Makeover photoshoot with Iberian Black Arts



This was the last bit of the Geisha collection ( Part 1  and Part 2), and already drifting towards a Chinese or Manchurian influence.  I had enough good-quality Chinese satin brocade, (proper silk stuff, not the poly/viscose thing, for a change!) to make a skirt, corset and a little bolero jacket. And since I knew that  Threnody in Velvet, who modeled a part of the collection, is not only an amazingly gifted model but a talented photographer and make up artist, I decided to book a little makeover session with the other side of her business, Iberian Black Arts … and I wasn’t disappointed!


Threnody … I know i have posted the image before, but – I cannot get enough of it! 🙂


So a date was set, and I  put some time aside to actually make my outfit. And as luck would have it, I ended up with an emergency commission instead – so had just a day to make something wearable…..

The corset was first – and from the start I regretted the choice of fabric.. the satin frayed like a mad, fraying thing, it wrinkled, moved, had a life of its own. It was too late to get fusible interfacing, so had to just get on with it and relay on roll-pinning and pure luck – and hoped the cat wouldn’t mind the amount of bad language that issued forth during the production…


I do mind, you know…. foulmouthed creature!

In the end, success was just partial, I didn’t  manage to get rid of all the wrinkles, but since it was not an item for sale I decided to leave it as it was and maybe trust the power of Photoshop….

On the day  I grabbed the outfit, accessories etc – and since I was asked to bring another outfit just in case we had time to shoot more I packed  my ‘snow queen’ gear too…

On arrival at Patricia’s studio we did not waste much time and got straight down to business.  That is, I was munching on my sandwich whilst we were  just getting the final details of the make up and hair – I had set up a board for inspiration, so we looked through different photos to get a clear idea of the styling.

The calm scene before we started…



Make up and hair took a bit of time, but not too much – and it was time well spent on a pleasant chatter, as well as deciding on some editing options, etc, and then it was time to  don the gear, lace up and pose!

One important thing to mention beforehand – I am not a big fan of over the top post-production (Photoshopping, etc). I mentioned this, giving examples of what I definitely didn’t want –  I wanted my body to stay the way it was, with no reduction etc,  and  my face basically unchanged as well –  I often see the results of the popular boudoir make overs where  ladies are virtually unrecognizable in the final image. This is fine if you are working on a product shoot ( though even here I tend to have problems with overphotoshopped models setting impossible standards), but not really for a personal image –  everybody who knows me will just chuckle at a weird attempt to look much younger and much slimmer, and so I asked for minimal amount of post production. This is actually also why I chose Iberian Black Arts –  the images  showcased  in the portfolio were a  high quality ones, but not overly ‘over the top’.

And to be honest – the make up and the light worked wonders on their own…. well, see for yourself below……


After we finished shooting, I got the proofs the same day and chose the images I liked most, for editing. We discussed background options for both looks and the rest was just Patricia working her magic….

The  Chinese look ( with a spectacular yellow kanzashi made especially  for the shoot by Kikuya Kanzashi )






and the Snow Queen one…





By comparison, see the uneditted  behind the scenes shots – three of the proofs, straight off the camera, showing me having some fun…:




standard pose for all my shoots….




As you can see  the skin tone was smoothed and lightened to work with the  styling for the image, the corset wrinkles magically disappeared, but it is still recognizably me, my body with slightly glamorized face. Happy with that:-)


Altogether, I must say I was delighted with both only the experience and the end product – highly recommended – If any of you folks would like to have a go at a makeover with Patricia ( Ipswich based), do give her a call, you won’t be disappointed – and the prices are good too! I found it a great way  to showcase my work as a designer and maker, and have a bit of a girly fun as well – so work and play combined 🙂






The Mermaids shoots


 You book a short holiday in Wales, on the Pembrokeshire coast – and within seconds of imagining the wild beaches and rocky formations you have an idea – the place is a perfect scenery for a mermaid themed shoot! And once the idea was hatched, there was no looking back. It might still be cold in mid April, but we have shot in colder conditions – and so the two months before saw me accumulating ideas and bits of fabric and props that could be useful.

