Firebird - Concept & Construction

When I was in London/Oxford, the color red stood out to me and prompted me to design my first red feather dress. Firebird was released on the runway this weekend at CFW 15. It was a full head to toe Xiaolin look from the peak of the headdress to the matching golden feather shoes. Inspiration was drawn from both Russian and Chinese sources. The dramatic red feather dress was named after the Russian ballet, Firebird, with its dramatic fairytale plot and vivid colors. The mythical phoenix bird has always fascinated me; it symbolizes the heart’s ability to rise from the ashes and is often featured in Chinese mythology and art. My mood board below includes illustrations from the storybook and the ballet.

I started from scratch to create this new design, starting by making a pattern. The corset-like bodice was constructed from 48 pieces of fabric (including the lining) and is supported with 15 rows of boning. Once the feathers were added the seams became invisible to the casual observer, but the structure and support remains underneath. The skirt is covered in 4-7” layers of petal cut tulle. Think Tinkerbell. This allowed the feathers from the bodice to blend seamlessly into the skirt and grow into a flame-like shape. The skirt was a bit of a challenge to sew once I reached the middle and got stuck. Below are photos of the process. First, you can see the fabric on the cutting table with my original pattern. Second is the first few layers of tulle attached to the skirt. And finally, the third picture demonstrates sewing more tulle onto the skirt… at night, in the dark. My best working hours.

Here is the dress about 90% finished before the feathers were added. I’m getting better at remembering to take ‘work in progress’ photos. It’s hard to stop working when I’m on a roll and put the dress on the form and get the camera out.

I also created the matching golden headdress and shoes for this look. Here is the first step in making the headdress- the wire frame. The headdress was inspired by a kokoshnik, a traditional Russian headdress or crown. In China, the phoenix is considered the leader of all birds and she deserves a royal crown.

The finished Firebird dress is available for sale on my Etsy shop - Firebird Red Feather Gown