Once upon a time I promised to make an extraordinary dress in return for raising a lot of money for charity. The dress isn’t done, and now it’s five years later. There have been two failed attempts, and it’s time to try a third time.
I’m not done yet. But what do you do when you have a vast, ambitious dream that intimidates you – so much so that you hardly have the courage to even begin it?
The answer is to come back to the beginning and rediscover the inspiration that started you off on this path in the first place. As a great man once said, “Throw your heart over the fence, and the rest will follow.”
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Full Video Transcript
Have you ever promised somebody that you would do something… and then discovered that maybe you’ve bitten off slightly more than you could chew? I’m guilty!
About five years ago I promised to make a dress in return for raising a vast amount of money for charity. I knew at the time that it would be a huge undertaking, everybody knew it would be a huge undertaking, that was the whole point, that was why it raised so much money, everybody said, “Yeah, I’ll pay to see you try that!” And it hasn’t come off yet, and now it’s five years later. There have been two failed attempts, and it’s time to try number three.
So the first time I tried to make the Peacock dress, I tried to do it on my own. And it turned out that wouldn’t work because it was way more work than one person could do. It would have taken me thirty years, and I would have had no wrist strength left. (Anybody who sews will know that RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome are a constant hazard.) So, I tried again.
And I thought again, and I thought, well if the dress exists already, somebody’s done it successfully, so I must be able to do it, too. So how did the people who originally made it succeed at it?
When Worth designed and commissioned this dress in 1902, he did not do all the embroidery himself. His seamstresses did not do all the embroidery. The embroidery was done in India. An embroidery house in Mumbai were willing to do it for me, they said it would take them 3 weeks, and it would cost $8,000. It’s no longer about taking a vast amount of time to do it, now it’s about raising a bunch of money. And I’m not about to crowdfund that because I’ve already spent two years fundraising. So I decided I’d have to come up with the money another way.
So I came back to Kedleston, where the dress is kept. I proposed that maybe they would like to commission me to make a reproduction of the dress. And they said yes, and there was a great plan afoot, but it fell through at the last hurdle. Unfortunately, for the last year or two I haven’t been able to say anything about it, because that project was so secret, because there was no budget in place, I couldn’t say anything about what we were planning to do, because it might not come off. In the event that turned out to be true, it didn’t come to pass, so now we’re back at square one. So now I must find another way to do it again.
I’m not done yet!
So what do you do when you have a vast ambitious project that you really want to do, but is really, really intimidating?
So intimidating that you could create the most fabulous sewing space you could ever want in order to do it in, and yet you can’t get into the sewing room to even begin it?
Or you start piecemeal and you do a bit here and a bit there, but it isn’t good enough, it isn’t how you envisioned it, so you keep stopping and starting, and it just doesn’t seem to get any momentum going?
The answer, I believe, and what I’m trying to do today, is to come back to the beginning and rediscover the inspiration that started you off on this path in the first place. And that’s why I’m back here at Kedleston.
Ah, so that was a pretty unbelievable experience! I went in to see the dress, as I’ve done many times before, and as I saw awhile ago and somebody posted on Facebook, an embroidery sample that I had left with the House Manager has been put inside the glass case with the dress! The sample is not only in the case, the description next to the dress is now largely something that I wrote, although it’s been changed a bit. There are now much more accurate details about it, my name is on that piece, and on a little note by the sample that’s in the case.
The room guides are saying that the sample of embroidery has made all the difference. People are so much more interested and able to see and ask questions, and it’s increased the interest in the dress now and they’re all terribly excited. They’re still telling people about this lady who’s recreating the dress. I met a room guide, Sarah, who was so happy to see me, she’d met me years ago when I first came to look at the dress and she said that even today, she must have told a hundred people to go to thepeacockdress.com and see my website.
So it’s not only the three hundred people who originally donated money for the Haitian orphanage to see this done; my name is now known here, because my name is on the bit of paper that’s inside the glass case with the Peacock dress. So everybody wants to know when it’s gonna be finished!
So whether or not this is possible, I’ve said in the past, “Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow”… I guess it’s time to follow!