Sequintial Art – The Couture Dress Project

A close up of the embroidery
Claire Barrett

Sequintial Art with Claire Barrett from Hawthorne & Heaney

A little over three months ago we undertook one of our most challenging projects to date. The project was for a wonderful client of ours that needed something extra special to wear to a very special event ! At Hawthorne & Heaney we are used to producing totally bespoke embroideries, even fully designing them and advising on other elements of the process but we had never been asked to a mange the whole project ourselves. Confident in our connections we accepted and the challenge was set…….. 6 weeks to design, cut, embroider and make a fully embroidered couture dress. We knew it was going to be tough, but we had no idea what a wonderful / terrifying roller coaster it would be.

We started with the concept. The aesthetic was to be very simple, but of course very heavily embroidered as this was going to be our crowning glory !! After fishing through lots of ideas and inspiration we decided to keep it traditional and stick with florals, not an aesthetic that particular client was used to but ‘Classic Pretty’ was what was requested. To make the embroidery personal we included all our clients favourite flowers, freesias, wisteria, peonys and fuchsias. The embroidery was to be done on a nearly sheer fabric with an under layer of nude silk so the fabric was chosen in a light periwinkle blue to compliment the clients complexion and eyes.

Somewhat backwardly the fabric was bought and sent to our embroiderers nearly straight away after the initial assessment of how much was needed for the task. The design of the dress was six teers of draped silk tulle over a nude corset and skirt base so no pattern was needed to produce the embroidery. We were how ever thrown a curve ball at this stage and our client was very kindly given a pair of beautiful shoes from Freya Rose.

shoe embroidery

These very special shoes are mesh and are therefore perfect for bespoke embroidery ! We therefore had to quickly draft a pattern for the surface of the shoe and design the embroidery within the space we had available. This draft was sent out with the floral designs to be embroidered onto the dress fabric which would then be applied to the shoe with invisible thread on its return from the embroiderers.

Draft for the embroidery

Whilst all this was underway a Toile (mock up) of the dress had been created in calico by our lovely pattern cutter Fiona and a very light weight net fabric to simulate the silk tulle. It was then fitted to the client in a second appointment to make sure everything was exactly right.

We then waited with bated breath whilst the embroiderers did their magic ! In only two weeks they managed to produce 10 meters of this wonderful silk work and a pair of shoe embroideries.

A close up of the embroidery

By now we were getting very close to D’day and everyone was getting a little nervous !! After a small logistics disaster the embroidery was on its way to the seamstress who had already started on the base layers. With two days to go and three ladies working round the clock layer upon layers of delicately silk worked tulle were attached and in the H&H studio the shoe embroidery was applied to the tops of the beautiful Freya Rose sling backs.

Emergency fittings !! At the seamstress'.

With hours to go till its flight the dress was still not quite finished, the studio was frantic ! Tiny extra bits of embroidery were being applied to the bodice as finishing touches.

This is the finished result, we hope you like it !! We had one very happy customer and a wonderfully satisfied but very tired team. We would definitely do it again, just maybe with a little more time on our side !

Dress embroidery

Embroidered dress Photography courtesy of Helen Cathcart Photography




Claire Barrett

Claire Barrett is an embroidery designer who has been working in the embroidery industry for six years. A former Creative Director at Hand & Lock, Claire runs Hawthorne & Heaney, dealing with celebrity clients such as Kanye West and high profile companies such as Henry Poole & Company Savile Row tailors.

Claire is passionate about making embroidery accessible to everyone by offering sponsorships to young designers and even running the London Embroidery School to teach beginners classes to those who are interested in getting a taste of what embroidery has to offer.

View Comments (4)
  • The embroidery is just gorgeous! I’d love to see the embroidered shoes, too, after reading about them. I never would have thought of layering tulle like that.

  • STUNNING cannot believe you got all that accomplished in 6 weeks! I too want to see the shoes

  • Hi All at H and H
    Spectacular achievement!
    Diaphanous and bold at the same time…outstanding!

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