Nasturtium Blouse

by Leigh Reveley

Our latest design planted itself in my subconscious about seventeen years ago. It all started with this one piece of fabric I would see out of the corner of my eye at my studio. Every day. Every damn day for the DECADE that I did Textile restoration. It was unceremoniously shoved in between stacks of fabric from the 30s and 40s, scraps we collected for repairing quilts. It was white with the faintest of gray stripes and orange and green Lantana blossoms. 

It was ALMOST a dress- a little 1940’s day dress, the darts and gathers were stitched, but the top and bottom were attached with rusty straight pins- an unfinished piece that haunted me- who was the woman who made this 70 years ago and then just discarded it? What was her life like? Did she have pincurls in her hair, watching her kids out the screen door? And this fabric is PRETTY, it is hard for me to imagine anyone just quitting on it. What happened? I would let my mind wander, thinking about her story while I repaired tapestries and lace veils.

I guess twelve years is my threshold because twelve years after I first saw it, two years after I’d left the studio, I just broke down and asked if I could have it.  I am now the proud owner of an almost dress.

When Cricket and I were trying to find fabric for our boat neck blouse, I came across a more modern, vibrant version of it. Instead of Lantana, it is Nasturtium blossoms- still orange and green. To top it off, the green has a malachite thing to it- a continuation of my design stream of consciousness from our dyed malachite blouses for St. Patrick’s Day. It was perfect. AND ORGANIC.

And the almost dress? It’s almost a blouse. After cleaning up the rust from the pins and damage due to age, there was less fabric to work with, just enough for a lovely little silhouette from the 40s. I will post pics when I finish it.

Libellule's Nasturtium Blouse and Summer Skirt are available at Peony Nola at 2240 Magazine St. in New Orleans.

Summer of Stone

by Leigh Reveley

          Summer of 2016 has been a summer of marbling for Libellule. we are pleased to announce that our new hand marbleized silks are now available at Peony.

          One summer when I was about 15, my whole family lost their minds over paint. To the chagrin of our neighbors, my mother paid my friend Laura and me to paint every ring on the outside of the Victorian “painted lady” we lived in a different color. One of the neighbors pointedly told us he no longer needed coffee in the morning, he just looked across the street. My stepfather learned to stipple brush our kitchen cabinets in a beautiful blue. Although the paint job on the house was tempered down to more neutral colors, the bright blue cabinets are still in use.

My heavily painted house c. 1994

My heavily painted house c. 1994

            The fireplaces and the indoor columns, she left to a genius painter who specialized in faux- marble. He was able to slyly paint all of our pets into the marble- even down to our goldfish. They watch us celebrate family gatherings like hidden talisman.

      The fireplace downstairs was done in traditional grey, ivory and peach tones. The fireplace in the master bedroom was a little more bold, malachite in bright shades of green. I think this must be where this obsessive aesthetic started.

            I have always loved interesting marble, real or faux. I often sneak into the gemstone exhibition at the Museum of Natural Science here in Houston to gaze at the amazing color combinations provided by nature. The brighter the color, the better. Crickett pulls images of natural gemstones for inspiration- they are all over our pinterest accounts.

            I took a class on dying techniques when I was in school at FIT. Out of all of the techniques: shibori, gutta resist, ombre; hand marbleizing silks was always my favorite. It is a ton of prep work- days, of prep work, in fact, but the act of dye spreading out and making patterns is so zen-like, it is worth the sore arms and dyed fingertips.

           Crickett actually got a little addicted to it. Once we got started, she loved it. We started with a few small samples to figure out our color and pattern combinations, and then we built a large vat to produce fabric for our signature blouse. They are available at Peony on Magazine Street this summer, and more to come in fall!

           Our next adventure in marbling is a going to require a VERY large vat- as we will be making dresses for Fall 2016. We may even have some malachite, in honor of my adolescent summer of paint.

I Love Your Style

by Leigh Reveley

                One of my favorite things to do is to meet a friend for lunch. It is a nice break in the day and a way to feel connected again after long periods of working solo. I especially love it when that lunch partner is a fellow designer. Hence a few weeks ago, over a delicious dill salmon dish, I asked my friend Ella if she read any good books lately. She responded with two: “Creative Confidence” and “I Love Your Style.” After a brief description, I decided I needed to read, “I Love Your Style”- a book about “How to Define and Redefine Your Personal Style.”

                I figured reading this would help me look like less of a slobby mess, or a constant yoga class attendee (which I am not- just fond of yoga pants).  After deciding this, I promptly forgot about it.

