Sophia Khan


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographed by Christa Newman

Outline the story …

Entry inspired by Hérodiade by Stéphane Mallarmé. The Yellow Book of the 1890s was a periodical that published poetry and stories that was lavishly illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley. The Aesthetic movement was captured both in the writing and design of the publication. In researching I found Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s it is an anthology of poetry including many from The Yellow Book. Hérodiade by Stéphane Mallarmé was my character inspiration. The fictionalized version of Herodias the wife of Herod the Great. She was characterized as the goddess of witchcraft in the Medieval era. The ancient and medieval influence on the Aesthetic movement inspired my design. I researched the smocked dresses produced by Liberty & Co. I also researched the reform dresses worn by the Pre-Raphaelites and members of the Arts and Crafts movement during the 1860s and 1870s. The original clothing was of a slightly different silhouette than what was eventually commercially sold. I wanted both of these styles to influence my finished look instead of making a Liberty & Co. replica. I free form drew organic embroidery designs to give that Aubrey Beardsley feel that is both modern and Medieval feeling. I wanted to capture the feeling of reading poetry and becoming the character. From Hérodiade “A voice from the distant past, an evocation, Is it not mine prepared for incantation? In the yellow folds of thought, still unexhumed, Lingering, and like an antique cloth perfumed”

Outline the construction…

The pattern is created using simple rectangles. I made a smocking sample to deduce how the fabric was needed. The fabric needed 4.25 times the finished smocked section to reduce correctly. I needed more length and ended up adding a hem band to compensate. This ended up with one of my favorite design details. To make the armscye and sleeve cap shape I used a raglan sleeve dress pattern I previously drafted. I traced these onto my pre cut linen rectangles. The dress is decorated with a heavy silk twist. The embroidery for the collar, cuffs, and hem was all done using a satin and stem stitch on a frame. I used the Pricilla Smocking guide from 1916 to teach myself how to smock. It took trial and error and sampling to get to the desired look. All the sections of the dress were pleated using a pleater machine before being stitched together. I kept all the pleating threads extra long so I could sew first. After the seams were completed the threads were pulled to create tight pleats. The smocking stitches were sewn strategically to control the fullness. Once all the smocking was done, I could finally remove the pleating threads. A waist tape keeps the smocking tight around the waist fitted over a corset. The back is finished with a placket that closes with snaps and decorative embroidered buttons. The embroidered elements were added last.




  1. Avatar Bernadette Alster on March 11, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    The aesthetics of this project hit me immediately. Then I started reading your text: It’s inspired by my favourite era, and you mention some of my favourite writers and artists. I can only interpret the craftsmanship of the details as a tribute to the Arts & Crafts Movement. Stunning!

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:09 pm

      Thank you! I love the Arts & Crafts movement. To slow down and create something that takes a lot of time is very relaxing to me.

  2. Avatar Linda Van Loon on March 11, 2021 at 7:30 pm

    Wow, the smocking looks awesome.

  3. Avatar Kayla Burrow on March 11, 2021 at 7:54 pm

    This is amazing almost beyond words, I can really see the love and care you poured into it

  4. Avatar Charlotte on March 11, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    The smocking is incredible. I love your project, so simple from afar but yet so full of detail.

  5. Avatar Martina Girardi on March 11, 2021 at 8:28 pm

    “The devil is in the details” as someone said. At first sight this looks very clean and “simple”, yet there are so many details, like the embroidered buttons, with make this gown a real piece of art. I am speechless, I can just say I love this gown. Also the way you pose, the environment, the props are simply perfect.

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you! My amazing photographer really got what I was going for and the mood to set.

  6. Avatar Retro Claude on March 11, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    A Liberty gown! My very favourite Aesthetic dress style and your recreation is beautiful.

  7. Avatar Rosa Elena on March 11, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Stunning! Love the inspiration, the realization and the aesthetic! Brava!

  8. Avatar Sarah on March 11, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    That dress is AMAZING! I have always wanted to recreate one of those Liberty smocked dresses, but I don’t have nearly your level of skill.

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:14 pm

      You can do it! It is all about patience. I would recommend starting with the Folkwear patterns smock patterns they have a couple different versions a great way to learn on a smaller garment.

  9. Avatar Franziska on March 11, 2021 at 9:01 pm

    Oh the details… my heart is melting over that wonderful smocking!

  10. Avatar Theodore Allegrini on March 11, 2021 at 9:53 pm

    Absolutely Beautiful! I really Love this.

  11. Avatar Amira B. on March 11, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    Beautiful! It does give me medieval vibes, and the embroidery is so intricate.

  12. Avatar Kristen K on March 11, 2021 at 10:51 pm

    This is a dream and you look so beautiful. I think the forearms are my favorite part.

  13. Avatar Bronwen Burton on March 12, 2021 at 12:20 am

    Beautiful work.

