Finding My Pindependence


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On Saturday I was working on a ballroom battle scene in my latest yarn. Without giving away too much (in case this eventually becomes an ebook or bestseller or hit movie) I needed two contrasting colors of dress for two contrasting teenage girls who would take turns dancing with their exotic instructor, himself undebatably garbed in cool lavender. Furthermore, Izadora’s dress would need to be conducive to the waltz’s transition into a physical struggle over a dagger ending in… well, I won’t tell you how it ends. Besides, all this is subject to change at this stage. Brutus might end up playing French horn out of his left ear instead of bugle, or Molière might have a spatula for a hand at some point. But that’s another story.

Anyway, I was trying to write the scene, and it occurred to me that I would have a better picture in my head of the dance-fight if I added a couple ball gown pictures to the appropriate Pinboard. Should be a breeze, right? No longer than a five-minute affair, a few keystrokes to make.

Well. Apparently my fellow Pinners’ idea of a ball gown is like a prom dress except with nothing to prevent the top from popping off and exposing some skin that I don’t feel like writing about. A mother crocodile already de-robed this character in an earlier scene; I think once is enough for now.


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I searched vintage, Victorian, princess, medieval, dance gowns… everything I could find was either a dusty relic languishing in someone’s grandmother’s closet of shame, or some modern, sexy Etsy interpretation of what princess dresses would have been like if princesses had been allowed to show skin (and if the last glacial period hadn’t been going on at the time in the case of the “medieval” dresses.) While some of the dresses I found were artistic, none of them matched the specific image I had in my head.


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I half-heartedly pinned a couple, toyed with changing the colors in the scene to match the pictures I could find, then I went crazy. I deleted all those useless Pins and broke out the colored pencils. No, I’m not an artist, but with some of my favorite quirky songs on I did a pretty good rendition of the dresses my specific characters need. After all, they didn’t have carbon-copy prom dress factories churning out crowd-pleasing happy mediums between vulgar and manically glittery back in the 1700s.

ball gown colored pencil art red/black/purple

While this ended up being longer than a five-minute affair, I was really proud of the results. I don’t claim to be an artist; certainly I don’t delude myself that this chicken-scratch looks like a real photograph or anything like art really. But what it got me to do was think really hard about how the situation and the characters’ personalities influenced their clothing. I made my eyes see details my brain couldn’t picture before, like the anchor charm hanging on this red one’s skirt. It also gave me an opportunity to connect with my project outside of writing time in a relaxing, fun and different way. Drawing always gets me excited about my ideas, and so for a moment I was reminded of how exciting this story was when it was just in my head and there was no dumpy rough draft on a Word document. I know my best shot at ever finishing this project is to remember the enthusiasm of my honeymoon stage with the book, and carry it in some form through to the final proofread.

Meanwhile, I have found a way to provide for my imagination what the Internet occasionally fails to. Try drawing if you’re interested in a taste of the Pindependent life. (Not that I would ever stop using Pinterest altogether; it’s indispensable for most creative purposes.)

This red/purple/black dress is for the main character, who could have been a princess had she not been kidnapped by bumbling pirates at the age of two. Below is the hemline, decorated with pink and black ribbons, a chain of shoreline rocks, sharks’ teeth and seashells.

hemline of red/black/purple pirate dress design

I added a silver chain and a tiny anchor for style. She might not really look quite this fancy in the actual scene if we’re being realistic… but we’re not. So there.

bodice of red/black/purple pirate ball gown drawing

The sleeves may be kind of hard to understand, but they are supposed to indicate flowy, translucent fabric held in place by pink and black ribbons tied with gold bows around the elbow area. The demure, yet silently malevolent twin sister’s dress is the same style:

ball gown dress drawing turquoise gold pink

The theme of this dress is a little less oceanic, but they still live on the island of Zabuba so the hem has some seafaring chains and is even crafted with layers of shaped fabric that suggest ocean waves, though I doubt Magdilène would dare dip a toe in the tide.

detail - hem of turquoise and pink ball gown drawing

She has a butterfly on her chest to help promote the girly, wimpy façade.

butterfly bodice ball gown drawing turquoise/pink

If a real artist is looking at this – you did it to yourself. If you want you can draw me a better one and send it to me…?


2 thoughts on “Finding My Pindependence

  1. I adore the dresses. BUT they do show a LOT of upper-level skin! LOL! I think your technique of getting in touch with your writing is fantastic. And I’m looking forward to reading that story. So many tantalizing hints!

    Liked by 1 person

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