                Two days later, I was back in New Orleans, cutting fabric at our Libellule studio when I went to reach for my drink on the mantel. Lo and behold, what was standing up behind my beverage? The book- like a lightning bolt to my eyes from some unknown spiritual enforcer of fashion. It had been sitting there, apparently, for over a year. An acquisition from Crickett, who frequently infuses our workspace with visually beautiful books. What did I do? I swiped it and read it in two days.

                Here is what I found out: the author, Amanda Brooks, lays out 6 classifications of style. The three definable styles are: Classic, Bohemian, and Minimal. The three indefinable styles (although she has defined them?) are:  High Fashion, Street, and Eclectic.

Classic style is style that never goes out- it is full of wardrobe pieces that look in style no matter what decade it is, or whether it was your grandmother’s, mother’s or daughter’s clothing. Think Brigitte Bardot in her Breton Sailing Top (blue and white striped boat neck top), Audrey in her little black dress, Jackie O. in a trench coat.

Bohemian Style is defined by the movement of the clothes-they flow, they move with you, you can dance and climb in them. They are modern day gypsy. Think of the Olsen twins in their peasant blouses, Jimi Hendrix in his vests, Frida Kahlo in her patterned skirts.

Minimal Style is all about maintaining a sense of balance. In the words of the minimalist guru, Calvin Klein, “It’s an indulgence in superbly executed cut, quiet plays of color tones and clean strong shapes.” One of the best known minimalist style icons is Carolyn Besette Kennedy, with a penchant for wearing long simple, elegantly cut sheath dresses in a monotone color, she even kept this style for the one day when women style splurge- her wedding day. Another example is Angelina Jolie, who rarely sports bold color, but prefers black clothes in very flattering proportions.

High Fashion is style that is taken further than the average person would feel comfortable taking it. It requires self-knowledge, nerve, and a creative spirit. The person I most identify with in this category is probably Dita Von Teese. Not only will she show up with an amazing dress, she will top it with a hat, shoes and handbag to die for. A close second for me would be Chloe Sevigny, who has always had a fearless sense of dressing herself.

Street Style is inspired by urban living. These are the people walking the streets who inspire designers, not the other way around. Think about the first images of MTV from the eighties, and this is what I think of when I think of street style. Madonna with her ripped leggings and military jackets in “Desperately Seeking Susan” comes to mind. Rock stars like Debbie Harry and Keith Richards also make me think of this style- it is bold and unapologetic and both intentional and not intentional.

Eclectic Style is a mixing together of styles in such a way that is completely unique and original. A successful eclectic look is evidence that the wearer possesses true personal style. Immediately, Kate Moss pops up in my head was the absolute queen of eclectic style, she is always mixing and matching casual with elegant, vintage with punk, and looking exquisite doing it.

                What Am I? Classic, with sub-categories of French and vintage. If I could dress like Brigitte Bardot every day of my life, I would- complete with bed hair and sex kitten eyes. I have been dressing up more since I read this book. Admittedly, I feel better when I dress up.

                 I now know that one of my biggest obstacles in entering my closet and coming out stylish is that I have beautiful clothes that I do not feel are worthy of that particular day… so, now that I am “stylish” I have a new issue to deal with: making my days worthy of my outfits….

Merchant of Happiness

by Leigh Reveley

          My mind plays tricks on me. I have a memory so surreal and important that I doubt myself that it ever happened. Whenever I am in doubt about why I do what I do, or have an existential crisis, or have to give an answer in an interview, this is the memory I go to. And yet, it is so unbelievable to me that a few weeks ago, I had to ask my mother whether or not this really happened, or whether I made it up in my mind because I wanted it to be true.


         The memory is of me, at the tender age of eleven, running my fingers and eyes over the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was soft, and shiny and ethereal and I probably should not have been allowed to touch it. The damage was done, however. I knew then that I wanted to created beautiful things. And when I search deep down in my soul and doubt why I am here on this earth, I come back to the same answer, “to create beauty.”

             What was it? An original Dior “Junon” Dress, the fourth and final one ever made in 1949.


              Was the memory real? “Absolutely,” my mother reassures me. She even gave me the background story.

                When I was eleven, my mother was working at the Presbytere at the Louisiana State Museum on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. She had a tiny little office overlooking St. Louis Cathedral and she had been commissioned to curate an exhibition of Mrs. Robert Newman’s private collection of Dior couture, which was extensive. The exhibit was called, “Dior, Merchant of Happiness.”


