Tuesday, April 1, 2014


For the Fairytale challenge I got the idea in my head that I wanted to use a fairytale from a completely different culture. After a bit of searching and a lot of reading i found inspiration in a Japanese tale called The Beautiful Dancer of Yedo.

This is the tale of Sakura-ko, Flower of the Cherry, who was the beautiful dancer of Yedo. She was a geisha, born a samurai’s daughter, that sold herself into bondage after her father died, so that her mother might have food to eat. Ah, the pity of it! The money that bought her was called Namida no Kané, that is “the money of tears.”

I've always had a great interest in Japanese culture, and when I read the description of Sakura-ko a Japanese influenced dress started to take shape in my mind.

The gentlemen of Yedo must needs have their pleasure, so Sakura-ko served at feasts every night. They whitened her cheeks and her forehead, and gilded her lips with beni. She wore silk attires, gold and purple and grey and green and black, obi of brocade magnificently tied. Her hair was pinned with coral and jade, fastened with combs of gold lacquer and tortoise-shell. She poured saké, she made merry with the good company. More than this, she danced.

I decided to filter the idea of a gorgeous silk kimono through the lens of La Belle Epoque, a time period that was already heavily borrowing from Eastern fashion. More specifically I chose the French fashion house of Callot Souers to inspire me.

Callot Souers was a popular fashion house around the turn of the century into the nineteen-teens and twenties. They were known for mixing Eastern aesthetics of fashion into their dresses. There is one particular dress of theirs that I've been drooling over for a long time, a beautiful little purple silk number from the Kyoto Costume Institute.

It is very reminiscent of a kimono and made from some of the colors mentioned in my fairytale, and so I set out to recreate it.

My mannequin does the dress no justice, but I have an event to wear it to tomorrow so keep an eye out for pictures of it in action! Since I couldn't find a picture of the back of the dress I took a few liberties with it. Since I didn't have the time or resources to recreate the embroidery I decided to make the back of the dress the big focal point. A description of the dress said ribbons extend down from the shoulder, sewn to the waist and ending in tassles. There was also another description of Sakura-ko that inspired me:

Three poets sang of her dancing. One said, “She is lighter than the rainbow-tinted dragonfly.”

The ribbons from the shoulder became my dragonfly wings, and also brought in a few more colors of the first description. They hang completely free from the end of the purple ribbons so they float gently behind me. I can't wait to photograph this dress in action!

Overall I couldn't be much more pleased with the dress. I did use a zipper so it would be easier to get in and out of for the event, but other than that it is historically accurate. All the materials are silk (I spoiled myself just a little for this one!) except for some linen to line the train, and the construction methods are period even if the pattern I came up with might be a little odd.

The Challenge: #6 Fairytale

Fabric: 5 yards of silk charmeuse in black and purple, 1 yard of silk dupioni in blue and green, 1/2 yard purple linen

Pattern: None

Year: 1908

Notions: Silk thread, four hooks and eyes

How Historically Accurate is it? Besides the aforementioned zipper it's pretty close, I'll say 75%

Hours to Complete: About 12

First Worn: Tomorrow to a gallery opening

Total Cost: A little over $100

1 comment:

  1. What a good idea, a fairy tale from another culture. that didn't even occur to me :)