Camouflage

(Ya know when you suddenly feel as if you have never spelled a word before, so you look it up, are surprised by the spelling, and are sure you have been spelling it wrong all your life?!  Having issues with “camouflage” this morning…now singing “kamooflayge” as a mantra…I know, now I am saying it wrong, but I will know how to spell it for the rest of my life.)

A mom wrote to me as she begins working on her young dancing daughter’s first solo dress.  The little one is thicker around the middle.  Since I have some experience with that because of my oldest diva, I told her I would write about how I dealt with it…and since I have been digitizing ’til I am dreaming about creating food out of embroidery stitches in my sleep, I figured a little writing break was in order.  I am by no means an expert in dealing with this figure (I just slap a shapeless shirt on my own [say that 10 times fast: slap a shapeless shirt, shlap a slapesesh shirt, shap a shapish sh…]), but I have a couple of dresses under my belt and perhaps some readers will offer their own experiences and suggestions as well.

We all know that there are certain silhouettes that look good on different body types.  There are certain silhouettes that certain body shapes shy away from.  Some people wear whatever they want, whenever they want, whether they should or not, and I say more power to ’em!  But Irish dance, not unlike other dance forms, does dictate a certain dress “look.”  I was glad when the teeny-tiny bodice on top of the gigantoid skirt became a thing of the past as it was a rare child of any shape who looked good in that.  Don’t really know why, but the wide skirts always reminded me of the Flying Nun… and I always felt I was looking at a costume that would fit right in with this group below –

Am I right? Ever hear of “The Triadic Ballet,” Bauhaus, or Oscar Schlemmer?  More info here if you are curious: Bauhaus

That overwhelmingly wide, stiff triangle look was particularly unforgiving when it was under a thicker torso.  It was a good thing when the waists started to drop, and even better when the skirts began to narrow.  Now we are seeing some extreme dropped waistlines…nothing better for making all but the skinniest minnies look like sausage tubes (brings back horrid anorexia-inducing memories of college and gray unitards and clanging gongs and a hippie choreographer who never came to rehearsal with her feet on the ground, if you get my drift…)……..deep sigh.

There is a freaking point here somewhere…

…yes, kamooflayging thicker torsos to create an attractive balanced look for the incredibly logical creation that is an Irish dance dress. Tongue Out

There is always the usual use of dark colors over all, as well as using darker colors strategically so that brighter colors can pull focus.  There was a time when it was de riguer for ID dresses to have a bright color down the center of the dress while the bodice and skirt sides were darker.  Those were passing when I started with my girls in ID.  You do see some of that still but it is not as stark a use of contrasting colors as it used to be.

So, off to the fabric store you go.  You want a color that complements your dancer’s coloring, obviously, but make life a bit simpler for yourself by letting the dancer loose to be drawn to the colors she likes.  It is rare that a dancer (or anybody, for that matter) will claim as their favorite a color that looks bad on them.  You may not like it, but hold it up under your dancer’s face to see what happens.  It will probably work beautifully. 

A few years ago, I brought a whole box of fabric to begin working with a 10 year-old.  Susan had given me all sorts of things that I loved as well as some that made me cringe.  This red-cheeked, slightly sallow little dancer went straight for this bright coral metallic silk that set my teeth on edge.  I knew she had to be wrong, but when we held it up, her complexion brightened, her red cheeks turned pink, and her eyes sparkled!  This is the dress:

I have since always trusted the dancer.

In my diva’s case she chose plum.  She was young yet, but we both wanted something a bit more understated than the bright flourescent colors that were still the rage at the time, so no dramatic color shifts for us.  This is her first dress (I just realized that we were a bit ahead of out time!  Applique was still what everyone was doing, but we did just embroidery!):

Now, it is rather subtle, but you can see that the center of the bodice and the center front skirt are lighter than the sides and the sleeves.  There is a black sparkly overlay over the darker parts.  In the sunlight in that pic it is not as pronounced a difference as it really was.  The design also worked to draw the eye in…you can’t see the top of the cfp but the design comes to a point like the bodice design.

The diva’s next dress was a bit more dramatic.

