Bling it on – couture embellishment part 1

Embellishment techniques are included as a component of the Advanced Couture Techniques course at MFI and  I’m loving the bling!

We’ve so far covered performance couture, beading, french flower making, tambour – beading and embroidery and this weekend will be metalwork.

Performance Couture

This section is brought to you by POWERMESH! Our performance couture teacher, Tamara Bradshaw, worked on Strictly Come Dancing (UK) for 10 years. The #1 priority of performance couture is movement and stability – achieved using oodles of hooks, lycra and powermesh!

This costume was 1 of 3 commissioned by a string trio. The initial quote was $1200AUD for this one, but changes requested after the garment was completed added another $200AUD or so. Original design sketches are retained by the costumier, but copies are given to the client. Interestingly, the artwork (such beautiful artwork) forms part of the contract of sale. She is guaranteeing the outfit made, will look exactly like the sketch the client has signed off.



This nude powermesh, lace and rhinestone number will look sooo ‘sexy’, when the wearer is straddling a cello! Lace embellished with copper paint and sequins are glued, the remainder is stitched. Tamara uses a lot of rhinestones and crystals for embellishmnet, they are glued in place with ‘Gem Tac’ and are applied with a wooden kebab stick which has a dob of beeswax on the end; it makes picking up the crystals much easier than fumbly fingers! We learned to make the undergarment/leotard and cut out sections as needed. I hope to get mine finished one day so won’t bother showing you here – it fits a size 8 dummy, so not for any real humans in my household!

French Flower Making

This may be my favourite technique. You can just go wild, testing scraps of fabric – silk, wool, leather. The results are tangeable and useful – time flew and our teacher Georgina Conheady was wonderful, an absolute delight. If you need french flowers made for a project I cannot reccommend her highly enough – she has done work for most of the best bridal houses in Melbourne and beyond.


Dunk the fabric in a mix of 1/3 PVA glue : 2/3 water. Squeeze out excess and set aside to dry. When the hunk of fabric is dry, you’ll cut out the petals and various pieces ready to torture them with weapons resembling gynaecological instruments heated over fire! So a lot of this was familiar territory for me – being an ex theatre nurse and midwife!


heat your instrument



Torture your delicate silk petal while simultaneously pulling on it


and this delicate rose will result, courtesy of our teacher
these little beauties made by the class
camellia and chrysanthemum by me in leather (leftovers from my Cascade coat)


Ahem, I may be the only person in the history of sewing blogs to have missed that the camellia is the iconic Chanel couture embellishment! What the?! I had no idea. Camellias are definitely not my favourite flower – too constrained and uptight, Give me something loose and wild any day, though I can see why their neat unperfumed appearance appealed to Coco!

actual Chanel camellias – thanks to



Add yours →

  1. Love your leather offerings the best!

  2. I didnt know about chanel and camelias either!!! stunning work (its making irish dancing costumes look tame). I adore all the flowers, the leather ones are fantastic and I think I really like them as they have that juxtaposition of elements…..that class looks fantastic

  3. I agree with Naomi – in particular your chrysanthemum is gorgeous!

  4. I have often thought about going to a class to learn to make silk flowers, and this post really encourages me. I love your leather offerings too – it is interesting how well shaped the petals have become when heated. Super interesting post. Thank you Lesley.

  5. All the flowers look beautiful, but I also think your leather ones are best. The leather adds an edginess (is that a real word?) that I prefer. What a good skill to have acquired.

  6. Those leather flowers are fabulous! I have worked with a milliner before and spent some time making flowers – but didn’t always have the patience!

  7. I love a bit of bling, I never want to create these types of garments, nor wedding dresses, but I do love the bling element and appreciate the enormous amount of skill and work in the creating process.
    However, I absolutely adore the flower making, what a brilliant time you must have had. Such fierce looking implements to create such delicate pieces. I have a vintage, pink leather brooch that must have been made in just such a way – they’re gorgeous!

    • It was such a surprise to learn how these delicacies were made. Even more surprising was the way the leather responded with its curling. Glad you like them Linda, you should show us your brooch one day 😉

  8. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

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