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Art Gowns: Cecilia Lionheart

By Resa McConaghy:

What is an Art Gown?

I made the first Art Gown, "Strawberry Kisses," many years ago. My mom had passed away, and I was feeling like the world was no longer beautiful. So, I decided to make some beauty. I found a long piece of fine red jacquard silk in my fabric stash and went to work. As time passed, I continued the tradition of making beauty, which evolved into making treasure from trash.

The Art Gowns are made from repurposed items (i.e., taking old clothes apart), recycled fabrics (i.e., curtains), and anything up-cycled that I can get to work (I embellished one Art Gown with 300 wine corks). If I buy fabric, it's from bargain bins on the street, from the back of the store, or from yard or liquidation sales. I stick to around $2.00–$4.00 per yard. I also buy acrylic paint and fabric medium, as I actually paint some of them.

They are 100% sewn together by hand. No machines are involved.

As of today, there are 23 Art Gowns (Art Gown 24 is currently under construction). They all have names and personalities. Art Gowns are not garments per se, but can be fit to an individual and used for promotional photography or events.


Cecilia was one of my earlier Art Gowns, built in 2015. While my photography skills weren't as sharp then as they are now, I think this is an important topic, so I will post this anyway.

"Cecilia Lionheart" was made to honor the life of “Cecil the Lion” and to protest big game trophy hunting.

For those who don’t know, Cecil was a protected lion living on Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. An American dentist impaled Cecil with arrows. He took hours to die, leaving behind a large pride and several cubs.

Four years after murdering Cecil, the same hunter is believed to have paid £80,000 to hunt a giant ram in Mongolia.

Many books have been written about the heartbreaking tale of Cecil the Lion, though personally I could not buy one unless I knew the proceeds went to helping wildlife.

While I'm not preaching that we all need to go vegan, let’s all still put our best tail forward and treat the animals of our planet with humanity, respect, and dignity.


Cecilia is built of vintage men’s ties, from the 1970s. The thing about ties from the 1970s is that they are wide to the point of seeming funny now. Nevertheless, when opened up, there is a lot of fabric to work with.

A step ladder kept the ties organized, and all ties were visible at once.

I noticed that lions have a tuft of fur at the ends of their tails. Cecilia’s tuft-of-ties was made to be spectacular.

The detail that looks like stars is made from the bar of fabric on the back of a tie. It’s the piece you thread the narrow part under, to keep it in line.

In order for someone to wear this gown, a nude mesh souffle with memory stretch would be added. That would keep the bodice and plunging back in place. Figure skaters use this technique to create adventurous décolletage and dramatic backs.

Notice Mini-Cecilia peeking out of the greenery below; all she wears is a bow tie. This was the first time I thought of dressing up the sweet straw sculpture Elizabeth gave me at the end of shooting Highlander: The Raven. It is now an Art Gowns tradition.


An established costume designer in film, television and digital media, Resa McConaghy has worked on productions for Showtime, ABC, Disney, CBS, CBC, Hallmark, and more.

Her mission: to enable the articulation of character through wardrobe.

Take a look at Resa's other Art Gowns:

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