This time we made more of an effort to draw the eye in by using black on the bodice & skirt sides and by making the bodice point down the center along with the long tapering design.  In fact the black was so successful that it looks as if the bodice is standing away from the offset skirt waist.  It is a 2 piece, but the bodice fit snugly so there was no space at the waist between the bodice hem and the skirt.  The long straight lines of crystals also help draw the eye in.

I did make this skirt very offset which means the “sides” of the dress were more than 2 inches forward of the diva’s actual side.  This again tricks the eye into interpreting the front waist into a narrower width.

The longer, dropped, pointed bodice look is another tried and true device for altering the look of a thicker torso.  I wrote about making the pointed bodice here: Bodice/Jacket for 2-piece.  At the time that I made the dresses in that post, those were drop-waisted jackets…compared to now, they are high waisted, but I would make the same pattern alterations with a longer waist.  I know many people feel that the 2-piece dress makes dancers look thick.  I do not agree, because, in fact, there is no difference in the bulk of fabric that is in the waist area or at the point of bodice & skirt overlap.  There may be even less because there is no bodice/jacket fabric in the waist seam at all (just a single layer of cotton for the under-bodice).  The problem in the look comes when the bodice is poorly fitted so that it looks too big on the dancer or it cannot sit down far enough over the skirt.  I have never been a fan of the faux bodice point that is appliqued onto the skirt as I find the actual waist seam to be very obvious, which is why I like the 2 piece plus the fact the jacket can be removed in between dances to alleviate the sweat factor.  (That being said, I am working on an OTR with Susan and she wants to incorporate that faux point…I have to learn to never say never because it always comes back to bite me in the…)

Another trick is to direct the eye upward to the face by creating interest above the bust line.  You can do this with a collar design and/or a corset bodice look.  I wrote about my approach to the corset bodice here: corset-style bodice .

And that brings me to the design itself.  As I just wrote above, you can keep the eye away from the torso by keeping your embellishments above the bust line.  Another technique is to make sure that any design that comes down below the bust is thin or tapered…anything wide will just accent the dancer’s width.

Ultimately, I am a big believer in making the dress that the dancer wants, making the dress that makes the dancer feel like a spectacular princess.  When she feels beautiful, she dances beautifully.  Over the course of my life as a performer, I had to wear some pretty awful & humiliating things because someone (choreographer, director, costume designer) forgot that embarrassing the dancers meant they would not dance their best…we tried, but when you feel like a stuffed gray sausage you tend to dance like one!

Edge Binding Instead of Satin Stitching

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Written by Mary Hackenberg, first posted on IDD:

I couldn’t find an embroidery thread that matched right for satin stitching the edges of my five petals.  I chose to try to wrap the edges with velvet instead.  Many dresses in this style use the same velvet as the bodice to flash under the petals in a solid support panel across the front. I was using a sequin fabric underneath, so I had no connection of the velvet from the bodice into the skirt.  I was hoping that binding the edges of my petals in the velvet would help pull the look of it all together, and I think it worked out pretty well.

After some experimentation, this is what I came up with:

I cut a strip of velvet about 1.25 inches wide along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. I wanted to get the most stretch from it so that I could form it around the edges without wrinkling.

My petals were prepared with all the layers basted together near the edge and cut to the exact shape.  Then I applied a strip of Wonder Tape all the way around the top of the petal right at the edge. I stuck my velvet right side down lining up the edge of the cut strip with the outer edge of the petal. Then I straight stitched about 3/8″ in from the edge.

Next I applied Wonder Tape all around the edge on the back, but a little bit in from the edge.  I folded my velvet strip in on itself like a bias tape and stuck it down so that I had about a half inch strip showing in back with the raw edge folded in.  I made the most of the velvet’s stretch to shape it around the edges.  I used pins in the two tricky corners to make sure the velvet was pulled all the way into the corner, and would still be caught in my seam.  I turned the piece over and straight-stitched from the top carefully along the edge of the binding where the stitch wouldn’t show.
I got in a good groove after a couple practice pieces and was able to get through the work pretty quickly. It came out looking smooth and really works with my dress design, I think.

