The Peacock Dress today

The Peacock Dress today

The original dress is carefully preserved in a glass case at the Curzon family home, Kedleston Hall near Derby in England, and is well worth a visit to fully appreciate its fragile, magical beauty.

So what happened to dresses like these after the ball? Well, they were often preserved by the family for posterity; after Lady Curzon’s untimely death just three years later, when she was just 36, the Peacock dress was preserved and used by artist William Logsdail to help him complete a posthumous portrait of Mary.

Sometimes dresses like these were altered and worn again, perhaps for fancy dress; the Peacock Dress has been altered significantly at some time by inserting a section in the centre front of the bodice, whilst the skirt was removed from the waistband and reattached with the fullness distributed more evenly around the waist, rather than concentrated at the back with a flat front, as the fashion would have been in 1903. Since the alteration seems visible in the 1909 portrait, it is possible that the alteration was done for Mary herself, but since the gold fabric occupying the bodice front gap was reported in a 1950s conservation report to be a 1930s gold brocade, the alteration could alternatively have been done later for one of her daughters, who inherited the dress. Perhaps it was altered on both of these occasions, being let out for Mary and then a little more for her daughter.

The dress was later loaned to the Museum of London, and in the late 1930s Mary’s eldest daughter arranged for it to be sent to New York and displayed at the Metropolitan Museum as part of an exhibition of ceremonial clothes. It returned safely (much to everyone’s relief) and was stored securely by the Museum during the Second World War.

On its first display after the War, Mary’s eldest daughter Lady Ravensdale wrote an angry letter to the Museum accusing them of neglect. The dress was looking tired and damaged after its long stint in storage, and the Museum director could do nothing but assure her that this deterioration was natural for a metallic embroidered dress of the Peacock Dress’ advancing age. Discussions between the pair resulted in conservation work being undertaken to preserve the condition of the gown as best as the conservator could, including the replacement of the white silk roses at the hem.

The Peacock Dress was given to the UK Government in lieu of inheritance taxes in the 1990s, at which time it also returned to the Curzon family’s historic home at Kedleston, where it is on display to the public today.

Skills

Posted on

June 27, 2014

8 Comments

  1. Leslie Chung

    I have figure about 6” tall of the Lady Curzon Worth 1903 Dress. I couldn’t find this piece anywhere online. Any idea of its value? Or could you point me in the right direction of where I could find out any info on this piece?

    Reply
    • Kim M Westenfeld

      I know your goal would be to recreate this dress to wear yourself…but what if you recreate the peacock design on a gown of YOUR design for Kate Middleton Windsor…then a hundred years from now your creation would be sitting in a glass enclosure with another artisan wondering how you created this?

      Reply
  2. Monica Guerra

    Dear Cathy:
    My Name is Monica Guerra, I`m a fashion designer from Guayaquil – Ecuador, I just saw the video that Bernadette post about your project, first of all please don´t give up, second since you just called my atention I started wondering about the question that you had in the video of how the dress was actually made, first answer that come to my head it´s they embroidered every peace and then they put it together but then I heard you say that you can see any striching or unions of any form.. sooo I remembered my dear teacher of embroidery class who had study at LESAGE (a embrodery school in paris, they make all the embroidery for chanel and other haute couture brands) and how he explained to us how real haute couture was made… so after analysing the peacock dress I come to find that the skirt must have been embroidered as a one piece job.. since is a ball gown basically its pattern is like a donut shape.. round with a hole in the center.. the corset its another story, since we only have access to the already altered dress I can only think the embroidered every piece separated living a seam allowance then put together and then embroidered over, this is a technique that is often used in wedding dresses and haute couture.. I´m here thinking what a fool of me, you probably already now all this but since it doesn´t hurt I´m telling you just in case you didn´t know. I hope you accomplish your dream of making this dress.. A hug from Ecuador.

    Reply
  3. Claire

    I am planning a visit to see this beautiful dress. I live I South Yorkshire so it isn’t far for me. I know that you plan to wear this dress and possibly only once.
    Wouldn’t it be best placed next to the origional, to show the difference in how it once looked and how it looks tiday

    Reply
  4. Janet

    Dear Cathy,
    I know your hesitant to fund raising for this effort but I would be so happy to donate!! your video’s make me so happy. the dress will be beautiful.

    With love from Boston,
    Janet

    Reply
  5. Melanie DANIELLS

    I just watched the YouTube about this dress and your goal of redoing rather than restoring…I think that there are so many fashion history lovers out here that you could raise the money – especially if you had a non-profit for the cause…or is the goal for you to make it, wear it, sell it? I wasn’t quite sure from your You Tube, but interested enough to share with people that I know and offer the ‘widow’s might’ for your project.

    Reply
  6. Laura

    I would love to donate to your dress. How exciting it will be to see it finished and to know I helped make it a reality.

    Reply
  7. Shay L Jansen

    I found your video today and I am not a seamstress fashionista or anything like that but I love this idea and I would be happy to donate to get this dress up and going. I applaud you for such a momentous task to undertake but believe the pride and satisfaction of having it completed will be worth the blood sweat and tears!

    Reply

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