Friday, May 29, 2009

Dress of Your Dreams

Modest By Design's 2008 Prom Dress Contest Grand Prize Winner was Kirsta Purser, with this detailed design and an insightful mini-essay titled "Confidence."*

She gets to have her dream prom dress designed and made specifically for her as well as a photo shoot and accessories for her prom.

Four runners up were named and their drawings are also featured at Please visit -- it's well worth a look!

*Disclaimer: Boutique Narelle does not necessarily endorse religious philosophies expressed in the featured essays.

Have you ever tried to put on paper what your dream gown looks like? A friend recently asked me what I wanted for my wedding dress, something she's been pondering on for some time. While I've collated albums-full of magazine clippings and quite a shelf of bridal magazines, I've never done a cut-and-paste of my favourite concepts. Perhaps that's because many features appeal to me, too many to fit into one gown. Designing a prom dress - of which a girl could acceptably wear a new one every year - would be much more in line with such enthusiasm.

From a wee tot, I've been ardent about colouring-in and I'm not ashamed to admit it. In fact, the activity has been a great advantage in bonding with my little nephews who don't see me very often. Since the founding of this website and the increase of my design adventures, I've had occasion to sketch a few figures, but colour up a model featuring the tiniest details? -- the more I type, the more I like the idea.

The finalists in the Modest By Design Prom Dress contest display drawing styles that are very different from each other, some using software rather than paper and lead, but all equally intriguing and inspiring.

The Modest By Design Prom Dress contest is an annual event, the next one open to entries from September 15th, 2009, but only residents of the USA may enter and must be of high school age.

I know there is an underground modesty network in the South Pacific, and my aim is to encourage it to take wing so we can all benefit. Let's be inspired by what the American modesty industry is achieving and create some action down here!

So here's a challenge for you:
  1. Draw your dream dress.
  2. In a few sentences, describe what modesty means to you.
  3. Email us the results, and we will feature a selection on this website.
I plan to attempt the project myself, and hope you'll join me! Have fun!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ballentynes Fashion Parade

On the 1st of May, I attended a Ballentynes Fashion Central display hosted by the local bowling club. I've wanted to experience one of these fashion parades for years, and finally I knew the right person who mentioned the right details which got me the right invitation. It was a stimulating experience.

About 50 ladies bowled in, mostly white-haired, chattering vigourously and juggling a cup of tea in one hand and cake loaf with lashings of butter in the other whilst waiting for the parade to begin.

The local Ballentynes store manager switched on the microphone, addressed a warm welcome three times over, and the show began (without raucous soundtrack, hurrah, hurrah), starring white-haired ladies and a particular clothing concept I'm delighted to share with you here.

As new winter styles have arrived in stores, have you been annoyed by the light-weight fabric used for high-neck tops? Perhaps you've been frustrated by the preponderance of low necklines and three-quarter sleeves challenging modesty and warmth as winter encroaches. Here's a solution for both.

  • Take a v-neck jumper.
  • Place a roll- or turtle-neck top under it.
  • Accessorize with a long necklace in a vibrant colour.
  • For extra warmth, add a long-line cardigan or overcoat.

Black Turtleneck Tulle Top with Wool/Acrylic Striped Mock-Wrap Jumper

  • Take a 3-quarter sleeve top in a bright retro print.
  • Place a roll- or turtle-neck top underneath.

Purple Turtleneck Tulle Top with Poly/Spandex Tie-Front Top
Ballentynes offers several types of high-neck underlayers. Try the merino or ruched skivvies, or the turtleneck tulle top, which may seem insubstantial on its own but looks like solid colour when poking out from under another top.

Below is a poly/cotton long-sleeved skivvy with ruched neck and elasticated bell sleeves (terrific for gals with long arms), priced from NZ$19.99. I bought an ivory one of these, and it works beautifully under a v-neck jumper. The pale colour allows some transparency, so I place a white crewneck t-shirt (purchased from The Warehouse last season) underneath it if I'm likely to want to remove the jersey.

Deep Jade Ruched-Neck Skivvy with Polyelastane Multi-Coloured Top
Slub Knit Striped Long Line Shawl Cardigan, was from $69.99, now $29.99

One of the things I love about the BallentynesFashionCentral website, which few other online stores provide, is that a simple click on a colour swatch changes the image to the chosen colour. You don't have to rely on a tiny square for what the whole garment will look like.

