Caitlin’s Call Me Ishmael



Caitlin Daisy Shaw


(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

"Moby Dick" was written by Herman Melville in 1851. It details the story of Ishmael on his voyage on the whaling boat "The Pequod", led by Captain Ahab's vengeful quest against "Moby Dick"; the giant albino sperm whale that bit off his leg on a previous expedition. The book is a classic in literature, but also provides an interesting account of whaling in the nineteenth century and the dangers (and vulgarities) sailors faced in order to source precious oil and blubber primarily used for lighting, and in the case of fashion, baleen.
This bodice details the treacherous seas the Pequod sailed, and (spoilers,) the moment leading up to it's demise. The bodice is based on 1850s bodices, when the book was writ, but features a much more fanciful neckline (gives a whole new meaning to "boat neck"!) and sleeve pattern, complete with sea-frothy lace, pearl water splashes, and blubber-pink lining.

Outline the construction…

This bodice was drafted by hand from my own bodice block using Janet Arnold's POF books for seam references. One of the most difficult parts was the fit, since this was made (fitted, modelled, photographed and boogied in) by myself, and having no experience in making off the shoulder bodices, or very many bodices in general. I also found out I have quite an uneven back. Sigh. The length of the bodice is longer the period accurate, this was not particularly intended, (I noticed it after photographing it. You know how it goes) but it does conveniently combat me' lack of matchin' skirt or underthings. Arrr, me hearties. Though, this bodice also features 3 pairs of lined sleeves, so getting those in was also nightmare fuelling.

Painting on velvet is also an experience -though quite enjoyable- a terrifying endeavour once you've spent many an hour hand sewing expensive, problematic silk velvet. Almost all of this project is hand sewn. The main seams being backstitched, the lining slip stitched. This bodice is almost entirely heavily interlined to support the neckline and sleeve shape.

The devil's in the details. The water splashes-turned-pearls are attached to guitar strings so they spring from the waves, these line the neckline and the two upper sleeves. The whale is chain stitched embroidered with beading for that extra sparkle, and the boat masts are painted cocktail sticks with thread rigging, for the sailor that likes crudités.




  1. Avatar Sadie on March 11, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    My jaw literally dropped when I saw this … it’s incredible!

    • Avatar Ann Crossley on April 2, 2021 at 7:04 pm

      Exquisite and tells an astonishing tale

  2. Avatar Kayla Burrow on March 11, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    I really love the sleeves, and the boat on the neckline!

  3. Avatar Gemma on March 11, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    Really stunning! Just Wow…its art!

  4. Avatar Retro Claude on March 11, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Oh wow the little boat is so cute!

  5. Avatar Elizabeth Coggins-Hill on March 11, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    Wow! Very well done. I love the whole concept. Bravo!

  6. Avatar Heather McGreal on March 11, 2021 at 11:26 pm

    Amazing work. I love the ship detail on the top of the bodice.

  7. Avatar Cath Murray on March 11, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Wonderful! I am so in awe of your creativity and ingenuity, to not only think this up but to deliver the reality so beautifully.

  8. Avatar Mary Glick on March 11, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    Love the ART, so beautiful…

  9. Avatar Jocelyn Lofstrom on March 12, 2021 at 1:46 am

    Oh heck yeah! Great job!

  10. Avatar Floriane Descloquemant on March 12, 2021 at 11:11 am

    Wow, this is truly amazing !!

  11. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 12, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Every time I look at this piece new details emerges! I can’t decide which details I love more! This is so well executed and I’m just in awe of how your brain must work to come up with this! It’s absolutely fabulous!

  12. Avatar Anne on March 12, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    I second the jaw – dropping effect. My jaw is still on the floor and I have trouble picking it up. This is stunning, it’s so gorgeous!!! Moby Dick was my favourite book during my teen years. Absolutely fabulous work. In the words of Abby Cox: Oh my gosh! I am living for this. This is stunning!

    • Avatar Caitlin Shaw on March 18, 2021 at 6:52 pm

      Thank you so much! I really love this book too, even though it’s taken me a long time to get through it, the Victorian sass is very compelling

  13. Avatar Susan Scott on March 12, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    Love the whole garment and a stunning colour, also so rich with the velvet. Well done.

  14. Avatar Leora Wambach on March 13, 2021 at 2:51 am

    YOU PUT A BOAT. ON YOUR DRESS. OH MY GOD!!! This is sooooo cool!!!

    • Avatar Caitlin Shaw on March 18, 2021 at 6:50 pm

      I very much appreciate your enthusiasm for my boat! 😀 thank you!

    • Avatar mandi on March 20, 2021 at 12:57 pm

      This says it all!!! Amazing!!!

  15. Avatar Melanie on March 13, 2021 at 3:45 am

    So lovely and creative!

  16. Avatar Sammyra on March 13, 2021 at 8:38 am

    oh wow, so cool. love the idea and it looks great. i especially love the sleeves ♡ the texture and shape is gorgeous! fantastic job

  17. Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    I love the detail photo! How wonderful.

  18. Avatar Laurie on March 14, 2021 at 4:48 am

    Very interesting! Great execution. Love that boat detail and the pearls, and the sleeves. Very illustrative. Creative work!

