I love the way heavily-beaded gowns look. The texture, the way the weight changes the way a garment moves, the sheen, the sparkle.
Every time I post an example or run across another one I always ask myself the same questions: How was it done and how many hours of labor went into it? So I decided to investigate.
Beaded net has been around for a long time…a long time. Here are some examples, from Regency to the 1930’s, although beading started much earlier and continues today.
So, how is/was it done? There’s hand-sewing with a standard needle and thread, one bead/sequin at a time. I’ve done that and can attest to the hours it took me to complete a small area.
Then there’s tambour work, where a specialized needle with a hook is used to draw the thread around a bead and through the net, which is faster.
I was able to find some photos of couture bead work in process and give me a perspective on the labor intensity of the process when applied to complete garments.
The image above of a craftsman/woman/person working with gold beads on a stretched, sheer fabric is using the tambour technique. Here’s a video showing how tambour beading is done, including sequin work.
Naturally, how long it takes to bead and/or sequin any single garment depends of a number of factors – size of area to be covered, density of the design, three-dimensional elements, etc.
I found an example of a knee-length, sleeveless shift that was covered in sequins front and back in a straightforward diamond pattern. How many hours to finish the sequins on a relatively small and not complex dress? 800! And that’s work done by an experienced, professional who’s tambour needle can fly.
Tambour lace is created with the same tool, but I think this is enough for now.
And now the critical question – would I like to learn this technique? Of course! (Oh, dear.)