Purple-Marl Merino Turtleneck with Wool/Acrylic Crossover V-Neck Jumper
If you have fair skin, I don't recommend you wear the Rosebud Merino Turtleneck (below) unless you have a top layer with a modest neckline. This colour was worn during the fashion parade by a fair-skinned woman, and the dressers had given her a plunging v-neck cardigan to wear over it. As she proceeded down the catwalk, my first and second impression was that she had nothing on under the cardigan, the lighting conditions and pale pinkness causing the top to blend in completely with her skin.

All of these groupings will work with this stretch skirt in graphite. The skirt is fully lined (an important point the website neglects to mention). It's long, elegant, interesting, and works well with a lot of colours.

New York Stretch Skirt With Cris-Cross Ribbon Trim Detail And Swooping Panels. Elastic Waistband. Length At Centre Back, 85cm. From $69.99

Red Turtleneck Tulle Top with Poly/Spandex Twist-Front Twinset and Wool Double-Breasted Coat with vertical flap pockets and inset waist panel.
Check out the Ballentynes Fashion Central Look Book
for more layering ideas.

The show closed with all the models on the catwalk together, adding cool shades to their last and cosiest garment display of coats and scarves. It was a heap of fun and I hope I get to the next one!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peachy Keen Shopping Team

Did you know that God is interested in shopping? I've been very blessed by evidence of His accompanying me on recent clothing hunts.

I had 5 days with my sister Sarah in Christchurch, getting some pampering from an Image Consultant named Debbie, plus a pile of other girly-delicious activities. During that time we followed up on a tip from some of Sarah's guy friends who said nice formal wear could be found at a shop called "Affordable Elegance". I was looking for something suitable to wear when I'm singing, in a colour that worked with the Spring palette with which Debbie had just provided me, and at a price that would beat what it would cost to make it myself.

A pity it didn't go all the way up.

It was an interesting adventure. There was a great deal of gorgeous fabric which almost without exception missed the neck and shoulders, and the shop assistant, a petite lady dressed in a pink hug-me-tight over a short and floaty black dress reminding Sarah of a ballet dancer, just couldn't seem to get the hang of the simple statement "I want my shoulders and cleavage covered". Her first solution was a chiffon wrap draped over my shoulders, pulled under my armpits, and tied at the back. The fabric was completely transparent.

I showed her a couple of pictures I had with me of modest prom dress styles. She tripped around the clothing racks again, and I shook my head again. Mystified but pursuing, she handed me a look book and we began to make progress. I located two styles I liked that met my modest requirements. One wasn't available in store but the other was, and she duly produced this, holding it high above her head so it didn't trail on the ground. The colour was peach, in a satin that would reflect beautifully under a spotlight.

I spent half an hour trying it on, shrugging, twitching, swivelling in front of the mirror, walking about the store in it. The mock two-piece, strapless gown featured a pleated train falling from the waist, beaded lace appliques gathering fabric above one hip, topped by a perfectly-fitted bolero jacket with long sleeves. I wasn't used to seeing myself in that colour (having usually gone for blue-shaded tones), but Sarah promised it would do just fine.

The price was nice, reduced from $200 down to $120, but there were unsightly pulls and scuffs in the train, and I knew the cheap satin would require careful handling if that wasn't to happen everywhere else. There was also a dark streak that might or might not come out when laundered (which the shop assistant offered to do, and dropped the purchase price to $99). The bodice was too big and would need taking in as well as straps added to make it secure. She offered to do this, too. Then I lifted my arms as I would be likely to do when singing, and found I was flashing my armpits.

I hovered, juggling the pros and cons. If the shop assistant could alter the garment suitably, and I could make another bolero or alter this one to make sure my armpits stayed covered...and I had the perfect fabric for it at home, a peach and grey-blue flowered chiffon (plus lining)... Hmmm. The shops girls even provided a solution for how I would get the delicate but bulky outfit home on the plane. (There was no way I'd be stuffing that into my pack.)

How to travel by air with a Dress

Place the gown on a hanger in a quality garment bag (these are readily available from Bridal Stores - costing $20 in NZ) and board the plane with it over your arm. The flight attendant will see you and with a few words of "Where shall I put this?" she will take it to a cupboard where it can hang safely (probably alongside the captain's jacket). No need to worry about it being stuffed in an overhead locker, the shop girls promised!

