Shell’s dress – some very special fastenings

As much as I love the design of Shell’s dress, and all I have put into it, the most special touch, and the one that takes it from a gorgeous dress, to a spectacular, absolutely one-of-a-kind gown, isn’t my work.

It was my idea though.

Madame Ornata is a mutual friend of Shell’s and mine, and was very involved with the wedding.  She’s an incredibly talented seamstress and a truly gifted embroiderer, but was very busy in the run-up to the wedding, and with such a short timeframe it wasn’t practical for her to be part of the dressmaking, and the simple silhouette didn’t suit embroidered embellishments.

When native birds became the loose theme for the wedding, I had a brainstorm.  Maybe Madame O would be willing to embroider simple little bird motifs on the buttons up the back of the dress!

Now the buttons are very small – 9/16″ – so I really thought that if she could do anything more elaborate than the little double curves that kids draw to represent birds in the sky it would be really impressive.

Yeah.  Prepare to have your socks knocked off.

These are what she did:

A bevy of beautiful bird buttons

Perfect representations of New Zealand native birds, all worked in just over half an inch of fabric!

Here are some of the birds she did:

A female huia - our one extinct inclusion

A Missouri bluebird - a reminder of Shell's origins

A kereru (wood pigeon) to match the dress

A kōkako, a relative of the huia and the saddlback

A takahe - thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1948

A bellbird - unassuming except for their exquisite song

A tieke (saddleback)

A kakapo - 5-9lbs of roly-poly flightless parrot

A piwakawaka (fantail) - a common but enchanting native

A tui - common, cheeky, iconic imitators, called 'parsons birds' by early settlers

And finally, of course:

A little brown kiwi!

Aren’t they gorgeous?  Aren’t they adorable?  Isn’t Madame O amazing?!?

The best part of these is that Richard, Shell’s fiancee, got very interested and involved in them.  I think he may love Shell’s dress even more than she does!

I’ll show you a bit more of the buttons when I blog about the dress fastening in a few days.


  1. Wow! I was not wearing socks but if I had been they would definitely have been knocked clear across the room. Those are amazing.

  2. These are absolutely amazing! I especially love the kakapo; such a delightful, goofy yet highly endangered little (big) guy.

    (Found my way here via 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World.)

  3. Natalie says

    I was only slightly jealous before but this takes the cake. I want to be Shell.

    • Shell says

      Haha, I think that’s the first time anyone’s ever said that!

  4. so impressive and pretty! also I love kakapos! why does new zealand have such cute birds?

  5. Those are amazing! I love just about anything embroidered, but birds are by far my favorite things to see done–Madame O did a positively awe-inspiring job!

  6. Cornelia Moore says

    socks officially knocked off, Leimomi! I sent Laurel some pillows not much bigger with tiny butterflies and the like on them for her shadow boxes, and was over the moon with them, but I think they predate Madam O’s birth. possibly mine as well. those buttons are absolutely marvelous! what a priceless memento for the wedding! definitely a 15 on a scale of 1-10, lol! I love them!

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