I felt a bit like I was breaking new ground, although I am sure others have come up with this too.  I can say for sure that the small investment in the Wonder Tape made all the difference in getting a professionally finished look. Pins just didn’t cut it by themselves.

I hope this helps someone else 🙂

Happy Sewing,
Mary Hackenberg

Feisdress FSP: Stiffener, boning & wrapping the seam

Cindy in ON wrote:

My first question is about the boning in the FSP. The instructions
say “the boning runs across the bottom of the skirt like it does on
the FSP and into the back side of the knife pleat.” I get about
running it into the knife pleat, but I’m thinking that boning going
two far into the FSP is going to cause a problem with my skirt
sticking way out or not bending unless I stop it somewhere. I also
wasn’t sure if I was going to use stiffener in the side panels. So
my questions are:

– if I put boning horizontally in the FSP, what guideline should I
use for where to stop it?

– Has anybody used a vertical piece of boning in the back edge of the
knife pleat and avoided having the horizontal boning in the side
panels and if so, how did that work?

– with the traditional skirt pattern, is stiffener recommended for
the front side panel, and if so, at what weight? The stiffener I
have seems quite stiff (almost as thick as felt and creases where
folded). Should I look for a softer stiffener for the side panels or
is this what I should be using?

The second part of my questions revolves around cutting the lining
for the FSP. The pattern shows an extra inch and a half or so to be
cut for the lining that folds around something. I just can’t picture
this or what it folds around and how it’s going to work.

– Can somebody explain this so I have an idea what I’m doing with
that extra bit when I prepare my lining?

Thanks all! I appreciate the help because the only dress I have
available to look at for construction questions is my DD school
dress, and it doesn’t feel that there is stiffener in the side
panels, or any boning, and clearly there are somethings that are done
differently than I will be doing for a solo dress.

I am assuming here that we are talking about a 3 panel dress, so my answers are in that vein.

Yes, you are correct that most solo 3 panel dresses are different than a lot of school dresses when it comes to stiffener in the FSP.  Solos dresses are usually much stiffer so that the side panels extend further out to the sides.  And, it is usually preferable that the FSP does not bend but instead is as flat in relation to the CFP as possible which is why the same stiffener is used in all 3 panels in the front skirt and why the boning extends from the knife pleat out to the edge of the FSP. 

Now, this is not a hard and fast rule.  Depending on the dancer’s ideas of stiffness and width, I did not always use the boning.  I found also that the thinner a dancer was (flatter torso) made it easier to achieve the flat front look so boning was not necessary.  The rounder girls did require boning to keep the panels flat because the waist line curved around their bodies more.  (You can read read Susan’s explanation of this here: Skirt Question.)

Be aware that if you do not use the same stiffener in the FSP, the side panels will collapse down and in.

A vertical piece of boning behind the knife pleat will not really accomplish anything except add weight.

Now for the seam wrap:  here are a couple of pics of the wrap.

seam wrap by you.

seam wrap by you.

basting & seam wrap by you.

(You can slso see my basting in the above pic.)

Let’s see if I can explain what I do.

First, I cut the seam wrap longer than the skirt hem.  The cut piece looks like this:

wrap info by you.

This allows me to wrap the bottom of the seam also.  Once the seam is sewn, I iron the vertical edge of the wrap to create a straight fold, fold the bottom of the fabric up over the bottom of the seam, fold the vertical edge, and then sew.  All seams are now hidden.

Good tunic pics and a soft skirt

Katelyn went to the 4P’s feis this weekend (3rd place…whoo-hoo, Katelyn!), so I got a hold of her dress finally so I could check my work. I did not get good pics of it back in January because it was a rush job…there are just some people I can’t say no to, and this family just turned me to jello. It did get delivered on time, but there were a couple of things that did not get done, and I had no time to check my work, so I was glad to get it back. Have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that, except for some thread trimming, I really only needed to finish off the very ends of the panels and add crystals (Molly did the crystals for me…thanks, babes!)

So, here it is:
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This lace neckline was constructed as I explained here (Corset-style Bodice), and then the leaves, which were sewn as patches, were attached after.  The neckline itself is a tad wider and lower because this dancer can’t stand stuff on her neck.
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Because of this dancer’s shape, I ended the separating zipper about 1 inch higher than I had planned.  This makes me re-think the zippers on all my 2 pieces whether tunics or jackets…instead of attaching the zipper to this flaring area, this little bit of extra room allows the tunic/jacket to lay better because it allows this area to open and close as needed.  No riding up when the dancer is moving.
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Below we have the underside of one of the “pins.”  Photobucket

And here we have a wonderful thing…
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This was a surprise for Katelyn from her mother. The 3 orange ladybugs represent Katelyn and her 2 sisters…more of a story there, but it is not mine to tell.

And here is the soft skirt. I really like the way this one works.  The yoke is a cotton lycra, and the skirt slips on, no zipper.  Just above the green lace, you can make out a seam…this is a horizontal tuck that can be let out twice as Katelyn grows.  Voila!  Skirt is lengthened!
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Layer 1 is a single lace layer.  Layer 2 is a folded layer (like a bubble skirt but with nothing inside), attached 1 inch below the lace.  The basting lines are for lining it all up.
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I pleated all the layers this time, instead of gathering, which served to remove most of the bulk that poofs these skirts in the wrong places.  There was so much fabric that I had to get fancy with the pleating!
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On the back of the skirt, I ran one row of a multiple zigzag stitch to flatten this layer a bit over Katelyn’s rear-end…she is a tiny thing, but she has a dancer’s booty and the skirt poofed a bit much there!
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And here’s the 3rd layer, again folded and pleated.  I sewed this seam differently so there would be a bit more poof at this level.
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Close up of the pleats.
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Someone had asked before how I put the lining in, and here you have it…half bag lining.  In Liz’s tunic dress, I used a full bag lining, satin-stitching it together with the front around the panels as I have done here.  In this one, I left the side seams exposed (and the zipper seam), so that this can be let out some if needed…I am a big proponent of making alterations easy (for the dressmaker), and cheap (for the parents)!
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You can faintly see above the outline of the stitching that attaches the appliques to the panels.  Although I would prefer not to see this, this is the way I have to do it since I make the appliques as patches to apply after the lining is attached and the panels satin-stitched.  I do the patches because there is no room for error with these tunics…when I embroider non-tunic pieces, I outline my pieces, embroider, then re-check the pattern placement before cutting out the pieces.  Well, if I mess up the embroidery on one of these panels, I have to start all over as the front and backs are cut as single pieces…no fudging after embroidery because the panels won’t hang right.  Just easier for me to eyeball placement when it is all put together.

Corset-style Bodice

— In IDDressmaking@yahoogroups.com, “snipper0104” <musicalpair3@…> wrote:
>
> Can anyone please tell me if there are directions to alter the Feisdress pattern for the corset-
> style bodice? I’m assuming this is a one-piece dress because of fit issues. I have a design I’d
> like to try and I think it would look best with the corset top. Thanks so much.
>
> Debbie

I responded, but wanted to move it here to add pics.

I have done this in one configuration or another onseveral dresses.  Only 2 were specifically sweetheart/corset line, while the others were v-neckline variations, but my construction is the same.  This method can also be used for asymmetrical bodice colors as well

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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Embroidered for MJ Farr
MJ Farr 2009 (1)

MJ bodice front

Embroidered for Colleen Murphy
Good photo of color

Pinned, no zipper

I am such a freak about symmetrical placement that this is what I do:

1 – Cut the full bodice out of the least expensive of the 2 bodice fabrics.  Let’s say I am going to use velvet for the corset body, so I would cut out the bodice using the fabric that will show above the corset neck/bust line.  Call this fabric 1.

2 – draw the sweetheart line onto the paper pattern pieces.  Decide where the shoulder/ side seams will meet (if necessary) so the front and back meet up neatly.  Cut the top and bottom apart on that line.  You have not added any seam allowance to that line.

3 – cut the velvet bodice using the bottom of the separated pattern pieces.  Call this fabric 2.

