Earlier in the week, we reached a moment of truth that I’ve been anticipating ever since September 2012, when I realised that India was my best bet for realising my Peacock Dress dream.

The quote for the embroidery, by far the most expensive and complex part of the project, arrived in my inbox.


Facebook followers guessed that the task might take from three weeks to eight months, and cost anything from $1400 to $25,000.  My own wild guess just about correlates with the average of all the Facebook guesses – I anticipated 3-6 months and $8000.


Ready for the real quote?

Sweta has quoted three weeks, at $8000. So we got the price right, but… THREE WEEKS???


Sweta has yet to answer my question regarding how many people will be working on it at once, but I know you can’t fit more than 62 people around the thirteen pieces of embroidery required. If they’ve got 62 people working at a time for 12 hour days, 7 days a week for three weeks (I hope there are shifts and everyone is not working 12/7)…… and I was going to work 4 hour days every weekday for 30 years… that means they’re working at least twice as fast as me – their total hours would be 15,624 to my 31,200.


So, uh, yeah… a worthwhile exercise.


Diwan-I-Am, the venue for the Delhi Durbar Coronation Ball, photographed in 1903

The Diwan-I-Am, the venue for the Delhi Durbar Coronation Ball, photographed in 1903


As for the price, it’s a relief. $8000 is a lot of cash, but it’s not $25,000. It’s a lot, but it isn’t a stratospheric “Well, shit, so much for that idea” sort of sum. It’s within the realms of imaginable do-ability.


Now, it is tempting at this point to throw caution to the wind. “Hey,” my internal Instant Gratification Monkey is saying, “What are credit cards for, anyway?”


But the Voice of Reason* has other ideas.


I am looking around me and noticing that we all have a tendency to sign up to too much, in too short a time. It is desperately tempting to go into intense sew-a-thon mode and get this done for Costume College 2014, but I’m not going to do that. Why?


Firstly, part of the Cunning Plan is to go to Mumbai and see Sweta’s team work on the dress in person. I want to meet the embroiderers, watch them work, take photos and make videos to bring home for you to see (if they’ll let me). I want to document that part of the journey too. I *could* hop over there for a couple of days on my flyer miles right now, but I also want to go to Delhi and see the place where the Durbar was held. I want to see the cafés and businesses named after the Curzons that are still in business. That would be an incredible addition to the story, and rushing it won’t allow that to happen.


The Diwan-i-Am today

The Diwan-i-Am today


Secondly, without wishing to be grandiose about it, this is my magnum opus. I’m going to make a meal of it. I’m going to do an experiment with copper thread and acid to see whether I can replicate the pink feathers, give Sweta time to find the right materials, and maybe even track down some rose gold (an alloy of copper and gold that Alyxx suggested might be the true source of the pink feathers.) I want to have time to make a truly epic froof-fest** of Edwardian underwear. It would be great to have time to make the underwear first, and to be able to fit the pieces of the embroidery pattern over the foundation garments (the skirt is easy to fit after the embroidery’s done, but the bodice, not so much.)


And I want to do this properly. I want it to be taken seriously. I love all of you who have been following and supporting me from the start, but I also want this project to have a wider impact, when the dress is complete, than just to be an entertaining dress diary for the online costuming community. I want the Hall where the dress is kept to say, “OH! Now we get it!” and tell their amusing anecdote about the strange woman who approached them all wrong in the winter of 2010.


Finally, I will not be a slave to a credit card bill. I will find the money first (and not by crowdfunding, if I can possibly help it).


After waiting and working this long, I ain’t going to rush it. Patience, grasshoppers. Pour another glass of wine, and help yourself to another serving of Kedleston curry. Enjoy the journey.


Elephant Procession at the Delhi Durbar, 1903

Elephant Procession at the Delhi Durbar, 1903


Oh – and the winners? Michelle McAvoy correctly guessed three weeks, and Gillian Brent correctly guessed $8000. I’ll be in touch with your prizes, ladies!


* aka Marion 😀
** For those not knowledgeable on this period, Edwardian underwear is a whole story in itself featuring clouds and clouds of frothy, billowing, ultra-feminine lace: “We must all frou-frou until we can frou-frou no more.” And this way, I’ll have time to tell that story, too.