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’.
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
I think on Mondays we could all do with a quote to set the tone for our week ahead. So keep your heads high, the sun is out, flowers are blooming, and this place is more beautiful for having you in it.
Mlle. Lina(?) Richard, dans Marco Spada / Alophe del. et lith. ; imp. Auguste Bry. Alophe, 1812-1883, artis
I was classically trained in Russian Ballet when I was growing up and it was at the barre that I learnt a very painful lesson, ‘dreams don’t make allowances for injuries’. One day I will be able to look at ballerinas without feeling a twinge of sorrow in my heart.
Truth. When I am at an antique faire or an antique market and I see a pile of old books I have to force myself to put one foot in front of the other and slowly walk, not run, towards them. Even though my eyes are fixed on that stack of books like a drowning man staring at the shore, I ignore my fingers twitching at my side and approach steadily.
Once I reach the shop or stall I totally forget about trying to appear like a normal human. I take comfort in the fact that the owner won’t judge me if I sink to the dusty floor and give myself over to the draw of the books. They would never judge me if there are tears in my eyes when I find an old Tennyson.
There are old friends in each pile and there are new friends whispering hello! There are ageless treasures and there are ones that have been loved until the spine is thin.
I love literature. I love that I can be anywhere in any world in a matter of seconds. That nothing is impossible. Literature is a bridge to that part of our soul that longs for creative freedom and for those few precious moments I can let myself fly.
There is no other comparable reading experience than picking up an old, leather-bound book and opening the pages. The leather, the paper, even the ink has a scent that is absolutely unique.
I pictured to myself the Queen of Hearts as a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion - a blind and aimless Fury.The Red Queen I pictured as a Fury, but of another type; her passion must be cold and calm - she must be formal and strict, yet not unkindly; pedantic to the 10th degree, the concentrated essence of all governesses!
—Lewis Carroll, in “Alice on the Stage”
“I have walked on snow covered in flowers, stood in lakes at sunset, painted trees, set fire to chairs, made smoking umbrellas, and giant wigs from stolen flowers. I have laughed, been overwhelmed, and left in awe of all the things I had previously passed unnoticed until now…”