Beadwork on Sack Dress Costume!

Bjarne Drews 2004

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I often visit museums here in Denmark, where we have a great Heritage. A visit to Castle Rosenborg led to this beadwork project that I made some years ago. I saw a fine beaded choker embroidered in the eighteenth century, and I was glad because then I had no excuse not to make this beadwork.

I had visited a great shop in Beak Street, while in London the year before They had lots and lots of wonderful beads and pearls, I bought a many different ones.

A lady from Norway had commissioned me to make her an 18th century sack dress. It is a fine dress which has some lovely pleats in the back falling down from the shoulders. It has an open underskirt, and an overdress with open panels hanging each side of the underskirt.

I wanted to embellish this dress with beadwork. The silk fabric was cream coloured, and the beads I wanted to use were purple.

In a book of old textiles I had fallen in love with a scrolled pattern. It was shown on a woven dress fabric. It was possible to mirror the pattern and repeat it flowing, so I made some vertical panels for the overskirt and a horizontal pattern for the underskirt. The stomach piece, which is a triangular piece of fabric used to close the bodice, also got a free pattern in the same purple beads.

I enlarged the pattern from the book with my computer and then I drafted the pattern to the scale of my dress. I used ordinary pattern paper and I transferred the pattern to my silk fabric and marked it with a fine pencil. On the back of my silk fabric I basted some stiff tulle onto the fabric, so that it could hold the rather heavy beading. I sewed on all the beads like bricks. So that they faced the same way all the time. Filling out all of the pattern.

This is the original woven fabric pattern (Racinets Encyclopedia of Ornament).


This is a detail of the beadwork. It is outlined with gold sequins and also has glass stones.  


The dress has a reproduction 18th century corset under the bodice. Made in the same material as the dress.  


To support the dress, a pannier was used. Pannier can be translated to basket. It was also known as a hoop petticoat.  
This is the horizontal pattern on the underskirt. 
As the overdress covers much of the underskirt, only a small part of it is decorated.  


This is the finished dress from the front.  
This is the detail. It also has pleated ruffles for decoration. Notice the small stomacher in the center of the bodice.
The back of a sack dress is very beautiful with all the pleats falling from the shoulders. They also are called Watteau pleats, because the painter Watteau often painted portraits of ladies with this kind of dress.  


Bjarne Drews was born in Kgs. Lyngby 13th of January 1955.

Bjarne studied to become a navigator but found he missed his home and family too much to continue in this career.

He then studied 4 years to become a costume designer and realized his goal when he graduated from an Arts and Crafts school in Copenhagen. His interest in history began early in life and as his graduation project produced 8 costumes for Renicance Dancers.

For the past 8 years B has worked as a Social Worker with the elderly but still makes costumes in his spare time. He continues to study costume history and is thinking about writing a book on the subject. His favorite periods are the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo. In addition to the costuming he also embroiders and makes bobbin lace.

Visit his website to see more of his talent.  

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