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The Nymphaea

The eyelids glowing, some chill morning. O world half-known through the opening, twilit lids. O universal waters like a cloud. W. D. Snodgrass “Les Nymphéas”
a sketch of the dress design

Each falling willow branch opens the way to a magical garden, that shelters a wonderful sight – the pond, with its magnificent surface, which breathes softly in the dusk, decorated with sparkling crowns of water lilies, surrounded by a mystic shades of sapphire and emerald.

a full-length embroidered dress

Like willow curtains, sheer folds and layers of blue tulle, without revealing the secrets and intimacy of the body, open and emphasise female elegance and allure, tenderness and attractiveness.

a closer look to the back side of the embroidered dress

The meditative poetics of twilight gently envelops with its serene melody while branches sway like the strings of the harp, reflected in the water. The scent of a marvellous fougère sweetness floats, and the reflections of the stars sparkle on the surface, embracing you and taking to the wonderful land of dreams.

a close-up of the front side of the embroidered dress
a closeup of the lining of the dress

This is an alluring night magic, filled with the mood of the impressionists. This is a seductive spell of a translucent mist that covers water. This is the embrace of a marvellous nymph who rewards you with a limpid touch and a passionate fusion of lips - the expression of pure love.

a close-up of the embroidery of the water lilies
the hands drawing the embroidery design

The most recognisable series of the works created by Claude Monet is Water Lilies, consisting of more than two hundred paintings created in twelve years. The mood of the works was supposed to create the illusion of water – boundless, stretched without horizon. As Monet himself noted in the diary: "Only a pond with lilies should be visible and nothing behind it".

a close-up of the book displaying Monet's painting and the sketches of the embroidery

Anyone who saw the series of paintings in the flesh would say that watching the pond can create an impression of a blossoming tree reflected in the water. The choice of colour, composition and technique used by Monet in this picture, made this an ideal creation of impressionism, due to its ability to evoke a sense of peace in the viewer. I followed these ideas, thinking about how to express these associations in fabrics and embroidery.

embroidery design in watercolours with material details
embroidery design in watercolours with material details

Many impressionist artists preferred to make their creations vivid, soaring, so the landscape was smooth, light or, on the contrary – they demonstrated darkness and mystery. I meant and used this while playing with layers of navy-blue and emerald-green mesh, to create changing depth in the background of hand embroidery.

the palette of threads

The top layer is decorated with embroidered willow leaves that wrap the bodies and the upper part of the skirt.

a piece of embroidery in the embroidery frame

Their texture is variative, like real leaves on a wind-blown tree, they turn one side or the other, demonstrating its satin, sparkling and metallic surface, while some leaves are studded with shiny round and facet beads.

a close-up of the piece of embroidery with deep-green leaves
the hands working on the piece of embroidery
a close-up of the embroidered leaves in the skirt

The embroidery on the bodice and the skirt is designed and made in such a way that all the stitched elements match exactly, in the seam area of the waistline and along the darts.

a close-up of the waistline

The arrangement of seams in the dress is designed to make the construction lines invisible, so all the darts in the bodies are vertical to follow the vertical direction of the embroidery design.

the fitting of toile prototype

The seams on the tulle are neat and thin, the width is 1-1.5mm.

a close-up of the seams done on the mesh
a close-up of the seams done on the mesh

The darts and the seam allowances are finished with French seam on the outside, while the allowances in the lining are bias-binded.

a bias-binded seam in the lining of the dress

The shades of cool-green and deep-blue of the water and leaves create a stark contrast to the warm pink, red, burgundy, golden and yellow tones of the water lilies in the centre of the painting, making the lilies the centre of attention.

a close-up of the embroidered water lily
a close-up of the embroidered water lily

I used this as the key to unlock the mood of the dress, recreating a mysterious garden, illuminating the treasures in the pond, that shine like flower wreaths of precious stones covered with veil. They do not hit the eye strightforwardly, but slightly reveal a calming symphony of flowering water, rather abstract from afar and detailed up closer.

a full-length embroidered dress
a close-up of the skirt with water lilies

Like on Monet's canvas, here there are no specific lines separating flowers and water, which gives the composition a blurry look, an almost abstract portrait of nature, at the same time being a recreation of the realism.

a close-up of the embroidery fragment

In the embroidery there is a combination of tambour beading and chain stitching, satin stitching made with silk, cotton and woollen threads, silk ribbons and chenille, decorated with sequins of various textures and colours.

hands stitching with tambour hook
a close-up of the water lily

The waist is wrapped by a velvet belt, made of Uzbek Dukhoba - a handwoven silk velvet. It has an extremely delicate touch, satin sheen and depth.

velvet waistband lying on the embroidered dress

It resembles one of the main subjects of the paintings in the Water Lilies series – the Japanese Bridge – a round bridge across the pond, which dwells in the surrounding created by nature, and remains the one man-made construction in the garden, but the cool tones of it let it blend with the scenery, into the grasses and flowing water of the garden, becoming a natural-looking element in the “painting”, leaving room for the water lilies to shine.

the velvet purse laying on the embroidered dress

The waistband is accompanied by a purse to "sound" in unison with the dress and the story of the Nymphaea.