4 – Lay the cut velvet pieces onto the full bodice pieces you cut before.  Now you have to decide if you are going to keep all of fabric 1.  I have done 1 of 2 things: a) kept all of fabric 1 to act as a stabilizer for fabric 2 ; or b) cut fabric 1 free behind fabric 2 after sewing them both together to keep the bodice from being too bulky.  No matter what I decide, after I have lined up the pieces I pin or baste them together so I can sew a narrow zigzag stitch at the edges where the fabrics overlap, in this case along the corset bust line.

     a) If I am using fabric 1 as a stabilizer, I will fuse them together.  However, with velvet, I would probably not fuse but sew them together in the seam allowances.  If I am going to fuse, I already attached Misty fuse to the corset fabric before I cut it out.  Once the bust line is sewn, I fuse.

    b) If I am going to cut fabric 1 free after sewing them both together to keep the bodice from being too bulky, I do so after I run the zigzag attachment stitch.  Then, on the wrong side, I neatly cut near the stitching to remove the extra fabric.

5 – Now, using a good tear-away, I satin stitch over where the 2 fabrics meet.  I have done this with contrasting threads and with matching.

Why do I do all of this instead of creating an actual pattern with seam allowances?  Because I already know that my pattern fits as is and creating a sweetheart neckline pattern with seam allowances will create (for me, I just know it!) issues with puckering, fabric not laying right in the center, etc.  This way, I do it all as if it is a giant applique and no matter what shape I use, it works and lays beautifully.  Quite frankly, this is fast.

In the above pics, the only one that I did not cut away was the pink and black one.  I felt that the angle of the pink might not resist stretching even though it is all interfaced with a fusible.  I left the black intact underneath.

Edited 9/27/2010: Nowadays, I digitize this entire process so I am doing all of this in my massive hoop. If you would like more info about that, just ask!!

Wearing Ease

(Edited to add a comment/question written by Kara.  Thank you, Kara, great observations.)

I received an interesting phone call last week from the alterationist that I send folks to, Hsiao Fang. When I gave up a school account a year or so ago, she started taking the measurements for the new company as this was a long distance operation. I hear from her periodically when she calls to discuss altering ID dresses that I send her way.

This time, she called to ask me if I, as an ID dressmaker, add ease to my patterns and if so, how much. I said yes, and that I add 2 inches at the waist, 3 at the bust, and a bit in a couple of extra places. (My specific amounts come from Susan.) Hsiao Fang breathed a sigh of relief and went on a rant about how that was how she was trained (as a tailor), and about moving bodies, and about dresses coming in from this company with ABSOLUTELY (her emphatic emphasis) no ease at all, and that parents were coming to her to alter brand new dresses that could not be zipped when they arrived. The parents are complaining about this and about sleeves that do not allow any movement at all and are so tight at the armscye that the dancers get rubbed raw! The parents and the TC want Hsiao Fang to add ease when she takes the measurements, but I was in total agreement with her that that is not her job! She was in quite an understandable snit and last I heard was going to stop taking the measurements.

She asked me several questions about the company making the dresses…I really know nothing about them…but I was just as bewildered as she. She told me about her conversation with the dressmakers about how they did want exact measurements from her with no extra room added into them, and then her surprise when the dresses would come in with those exact measurements and sometimes smaller! She asked me if I thought they were using generic patterns, “…grabbing the one with the 36 inch bust measurement if that was the measurement sent with no thought to the other measurements or wearing ease!” The last straw was a dress just brought to her that had been made to the exact bust measurement with no attention to the large waist measurement, and this brand new dress had a 6 inch gap at the zipper at the waist…Hsiao Fang was beside herself because there was absolutely not that much fabric in the seams to let that out!

