Chapter I

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Like all debutantes across the city, Kelly required a wardrobe of white presentation dresses to carry her through the season. With some gowns already on hand—her Sacred Heart graduation dress and two from her sister Bailey—and several new ones in the design pipeline, Kelly’s rolling rack of white dresses was in great working order. But to reign as queen of The Achaeans? Now that she could not just pull out of the closet! Her mother Andrée turned to couture dressmaker Suzanne Perron St. Paul to create a masterful work of art befitting of carnival royalty.

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I loved watching this dress go from concept to sketch to draping to final beadwork. And I’m not the only one who wanted to jump into Kelly’s fun season. Her Uncle Bryan Batt knows a thing or two about costumes and fashion, and soon they were all in deep collaboration. As Suzanne explains, "Both Bryan and Kelly are fashion-forward, unique, and of the moment in their aesthetic. Kelly wanted a dress with a fashion edge that captured her personality and sense of style. Bryan suggested the feather and plume motif and we were off and running."

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"Kelly has always loved art and drawing so the idea of a quill or feather was a natural fit," says Bryan. "Feathers are all over the runway and I knew that Kelly would love the sense of movement and weightlessness. The Achaeans’ captain, page, and lieutenant helmets happen to be decorated with plumes as a symbol of royalty, so it was meant to be."

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The silhouette of the dress was decided—a soft trumpet with a sweetheart neckline—and Suzanne sketched out her vision of how she would embellish the dress with plume-shaped beaded appliqués and airy ostrich feathers. The idea of an ombré hem came to Suzanne as a way to tie Kelly’s dress to the rose gold accents in the organization’s existing mantle. Kelly’s measurements were taken and Suzanne began to construct the design from the inside out. She’s known for her boned foundations and meticulous fit, something Kelly could sense when we went to her first fitting. Long before the first cut of the gown’s actual fabric is ever made, a muslin prototype is created for the first fitting in order to work out precise details. Questions like "Can this be a little higher?" to "What happens if you raise your arm?" are all asked and answered. Kelly was beaming in the muslin gown and I knew from my experience of working in a couture studio that if she felt this good now, just wait until the frock was in its real fabric and fully bedazzled!

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At this meeting, Suzanne also carefully placed paper feathers created from custom artwork in various positions on the dress, so that refinements could be made to the pattern. When she showed us the array of beads that would be used for each appliqué, we all swooned. The finished appliqués were three-dimensional and breathtaking—a nod to Suzanne’s design expertise. Kelly’s finished garment (which you will see later in this issue) stood for everything I remembered: luscious fabrics, a beehive of activity in the sewing rooms, and palpable excitement over that very first snip of the actual fabric. Snip, snip, hooray.

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Chapter II

This article appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue of Adore Magazine.

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