Wild Card Prize - Fabulous handstitched workmanship with subtle symbolism completely in keeping with the character and the period.

Madame de Tourvel



Sarah Murray


(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

I have always been fascinated by Madame de Tourvel in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. She is the epitome of piety and innocence until she reluctantly falls in love with the rakish and deceptive Vicomte de Valmont. He is relentless in his pursuit of her (with the worst of intentions), but when she falls for him, she falls deeply and feels the pain of love as it inflicts her "soul with mortal anguish." In the moments in the book when she gives into being "desperately in love," we see a side of Madame de Tourvel that leans into the deliciousness of a life in love, piety be damned.

As nothing ends well for any of the characters, I chose to sink into this moment when Valmont surrenders to his own game, and the two have a sincere, albeit fleeting, passionate love affair.

When I found the silk for this gown, I loved the shimmering blush of the two-toned weave. As I was cutting into it, the frayed edges of bright raspberry pink revealed themselves. I like to think that this passionate and ostentatious shade was lurking beneath the surface just like Madame de Tourvel's suppressed desires. So I made her a dress to wear during the peak of her affair with Valmont, the frayed edges of the trim unraveling as she surrenders to temptation.

Outline the construction…

This dress was completely hand sewn using 18th century historical techniques. I relied heavily on the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

The dress is a silk dupioni and the bodice lining is a heavyweight linen. I used silk and linen thread. I constructed each piece of the bodice before joining them together. I made half inch pleats for the back of the dress, and used a basting stitch about an inch below the top of the pleats to hold them in place. The edges are folded down to help the skirt flare. The petticoat was pleated and whip stitched to a waist tape and it is tied around my waist under the gown.

The trim was inspired by the fabric and I am not sure if it is a historical method. I lined up the fabric and cut strips with pinking shears. I very slowly and gently pulled the threads from the edges to reveal a fringed pinked edge. I then folded the pieces in half and whip stitched them to create ruffles. There are over 10 yards of this trim on the dress, and I saved pictures and videos of the process in my Instagram highlights. It took me several days and a lot of patience. The sleeves were my first time doing a shaped sleeve with a dart, and I hope that one day the dart wizards bless me with more knowledge of those confounding angles. There's a reason they're called sleevils!




  1. Avatar Catherine Ellis on March 12, 2021 at 2:24 am

    An absolutely beautiful dress. The story, the workmanship, and the attention to detail make for an exquisite gown. Well done!

  2. Avatar Sophie Roberts on March 12, 2021 at 6:03 am

    Love your choice of colours. That trim is beautiful and you look wonderful. Hand sewn, wow.

  3. Avatar Meri on March 12, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Amazing work and accurate sewing

  4. Avatar Laura Wemyss on March 12, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    Such a lovely fit. I quite like your pleating and the self-fabric ruffled trim really accents the dress beautifully!

  5. Avatar Mathilde on March 13, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    Beautifull work, it’s stunning. It suits you very well. I like the color too.

    • Avatar Maia on March 17, 2021 at 1:37 pm

      Madame, your gown is amazing. Chef’s kiss, as they say!

  6. Avatar Wendy on March 13, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Stunning — the fit, fabric and stitching are gorgeous!

  7. Avatar Rebecca Olds on March 13, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    Beautiful work – that English stitch is so satisfying, isn’t it! Brava on the five-loop bow. I struggle with those and yours is just ravishingly perfect.

  8. Avatar Rebecca on March 14, 2021 at 12:11 am

    I love your pinked frayed trim! and how you used a surprise quality in your fabric to inform your design on multiple levels. good luck! (from icarus!)

  9. Avatar Mandy Pursley on March 14, 2021 at 2:58 am

    I love the story and the color choices. And all the little details are just so perfectly executed!!

  10. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 19, 2021 at 10:54 am

    Beautiful work, this is stunning!

  11. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 19, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Great job! I will forever been in love with changeable silks/aurora silk/etc. Lovely detailing!

  12. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 24, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    The hand-made trim, the perfectly neat pleats, and that gorgeous shimmering peach colour, all make this gown a stunning creation, and beautifully finished, inside and out!

  13. Avatar Kikkii von Fustian on March 27, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    Oh, the fringed/pinked ruffles are super cute! Adds even more depth to the fabric and dress.

  14. Avatar Stacey King on March 29, 2021 at 3:23 am

    So lovely! Those pleats are perfection. And the ruffles turned out so beautifully.

  15. Avatar Donnalee on April 10, 2021 at 5:09 am

    Fabulous work!

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