  19. Avatar Claire on March 14, 2021 at 9:19 am

    What is particularly clever is how you actually inhabit the story and become part of its landscape. With the waves breaking around your shoulders you are literally rising up out of the sea.
    The layers of materials capture the water well and the little pearls on wires are a clever touch. Your references to the whale are thoughtful, with the ‘blubber pink’ lining and reference to baleen and how it was used in garments like yours in contrast to your cute friendly whale. It is a very interesting contrast to think how these beautiful living creatures have been exploited so much for human gain. The boat is dwarfed in comparison (in a good way) to the whale and the waves and, I feel, is a useful commentary upon our human place in the natural world and a message to us all about looking after the beauty of the wild world which you have captured so well.
    Technically speaking I can see a wide and inventive array of techniques and you have really challenged yourself with the cutting and stitching together of all the components. The lining contrasts well with the outer layers, being neat and modest compared to the outer drama. The open neckline with its waves all a dance must have been tricky, and to get it to sit well and not look merely ‘like a mess’ I can see it must have taken some time to get right. You have got amazing detail on without over doing it. There is the right balance of waves to plain velvet. I like the ghostly appearance of the whale and the chain stitch makes it look rather like its edges are refracting under the water. Good choice to keep it as the same colour as the rest of the velvet.
    Just as there are layers to your piece there are layers to its story and that, I think, is what sets it apart.

    • Avatar Caitlin Shaw on March 18, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      Thank you so much for your response, that’s a really thought out and lovely comment and it’s much appreciated, it made me cry a little 🙂

  20. Avatar Andrea Olinte on March 14, 2021 at 6:15 pm

    My jaw dropped – the whale and the collar, and the ship …

  21. Avatar Jade Littlechild on March 14, 2021 at 7:52 pm

    This is absolutely STUNNING!!! I love the story telling in the details but those sleeves are to die for!!! Amazing! Truly amazing!!

  22. Avatar Carol Hughey on March 15, 2021 at 4:28 am


  23. Avatar Whats Sewing On on March 16, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    This is incredible! It’s one that has stayed in my mind for days!! I love it!

  24. Avatar Kaye on March 17, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    This is so creative and beautifully done!

  25. Avatar Dad on March 17, 2021 at 10:33 pm

    I have nothing to say but wonderful x

  26. Avatar Xenofon on March 18, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Just wow! This is stunning. I was looking at your garment for quite some time. I am in love with the techniques you used and how inventive you were. Beautifully made!

  27. Avatar Uncle on March 18, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    This is simply stunning! I love reading your story and construction on how this came to be!

    I am in awe of your talent your dedication, passion and love of your craft!! I’m also very proud you work in film, I’m aware you are racking up the IMDB credits in costume design and props too!

    Really awesome Caitlin, I couldn’t be prouder!

  28. Avatar Caitlin Shaw on March 18, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    Haha I appreciate the brag, it makes me sound way more qualified than I am though 🙂 just to clarify, the film credits are for costume styling and buying for a couple of indie films, I don’t want anyone to think I’m secretly a costume guru, I’m 21 and would fit squarely into the “broke student” category if they had one, apprentice seemed like the next best thing 🙂

  29. Avatar NinaNoo on March 18, 2021 at 7:05 pm

    I absolutely adore the ship detail on this garment…utterly inspired! Those little pearls on the wires too! It gives it great height and depth. Awesome work.

  30. Avatar Alexandra Blowers on March 18, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    This is a real stunner!

  31. Avatar Amanda on March 19, 2021 at 1:54 am

    This is so gorgeous and clever – the whale, the boat, the little water splashes – truly amazing!

  32. Avatar Dr AndyJ on March 19, 2021 at 9:01 pm

    This lady is so talented and creative!

  33. Avatar Andrea Hays on March 19, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    Absolutely amazing! the BOAT!!!
    I love the subtlety of the whale and how you handled it.
    kudos on the velvet work–I know how slippery that sucker can be!

  34. Avatar Keith on March 19, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    Amazing work Caitlin, from the concept of the design through to its execution. The subtle pearl splashes against the intricate details of that boat, as the whale rises from underneath capture the story of Captain Ahab’s journey in all its essence. As well, of course, it being a beautiful representation of your work in its own right. Great stuff. K

  35. Avatar Marion Brégier on March 20, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    This is absolutely incredible, I keep looking at it and marveling, I am speechless. Thank you for putting such beauty into the world !

  36. Avatar Meggie on March 21, 2021 at 4:19 am

    Amazing! And to see the ship as well as the waves! Absolutely Amazing!

  37. Avatar Laura Ingalls Gunn on March 21, 2021 at 11:18 pm

    THIS may be my favorite of all the entries. Bravo! You created a garment truly storybook worthy!

  38. Avatar Deborah Melo on March 24, 2021 at 1:41 am

    The boat neck is so clever! I love the little waves on it too! Well done!

  39. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 26, 2021 at 6:16 am

    Oh my, how imaginative and awe inspiring! That blue fits the ocean and the embroidered whale is magical! Thank you so much, you are very talented!

  40. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 27, 2021 at 3:08 am

    This dress is a masterpiece! I just keep going back to the photos and looking at them again and again, the construction is so clever, the ideas are so ingenious, and your painted boat is just incredible! I love that you made the masts out of cocktail sticks and added all those pearls on wires! This isn’t just a dress, its a 3D piece of art! Magnificent!

  41. Avatar Elif Köse on March 28, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    Such intricate details with outstanding workmanship. True artist ❤️👌🏻

  42. Avatar Rebecca on March 29, 2021 at 12:03 am

    this is amazing! clever and moody and the colors and textures are so lush. i love it!

  43. Avatar Rachel Lewin on April 3, 2021 at 1:04 am

    This is jaw-droppingly beautiful. So inventive! So beautifully executed! Congratulations on becoming a finalist! It is well deserved.

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