Caraval Scarlett Mood Dress



Jo Gilbert, Gemma Avant & Jovana Gospovic

Outline the story …

This design is inspired by Stephanie Garber’s book, ‘Caraval’. ‘Caraval’ follows Scarlett as she searches through a game of magic, deception and love during which Scarlett gains a magic dress that transforms to reflect the wearers’ innermost emotions. Garber details the dress’ transformations and this moment of transition appealed to us to capture in a single garment: “She’d felt her gown shifting… turning to heavy layers of silk… a giant wine-red bow sat atop her bustle, its two thick ties streaming down her backside to the floor. The rest of the dress was pure white, except from the bodice, which was wrapped in red ribbons… Her shoulders were bare… the ribbons of her dress were beginning to darken, shifting into shades of black… black colour wept from the ribbons of her dress, spreading like stains all over her white gown”. The fashion era seems to be comparable to 1880’s bustle silhouettes which became the basis for building the design, however we didn’t feel the need for historical accuracy in this fantasy setting. The description of the ribbons lent itself to the look of a striped circus tent which features on the book cover and influenced the design lines. Roses feature throughout the book and are reflected in the choice of buttons and the draped form where the darkening transformation centres and reveals the newly emerging black dress.

Outline the construction…

Construction was divided between us. Design, bodice patterning and half bodice done by Gemma. The skirt, underskirt and bustle sections and half bodice were made by Josie. The corset was made by Jovana who also hand-painted the transition sections. Although referencing the bustle era silhouette, ‘Caraval’ is pure fantasy giving lots of room for artistic licence in choice of techniques and materials. The bodice is lightly boned and backed with herringbone coutil with piped seams and edges. It was tricky and took several variations to get the look of the draped whirl. Because of the bulk of the elaborate draping in the bustle, the skirts section was reinforced with wadding and horsehair so that the underskirt and petticoat could be kept lightweight. The overskirt and bustle was draped on the stand for the off-centre and colour change alignment. After several swatches and tests, the painting style chosen took inspiration from embroidery and book plate illustrations in its mark-making style. With this style of treatment, the difficulty was in keeping this style of treatment consistent over the different combination of textiles. The dress and undergarments has been largely draped and self-patterned, although reference was drawn from ‘Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail’ (Lucy Johnston, V&A), ‘Underwear Fashion in Detail’ (Eleri Lynn, V&A), ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen 1800-1909 (Jean Hunnisett, Players Press),, & FiFi Style (YouTube). The corset beneath is drafted from a 1901 pattern in ‘Corsets & Crinolines’ (Nora Waugh, Routledge).




  1. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 11, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    Great job, all of you! It looks especially “transformational” while moving in your video!

  2. Avatar Tara Downie on March 11, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    This is beautiful! Caraval has amazing dresses described and you brought Scarlett’s to life!!

  3. Avatar Elizabeth Waddell on March 11, 2021 at 9:58 pm

    This is amazing! I love the painting. I had to read the description again to make sue it wasn’t embroidery. And now I have a new book to read.

  4. Avatar Elowen Blackthorn on March 12, 2021 at 12:11 am

    Oh my Faery Godmother, this is incredible! Incredibly inventive, beautifully realised… double chef’s kiss!

  5. Avatar Laura on March 12, 2021 at 2:21 am

    This is absolutely breathtaking, I LOVE how you layered the different fabrics. They all pop on their own, but you’ve still managed to make the dress a cohesive whole.

  6. Avatar Aimee - Lady Hilda on March 12, 2021 at 7:21 am

    I adore the waterfall stripes at the back! Glorious.
    Best of luck

  7. Avatar Amanda on March 13, 2021 at 12:50 am

    That back drapery is such eye candy!

  8. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 13, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Beautiful! What an amazing concept, and so gorgeously done!

  9. Avatar Alizée Charrié on March 13, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    Woah, just woah! This is awesome, great job!

  10. Kayren McKnight Kayren McKnight on March 14, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    The transition from white to black is amazing.

  11. Avatar Zoe Axford-Whitaker on March 15, 2021 at 10:19 am

    The waterfall bustle is beautiful x

  12. Avatar nicky gilbert on March 17, 2021 at 8:13 am

    Fabulous collaboration, love the style, colour and fluid movement

  13. Avatar Kikkii von Fustian on March 21, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    Butt bow! <3 This is beautiful. The painted transition lines were smartly done, really cool!

  14. Avatar Lizzie Blake on April 1, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    Beautiful dress and collaboration! I love all of the little details you were able to incorporate into . Those stripes are amazing

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