We know plenty about Lady Curzon and the Delhi Durbar and we can still admire the original dress, but how was this extraordinary garment made?
Examination of the original Peacock Dress and similar unfinished works reveals that rectangular pieces of the base material were stretched on a frame in order for the pieces of the dress to be marked out and embroidered. The embroidery was completed by a team of Indian “zardosi” craftsmen, using skills passed down through generations and still practised today.
When complete, these embroidered pieces were shipped to Paris, a voyage of around six weeks, where they were cut out and assembled at the House of Worth into the dress we see today. Then the completed gown was shipped all the way back to India for the ball.
The dress was undoubtedly made according to an existing pattern that Worth had previously made for Lady Curzon, since she was a regular client. Her Oak Leaf embroidered state gown of the same year, which is on display at the Bath Fashion Museum, UK, appears to be of a very similar construction. The Oak Leaf Dress may even have made its long voyage to India in the same packing case as the Peacock Dress, since wealthy Worth clients often ordered multiple gowns at once.