Mermaid’s Tale



Lexi Zuhlke


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographer: Liz Manzella

Outline the story …

Growing up, my favorite fairy tale was always the "Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen. Just like the princess, I too wanted to explore a far away land full of people I’d never seen before. So, when I turned to that fairy tale for inspiration, I knew just where to start. I wanted to create a gown that I imagined that princess would have worn during her time on land, something that would act as a subtle hint to her life in the ocean, while she blended in with everyone else. I decided to create a historically inspired dress from the turn of the 20th century, with a lot of added Art Nouveau elements. I felt that since Art Nouveau often took inspiration from nature, it would only be fitting for a princess of the ocean. I decided to use blue chiffon as the main material because the draped and flowy nature of the fabric often looks like water, especially when it moves. The green taffeta panel in the back of the dress, on the other hand, represents the mermaid’s tail, giving her that tie to home, despite her now walking on two legs. Finally, the embroidery on the front also has imagery that nods to the duality of the mermaid’s story through the water lily and the lily pads, plants that need both the spaces above and below water to survive.

Outline the construction…

There were three main fabrics used in this dress, green silk taffeta, blue silk chiffon, and cream cotton. The cotton acted as a foundation layer, and helps create the structure underneath the chiffon and taffeta layer. The cotton also acted as a contrast layer against the chiffon, so as to bring out drape and movement of the fabric. The underlayer was drafting using drafting guides from “Turn of the Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques” with alterations made to fit the final idea. The chiffon overlayer portion of the bodice was entirely self-drafted, and was one of the most finicky parts of the dress, due to the amount of trial and error that went into getting the final shape. The embroidery was all done by hand by first drawing the ideas out onto paper. The paper drawings were then pinned underneath the chiffon, and the patterns were thread traced onto the fabric. From there, using an embroidery hoop, the thread tracings were copied by hand using gold metallic embroidery floss, and the tracing threads were removed. Finally, the straps are made using glass pearls, and are strung on using 4 strands of heavy-duty thread.




  1. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 12, 2021 at 9:38 am

    I love your rendition of this Tale- and so exited to see I’m not the only one inspired by this particular fairytale. I LOVE your way of showing the story in such an elegant way- Gorgeous! The shell embroidery and pearl straps are pure perfection- I wish I had thought of something like that! Gorgeous <3

  2. Avatar Floriane Descloquemant on March 12, 2021 at 11:31 am

    The embroidery is lovely ! The dress is very elegant, congratulations !

  3. Avatar Mandy Pursley on March 14, 2021 at 2:39 pm

    I love the way you subtly incorporated all the story elements into the dress! The embroidery is just beautiful!

  4. Avatar Manon L'Hostis on March 16, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    That silhouette is stunning!! And the embroidery work…. just WOW.

  5. Avatar Mary on March 17, 2021 at 12:53 pm

    I love the imagery of the lilypad living both in and out of the water. The shape of the bodice and the overall silhouette is exquisite – such a lovely gown!

  6. Avatar Maia on March 17, 2021 at 1:41 pm

    Oh this is beautiful! Very subtle and so well made! Btw, I was going to give the same title to my entry! It’s undergarments for the Little Mermaid. So nice to see that you took care of the outer garments for her 🙂

  7. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 19, 2021 at 10:52 am

    Beautiful work, and a lovely interpretation of your inspiration!

  8. Avatar Laurie on March 20, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Pretty! I like your use of varied materials, particularly the pearl straps. Nicely unified.

  9. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 22, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    Nice job! Mermaids and nouveau definitely are a good combination!

  10. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 25, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    I love this art nouveau version of the little mermaid! The shape of the gown is lovely and those pearl straps with the seashell on the bodice are just perfect! After reading your description, the meaning behind the lily pad design makes so much sense, such a great interpretation!

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

    A lovely and delicate dress, beautiful! Cool take on the Little Mermaid 🙂

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