In writing an account of the Ball for The Graphic, Lady Violet Greville felt, as she spoke of the Princess of Wales, constrained to quote the 16th-century French author Brantôme who described Marguerite de Valois as “robed in cloth of silver with long sleeves, her hair richly dressed and her whole appearance of such grace and majesty that she resembled more a goddess from heaven than a Queen upon earth.”
At long last I can share my costume with the world. Eight months ago I entered my final year at Wimbledon College of Art studying Costume Interpretation. Our first assignment was to create a costume to compliment the new exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace entitled ‘In Fine Style’. As I walked around the Red Room during the Da Vinci exhibition I could never imagine that just a short while later my own costume would grace this majestic room.
I chose to recreate the fancy dress costume of Alexandra, Princess of Wales dressed as Marguerite de Valois worn to the Duchess of Devonshire House Ball in 1897. As I was the intern for The Tudor Tailor last year and helped to make the costumes and work on the photo shoot for the new book The Tudor Child (I cried when I found my name in the Acknowledgements) I was requested to create the costume of the Hon. Louvima Knollys who accompanied Alexandra as her page.
The skirt and bodice is entirely finished by hand. I started with eight small appliqués to build my shape and completed the surface decoration by hand based on the photos. I thought after this costume I would never wish to string another pearl or couch another row again but for my final costume I am still working on beading. I was able to study close ups of the image at the National Archives and I was graciously granted permission to study hi-res images of the 4 existing photographs of Alexandra. Both of these allowed me to re-create what is hopefully a very close historic reproduction of this costume.
I am grateful to both of my models, to all of the researchers who assisted me in this endeavour to track down photos to study, to you my followers who continue to inspire me, and most of all to my mother who was very patient during my frantic midnight phone calls.
I will leave you with the quote that first came to mind when my models descended the staircase into the gallery last night, ‘ She [Alexandra] came down one day in a marvellous … long flowering train. She dazzled me utterly, I was speechless with adoration’.
Tickets are still available but make sure you book for the two evening shows which is the Third Year’s show, PM if you end up coming!
Embroidered details in Game of Thrones
‘Michele Carragher is a London-based Hand Embroiderer and Illustrator who has been working in costume on film and television productions for over 15 years. She studied Fashion Design at The London College of Fashion, where the course incorporated design, pattern cutting, garment construction, embroidery, millinery and illustration. At the same time she attended a three year evening course in Saddlery at Cordwainers College learning skills in leatherwork.
After leaving college Michele worked in Textile Conservation, repairing and restoring historical textiles for private collectors and museums, specialising in hand embroidery. She then moved into a career in costume for film and television, initially working as a Costume Assistant/Maker on productions such as the BBC’s Our Mutual Friend, ITV’s David Copperfield and Mansfield Park. She soon gravitated towards the decoration and embellishment of costumes, using skills in hand embroidery and surface decoration, taking inspiration from the many historical textiles she had encountered working as a Textile Conservator.
The first production that saw her undertake the role of a Principal Costume Embroiderer was for HBO’s 2005 Emmy Costume award-winning production of Elizabeth 1. Her most recent work has been on HBO’s 2012 Costume award-winning television series Game of Thrones, working on all three seasons.
As a Costume Embroiderer Michele specialises in hand embroidery and surface embellishment, using traditional hand embroidery techniques, smocking, beading and surface decoration. She works directly onto the completed garment or starts with motifs and textures on silk crepeline/organza, which are applied to the costume and then worked into once on the actual garment. She also works on existing machine embroidery designs that are not too dense, adding some hand stitching and beading to give a more authentic, hand-finished look.
Michele finds hand embroidery has more flexibility and diversity than that of embroidery created by machine, as there is a greater variety of thread choice and colours to use. It is also possible to work more easily on garments that are already constructed. However, machine embroidery in combination with hand work can be very useful when completing many repeats by creating light outlines or a less dense machine stitch, work can then be completed by hand and again can be carried out on a finished garment.
Michele is a highly creative Costume Embroiderer, producing original designs as well as working closely to a costume designer’s brief to create their desired look.’
Text and images from http://www.michelecarragherembroidery.com
Hamda Al Fahim
Fall/ Winter 2013 Collection
I’ve always told my mother I would be an unconventional bride, I want to wear a gown in a soft pastel colour, I want flowers tangled in my hair, and something unique that expresses me.
Hamda Al Fahim
Spring/ Summer 2013
I have always been a fan on unconventional shapes in fashion. I think what makes this gown so successful is the combination of the colour, the cascade of fabric down one hip and the surface decoration which draws your eye to the curve of her waist.