 Out of that,  three different looks emerged, only 2 of which actually required my dressmaking skills. We came up with a regal mermaid, a warrior one, and a funky natural one….

 The location was sourced and agreed on – Freshwater West beach was perfect –  big, lots of places  suitable for shooting and facing west – so sunset light a bonus.

 In the end I only had a day to actually work on the mermaids proper, as was busy working on commissions, but the day was enough, and since i took my sewing machine with me (  did I mention at some point that it was a holiday?), I could finish things  in Wales.

  And the results – below….

 1. Regal mermaid….

 This one took the most work as i was making a corset from the scratch.


basic design


The corset was made out of biscuit coutil with a gold net overlay and gold leather elements. The layers on the panels were roll pinned  first and then the leather was secured with a tape



then the panels were stitched together.



The corset was boned with spring and flat steels, flossed with a turquoise linen thread and then the fun began – i had to sew on the pre-prepaed shells and fins. the shells were drilled first and  painted with glitter glue; the fins were made from 2 layers of corsetry mesh, boned with artificial whalebone and painted as well.


  The shells were also made into necklace and bracelet –  credit to my hubby who made them!


making the fins for the corset, and other bits:-)




The skirt was made out of a length of gold fabric – and we were all set for the first shoot. Since we visitied Pembroke castle on our way to the beach, to chat with a friend, it meant I had to apply the make up and do the hair on the location, which meant – in the car. not the best experience ever, I must say….


 But in the end, I managed to get changed, and off we went shooting….



LJP_3584 copy2


2. The  Natural Mermaid.

This one was the simplest one – and a bit of an add -on.  while researching I came across places selling proper mermaid tails, with monofin etc – so usable.  and I just couldn’t  resist them…..  I suspect the tail and fin will be used at some point in an underwater shoot….. 🙂


was so excited when the thing arrived, i simply had to pop it on…

 So here the bottom half was sorted, and for the upper one, I have recently purchased a swimsuit in matching colours ( Panache), to provide some decency in the majority of the shoot ( we did find a nice enclosed area for some more indecent ones, far from prying eyes…. 🙂 . the wig and the make up and we were ready to go.

 Or rather – to wriggle.  it turns out that this one was the most challenging  of the whole mermaids – mostly due to the constraints of the attire ( hopping across the beach with the tail cost me some bruises…) and difficulty of finding a pose that would look  natural, graceful, and most importantly, not show too much of my own blubber.  I am not your typical size 8 model shape, and although size 12 is not bad, it soon turned out that it was tricky to find flattering poses. As a result, the majority of the photos were marked as  ‘walrus’  and discarded ( I don’t really hold with the photoshoping tricks changing the shape of a body… wysiwyg philosophy here), still, a few survived the purge…..

 We were lucky in picking up the warmest day too – so I wasn’t cold, and even water was not too bad!





3. The warrior mermaid.

 This one was the most fun, and the most in keeping with my own personality, as I do martial arts ( and have been doing one form or other of them since I was 17, including fencing, weapon sparring, kung fu, MMA etc). The styling was fun too –  not a lot of work involved with a great effect – my favourite!

  Here the most important pieces was the scale maile bits I had on loan from a friend – there were 2 bits that could form a skirt, and a few other ones, including a nice headgear/necklace. I simply mounted the skirt bits and the shoulder bit onto  leather strips – and that was it:-)


 Corset – since I ran out of time, I used one of the corsets i already made and used in the Steampunk Amazones shoot.  And, once I put it on,  it turned out, oh joy! that I have dropped at least a size since I last wore it – in the autumn I had over 2 inches gap at the back  ( the corset was originally made to a different model measurements) – but now I could  lace it up close without any special effort ! :-). Kinky metallic leggings and a swathe of sequiny fabric made up the rest – and as an afterthought we  used  the fabric from the Regal mermaid as a mantle.   The weapons  – we had a knife but mostly used an Indian guard spear shaft with a harpoon kind of blade  ( probably Indonesian?) mounted on it.

