Styled Shoot ‘City Burlesque’: behind the scenes on a photoshoot day

duke of york steps purple wedding coat and teal petticoat

August 2016

London, shot on The Mall, Horse Guards Parade and Brick Lane

Jess (photographer) and I (dress design) know each other from way back, we met at an acting club! When we bumped into each other quite randomly at a soft play centre, each with toddlers in tow, we agreed to work together on something before the summer was out. We both wanted to do something a bit edgy, not your usual “woodland wedding, soft pastels” shoot, which are done to death these days! I remembered I had some gorgeous purple silk on a roll back at the studio, half an hour on pinterest and some dress ideas followed and we had our theme!

Below: pinterest mood-board for the shoot

original dress design by Felicity Westmacott off the shoulder wiggle wedding dress

Original design sketches for the dress and coat.

original wedding coat dress design by Felicity Westmacott

We chose the colours, Cadbury purple, rich ivory and touches of gold to bring out the glamour in the theme and compliment our model’s beautiful skin. If we’d had the time to go the ‘whole hog’ with table settings and stationary too, be sure they’d have been a lot of peacock feathers!

back of camera sneak peek wedding dress coat purplelondon eye photoshoot early morning lightstyled shoot behind the scenes shoes and skirt

Above and below: the same moment from two different angles, through the lens of our official photographer and from my own camera! I think I had better stick to making dresses!

made with love leather shoe soles made to measure

Creating a dress design for a City Burlesque theme was fabulous fun. The dress needed to have a vintage, showgirl feel and be really sexy but still realistic as a bridal dress, not many people actually get married in a leotard and feathers! The wiggle skirt with a boned bodice hit all these marks showing off our lovely model, Vanessa’s curves and cinching her waist. I added a teal net petticoat that would show when the high/low hem moved and delicate gold lace detail with Swarovski crystals for showgirl glamour!

vneck wedding dress full skirt cadbury purple silk

The coat is made in striking Cadbury purple silk dupion with a vintage 1950’s off the shoulder collar neckline. Demure, elegant and still very sexy. The sweeping skirt and train mean than even with a short dress this bride gets to SWEEP into the ceremony and swoosh up the aisle. It also means she can do ‘the big reveal’ burlesque style without actually taking off her dress!

We chose our locations to showcase both sides of our beloved London Town, the city of our hearts! We started the day on The Mall, near Buckingham palace at 5.30am to avoid too much many people being around and got some greats shots just across the road at Horse Guards Parade too. The morning light was so beautiful and meant Jess could capture some really atmospheric images.

Horse guards parade London wedding mini top hat and off the shoulder collar

brick lace photoshoot wedding dress graffiti alternative

Some of us were more nervous than others about the guerilla style of our shoot in London. But we did our research first and confirmed you really don’t need any permissions to take pictures on the street, so long as you don’t create an obstruction and have permission to publish from everyone shown in the pictures.

paper flower andpeacock feather corsage by muscariwhitesshoulder corsage bridal detail inspiration

Michelle of had created the most amazing bouquet for us with orchids, feathers and trailing colour. She also surprised us with an extra creation, one of her amazing paper corsages. She christened this style the ‘burlesque’ corsage in our honour and we loved the way it could be worn so many different ways, with the larger part placed as a traditional corsage and the ‘echo’ over your shoulder, or in your hair! It’s amazing how these details can bring a theme to life and take it beyond what we’d originally planned.

black african skin tone wedding makeup beauty

Jen made the mini top-hat and elegant calla-lilly headdress using fabric to match the dress.

Jen says “This photoshoot was unusual for me because it allowed me to be a bit naughty and creative making shapes when making the headpieces; for the purple hat I didn’t just want to do a traditional straight mini top hat, I wanted to make one more unique with curves. So the brim is actually one of my mini button hats I have turned upside down and cut & wired & the crown of the hat I blocked or made using a glass candle holder that had the right curvy shape, so when put together the shapes are a bit more sweeping & striking.

bespoke shoed bridal ivory gold and teal leather

And Marsha’s bespoke shoes (she sent us three pairs as they all seemed ‘right’!) completed the picture. All the details matter and without the perfect accessories no bride can feel complete!

Marsha says “The gold peep toes fit the burlesque theme beautifully. With a hint of gold for decadence and glimpse of flesh from the peep toe. For the traditional something blue I created a beautiful pair of heels with contrasting textures of patent and suede with gold straps.”

team in the cafe

After a break for coffee and breakfast (with poor Vanessa in full bridal get-up in a local Costa) we headed back out. A change of hair and makeup, by the talented Charlotte, perfectly suited the new location, Brick Lane, with it’s graffiti backdrops and cobbled streets. A random shopping trolley we found made carting all our gear and the coat (when not being worn) much easier, though we had to abandon it again eventually. We finished just before midday with cake in a cafe and winding down.

city wedding ivory silk dress graffiti bridgeSome of us shared a taxi back to the flat where Vanessa had got ready, and on the way we were already firing out ideas for our next collaborative shoot (Titian Red anyone?), watch this space!

Some behind the scene shots from the shoot day:bride with a shopping trolley behind the scenes photo

brick lane photoshoot trolley bag lady

The other side of the camera is less glamorous, here is me with the trolley of paraphernalia on brick lane!


Photography by Jess Partridge

Dress design and creation by Felicity Westmacott,

Make-up by Charlotte Light 

Flowers by Michelle Knibbs

Model Vanessa Asare

Bespoke shoes by Marsha Hall

Hair accessories by Jen Levet

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Felicity Westmacott

I write about all aspects of weddings, dressmaking, fashion history, and the human relation to clothing. I welcome comments and debate.

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Dorking, RH4 1RT241 High Street• Visit the Studio •
Dorking, RH4 1RT241 High Street• Visit the Studio • 07762 543230TOUCHGet in