Friday, January 16, 2009

Flapper gown beaded on Ivory Silk

I am always in awe of the bead work on vintage 1920 Flapper Gowns. Anytime I can find these gowns, that have seen better days, I purchase them. They are hard to come by. I photograph them for the bead designs and then cut up the gowns. I harvest the beads to use on special projects. It seems a new creation is always enhanced when using vintage beads. Some of the designs on the silk pieces lend themselves to collage work. As I inspect the beading, I'm reminded of the women and girls, that stitched tirelessly in another century, to create these gorgeous gowns. And the quality of the beading varies from gown to gown. There is nothing better than stitching with a vintage bead. The sparkle, fire, cut of the bead, is far superior to beads we can find in today's market. Now, most all tambour work is executed in India. No longer will you find tambour work taking place in the French couture houses.

Stitching with vintage beads, reminds me of where I acquired the beads. I have a chance to enjoy the "hunt" again! Because I know I will never be able to use all the vintage beads I acquire, we sell small packets of the Flapper Gown beads on our website at

Years ago, I came home from a trip late at night, to see a box at our back door. A friend, I had met at one of my Lesage lectures, had left a box of flapper gowns. What a treasure.

She had heard the Lesage lecture, where I tell about my time spent
at the House of Lesage. She thought I should be wearing a flapper gown, when giving the lecture. And when I can, I do wear a flapper gown for the lecture. The gowns are very heavy and stored rolled up in a cotton sheet. They look like a small bundle of beads and silk, but when you put on a flapper gown, the bias-cut of the fabric, drapes beautifully.

Flapper gowns are beaded using a tambour hook. The tambour hook is a small hook that creates chain stitches. One hand is above the fabric ground and the other hand is beneath the fabric ground "feeding" the bead or sequin onto the hook as you stitch. All stitching takes place on the back of the fabric. The design would be "pounced" onto the back of the fabric with chalk. The fabric would then be placed into a frame or a "metier" and then the work would begin! This particular dress is tamboured with ivory silk chain stitches and then crystal rose montees, and tiny paillettes with sequins are stitched on top of the silk chain stitch.

No comments: