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BEHIND THE DRESS | KATHLEEN

Strapless mermaid gown with hand-draped bodice and inverted flange skirt with embroidered crystal wheat detail. Shown below with Kathleen neck piece.

Kathleen is a striking mermaid gown with a very sensual flair, and also includes some powerful wedding symbolism that’s been important to me.

I love a dress with an unadorned, minimalist bodice, with just a very subtle layering or fabric-construction to create interest. This simplicity presents some aesthetic challenges. Not just to the designer, but to the woman who’s going to be wearing it. The smooth construction of a mermaid gown can be a little intimidating, which is one reason so many brides love the stretch Mikado constructions I’ve used in my collections recently. Stretch Mikado is a silk weave fabric is made with stretch fibers that gather in the silhouette to really contour a woman’s body. It’s a perfect material for a form-fitting mermaid shape, like this one, because there’s no stiffness, so you can still move around in it. From the back, the gown is so wonderfully smooth and sheer, like it’s been sculpted from solid material. It’s quite seductive.

The bodice isn’t completely flat, however. There are several strategic points where the fabric of the gown is softly, subtly draped: across the bust, at the top of the hip, below the hip.

The wild artistry of the base of the skirt contrasts so deliciously with the clean, controlled upper part of the gown. It’s fantastically frothy, so light and airy. It’s been built up from layered tissue organza and honeycomb tulle using my inverted flange technique, which recurs elsewhere in this season’s collection, like with Kirsten. It’s an elaborate way to build up volume, wildness, passion, and tonality in the dress.

The final detail you’ll notice, creating that seductive outline, is the brooch-like beaded embroidery at the hips that wrap around like a pair of crystalline hands. It creates a little bit of negative space against the smooth field of the bodice, giving the illusion of an even more exaggerated hourglass shape. These broaches are actually in the shape of ears of wheat. Since Roman times, when brides would march with an armful of wheat, or even wear it in their hair, wheat has stood for fertility and wedded bliss. It’s a symbol I’ve always loved and returned to, for its purity and simplicity. Here in the embroidery I’ve used it subtly, just as an accent to the waistline, but the crystal really looks beguiling with the antiqued silver backing; it’s like a storybook talisman.

 

 

 

 

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