French Dressing

Most readers will be aware that I have recently re-embraced my love of embroidery.  However, what you might not know if that deep down in side me I have a love of fashion, particularly historic garments.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was with an exhibition entitled French Dressing at the Fashion and Embroidery Show at the NEC. The garments are all created by Ollivier Henry.  Ollivier is an embroiderer, teacher and costume designer and along with Jean-Noel Lavesvre had created the exhibition.

This dress is inspired by a French Court dress of the 1750s, at the time of Louis XV.  Can you imagine having to steer that dress through doors!

Whilst these are modern designs the ‘dresses’ are still constructed in the same way with the separate bodice to the skirt.  I think the detail on the stomacher is stunning.

Another exquisite piece of embroidery and such a simple and effective colour palette.

This dress is based on French style’s of the 1630s – at the time of Charles I in England, just before the English Civil War. You could imagine Queen Henrietta Marie wearing something like this

Back to the 1745s and a French lady’s hunting costume – though I am baffled how you would ride a horse in this outfit, side-saddle or otherwise.


Again, exquisite embroidery and look at those stunning buttons.

Now we skip forward to 1805 and a ball gown. The embellishments are of a more simple design but the strong contrast between the black and the pink (which is slightly dark in real life) provides enough drama.

We now skip forward to the latter part of the eighteenth century, one of my favourite periods of fashion. In fact my wedding dress was very much of this style including with a bustle but nothing as wonderful as this one.








I love this one because of its relative simplicity – dating from 1885. I particularly like the floral swag running down the side of the bustle.

Reading through the programme I was stunned to discover that all the embroidery is done by hand – I had assumed a sewing machine had been used due to the quality and neatness of stitches over large areas. If you want to see how these works of art are created, and they are works of art – check out Ollivier’s website


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Søren says:

    When the notification landed in my inbox I somehow assumed “French dressing” wood refer to cooking… Ah, well, I’m still glad to have seen this post. There is something so impressive about hand-crafted items of any kind, but especially something as intricate as these dresses.

    1½ years ago I saw an exhibition of (modern) haute couture dresses by Azzedine Alaia at the Galeria Borghese in Rome. I had gone there to see the regular art, but the dresses were a fascinating addition when displayed as works of art in themselves and really stole the show in a good way.

  2. karen says:

    These are all so beautifully made. Such intricate work. Many years ago I went to an exhibition in China of emperors clothes. The embroidery was exquisite. Thanks for sharing your photos Helen.

  3. I saw these yesterday – they were truly stunning, I agree. Although, as you say, as to practicality, maybe not so much!

  4. Gorgeous costumes and the sewing looks exquisite!! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Cathy says:

    Wonderful work – and the fact that someone in this day and age of speed and instantaneousness has made this completely by hand is wonderful in itself

  6. Linda B. says:

    Well, you have made my day and then some! Absolutely stunning. Hard to even pick a favorite costume or detail they are all so beautifully done. I recently had a chance to view an Elizabethan stomacher and I was shocked at its small size. We have definitely increased in size in the last 500 years.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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