Stitching an Academician costume – 1st steps-


Emmeline Prévôt, well known on this website for her patterns, is stitching the costume of a new member of the renowned Academy of Arts (Paris). I thought it could be interesting to follow her in this project. So here is the first article … on the trousers!


Note – The Academy of Arts was created in 1816 to defend and protect the artistic heritage of France, to develop international contacts and new forms of art, to look after the quality of artistic courses in the country, all the while respecting the diversity of artistic expressions.

Gérard Garouste wearing the costume stitched by Emmeline Prévôt © Emmeline Prévôt
The drawings © Emmeline Prévôt

How did this unusual order come to you?
I work sometimes with a tailor whose specialty is academicians’ costumes.
I have already worked on Gérard Garouste’s costume (500 hours!). This time, the tailor asked my help as the candidate wanted a different embroidery pattern as the other members. He wanted a more realistic design. But this is not the only thing that will make this costume stands out from the others.
Note: Gérard Garouste is a French painter, engraver and sculptor born in 1946. He was elected to the Academy in December 2017.

What are the usual guidelines?
The guidelines date from Napoleon the 1st. The main motif is a garland of olive leaves in 4 shades of green. The olive tree symbolises immortality, which is perfect for the Academicians (Note: in France, the academicians are nicknamed the Immortals). These guidelines leave us with a wide latitude for creativity.
We were supposed to have finished by the end of April, but with the pandemic we have no clue on when the welcoming ceremony will take place. The Institut de France, where the Academy holds its meetings, is closed until further notice and for now we have to keep the name of the future candidate secret!

Organizing the work © Emmeline Prévôt
In the centre, the work in progress ; on both sides, you can see what more traditional drawings look like © Emmeline Prévôt

How was the work on the trousers?
Actually, the candidate himself created the drawings. He also chose the shades of green. Traditionally, each leave has 2 colours. This time we decided for a more uniform shading to give the leaves a more realistic aspect. I created a sample so the candidate could visualize his project better.

We had to make a major change. Usually, the embroideries are stitched on a band of fabric which is then sewn on the trousers. But this time the pattern chosen was impossible to be stitched separately: I had to stitch them directly on the trousers. The tailor decided to forgo the pocket (usually in order). He took the client’s measures and cut the fabric. It was a thin, fluid one. As the stitches are quite robust I had to change my technique or the fabric would not have been able to hold them. I used Haute-Couture assembling method. To reinforce a thin fabric, embroiderers usually use a backing one. Here it was impossible so I used organza worked on the bias. I had to avoid any strong tension and work delicately to prevent any gathering. The legs are worked symmetrically.

Which stitches did you use?
I chose satin stitch over cotton and card padding. Everything is stitched by hand, on the right side of the fabric. I used scientific needles (used for holding dead insects). I still have an old stock (they are not made anymore). They are made thinner around the eye so the thread gets less damaged when passing through the fabric. I used Silk Perlé from Au Ver à Soie.
We are now starting on the jacket – Which we will talk about in a future article.

The tacking worked diagonally © Emmeline Prévôt
One leg… © Emmeline Prévôt
… and two © Emmeline Prévôt

On this website, you can purchase some embroidery patterns created by Emmeline Prévôt :

The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire