Dress Alchemy: The Louisiana Garden Dress

I never even know where to begin… It usually starts when I find a dress while I’m out thrifting…  this girl had so many wonderful details-  a lace collar that I knew would come in handy, beautiful floral pattern, and a button up bodice that was just to die for.  It started out with a silly photo- as I picked her to be the subject of my weekly make-over, but then the final photos I shot-  with my lovely friend Carli took my imagination in an entirely different direction. eek! I found the house at dusk the night before while trying to chase the sunset for some photos with my roommate.  Apparently, I have some sort of sixth sense for finding abandoned houses- I somehow saw the fallen in roof (hidden away up a long driveway off a country road) out of the corner of my eye, flipped my car around, parked in front of the overgrown driveway gate, and found my way in.  I was wearing  thin worn out flip flops and a mini skirt, thinking this was perhaps the stupidest/most brilliant adventuring I had done so far.  The sun was going to set soon- so as I prepared to enter the house-  just for good measure-  I said, “Hello… anyone here??  We are friendly people… we just want to take pictures…” and as I stepped in further, carefully avoiding the copious amount of broken glass-  it was very clear that no one had been in this house in quite some time. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I’m always totally fascinated by abandoned houses.  The things left behind, the stories they tell… I wonder who lived there and what happened and why no one ever came back to keep the house from falling apart.  And much like with my dress alchemy-  I love to find the beauty inside of the decay of these forgotten spaces.  This one was just a stunner-  green and moss and tall weeds pushing their way through a forty year old living room with faded teal paint and turquoise curtains. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset We found two houses- one was grand and Southern.  I put Carli in front of the two stories of windows and took this picture- which- when I looked at it later- told me a story.  So I’ll start at the end and tell you the story and then take you back to the beginning so you can see the steps taken to transform the dress from tragic,  to darling beauty.  Enjoy the adventure 😉 Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset “She hated the summer.  There was no perfume, no kerchief, no amount of sweet tea and ice cubes that could cure this hideous heat.  “Jenny!  Can you please bring me another Tom Collins!” Her voice was shrill with bitterness, far too much bitterness for a woman her age.  She possessed absolutely everything- yet  had earned absolutely nothing in life.  The only finger she ever had to lift was the one that brought the glass of gin to her lipstick stained lips.  She spent most of the day doing things to preserve her appearance.   Her body was one of the few things she actually thought belonged to her-  and even that she doubted sometimes.  Every day she looked in the mirror to make sure that she was indeed, still young and beautiful- for if she possessed  no true charm or skill-  she could at least be divine to look at.  She longed for kindness replace this repressed, nervous rage.  The beautiful and expensive things around her just seemed like garbage.  They taunted her, trapped her, laughed at her.  “Your just like us, ” they whispered “Your nothing more than a thing… a pretty, worthless thing…” Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset She smoked thin menthols and sipped her Collins and hoped that the gin would soften the edges of it all.  Sometimes it did- but it always came crashing in on her afterward worse than before. That day was so hot it was like the apocalypse.  After her second cold bath she demanded that Jenny take he on a ride into town so she could just, “Feel something for a while, besides this oppressive, wretched heat.”  The road was no better.  Poor Jenny tried her very best, but after a few hours the shrill, tense, almost tear filled voice screamed at her to, “Take me home!!!”  So back they went-  sweating and straining and sticking to the seats. The storm rolled in quickly- as southern storms do-  the sky filled dramatically with purples and fuchsias and deep orange, breaking through behind the clouds.  Thunder was the background noise for her anger-  lightening flashed like nerves.  They drove quickly in a a race against the sunset.  Her hands shook as she fought to light her cigarette in the wind.  She took one long pull and looked up, exhaling,  to see the glow. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset In the distance it seemed as if the sun was setting in a glorious blaze.  She smoked her cigarette, looking ahead in awe as the blaze came closer.  The smell of smoke was undeniable.  “My Dear Lord Jesus…” uttered Jenny as they pulled up to the house. The fire was at a full roar-  in the center were white hot flames-  smoke everywhere like a thick fog… “Miss Fontane-  don’t you dare get out of this car!  It’s dangerous out there!!” Screamed Jenny, but it was too late.  Quite a picture it was as she stood there in her perfect shoes and her beautiful summer dress, menthol clutched, in her mesh gloved hand.  Dangerously close was her mansion- fiercely ablaze against the vibrant sky.  Up to her lips came the thin feminine cigarette, as she took a pull, exhaled and stared.  Quietly at first-  and then into a loud and energetic roar, she began to laugh…” Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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Dress, Styling, Story and Photography by Elisabeth Donaldson

Modeled by Carli Lynn

Buy Dress Here: Monarch Clothing on Etsy


Photo Jul 25, 8 22 23 PM

Step 1) Cut of the lace collar

Step 2) remove the sleaves (they will be used for straps later)

Step 3) cut neckline into a sweetheart shape above the bottons.

Step 4) Used the salvaged lace trim to decorate the bustline

Photo Jul 25, 8 18 20 PM

1) Using the material from the sleaves- use a rotary cutter to cut 1 inch wide strips

2) Iron in half- folding the raw edges into the center and then in half again

3) Sew together to create straps- attach to dress

4) Give the girl a hem, press as needed and voila! Dress Alchemy!

Photo Jul 21, 1 33 53 PM


Hope you enjoyed the ride!



One thought on “Dress Alchemy: The Louisiana Garden Dress

  1. Reblogged this on 365daysofthrift and commented:

    Originally posted on The Queen Has Wings 2 years ago- this throwback is part of my “Stories” series. I’ll be sharing more of these gems from the past as well as creating new stories to tell in the future.

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