 The results below…






 and a few close up on the make up and talons…



new style of make up for me – but loved it, especially the gold speckled lenses!


using false nails, first time ever. loved the look, but found it impossible to function and perform the simplest activities… needless to say, the talons were removed first thing after the shoot….



post shoot – just to show off the corset….


Well, there you have it – 3 different mermaid  themed looks.   Pleased with the photos, but it was hard work  shooting every evening- I think I need another holiday now…



Corsetry, skirts etc – obviously, Prior Attire;

Scale maille – Denise Piggin and Ruth Watkin

lovely dreads  – Magic Tribal Hair

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery


the inspiration board on Pinterest


And there is even a video on making the shoots on my youtube chanel  – here – the resluts as wel as details on making the costumes, make up etc.


and just to end this rather picture heavy post – a few outtakes….


unexpected surge of tidal water… rather cold tidal water….



de- mermaided – now i have proper legs!



just plain scary……



Lucas at work

Early Mantua – and La Maupin Style Shoot



I have always wanted to have a go at an early mantua – the period is relatively unrepresented, and I simply wanted to experiment with pleating and the look a bit more. Recently, I have been offered a perfect excuse – we were providing  accessories for a lingerie shoot, featuring a collection inspired by that ultimate famme fatale and adventurer – Julie d’Aubigny (1670–1707), better known as Mademoiselle Maupin or La Maupin. The lingerie company was non other than Kiss Me Deadly, photographer Iberian Black Arts, and the models were Threnody in Velvet, SINderella Rockafella and It’s Jess. The location –  the stunning White House in London, property of a Polish prince.  To boot, Gemmeus  was sending some pretty spectacular bling to be used in the shoot. How could I say no?

And so a deal was struck – I will provide shoes, wigs, swords, fans, hats etc, all loosely connected with 17 and 18th centuries, and  in return we could shoot our own historical stuff in the place.

And so the fabrics were purchased ( silk taffeta for the mantua, silk grosgrain for the skirt) and work started –   and in a few days the outfit was ready. The  article on making the mantua and fontage is already commissioned by Your Wardrobe Unlockd, so won’t disclose much about the process of making here- but I can post the finished outfit!

Below – a collection of pictures from the day , kindly taken by Pitcheresque Imagery

We were the first to arrive  – so we unpacked the delivered goods, and went to explore the house, planning the shoot….


Wigs and extensions galore….


my newest shoes from American Duchess came along for the ride too!


Bling from Gemmeus


And then the proper fun begun











mirror fun – standing hand in hand with myself…



more mirror fun…

And since the theme was La Maupin,  I simply couldn’t resist going back to my fencing days – so grabbed the prop and challenged the tog to a fight…



Fight, damn you!


and back to being civilized….


Soon after we finished, the girls  were about ready – all  suitably enhanced by the arts of Sammm Agnew

a few behind the scenes shoots….



Jess looking stunning….


Lucas all ready to do his bit as a prop in a role of a drunk/dead courtier…





girls at play

And even I got  put into the KMD  bra and girdle and told to play to the camera….. Sammm did a fantastic job transforming me into a perfect extra for a Meat Loaf video – scary as hell, but love the look!


yes…. you did not expect That in a post about mantua, right? 😉

The day finished with a  lovely group shot of the team



Many thanks to all involved in the shoot – it was a great day and I am looking forward to see what fantastic images will Morgana have for us!

Hope you enjoyed the post – a bit more eclectic than usual, but hey, variety is a spice of life!

The video  from the shoot can be seen here – enjoy!


Spring Bride Collection, part2: official photos!



 As promised in part 1, in this post i will credit all the contributors who took part in the shoot – and illustrate it all with insanely stunning photos from our photographer, Paul Mockford.

  and so, here it goes!

