When I worked on Tim Tronckoe’s project “Portraits”, I made not one, but two dresses. The dress I made for Tarja, wasn’t the only one. The second dress, inspired by Queen Elizabeth I, was made for Simone Simons of Epica. I met her in Lille (FR) to take her measurements myself, and later I saw her again in Tilburg (NL) for the fitting.
At the same time I had been making a wedding dress, which was my first commision. I had to finish both dresses in time, on top of working long days in retail.
And yet, the dress wasn’t involved in the project, even though I handed it over to the photographer. There was no further communication about this. Only a year later, when the project got released, I learned the truth. You should know that I made both dresses for the project for free, with only the promise of name recognition in return. And here I am, with none of the dresses in my possession, only pictures from one dress, barely credits on social media, no mentioning by the artist herself (though I don’t blame Tarja for anything, she was not obliged to do so) and no idea what happened with the other dress.
Luckily I was smart enough to take pictures from the “work in progress” of the dress, so I can at least share with you what I’ve been keeping secret for two years. Because I am proud of what I made, and I find that this dress proves how much I’ve evolved in only a year. So let’s talk now how I achieved this result.
I used the same pattern drafting method as always, but this time I did my research in the “The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing 16th century dress” book I bought online. It helped me to understand the shape and apply the information in my pattern. The sleeves I drew are called “leg-of-mutton” sleeves. I tried a few mock-ups in calico to decide the right shape.
This time I wanted to work with steel bonings to give extra support and to create that corset-like shape of a small waist. I used two layers of heavy herringbone coutil where I sandwiched the bonings in between. The layer on top of it is a kind of ton-sur-ton jacquard fabric in cream white with a damasque print. The same fabric was used for the sleeves and skirt. For the skirt alone I used 4 meters!
After everything was stitched together and I hand sewed the bottom of the bodice, it was time for the decoration. First of all, I finished the neckline with a lace ribbon, and also used it to create the illusion of a stomacher. I hand sewed lace flowers on the front to give it some texture and added beads that were typical for that time. The flat steel bonings under the fabric made it very hard for me to sew anything on. When I’m talking about “blood, sweat and tears”, you can take this literally. Luckily, I didn’t leave any blood stains on the dress.
Since the dress should be an eye catcher, I also added pearl garland to complete the look.
I finished the sleeves with antique lace ruffles for some elegance and with Simone’s delicate hands in mind.
I also paid more attention to finishing the back of the dress by using golden eyelets that were placed together closely. Not only does this help with closing the garment without having wrinkles, it also looks nicer and more professional in my opinion.
I didn’t make the collars, since this would require professional skills and I’m not experienced in this. This job was given to Elena Werner, who’s a costume designer in scenic arts. But since the dress wasn’t used, I have no idea how it would have looked like all together.
I've put so much energy and time in this project, I gave up my personal collection that I was going to make for the fashionshow at Danza Luna and with this also new opportunities. I've been thinking to share this for a long time now. But again, I'm so proud of this dress, it would be a shame to not share it with you.