Minnesota Woman Crafting Nearly 400-Pound Beaded Wedding Gown

Gail Be designs dresses using glass and crystal beads from around the world

ByABC News
November 19, 2014, 11:34 AM

— -- A 57-year-old woman who describes herself as a “visionary artist and designer and bead sculptor” has created a nearly 400-pound wedding gown in the most unlikely of places: a warehouse just outside of Minneapolis.

That is where Gail Be has spent the past three-plus years working with 23 other woman and nearly one million beads to create a wedding dress she hopes will end up featured in a movie and then a museum.

"It is a work of art,” Be told ABC News.

The first germ of an idea for the wedding gown began almost by accident nearly 13 years ago when Be created lacework that she thought she could “never make a dress big enough for.”

She put the design away until 2011 when she took it back out and, she recalls, someone told her, “That is the most beautiful piece I’ve ever seen.”

Be began designing the wedding dress around that piece of lace, which is now just a small fraction of the extravagant gown.

“I kept going and going,” Be said of the design, which has so far taken 20,000 hours to complete. “It’s in my warehouse and when it finally got to the back I stopped and said, ‘It’s done,’ and everyone got up and clapped.”

The dress boasts a 20.5-foot train constructed with seven miles of beading wire. The gown’s train includes 500,000 glass pearls and over 400,000 crystals, including vintage Swarovski crystals, according to Be.

“I was going for 250,000 beads. I thought that would be awesome,” Be said of the gown’s humble beginnings. “It blew my mind every time it was growing.”

Be has been beading for over 25 years and picked it up again recently, she says, after undergoing treatments for a degenerative eye disease that left her legally blind and an injury to her left hand.

“I don’t read patterns. I don’t draw. I don’t know how to sew. I don’t do mathematical equations,” she said. “I do this from the ground up and when the dressmakers ask where it’s going and I say, ‘How do I know? We’re only halfway through it.’”

Be scored a coup recently when Lady Gaga wore one of her designs – a headpiece named “Erotic Ice” – for the iTunes cover of "Anything Goes," her duet with Tony Bennett.

Bew has high hopes that the wedding gown will also make it in Hollywood and has hired an agency, Look LA, to help connect her with studios, costume designers, directors and producers.

“I want to work with people that have a limitless mind of what they want to do,” said Be, who financed the dress herself and did not have an estimate of the cost. “I want to be pressed to the depth of my creativity and I don’t think I can do that anywhere but movies.”

A former colleague of Be’s has been put in charge of providing the official count of the gown’s beads.

“She’s gone through and recounted the dress six times,” said Be, who noted the dress would surpass the current Guinness World Record but cannot be considered for the title because a Guinness official has not watched the three-year process from beginning to end.

“To just count this thing will take about two months,” Be said.

A professional weighing company from Wisconsin came to weigh the gown, which Be says is a size 4.