It wasn't an easy decision to make, but I left the dress in the shop, having enough experience to know that when something isn't totally right, the best thing to do is leave it there and keep looking.

I came home with a winter coat instead, and thrust the thought of a new performance dress into storage. A week later, I met Elaine Swanney's Candle Glow wedding gown, which she has made available for my use. I have an appliqued and beaded satin gown with a train which I may use for concerts and I didn't have to pay a cent. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but He's also got quite a closet! You will have seen me enjoying that in last week's post, Apple Blossom Wedding.

If that wasn't confirmation enough that the Lord had better ideas for me than that peach affair in Christchurch, not quite 4 weeks afterward I unexpectedly found myself in EziBuy's OutBack Clothing while my father shopped next door at Mitre 10 for drawer handles. There were signs everywhere promising "buy 1 garment, get the 2nd 1 free". I wandered around looking for modest tops and long skirts, gathering up a daffodil-yellow $10 shirt and a tailored denim jacket in creamy lemon, but ankle-length opaque skirts were few and far between. Great was my delight, then, to discover a stunning dress in peach broderie anglaise, fully lined, the skirt featuring cotton godets poking a V below the rest of the hem.

It was sleeveless, but I was looking at the skirt. should be easy to chop off the bodice and form a waistband. I took it to the changing room to try it. As soon as I had it on, I realized there would be no chopping of this garment. This would remain a dress.

I would remove the beaded, be-ribboned corsage (to be reattached to a brooch pin), and use my flowered chiffon at home to turn the outfit into a jacket-dress for special occasions. The cotton broderie fabric meant the garment could be dressed up with dainty accessories, or given casual elegance with a cotton blouse and denim jacket over the top. It would also launder easily and be practical for travelling. The price tag said $80 reduced from $169, and I would get the $30 denim jacket for free (or, the price of the dress was dropped to $50).

I danced out of the shop, nearly losing my socks, I felt so blessed. Thank you, Jesus!

Modesty BlogCarnival

Feelin' Feminine, a blog celebrating all things feminine, hosted a Carnival of Modesty on May 4th. A "carnival" in blog-terms is a post full of links.

This Carnival is for posts that talk about modesty in daily living. The blog hostesses want to highlight those that give good resources and promote the discussion of modesty in the current culture. Members promise that Feelin' Feminine's carnivals always supply a great read.

You can check out this great read by visiting Feelin' Feminine's Blog Carnival.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Apple-Blossom Wedding

Narelle beamed at Miriam. "I'm wearing a wedding dress!" she said, a lilt of excitement almost making her squeak. She switched her dress ring to her left hand and Miriam clicked a gentle promenade around her with the camera.

The Andrews Sisters hit "I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time" is the song of May for the YouPerform contest. One of the recent winners advised other contestants, "Find a way to make your entry special so it stands out from the crowd." Narelle and her accompanist Elaine Swanney went for a vintage wedding flavour, filming the song with Narelle wearing Elaine's 46-year-old wedding gown.

Narelle was abundantly blessed by the team effort. Thanks to Jonny the video techie, Miriam the photographer, and of course Elaine for a glamourous music adventure!

Elaine's gown is made of satin in a colour known as Candle Glow. It is fully interfaced with Vylene, which makes the skirt stand out stiffly without the need for petticoats, and helps prevent creases. The dress is not lined, and Narelle discovered a nylon chemise was a significant advancement toward slithering out of the heavy draperies. [Truth be told, first time she got into it, she couldn't get out and had to be rescued. Adventure indeed.]

The plain satin is embellished with appliqued lace roses, their stamens droplets of tiny seed beads.

The hair is Narelle's own. After 2 weeks' nightmare, the horrible haircut came under control when spanked with hairgel when wet. Hairspray was added once the tiara was in place (cover your headpiece when you do this!).

The tiara belongs to Narelle, purchased in April for $35 from The Accessory Shoppe in Rangiora, Christchurch, NZ. It has a small comb affixed to each end of the headband, allowing the whole to rest securely on the head.

You can listen to Narelle and Elaine's performance right here.

Listen out for the church bells Elaine added in the chorus.

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