Most home sewers do not really think about wearing ease because it is built in (along with design ease) to the patterns that we buy at the store…could this company be employing a dressmaker who does not know about wearing ease?  Susan wrote the following on her website:

 A Note About Ease
Dress and pattern makers talk about two kinds of ease: “Fashion (or Design) Ease” and
“Wearing Ease.” “Fashion (or Design) Ease” is the first kind. This is the extra fabric that
the dress designer puts into a garment to achieve the desired look. Sweat pants have a lot
of fashion ease. A bathing suit does not. Fashion ease is what has traditionally made
determining a pattern size difficult for the consumer. You select a pattern based on your
body measurements and sometimes it fits you well. Other times you find the same sized
pattern is “too big” or “too small”. That’s because you really don’t know for sure how
“baggy” or how “tight” the fit has been designed.

The second kind of ease is “Wearing Ease.” You need your dress to be bigger than your
measurements so you can breathe, turn, sit, raise your arms. In the real world you’d want
to be able to tie your own shoes and comb your own hair. In Irish Dance dresses, you
need at least an inch in the waist and about 2” in the bust extra. You really do want to
keep the waist snug so that the weight of the skirt is carried on the hips rather than on the
shoulders. If the waist is too loose, the skirt collapses inward and won’t hang right. So,
no matter how much you want to leave some “extra for growth,” the waist isn’t the place
to do it.

Susan does not add any hidden ease into the Feisdress Pattern.  What does that mean?  If I get a pattern at the fabric store, the measurements on the back are actual body measurements, not pattern measurements.  So, if I buy a pattern that has 3 inches of ease in the bust, if I have a 36 inch bust, the measurement on the pattern envelope says 36 inches, not 39.  The measurements that Susan publishes for her pattern are PATTERN measurements which means you have to decide on the ease you want.  If you have a 36 inch bust and buy the pattern that has a 36 inch bust, you will not be able to breathe (if you can manage to get the bodice zipped in the first place) unless you add ease.

So I take exact measurements (see Measuring for the Feisdress pattern & Measuring the Upper Chest & Troubleshooting Sleeve Issues ), plug them into my excel sheet which adds the ease that I want, and then decide which Feisdress pattern to start with (I alter this to make sure all measurements are as they should be).  I fit solo and school dresses differently in that the solo dresses fit closer.  For school dresses, unless a dancer has stopped growing, I actually make them a bit loose to begin with because parents want to see visible growing room when the dress is delivered!  I do admit that seeing the dress loose to begin with offends my dressmaker’s pride, but I totally understand the parents’ perspective.  I add ties inside the dress so that the waist fits snugly…any looseness in the back is hidden by the cape.  And, I make sure they also understand that there are huge seam allowances at the sides of the bodice and zipper, at the top of the skirt and at the bottom of the bodice so that the dress can be let out and down perhaps a couple of times…I actually add the same to solo dresses.

So fellow dressmakers, how do you deal with ease?  What do you add and where?  Do you fit school dresses differently than solos?  Do you build in large seam allowances for future alterations?  Would love to hear from you on this.

Kara wrote:

Since I have been making mostly off the rack dresses, exact fit to a particular body has not been an issue.  However, as I am selling these dresses and getting questions about fit, I’ve had a couple of thoughts and questions of my own.  Say I am selling a dress with a 32 chest measurement and a 27 waist measurement and someone emails me and says “I love the dress but the chest is too big for my 30″ daughter”  Am I correct in advising them that if the 30″ measurement is an exact chest measurement than this dress should fit fine in the chest?  An example that I just experienced was an OTR that was the exact measurements of a dancer.  She tried it on and of course it was way too small because the measurement the mom was going on were her daughters exact measurements not accounting for wearing ease.   So are there a bunch of people out there looking at used solo’s and rejecting them because they might seem too big because they are basing their decision on their daughters exact measurements and not allowing for movement and wearing ease?

I would say that yes, a 32″ measurement at the chest on the dress should fit a 30″ chest just fine.  As we all know, there are always posts on the boards about how to measure dresses, measure dancers, etc…have there been specific conversations about the need to be aware of ease when choosing a dress?  Since I do not do OTRs, I have not had to deal with this.  Dressmakers, how do you advise clients?

Troubleshooting: Vertical Skirt Crease, Part II

Done.

We had this:
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Now we have this:
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We had this:
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Now we have this:Photobucket

And we have a new crown just for you, Aislinn!

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