The Shepherdess



Marie Berra

(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Zelia Laborde

Outline the story …

When I read about the theme for this year’s competition, I thought of The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep by Hans Christian Andersen. I read the fairy tale as a child, and the idea of animated china figurines who came to life when no one was around, was and still is appealing even in our day and age. One can think of a Toy Story, but set in the 19th century where the tale follows two lovers on the run (a porcelain Shepherdess and a Chimney Sweep) as they attempt to flee the grasps of a mahogany satyr, who wants to marry the Shepherdess.

As I read on and studied the original illustrations by Vilhelm Pedersen, I found that he depicted the Shepherdess in 18th century clothing. I examined works by François Boucher and his idealized representation of everyday fashion from this particular era along with its pastoral paintings and studied what everyday dress looked like from a historical point of view. I decided to use these various sources to explore the various meanings of the different layers, shapes and materials used. I noticed an inclination for such techniques in the paintings and the use of symbolic references (roses, sheer fabrics ) as a romanticized vision of France, which seemed to fit the depiction of the character in the tale.

I had originally planned six pieces for the costume. I managed to get most of the pieces done on time, except for a bodice.

Outline the construction…

I machine-sewed the side seams and then I hand-stitched the rest of the pieces. I used cotton and linen as the primary material for this project, since I wanted to give an 18th century feel to the textiles and colours; but I also tried to recycle fabrics I had.

The construction of the shift was easy, once I had figured out how to set the gores and gussets with the help of Mariah Pattie’s tutorial “Formulas to Draft a Shift Pattern from Your Own Measurements”.

The most challenging part were the stays. I made a mock-up, drew a pattern and hoped for the best. They are made of coutil as the base layer and viscose as the fashion layer. The channels are machine-sewed, but the binding is stitched by hand.

For the petticoats, I used the American Duchess tutorial (which can be found on their website) for the construction and hemmed them by hand. The first petticoat is a blue striped linen, gathered into a waistband and the second one is a beige poplin, knife pleated and tied with silk ribbons.

I used an additional petticoat I found in a flea market to give more shape to the skirts and a hand-sewed linen shift as the base layer (in the final pictures, the shift was replaced by a tank top with the straps tucked in). The 18th century inspired shift was used as the outer layer, as I saw examples while doing my research on pastoral paintings.




  1. Avatar Sadie on March 11, 2021 at 7:02 pm

    This is so beautiful 😍

  2. Avatar Martina Girardi on March 11, 2021 at 8:08 pm

    The whole ensemble is just like a real life painting, I love it!

    • Avatar Nadine on March 12, 2021 at 6:58 pm

      I agree wholeheartedly. A perfect outfit. It’s like a painting.

      • Avatar Marie on March 14, 2021 at 7:53 pm

        Thanks! It was really fun to put all the elements together and playing with the light in order to give that painting feeling. I’m happy it shows!

  3. Avatar KayB on March 11, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    This is way past beginner level. It’s absolutely gorgeous….well done!

  4. Avatar Laura Boyles on March 11, 2021 at 10:17 pm

    The photography is scrumptious, for starters. Like a painting. The outfit is also stunning, delicate and painstaking. Best of luck x

  5. Avatar Justine McComas on March 12, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    like a Bouguereau painting! Beautiful!

    • Avatar Marie on March 14, 2021 at 7:57 pm

      Setting up the light to give this feeling was a very interesting part of taking pictures! thanks!

  6. Avatar Carolien van Alphen on March 12, 2021 at 6:17 pm

    I love how you put in so much attention to detail. Every piece looks very well made, and the work well together to bring the story to life. The pictures are beautiful, and I don’t miss a bodice at all!

  7. Avatar Ame on March 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    Gorgeous dress, I love the color combinations. The stays look so great!

  8. Avatar Laurie on March 12, 2021 at 10:05 pm

    Gorgeous! Pastoral painting, indeed! Lovely colour choices and beautiful fabric. Inspiring.

  9. Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    Stepped right out of a painting just lovely!

  10. Avatar Donna G Earp on March 13, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    Striking likeness to 18th century porcelain figures. (Joachim Kaendler-Meissen). Wonderful job on the stays binding. I hope you get a chance to make your bodice or jacket. Excellent work.

  11. Avatar Camille on March 14, 2021 at 11:21 am

    the textures are really nice and the cap is a great touch too

  12. Avatar Sarah Bent on March 14, 2021 at 5:19 pm

    Lovely! And a favourite story of mine too.

  13. Avatar Valerie on March 17, 2021 at 2:52 am

    Each piece is beautifully executed, and the whole gives a perfect impression of those pastoral paintings. The delicate colors are so evocative of the porcelain figure of the story. Lovely work!

  14. Avatar KC (Keowyndrial) on March 19, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    Gorgeous work! Your stays especially are a work of art!

  15. Avatar Vanessa Knobel on March 20, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Beautiful job on your project!! Also, I must say, the lighting and quality of your photos is stellar, as well!

  16. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 23, 2021 at 4:02 am

    Those stays…wow! I love them! The shift is spot on and the petticoats are fantastic! Thank you so much!

  17. Avatar Benigna on March 26, 2021 at 10:53 am

    This is so beautiful! The stays look great! It´s really fitting for a shepherdess, I especially like the rose, it´s a nice little detail.

  18. Avatar Lowana O'Shea on March 29, 2021 at 11:25 am

    Beautiful outfit design and stunning presentation 🙂

  19. Avatar Lizzie Blake on April 1, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    I love the design you created – it looks relatively simple with some details that really stand out – you’ve done an amazing job with the whole ensemble! I love the stays and petticoats in particular

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