Last night I dreamt that I went to dinner at Kedleston Hall, where my hosts turned out to be just as I’d pictured them. Mary Curzon was ever the tall, charismatic lady who had captivated three continents, and her husband, the Viceroy, was a stiff, intelligent, intimidating man whom one instinctively did not want to cross.

The heat of India was oppressive in Derby (it’s a dream, go with it) but as His Lordship discussed political machinations with one of the other guests, my hostess’s interesting conversation made one feel comfortable, valued and welcome. I did not reveal that I had travelled over one hundred years to be there that night, but I felt sure that she’d be amused to learn that I was recreating the grand state dresses that she had considered little more than annoyingly expensive work clothes!


I’ve left you for some time, and I apologise that there’s been little that I can tell you. That’s not to say that nothing has happened, however.

I must have been dreaming about Kedleston because I’ve spent so much time going up there for Cunning Planning Sessions. The Peacock Dress project has lately spliced together with other people’s ideas to become as big as I ever could have imagined it. I am no longer the only element involved in the grand plan, and as the pieces fall into place, I am sworn to secrecy for now.

What I can tell you for certain is that the Peacock Dress will not be made in 2015. I have to wait for bigger agendas than mine to come together. I’m ready to burst with the details, but I promised!

It’s frustrating, but the upside of all this thumb-twiddling is that it gives me time to undertake a preliminary study as my Costume College Gala gown this year.


My first of Lady Curzon’s Worth gowns, the Oak Leaf dress, came out great for a first attempt at truly stepping out of another time. The embroidery (below) was fantastic, and I completed a very ambitious dress on schedule, in time for my first Costume College Gala in 2009.


Oak Leaf Dress by Cathy Hay, (c) 2009


What didn’t work so well was the silhouette, as you can see in the photo below (by the late Kathy Lear). The full length shots demonstrate the importance of good foundations. As you can see if you compare it to the original, I didn’t get the shape right at all. Lady Curzon’s gown is a beautiful Edwardian s-bend hourglass, and I’m straight up and down.

I no longer believe that this is because I have a bizarrely different “modern body” from the women of a mere century ago. It is because I didn’t know how they created the shape. Six years later, I’ve collected enough clues to take this study further now.


Oak Leaf Dress by Cathy Hay, (c) 2009, photo by Kathy Lear


In 2015 I will be making the next iteration, a gown that will concentrate on the silhouette, the underpinnings and the shape. The outer dress will be comparatively plain, modelled on this extant 1899 example also by Worth, and the fabric will be the original Victorian silk of this curtain, which I bought in the Chatsworth Attic Sale in 2010. There should be just enough.


Victorian silk curtain, (c) 2015 Cathy Hay Victorian silk curtain 2 Victorian silk curtain 4

Once again I’m picking my own Gala theme, but by using a curtain, I do follow the official theme by at least tipping my hat towards a certain literary character!

Oh, and the corset? Sugared Almond, a pinkish off-white, which should be ready soon. In the meantime, there’s a chemise, drawers, and petticoats galore to make, so I’m off to buy a cubic frockload of lace…