Childhood Dreams



Sarah Jo Martens


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Taran Schatz Photography

Outline the story …

The design basis was envisioning all the fairy tales and princess stories I'd grown up with. I think back to many bright days of drawing fairies at the kitchen counter, digging out every color to add to construction paper, backs of envelopes, and every scrap of paper my mom could put in front of me. Or stickers that sparkled. I wanted to take this opportunity to let the unbridled world of child wonder to guide the design, to add layers, and beads, and embroidery, and pearls, and fur, and whatever was shiny and lovely. I found a few old drawings of mine from that time as well as favorite story books to guide me towards a blend of medieval and Italian renaissance styles for a gown as dramatic as the stories I was captivated by. The high waisted gowns of the Renaissance were on nearly every page of the story books and would add a dramatic look, embellished in pinks and blues, gold and pearl. I went to my stash to work out the rest, letting the fabrics and colors guide the layering of a baby blue flowing chemise that reminded me of the bedspread I once had. Then, after finding a lush turquoise velvet, I followed the thought of medieval, to design the fur lined sideless gown overtop. Though from entirely different historical eras and diving my period accuracy brain wild, the combination was absolutely 5-year old me would’ve immediately pulled out of the dress up trunk.

Outline the construction…

Both gown patterns are combinations of multiple pattern diagrams for general shape and then adjusted on the body with mockups. I like to use patterns since it’s math based, but to drape the patterns here was a good challenge. The voluminous skirt is cartridge pleated at the center back and stitched to the bodice with a center split and spiral lacing. The gown, constructed from upholstery fabric, is adorned with lace trim, beads, rhinestones, and pearls. The pearl and lace trim is carried over to the chemise neckline and wrist cuffs.
For the overdress to fully cover the underlying gown, the velvet was pieced at the skirt sides and stiffened facing added to finish the hem. The velvet was hand finished and faux fur trim attached to the sides. Again, I let the embellishing run wild with pearl lace hem trim and dripping pearls down the center back. The look is finished with the gem encrusted blush pink belt, constructed from a vintage trim that was exactly my waist measurement. However, I neglected to include the bulk of the gown and suddenly the belt was too small. To add length, I machine embroidered a 2” emblem on velvet, stiffened with buckram and heavily embellished, with hooks to attach to the previously constructed belt, adding length. I went wild with machine embroidery (a new skill I’m learning) by adding a monogram to the velvet wrist gauntlets and interior of the fur trim hanging down the side back of the gown.




  1. Avatar Cassandra Sif Jensen Al-Towaiji on April 19, 2024 at 6:55 pm

    As a child I also dreamed of big giant princess dresses, and also loved the colour blue. I think my childhood self would have loved to wear such a pretty gown as yours. Victorian retellings of fairytales very much shaped my understanding of princesses as well, and your dress fits perfectly in medievalism of the aesthetic movement that built that understanding.

    • Avatar Sarah Jo Martens on April 23, 2024 at 3:59 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words! So many wonderful storybooks! I think back on where my love of historical garments may have come from, and I think it truly was those.

  2. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on April 20, 2024 at 5:46 am

    It’s so stunning, and I loved your video it really captured that childlike wonder perfectly.

    • Avatar Sarah Jo Martens on April 23, 2024 at 4:01 am

      Thank you! myself and friend who did the video had absolutely no plan for shooting other than a timeslot at the library to run around in the lobby. The rest was all improv!

  3. Avatar Alexandra on April 20, 2024 at 7:08 am

    This is drop dead gorgeous 🥺 Absolutely in love and the pearl detail around the skirt pleating is just SO satisfying!!

    • Avatar Sarah Jo Martens on April 25, 2024 at 11:13 pm

      Thank you!! You have no idea how satisfying the pearls were while stitching too! I made a cartridge pleat template that I used with slots for the threads to pop through that I added extra holes to for the pearls. popping them through was as satisfying as when you punch all the cardboard pieces from a new game board out 🙂

  4. Avatar Rachel Sullivan on April 23, 2024 at 9:06 pm

    What an accomplishment! The layers of detail and the skill involved are stunning.

  5. Constance MacKenzie Constance MacKenzie on May 13, 2024 at 8:27 pm

    I love your historical influences as well as the fabric and textile choices.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.