The story of… the S/S 16 finale dress

How Karen Elson embodies Elizabeth I

The GILES S/S 16 Tudor-inspired collection took Elizabeth I as its muse and Banqueting House, where the London Fashion Week show was held, as its spiritual home. When beginning to design the collection, Deacon thought of Karen Elson for his contemporary embodiment of the flame-haired queen and decided to create the last look specifically for her.

“I have known Karen since 1998 and worked with her many times,” says Deacon of the legendary model, who walked for GILES’ debut LFW show back in 2004. “She was my first choice because I knew she would look fantastic and also have the confidence and character to work a dress like that. She and Erin (O’Connor) made the show finale a truly memorable one.”

The darkly romantic, intricately constructed floor length gown took over two months to plan and create. After initial sketches, patterns and prints were developed, the painstaking process of handcrafting the couture piece commenced. It started with a corset and petticoat made up of more than 80m of net. Next the pleated laser cut panels were formed from cotton coutil covered in printed silk gazar and stiffened with over 20m of metal boning. A skirt and front bodice formed the foundation for seven pairs of 3D elements made from 40m of satin organza. After a fitting with Karen, the last flourishes and stitches were completed 24 hours before the evening show.

On cue, she glided into view and proceeded to rule the catwalk in the dramatic look, its jagged hems, pearl prints and sculptural additions imbuing Karen with a seriously sovereign attitude. The Virgin Queen would most certainly have approved.

Photography Siobhan Bailey Taylor