 Spring Bride 2013 photoshoot team;


Paul Mockford from Shears and Mockford Photography and his trusty assistant, Jason Huckle; fb page

 Styling ( make up and hair) Sarah Dunn from  Sarah’s Doo wop Dos, fb page

Bridal shoes and accessories ( tiaras) – Tracy from Crystal Calla Tiara, fb page

 Florist Anita from Vintage Rose, fb page

Accessories and bouquets: Tina from The Haberdashery Bride, fb page

Jewellery: Tina from The Unfound Door, fb page

hair flowers and the fascinator: Lizzie from LiL MIschief

 Gowns:me! Izabela from Prior Attire/ Prior Engagement, fb page

 Models: me, Gem Bow Tyke,  Anett Novak

 venue: Moggerhanger Park, fb page

  The day was lovely – and we were glad we moved the shoot back by a week, as after a very slow start Nature picked up the pace and we even got a few flowers:-)

 Danielle from the venue organized our changing room and sorted out a very appreciated tea, coffee and biscuits.

   Everybody was in sity by 10.30, unpacked and ready to work so whilethe  boys were walking around the venue  discussing the best places to shoot, the girls  started to get ready..


Sarah setting up her tools…


hair flowers from Lizzie!


stunning shoes from Tracy ( Crystal Calla Tiara)


and loads and loads of jewellery from Tina ( Unfound Door) – all ours to pick from!




First was Briar Rose – here shot in a Sleeping Beauty convention…  took us ages to get the light and composition in that room…




outside, the light was much better and we were way happier with the results:


loving the soft 70ties feel to it – very hippie, flower power mood here

 and the best two shots , the true Sleeping Beauty images:


sleeping so peacefully…


and awake…


Next was Gem in Alice, the 50ties corseted frock.


picture i snatched on my phone while changing…

 looks everybody was snatchign photos on their mobiles… 🙂


happy snappers – Sarah with two phones no less!


and a professional one:-)

  Next in line was Anette, sporting the elven Lily of the Valley – a true wood nymph!


very dreamy…



 As Anett was climbing the trees, Gem was being prepared for the next dress – the model who the dress was for cancelled the day before, so Gem stepped in – the dress was a bit too big  but it still looked great on her!


Sarah working her magic… pic by Lucas




she looked so gorgeous that everybody was snapping away…


In the meantime I was also to stand in for the model who cancelled – so Sarah got some more work to do on me!


going from the blond to the brunette…





love this shot – stunnign tiara form Tracy, l;ovely earrings from Tina and the bouquet from Tina ( haberdashery bride…)

 and the last frock – Helena, for  Anett, who had to be coerced to emerge the Lily of the Valley corset ( she is a tighlacer so corsets are very much within her sphere of interests!)). Sarah worked her magic and transformed her from the nymph into a silnet movie era star – 20ties suited her very much indeed!




Anett having fun 🙂


and one of my absolute favourites:



 The whole shoot took us several hours, and some of us felt we deserved  cuppa and a scone at Frosts – just around the corner…


  more pictures  can be seen here:


 and , to finish the post, a few ‘after hours’ shots..


sleeping beauty – well…. a bottle of whisky would complete the image nicely…. 🙂


Gem trying to eat her sandwich in a dignified way


when not snapping away, Paul makes quite a model too!


important people on a mission…


having a sneak peak at the guys at work…



Jason shining away…


   next collection- summer bride,will be shot at Wrest Park in July….   better start designing and sewing…


The Winter Bride Collection


 A brief glimpse at the newest collection of the sample bridal dresses from Prior Engagement  – all handmade examples of what can be done with a few basic tools and a pile of silks…. Prior Engagement is a sister branch of my main company, Prior Attire, and specialises in unique historical, Steampunk, unusual and definately unorthodox wedding dresses – all bespoke made, one-of-a-kind designs. 

 The winter bride desings have been bubbling inside me for the last few months, so it was a joy to actually start working on them. Although  I love creating historically correct garments, the research that goes into them and the period accurate techniques,  the bridal and the steampunk side of the business let me use my own imagination more and indulge in the design process as well. The results – below:-)

 We have booked the venue, Woodland Manor Hotel about 4 weeks in advance, hoping for some snow on a day, but knowing that even if there is no wintery magic outside, the interiors will provide us with lots of interesting background.

