Curator's Choice: Lucy Cooper on a wedding dress made out of metal in Sheffield

| 14 February 2013

Curator's Choice: Lucy Cooper, Curator of Metalwork at Museums Sheffield, on Wedding Dress by Lesley Campbell, from the Designed to Shine: 100 Years of Stainless Steel exhibition at the Millennium Gallery...

A photo of a young woman touching a towering white dress inside a museum gallery
"This wedding dress was made by Lesley Campbell, a lecturer in Fashion Design at Sheffield Hallam University.

She made it for her daughter, Rachel, who got married in December 2012. Rachel asked for an alternative wedding dress that still retained the luxurious qualities of traditional wedding fabrics.

A photo of a young woman touching a towering white dress inside a museum gallery
Lesley decided to try making the skirt in stainless steel mesh fabric. She tried at first with a thicker grade to give a richer feel, but it proved too heavy and awkward.

This final grade achieved the right balance between shape and weight. The mesh is made by a company based in Warrington, and a more common application is for cafétiere filters.

Although the fabric appears soft and delicate, it is quite difficult to work with. The rough edges can be quite sharp and Lesley frequently cut her hands whilst working on the dress.

It also creases easily, so a crinkled effect had to be built into the overall design.

The skirt and the bodice upper section are made out of the mesh. For a more comfortable feel, and to give the dress shape and volume, the underdress is made from Savoy Silk – a heavy duchess silk satin.

The cascading layers of the stainless steel mesh shimmer in the light and appear both luxuriant and slightly ethereal.

The design references the wedding theme of 1950s glamour. It also refers to the wedding date of 1st December, 'International Mistletoe Day', with a large 'berry' shaped aperture in the bodice back.

I was keen to surprise visitors by showing them how stainless steel can work as a fabric. This dress is a great example of how stainless steel is being used by contemporary craftspeople in Sheffield, 100 years on from its discovery.

Sheffield-made products are at the heart of the exhibition, plus key pieces of innovative design from overseas. Kyoko Kumai, a Japanese textile artist, has also made a triptych of woven sculptures. It’s a stunning fabric piece."

  • Designed to Shine runs until October 13 2013.
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