  14. Avatar Rebecca on March 12, 2021 at 1:02 am

    I have been admiring this project on Instagram for the last month– such a gorgeous aesthetic, a moment in art and fashion history that you occupy with conviction. Plus I just made my first smaocked project this past year, so I’m getting an extra kick out of seeing how you worked it. Well done!

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:15 pm

      Thank you! Don’t you just love smocking I think I need to make a simple smocked blouse to wear more frequently.

  15. Avatar Elowen Blackthorn on March 12, 2021 at 2:37 am

    Oh my Faery Godmother this is so very exquisite! It is just so intricate, with deceptive simplicity from a distance. Graceful and feminine… I want one!

  16. Avatar Aimee - Lady Hilda on March 12, 2021 at 7:30 am

    The aesthetics of this are just perfect. That pleating is sublime. Everything thing about this is just *chef’s kiss*.

  17. Avatar Teri Biglands on March 12, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    There are not enough words….my absolute favorite! I love everything about it.

  18. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 12, 2021 at 3:21 pm

    Phenomenal job! Definitely full of magic and I love all your details.

  19. Avatar Lady MOa Barington on March 12, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Oh!!! The work for the smocking is just amazing. I love it!

  20. Avatar Sammyra on March 12, 2021 at 6:39 pm

    oh my goodness ♡ the smocking is so beautiful, and i can just imagine the work that went into this…. love the colour too, it looks so good on you and the photos are amazing

  21. Avatar Kait on March 12, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    That smocking is so beautiful I want to cry–seriously! Amazing work!

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:18 pm

      Thank you (insert blushing emoji) !

  22. Avatar Katherine on March 13, 2021 at 12:12 am

    The only thing I do not like about this dress is that in order to wear something similar for my wedding I’ll have to put the same amount of work into making it from scratch. This is just…wow. It’s everything I had been saving on Pinterest but better. Like Kait I had tears in my eyes. Congratulations. I keep coming back and looking at it.

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you! I didn’t want to make a straight Liberty & Co. replica but to put my own style and spin on it. A smocked wedding dress would be sooo pretty.

  23. Avatar Amanda on March 13, 2021 at 12:55 am

    Amazing job on the smocking, and what stunning photography!

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:18 pm

      Thank you! My photographer is just amazing she did such a fantastic job of capturing the mood.

  24. Avatar Lindsey on March 13, 2021 at 1:59 am

    Your attention to detail on this project are immaculate….along with it just being utterly breathtaking. Amazing work!!

  25. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 13, 2021 at 9:52 am

    This is lovely, such gorgeous details!

  26. Avatar Mathilde on March 13, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    You really nailed this Pre-Raphaelite style. I saw it immediately, even before reading your text. Love the smocks, love the delicate details. It’s gorgeous

  27. Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you everyone!!!

  28. Avatar JAYE SUDAR on March 14, 2021 at 3:11 am

    While the smocking caught my eye, it was the collar/yoke embroidery and the buttons that stole my breath away. Beautiful work.

  29. Avatar Carol Hughey on March 14, 2021 at 5:46 am

    Wow! This is outstanding! The smocking and embroidery are absolutely elegant. Beautiful

  30. Avatar Camille on March 14, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    this is splendid. just beyond my words – and it suits you perfectly – and a sword ?! are you serious ? oh dear.
    This is magnificent.

  31. Avatar Wendy on March 14, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    The details and execution are exquisite! I keep returning to your entry — its just that beautiful.

  32. Avatar Sophia Nguyen on March 15, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    omg I LOVE THIS. If only you were on a boat in a river you’d be the lady of the lake! As a person who also is called Sophia, can I just say you make your people proud.

    • Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 16, 2021 at 1:18 am

      Haha! My people of Sophias. Thank you so much <3

  33. Avatar Kikkii von Fustian on March 21, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    Breathtaking!! This looks like a well preserved antique.. A ‘simple’ design at first glance from afar, then finding fine details and techniques the longer and closer you look. Fantastic work! <3

  34. Avatar Suzanne Egan on March 23, 2021 at 3:48 am

    The time you took making the samples paid off handsomely with this piece! Everything is well executed and deliberate, it all adds to the wonderful aesthetic! What a gorgeous dress to wear! I hope it does see many more years of wear for you too!

  35. Avatar Gabrielle Post on March 29, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    I was admiring this on insta before you posted it and the details are amazing to see. Great work 🙂

  36. Avatar Annick on March 30, 2021 at 7:45 am

    This captures the spirit of the time so wonderfully. It really is art and craft combined to perfection, like something out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Truly marvelous.

  37. Avatar Benigna on March 31, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    This looks so wonderful!

  38. Avatar Lizzie Blake on April 1, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    I love this! Beautiful, beautiful smocking

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