Lace tattoo evening dress

Every year the most watched TV program in Finland is the president’s Independence Day Reception. In 2015 Kristiina Salonen, a member of Finnish parliament (2011-2023), ordered an evening dress from me and dress designer Laura Hannula. Salonen gave as her full trust to make whatever we would see fit. But as she values recycling and reuse a lot she offered the fabric of her 2011’s evening dress to be used in this project. Together with Laura we decided to take that as a starting point to our design.

For the dress we planned a theme from the history of Rauma, which is one of the oldest towns in Finland (established as a town already in 1442, though people of course had been living here way before that). Sailing had been essential through the history and sailors were in the center of it. Sailors’ tattoos used to be very recognizable in the old times.

From this the core of the dress would be a bobbin lace tattoo imitating the sleeve tattoos. It covers the right hand almost fully and continues up to the shoulder and a little to the upper back on the right side. I designed the lace to have stereotypical illustrations from the sailors’ tattoos, such as a mermaid, an anchor, a seagull and a reef knot. Together we dyed the lace to depict real life sailors’ tattoos.

All photos by Hans Lehtinen.