montage of the empty dress

“A garment is a wrapping that draws a person’s imprint; it is a relic which serves as a replacement.

It represents a person, a mood, a place, an authentic feeling.” Louise Bourgeois

As a potent feminine symbol the ‘Empty Dress’ is pivotal to my work, my mother was a couturier dressmaker and the image of ‘empty dresses’ hanging up in her sewing room has a powerful resonance that I have taken through life.


Dorville fashion house in 1953Dorville Fashion House, 1953

My mother began her training at Dorville House, London as couturier in 1953 and this shows her hand finishing on the Queen’s coronation robes. She worked there for 15 years before leaving to be a mother. She is the woman to the left of the photograph. 

This series of work began with a desire to revisit a museum I remember visiting as a child with my mother in search of an ‘empty dress’ belonging to Charlotte Brontë. The conversations we had about the ‘empty dress’ on display have always captivated my imagination; the faded lace and fragile fabric of a dress for someone who was of tiny proportions has been an everlasting memory.

This series of work was presented as part of the MA final degree show exhibition at UWE, Bower Ashton, Bristol in summer 2009, when we recreated Charlotte’s dress from our memories and imagination.