Making of Fashion Week

This Wedding Dress Has 20,000 Sequins, 10,000 Crystals, and Took 22 People More Than 3 Weeks to Make

What else would you expect from Elie Saab couture?

By: Samantha Tse
Photography: Molly SJ Lowe

From dreamy ethereal gowns to larger-than-life fantastical creations, haute couture is pure escapism.

For spring/summer 2017, designer Elie Saab drew from the Egyptian culture from the 40s to 60s and used Arab influences in the collection. The silhouettes and motifs gave nod to Egyptian and Arab pop culture and cinema, in particular the party scene in the iconic movie I Don’t Sleep from 1959, when actress Faten Hamama wears a stunning gown with crystal embellishments on the shoulder.

Star-shaped and palm-tree motifs embroidered in crystal were seen throughout the collection. More delicate embroideries inspired by Arabic calligraphy also had a strong presence. Evening wear is still the crux of haute couture and traditionally, the couture show closes with an exquisite bridal look. This season, Elie Saab closed his spring/summer 2017 show with a spectacular gown that kept its voluminous shape with a crinoline and a tulle petticoat, and featured a train and veil that used over 30 meters of tulle.

We went up to Mr. Saab’s Parisian studio in the 16th arrondissement, a stone’s throw away from the Eiffel Tower, to find out exactly what went into making the final look. Beautiful dresses from past collections were displayed on mannequins and strategically lit to highlight the shimmering intricacies of Mr. Saab’s designs. The main area of the studio was receiving private couture clients, so we stepped into the adjacent room to see the beautiful gown. Pia Salem, the studio supervisor who is based in Beirut, walked us through the intricacies of the dress.

The dress took 570 hours to complete.

The train, which was made using 30 meters of tulle, and measures 3.5 meters from the waist. The circumference of the dress is 2.5 meters.

It took a team of two pattern makers and two assistants, 10 embroiderers, five tailors and three petites mains to complete this dress.

Four different shades of crystals were used for the embroidery—two hues of gold and two greys.

A total of 10,000 crystal pieces in three different sizes were used.

The most challenging aspect of the design was the placement of the artwork and the train volume.

There were also different-colored and -sized sequins totalling 20,000 pieces.

The motif of the embellishment is palm trees from Egypt.

A total of 165 meters of tulle were used to create the bridal look. Here’s the breakdown: 30 meters for the illusion, 50 meters for the veil, 45 meters for the petticoat, and 40 meters for the crinoline.

Materials used to make the dress include crinoline, tulle, which was seen in the petticoat, illusion and veil, silk thread, sequins, and crystal strauss.

The dress weighs around 10 kg.

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