                Claire Newman was a character, to say the least. The staff at the museum  kept an extra beer in the fridge because she had beer with lunch, this was standard. She was born Claire Poe in Florida, and grew up as a statuesque debutante with blonde hair and long legs. She was featured on the cover of “Life” Magazine during war time to cheer up the troops. It is on this magazine cover that New Orleans’ own Robert Newman found her and knew he had to marry her. She moved to the crescent city where she fit in with its’ easy, wild antics like she was born there.

dior claire poe.jpg
dior claire poe2.jpg

                She was a very good client of Christian Dior and when she saw his Junon dress, she knew she had to have it. He made four Junon dresses total, and swore that he would not make another. They were intricate and couture, with thousands of hand sewn beads. Claire begged and begged and wore him down. He said that he wasn’t willing to make another dress, but that if she fit into the sample model, she could have that one. As luck would have it, she did. I like to think that she wore it to the Rex ball that year and “out shined” the queen, but I have no such confirmation.

                She was known for asking Dior to re-make his fashions for her, and not just things she saw on other people and coveted, but things from her own collection that would get ruined or disappear during her shenanigans in New Orleans. One story involves the fairgrounds and a certain black velvet Dior dress in which she “raced” on the sandy track after throwing back a few too many at the races.

dior my.jpg

                A second story involves the “My, Oh My!” Club out on Lake Ponchatrain. She was sporting an incredible leopard skin chapeau by Mr. Dior, and having a merry old time, when a drag queen came up to her table, asked if he could try her lovely hat on and ran out the door with it on his head. She called Dior’s Office the next day and explained that his hat was so popular that it was stolen off of her head by a transvestite  and could he please make her a replacement. He laughed and said, “of course.”

                The Junon dress is still as relevant and beautiful as it was in 1949 and has been re-invented by John Galliano in his 2010 Spring Couture collection and by Zuhair Murad for Miley Cirus for the 2009 Oscar Awards.

dior galliano.jpg
dior murad.jpg

                And it is why I create beautiful things. I think beauty is healing and I think beauty makes you feel more alive. There is something about using the energy that is in my hands to create something. I prefer to sew by hand with incredible intent and detail rather than sending a simple design off to be mass produced by a manufacturer. And I think it all started with this dress. Actually, I know it did.


Not Myself Tonight

by Leigh Reveley


It is Halloween, and it is flooding. Hence, there is plenty of time to blog, as opposed to constructing my Halloween costume that is sure to get ruined in the torrential downpour predicted for this evening.  I’ve dispersed some of my favorite costume images throughout this blog from my lovely cocktail table book, “Bals”.

Lee Radziwill en masque

Lee Radziwill en masque

 Costuming has been around longer than Halloween, originally related to ritual and religion, it has been around since the beginning of time.  Halloween has its’ origins 2,000 years ago in Celtic Europe. The Celtic New Year was called Samhain and Halloween was the night before, Samhain eve. On Samhain eve, spirits were traversing the earth on their journey to the afterlife. The Celts would wear costumes to confuse the spirits and avoid possessions. They would frequently cross-dress or dress like ancestors long dead in order to have the upper hand over the travelling spirits.

I am relieved that nowadays costuming is more fun and festive than trying to save your soul from possession. It is an opportunity for an individual to try on a new hat, step into the shoes of a new person, and let down their inhibitions with the perfect excuse: “I’m not myself tonight.” There is always excitement and revelry at a costume party, with guests all trying to outshine one another.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

There is certain joy in inventing and making one’s own costume, complete with makeup and hair. I have many friends who have said that getting ready for the costumed event was much more fun than the event itself. Hours primping in front of the mirror, gluing on false eyelashes while dancing- a challenge if there ever was one.

Brigitte Bardot as a belly dancer

Brigitte Bardot as a belly dancer

In years past, a trend started in which women would use the excuse to dress super promiscuous for the evening, with no need for an excuse- it’s a costume! In fact, it was almost a given that you would see more of your friends’ flesh than ever before. Events such as “saints and sinners” and “Angels and devils” became very popular… and who can forget my friend Adam’s annual  “ho, ho, ho!” charity party where everyone dressed like a (you guessed it) “Ho”… except for the year that adam got engaged and at his fiance’s request took the “ho” out of the Christmas party.. Funny, no one sent me the memo and I was the only one in costume that fateful night.

No matter.

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In recent years, there has been a new  trend, though. As opposed to wanting to have the sexiest costume, individuals want to have the wittiest costume at a party, poking fun at current events or internet memes. I expect to see a grumpy cat or two tonight, albeit a soaking wet grumpy cat.

 And then there are those individuals who combine the sexy and the witty. Like my friend Kacey. Me: “Kacey, what are you going to be for Halloween?”

Kacey: “A sexy Tiny Tim”

Me: “Of course… What else?”

The book from which these fabulous photographs came can be purchased here:

And now I must go fish my cat woman headpiece from storage for my costume themed barre class. No lie.