How we’re recreating the Peacock Dress

March 2014 Peacock Dress embroidery sample (c) Cathy Hay

The base fabrics will be embroidered in India by around 20 skilled “zardosi” embroiderers. The entire embroidery work will take three to four weeks to complete. The skirt will be embroidered in one piece: a large expanse of fabric will be rolled up and stretched on a frame, and the embroiderers will work from the middle outwards, unrolling as they go, so that the goldwork is not crushed.

It will then be flown to England, where I will cut, assemble and complete the gown, to be worn over recreations of the elaborate and beautiful underthings of the period.

Above left is my own embroidery sample, and above right, the sample completed by the Indian embroiderers. To illustrate the skill and experience of the Indian craftsmen, it should be noted that working alone, it would have taken me 30,000 hours to complete the embroidery for the whole dress, working at my fumbling amateur rate, whereas they will take around 8400 hours. In other words, the pros work three to four times faster than I do!

Skills

Posted on

June 29, 2014

19 Comments

  1. salama

    what is the technique name is _which was used to make the emridory

    Reply
    • Cathy Hay

      Goldwork.

      Reply
  2. Jane

    Are these embroidered at a different scale, or is the shot on the right a tighter view than the one on the left?

    Reply
    • Cathy Hay

      Good question! I can see why that seems confusing! They’re on a different scale. The right hand sample has bigger feathers than the left. On the dress, they start very small at the waist and get larger and larger toward the hem, so the sample was not requested to be a particular size.

      Thank you for your interest, Jane!

      Reply
  3. Jeanne Robinson

    Are you also using the beetle wings for the feather “eye”?

    Reply
    • Cathy Hay

      That’s right Jeanne, the beetle wings are for the eyes of all the feathers.

      Reply
  4. China Dang

    Love love LOVE this. I can’t wait for this dress to be complete and am rooting for you! Do not give up!

    Reply
  5. Ary

    How far is the dress from being completed?

    Reply
  6. Tarryn

    I am throughly enjoying the story that is unfolding around this dress and await each new chapter with anticipation. Keep up your most excellent work!

    Reply
  7. Rosesheska Schwartz

    You got this ! Lets see the dress shine !

    Reply
  8. Gustavo Rezende De Lima

    I really would love to see this dress…When I aw the video talking about it I felt inspired and please finish the dress! I really want to see this!

    Reply
  9. Stephanie

    So very happy that you are achieving one of your dreams. It is very exciting to be allowed to travil this journey with you can’t wait. Thank you!

    Reply
  10. Amy Thomson

    Cathy, you and Bernadette and your amazing video about the peacock dress have fired me up to start sewing again. Thank you so very much. Is there any way to help crowdfund this amazing project?

    Reply
    • Cathy Hay

      Thank you Amy, you’re very kind! The project is fully funded, we don’t need your money. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Karen

    Hi! I came across your vidos for this dress on YouTube. What I find ( and I’m presuming the work is already over at this point, but maybe there’s hope) is that the recreated feathers look too perfect and not natural like the original vintage dress. As in it looks very geometric whilst the vintage one could pass as real feathers being overlayed. (the eye of the feather for me is the most strikingly difgerty past as well as the way the surrounding feathers fold down) Using zardozi is definitely the way to go but the artisans need to be mindful as a lot of embroidery today is harsh geometric.

    I work as an embroidery designer in India and have worked on creations for Ralph Loren with my mother and he loves vintage embroidery as opposed to clean geometric. Organic fluid was the way to go and that really needs to be specified to the artisans. Some of them are specifically skilled for vintage looks.

    Reply
    • Karen

      Adding to my earlier comment and maybe just an easier way to explain what I’m saying is – you have a picture of the backside if the embroidery. That should be the stensil
      Notice how the sides of the feathers don’t just go straight out to the sides to touch the next feather, they curve ever so slightly down around the eye (mimicking an actual peacock feather)

      Reply
  12. Karen

    Adding to my earlier comment. A better way of explaining what I’m saying is–you have a picture of the reverse side of the embroidery where you can see the thread line. These lines should be the stensil.

    Notice how the side feathers don’t just go straight out to touch the next feather to the side but in fact curve ever so slightly down towards the eye. (much like an actual feather) They’re gradual arcs.

    Sorry, just trying to provide additional insight. If it can be helpful why not. This dress would be stunning!

    Reply
  13. Daniel

    What are the name of the beads that you used for your sample

    Reply
  14. Ann Andrews

    Came across the video on YouTube today – amazing!

    Reply

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