Zenobia - 1897
The original dress was made by House of Worth, and worn by Duchess Louise of Devonshire at a fancy-dress ball she threw in 1897, where she portrayed Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.
I was lucky enough to run into a woman who had worked at Historic Royal Palaces in the UK and had actually helped evaluate and prepare the dress for an exhibition, so she had close-up photos and even photos of the inside! It was kind of a blessing and a curse, because now I had to try and replicate everything exactly rather than make up any ambiguous details.
The underskirt is a silk taffeta embellished with couched cord and rhinestones. For the overskirt, I couldn't find a high enough quality gold tissue lamé, so I layered synthetic taffeta with a metallic silk organza to create the sheen of the original. The peacock motifs have metallic spandex appliqués (I remembered too late that HTV is a thing that exists), outlined with a ridiculous amount of couched metallic cords and metal bullion.
The original cape was a velvet with silk pile and cotton ground, but nobody manufactures that anymore, so for the right drape I went with cotton velvet (it was surprisingly difficult to find a bright green). The cape then had the motifs and bands of trim appliquéd and couched with gold cord and a lot of rhinestones. Every time I thought I had bought enough gold cords for this costume, I was wrong.
The sleeves are tambour-embroidered with metallic gold thread, edged with dangling rhinestones.
The original crown worn by the Duchess seems to have been lost, so I based mine off the replacement from the museum exhibit. It's made of wire and filigree metal components.
I thought it would take me 6 months to embroider; it was more like a year and a half. I had to postpone our group for Costume-Con to the next year, but eventually we made it.
This was a dream project and honestly I'm not sure I can ever top it.
Awards won: Best in Show, Costume-Con 37 Historical Masquerade