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Legendary 1000 Beetle Wing Dress of Lady Macbeth Restored

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#1 IslandBruja

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Posted 27 January 2018 - 08:28 PM

For those into fiber arts in their Craft, the theater, historical costumes, or just fascinating and painstaking processes of handicrafts, here's an article about the (1300 hours-worth) restoration of the gorgeous green beetle wing dress worn by Ellen Terry as portrayed in this iconic painting by John Singer Sargeant:

 

TATE_TATE_N02053.jpg

 

https://www.sott.net...logy-of-a-Dress


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#2 witchinplainsight

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Posted 27 January 2018 - 09:58 PM

Wow! Beautiful!


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#3 citoyenne

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 03:32 AM

That is spectacular! So interesting to crochet and beetlewing embroidery techniques combined to a fantastic and wonderfully visually textured end. Lemme just say, beetle wings are unpleasant to work with. The wings aren't "shed" like the article says so much as once the beetles live out their short little lives they are harvested. This means that there's still the bits of stuff on the inside of the wings that attached them to the little bodies and needs to be scraped out. 1300 hours of that Nuh Uh. Though I know that they mostly re-used what was on the original costume so saved some of the effort but still....

I do love mending but this is one hell of a Mending Monday project.


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#4 Moly

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Posted 04 February 2018 - 09:38 AM

What an amazing dress. It is such a strange idea. I guess it's not all that strange really when you consider all the animal fibers that we wear, silk and leather. But there's something somehow just slightly more macabre about this, like as if a goddess wore a gown with a thousand human arms dangling off it. It's creepy and charming and grimly powerful. I wouldn't wear anything like it, but it's fascinating and thought provoking.
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#5 citoyenne

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Posted 04 February 2018 - 05:20 PM

Well if it's any consolation it is less like arms and more like wearing a bunch of bones because it is part of the exoskeleton. There's lots of bone jewelry out there, some more primitive some fantastically carved. Animal insides, outsides, leather, fur, hair and bone, it's really all the same to me. The only animal fibre the animal doesn't die for is hair/wool so in essence you are wearing part of a dead thing anyway with the rest. I can see how wearing dead things would be unsettling for some but I guess I don't understand how wearing the skin of a slaughtered dead thing or the pupa casing of a boiled alive juvenile dead thing are less macabre than wearing the bones of a died of old age dead thing. I think it's a case of just being more comfortable with things that are familiar.

I wouldn't wear it because really, how'd you wash it?? Though it is an over dress so shouldn't get body dirt, I am really good at getting food/ingredients/misc all over myself.

 

I think that in the context of the play Macbeth that it makes a lot of sense. Lady Mcbeth says to take away everything that makes her woman, all of her softness, to steel her for the task. She builds up her shell and has to be the strength for Macbeth who isn't so sure at first that regicide is what he wants to do though he wants the crown. Then when the deed is done Lady Macbeth fractures inside her shell and she is shaken to the core. I feel like the beauty of the dress is one thing and that in the shimmering of candle light of the old stage would be awe-inspiring, but the beetle wings represent her character all the better, green for envy, hard but brittle, and like a beetle totally undone by the breaking of her shell. It is an extremely well thought out piece of costume design.


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#6 Lauvitra

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Posted 04 February 2018 - 05:59 PM

Well if it's any consolation it is less like arms and more like wearing a bunch of bones because it is part of the exoskeleton. There's lots of bone jewelry out there, some more primitive some fantastically carved. Animal insides, outsides, leather, fur, hair and bone, it's really all the same to me. The only animal fibre the animal doesn't die for is hair/wool so in essence you are wearing part of a dead thing anyway with the rest. I can see how wearing dead things would be unsettling for some but I guess I don't understand how wearing the skin of a slaughtered dead thing or the pupa casing of a boiled alive juvenile dead thing are less macabre than wearing the bones of a died of old age dead thing. I think it's a case of just being more comfortable with things that are familiar.

______

 

And in this case, nothing even had to die or suffer for the dress; the jewel beetles shed their wings naturally. So, it's kind of similar to using something like deer antlers, which are also naturally shed.

 

 

And on the actual topic: the dress looks awesome, but I'd imagine it would be quite impractical to wear. I mean, on stage it probably works fine, but... one careless step on the hem, and you crush a handful of beetle wings under your foot? And what happens if you'd forget what you're wearing and try to sit down? The poor dress would be quickly ruined by someone like me. The actress must have been exceptionally careful while wearing this thing on stage.


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"We pledge ourselves to you, the Frame-Maker, the Scarab:

a world for us to love you in, a cloak of dirt to cherish."


#7 citoyenne

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Posted 04 February 2018 - 11:37 PM

______

 

And in this case, nothing even had to die or suffer for the dress; the jewel beetles shed their wings naturally. So, it's kind of similar to using something like deer antlers, which are also naturally shed.

 

And by shed naturally you mean are pulled off the beetle body once dead. The beetles only live a couple weeks or whatever and once they're dead they're harvested complete with the connective "stuff" inside. They can't KILL the beetles because they risk damaging the product so they let them die naturally before collection. Not quite like antlers which do shed.


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#8 Lauvitra

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Posted 05 February 2018 - 02:18 PM

And by shed naturally you mean are pulled off the beetle body once dead. The beetles only live a couple weeks or whatever and once they're dead they're harvested complete with the connective "stuff" inside. They can't KILL the beetles because they risk damaging the product so they let them die naturally before collection. Not quite like antlers which do shed.

_____

 

Really? Huh. Since there are quite a few bugs (beetles and other insects) which do shed their exoskeleton - or parts of it - multiple times throughout their adult stage, and the writer of the article went as far as to claim these ones do so as well, I'd have assumed there's no reason they wouldn't. Well, the more you know! Guess these beetles have a very short period of adulthood, then, if they don't have time to outgrow their shells.


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"We pledge ourselves to you, the Frame-Maker, the Scarab:

a world for us to love you in, a cloak of dirt to cherish."


#9 citoyenne

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 06:26 AM

On the flip side I've never known of beetles that live long enough to shed! So the more I know, too. :)


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#10 Onyx

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Posted 14 November 2018 - 01:27 AM

There was a fad where ladies would wear live jewelled beetles on their shoulders. The Beetles were pinned to a jacket with a small chain.
Creepy but true. If anyone deserves to wear a Beetle dress it's Lady MacBeth. "Out, damn spot"!

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