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Mary Jane Sarvis One of a Kind Hand-Printed Couture Silk Caftan Dress
Dating back hundreds of years, block printing is one of the earliest technologies for creating textile surface design. The high level of skill required in even block placement and inking is astoundingly evident in this silk caftan by American painter and fiber artist Mary Jane Sarvis. With a client list that includes Elizabeth Taylor, Oprah Winfrey, and Carly Simon, Sarvis manages to pull inspiration from the deep design histories of both Asia and the Mediterranean, transforming them into something quite her own.
Unbelievably, this richly colored caftan began as piece of solid white silk. Sarvis begins by printing the silk on a padded table with blocks that she carved herself. The metallic inks that she uses in this stage of block printing “last forever.” She then carefully hand paints the printed silk with small brushes, working from a palette of over 200 hues which are all from her own recipe. The dyes are then heat set, and the meticulously laid out pattern pieces are cut out and stitched together.
A sophisticated combination of Adriatic greens and flushed pinks are patterned into motifs that hint at Byzantine tile work. Placed with adjacent perfection along hems and the center front opening, the stately black and purple squares are elegantly filigreed with silver ink. A tight succession of satin covered buttons runs down center front, meeting with black silk satin loops. Flared sleeves have deep silk lining at the cuff. Sarvis notes that many notable clients have commented on the comfort of luxury garments like this. This garment can faithfully be described as a piece of art, and is perfect for the most formal of occasions.
Size estimate: XS/S
Shoulders: 17 inches
Sleeves: 25 inches
Bust, waist, hips: up to 46 inches
Length: 48 inches
This hand-printed silk caftan by American artist Mary Jane Sarvis represents the rarest of finds. Made from hand carved blocks and meticulous hand paint techniques, the caftan is regal and refined. Unlined, the caftan drapes beautifully from the shoulders with generous but controlled flair at sleeve cuffs. The cuffs are lined with silk, providing a complete finish and protection from abrasion. Silk covered buttons provide closure at center front. High-quality vintage pieces like this are yours to live in and love while increasing in value every year. It’s never too soon to start collecting them, as an investment in your wardrobe—and in yourself.