Paper to Lace

Helen + Rhys

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When Helen asked us to make her wedding dress a year and a half ago, she told us about some fabric she had which she wanted us to be able to incorporate into the design. It's something we love doing, it is always immense fun for us when there is something to work around, but this was something else, something more...

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Helen started to tell us the story of the fabric and we were hooked. It all started in Sri Lanka in the 1940s when her Grandfather, Sylvester, bought some fabric for her Granny, Georgie and brought it back to the UK for her. It was gold and sumptuous, and woven into the pattern were tigers and elephants, gazelles and zebras. It was so beautiful that Georgia had it made into the dress for their 1945 wedding. But the story doesn't end there. She loved it so much she turned it into a skirt for her to be able to wear to parties and the dress lived on for many more years.

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Then tragically, a few years ago there was a devastating fire at the family home and one of the few things that survived, sitting in a box under a fallen beam was Granny's dress. It seemed like fate had saved it. Hardly a mark on it, still pristine after all these years and after everything it had been though, Helen then brought it to us.

We were utterly blown away. We have worked with some exquisite fabrics in our time, some eye-wateringly expensive, but none had quite the revering effect as this did.

Working with it was a total joy, but we knew we had to be absolutely sure before we cut into it, so we made several toiles and had quite a few fittings with Helen so that we would be absolutely certain it would be right.

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As part of her brief to us, she told us she, "didn't want to be a simpering bride," and that she needed to be able to play a harp, row a boat, dance a ceilidh and eat paella. We rolled up our sleeves and got to sketching!

We used the gold Granny fabric for her fitted bodice which can just be seen modestly through the silk chiffon blouse. We also used the fabric to make a belt which was shaped to reflect the designs of the 1940s, and sits over the top so it can be really shown off. The beauty of the belt is that it is detached and so can be worn again by Helen, just like her Granny did with the skirt. And the best part is it can be passed down to future generations so it's story can continue.

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We made the skirt from several layers of tulle in a soft gold tone to compliment the belt and bodice. It's dreamy fullness works perfectly with the dramatic woodland setting. We even hand appliquéd some of the animals from the fabric and had them marching long the hem...you just need to look for them!

Photos by the very talented Claire Juliet Paton.

https://www.clairejulietpaton.co.uk

And here is the dress in all it's glory, continuing it's story with Helen and Rhys.

Thank you, Helen, for asking us to make this dress for you. We loved every minute of it. xx

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