 Fortunatelly, a week before the shoot it snowed and on the day of the event we had snow – and quite a lot of ice….

 Our team:

 Paul Mockford  from  Shears Mockford Photography , with whom we worked before on a 18th century bridal shoot at Harrowden Hall. Jason was on hand to help him out with the lights, as was my husband, Lucas ( who was also snapping away…).

 Our stylist, Sarah Dunn from Sarah’s Doo-Wop-Dos

 Tina Haden from The Haberdashery Bride was providing lovely bImageouquerts, tiaras and combs.

 Kat Allen from  Rose Tinted VIntage in bedford provided some lovely  jewellery  and Lizzie pauling from  Lil MIschief furnished us with some furry accessories – hats, fascinators, stoles and capes.

 Our models were: Gem Bow Tyke, Sophie Mathews and me!

  and the gowns:

1.  The Swan



Swan from the back…

corset in silk satin duchesse, hand-applied rhinestones, skirt in silk and feathers… lots of feathers…. we shot a mellow bridal version and then a more dramatic look:-)





 the Ice Queen look:


Narnia is mine!!!



2. Grace



 Corset and skirts in shimmering blue silk duponi, handapplied silver lace decoration and beading.



the skirts could be pinned up with tiny snowflakes for a more contemporary look!



3. The Frost





A fun gown in silk taffeta, decorated with lace, beaing, rhinestones, brooches – lots of sparkle!




4. The Aurora Borealis




 A more traditional gown in silk satin and taffeta, with lots of sparkly decoration…




5. The Russian coat



A coat to keep the bride warm on her way  – in cotton velvet, lined with silk, trimmed with faux fur – and decorated with thousands of blingy bits!




  And  that’s that’s winter sample collection – something to help our future brides decide on the style, fabrics and decoration:_)

 Many thanks to all involved – and looking forward to shooting our Spring Bride Collection in April!

Steampunk Travellers Collection






  A few pics from our first steampunk collection, shot last autumn, at the Milton Keyness Museum. The collection was a first , but certainly not the last forray into the exotic world of Steampunk, and this one was inspired by  the notion of travel and exploration, plus  some great music from the famous steampunk group, Abney Park.

 I have published the articles on the inspirations and creation of the collection on The Wardrobe Unlockd site (, so will keep this entry here just to the day of the shoot.


 Our team on the day: 


Jez, from

Paul, from


 Lucas – my husband, amateur snapper:-)

  Stylist: hair and make up :Sarah from

Costumes – me! so prior Attire, though in this case the branch:

 Models, me,  Lizzy (< Cathy Hay and Sarah in her double role as a stylist and a model.

 We had 7 characters to portray so it was a long day, fortunately, the venue, Transpiort Museum Hall was entirely at out own disposal – a perfect location for the shoot, so many thanks to MK museum!

 Let me introduce the travellers then::

 1. The English Huntress


Sarah sporting a tweed Edwardian corset, tweed skirt and bolero jacket


skirt on suspenders…

The Time traveller


Lizzy in silk Victoriana costume


just the corset and the skirt…


with added effects, Paul’s work!

 The Cyclist


Sarah in wool pantaloons, and silk corset


closer up…


The Omnibussiere…


wool skirt, corselette, jacket and a silk overskirt. all ready to sell some omnibus tickets!


with the Time traveller…


and after work, in my study…

The Colonial Explorer


Cathy in a cotton corset and a silk and lace skirt. nicknamed: Barbie on safari’.. lovely image by Jez

 The Neobedouin


Sultry Lizzy in linen pantaloons and kaftan tunic, with silk corset


Neobedouin and the Colonial explorer… up to no good no doubt

The Arctic Huntress


me sporting a corset with fur trimming, leatherette skirt and some weaponry:_0


close up!

 The Gypsy traveller..


Sarah in a linen blouse, linen corset and silk skirt… also sporting my Nubian scarf:-)


better view of the corset – with decorative lacing over a silk panel


  Many thanks to all the team!!!!


 Most of the items are now sold, i believe there is only 2 or three items remaining for sale – they are in my shop, among other steampunk merchandise