.

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anthrokeight April 27, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Clarissa, that dress is has a Secret Lives of Dresses story to go with it. (The prom part, I am sure, would not give your mom a heart attack!) It might start “the year she and her mother made me, her favorite movie was Sabrina.” I hope you print and keep Erin’s post so you can recount it to future kinds/ nieces and nephews/ other teens needing some creative inspiration in future years.The dress is a star turn, and you look like a million bucks in it!

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Anonymous April 28, 2008 at 9:56 am

Even if it weren’t lovely (which it is), you have to respect the taste and talent. Kudos!

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La BellaDonna April 28, 2008 at 11:27 am

Theresa, Hee! Well, I’d be perfectly happy to respond to anyone who wanted my deathless prose syndicated; I have absolutely no qualifications to offer whatsoever except a modicum of common sense, alas.Speak of which:Erin, it must just be my suspicious nature, but the negative post in this entry and in the Walkaway Dress entry remind me vividly of a spate of similar entries that you went through last year. As I recall, they all had the same author.Sad, really.

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Lisa Simeone April 29, 2008 at 7:59 am

I’ve been away for a few days, so I’ve missed keeping up with this beautiful blog. I came back to this breathtaking entry. Clarissa, I can only second the exclamations of “Brava!” that have been coming your way in the comments section. What a creative, inspired, elegant homage to the most elegant icon of them all. You should be very proud.

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cheryl April 29, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Not to be a killjoy or anything because I’ll praise any girl who has the ability to make her own prom dress and wear it, but doesn’t this dress resemble Angelina Jolie’s red carpet dress in Cannes last year?

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supermom May 1, 2008 at 3:18 pm

Absolutely beautiful interpretation of such a classic dress.

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Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 9:05 pm

HEY EVERYONE!This is Clarissa (maker of the dress) writing to say thank you SO SO SO much for all the amazing comments you’ve left for me. I had the time of my life making this dress; a real labor of love since its been a dream of mine since the first time I ever saw Sabrina. Your responses have brightened my days every time I come on to read them. Not to mention Erin being nice enough to post about me. I just can’t thank everyone enough. My mom has sat with me as well to read all the comments and my boyfriend was so proud he sent the link to all my friends.Thanks again -Clarissa

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High Maintenance One May 5, 2008 at 8:51 pm

The dress is absolutely beautiful. My mom and I made my prom dress in 1964, and the top was the same style as this one. The dress was a dark pink, with a long fuller skirt. The top was overlaid with a embroidered lace. It was definitely a one of a kind. In fact, I still have some of the fabric from it. 40 Years later, I was privileged to make my Mom’s dress for her and my Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. Gorgeous teal embroidered and beaded lace fabric which was $75 a yard, it was a long sleeved short straight tunic , with a underslip that flared at the bottom and cut on the bias made from silk charmeuse. It was beautiful, and I was proud that Mom had taught me well. Keep up your sewing – be original in your choices and do what the designers do, get inspiration from all over

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