Call Me Mad



Bethany Duck


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Outline the story …

My inspiration for this outfit was Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Great Expectations’. Left at the alter by her fiancé, she is a wealthy spinster who never takes off her wedding dress. In many adaptations of the novel she is portrayed as an old woman, but Dickens’ notes suggest she’s in her mid-thirties when the novel begins and has been wearing the dress for many years already. I wanted her outfit to feel more youthful and innocent so that it’s destruction is all the more poignant. I chose ivory and lavender as main colours and a fabric with a delicate floral motif to emphasise this.
When it came to distressing the garments I wanted to tell a story through the marks and stains. Miss Havisham claims she has ‘never seen the sun’ since the wedding and while Dickens intends to suggest she never leaves the house, I liked the image of her roaming overgrown gardens at night, unaware or uncaring of the mud and grass stains collecting on her hem or the thorns ripping at her skirt. I added ink stains from letter writing and wax dripped from a candlestick, as well as cobwebs and mould to highlight the stagnancy of her life. I sought to humanise the character in this way and highlight her tragic story. While the corset would have been largely protected by the bodice and would show less wear, I added rust and mould to this to lean into my theme.

Outline the construction…

I chose my patterns to achieve a historical silhouette that aligned roughly, although not exactly, with the timeline of ‘Great Expectations’, using Truly Victorian patterns for the bodice, skirt, crinoline and petticoat, and a Bijoux pattern for the corset. I found communities of people with experience with these patterns and read up on advice before getting stuck in. This was my first experience with making a corset and a crinoline and it was certainly a learning curve but I was happy with them in the end. Since the lining of the corset wasn’t going to be seen, I chose to use a bookshelf pattern that tied perfectly into the theme and felt like a fun hidden detail. I chose a floral silk for the underskirt but a synthetic fabric for the overskirt and bodice in an effort to reduce cost but maintain the look I was after. While it was cheaper, it also limited my options when it came to distressing as the tea staining I did on the cotton petticoat wouldn’t have worked on synthetic fibres. I used watered down acrylic paint for the skirt instead. Many of my distressing techniques were inspired by cosplay tutorials.
To finish the effect of the gown I made several double bow rosettes to decorate the swags, and hand sewed many metres of trims. Since Miss Havisham is wealthy it felt important to add as many of these details as my budget would allow in order to achieve the right look.




  1. Avatar Bethany Rush on March 11, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    I am blown away. This is such a beautiful dress but at the same time so excellently aged and ‘destroyed’ by your distressing techniques. This is the piece I’m going to imagine Miss Havisham wearing from now on.

  2. Avatar Leora Wambach on March 11, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    I’m amazed by this, and your bravery. My god…I have SUCH a hard time distressing things. This looks STUNNING!

  3. Avatar Dilen Storey on March 11, 2021 at 9:03 pm

    This is just gorgeous!! The attention to detail draws the eye first to the beauty of the dress itself, and then to the macabre story behind it. So subtle! I love Dickinson myself, and in my mind this dress is a PERFECT portrayal of such a vivid character… I’m sure he would approve.

  4. Avatar Deanna lintner on March 12, 2021 at 12:46 am

    This is a perfect portrayal of your inspiration. Wow really really good work thank you for sharing it.

  5. Avatar Jenn on March 12, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    This is absolutely stunning. Your undergarment is so beautiful. I am so impressed by your work.

    • Avatar Amy Sakovich on March 13, 2021 at 1:11 am

      My thought exactly! It must’ve been scary to destroy something so lovely, especially having just made it. Great work!

  6. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 12, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    Beautiful work.

  7. Avatar Kait on March 12, 2021 at 6:21 pm

    Amazing–mad skills is more like it! Great work!

  8. Avatar Carole on March 12, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    You know that ball you were invited to …..! Seriously, I am blown away by this dress. Your hours of designing, sourcing fabric and making are shinning out of this dress.

  9. Avatar Susanna Antonsson on March 13, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    Wow! This is so Miss Havisham. You have done such a beautiful work and admire you for tea staining it (I would find it so hard, when having created something so pretty).

  10. Avatar Carol Hughey on March 15, 2021 at 4:31 am

    Well done. Wonderful capture of Miss Haversham.

  11. Avatar Whats Sewing On on March 16, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Stunning! You did an incredible job! It’s wonderful!

  12. Avatar Linda Call on March 20, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    Beautiful. Now I want to read this book for more character detail.

  13. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 26, 2021 at 6:18 am

    This is simply stunning! Everyone else has said it all! I concur! Thank you!

  14. Avatar Benigna on March 26, 2021 at 11:15 am

    This is lovely! I love the colours you chose and how everything fits together.

  15. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 27, 2021 at 2:52 am

    I’m just echoing everybody else’s comments here, but this dress is a work of art! Not only is the outfit beautifully crafted, but I love the decayed feel that you gave to each piece! I’m curious, how did you manage the rust effect on the corset busk, is it real rust or painted? It definitely looks realistic either way! Beautiful work, well done!

  16. Avatar Valarie Olafson on March 27, 2021 at 3:14 am

    So dreamy and floofy. It’s beautiful.

  17. Avatar Sue (sue-mcfluzen) Assenmacher on March 29, 2021 at 5:28 am


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