Fabric Free Swarovski Crystal, Glass Bead and Sequin Dress.
Gail Be, American, United States, 2005 - 2006
This beautiful and sexy one-of-a kind 'Swan Lake meets the Ice Princess' dress is made from over 150,000 beads and sequins and took four people over 1,700 hours to complete.
The base of this dress is made from thousands of woven Chinese sea-opal glass and Japanese silver-lined beads. Large sections of this beaded matrix were then secured to hand-sewn panels of thousands of sequin and silver lined beads.
The unique hemline was made from graduated sea opal points and Swarovski crystal chandelier teardrops. Each of the points were hand-edged with the tiniest of seed beads. All accessories are made from vintage and modern Swarovski crystal and Chinese sea-opal glass beads.
And our crowning glory—the magnificent 9-inch tiara—kept collapsing due to its great height and weight. But the crown was crucial for the overall regal appearance I wanted to balance out the sequin pattern of the dress. Over several months Samantha, my lead Designer, kept inventing new techniques to keep my original design intact.
It took over a year to acquire the beads and for me to create a technique to get it to lay right on our model. To get to the final design I went through over a dozen different patterns until I found one that worked. Every attention to detail was met in order to finish this design. From the first minute until the last--this project gave us nothing but trouble. It started with the difficulty in getting the beads themselves.
I wanted the main beads of this dress to look like real opals that turn bluish in the light and appear as if they are glowing. But in order to accomplish this, the transparency of the beads has to be just right or the dress would not illuminate and it would fall flat under the lights. Sea-opal glass is a manmade material and every manufactured batch comes out differently so to get the quality and quantity I needed for this design was a difficult and arduous process. To get the final beads for this dress hundreds of thousands of beads were hand sorted to find the perfect ones.
To make a project with this many beads takes weeks of planning and research to make sure I will have enough materials to accomplish my goal. I believe this is one of the main reasons, in addition to the tremendous cost and time it takes to create fully beaded fashions, that prevents people from even attempting them.
Then the technical difficulties began. Tens of thousands of silver lined beads were hand sewn to the sequin portions so that this design would explode into a million diamond-like sparkles on stage. But these beads also added a lot of weight so I decided to go with a thicker beading wire to accommodate for this. But the denser wire ended up becoming too thick to weave through the original factory drilled holes of the sea-opal glass. So I had each of the thousands of teardrops individually “re-drilled” for the thicker wire, which greatly raised the time and monetary factors of this project.
Fitting issues arose because I had difficulty forming and curving the dress around our model’s body. To keep the back sexy I kept eliminating beads, which in turn made it hard for the dress to keep its structure. I invented a low back strap that not only added the support I needed, but it also give the dress a more glamorous look.
This final beautiful and challenging design is a testament of my commitment to finish this dress--no matter what--and the fabulous talent and tenacity of my Design Team that refused to give up.