Studio II – Prompt III – Designing the Dress

As I worked through prompt II – Dying the Fabric I had plenty of time to sink into my feelings about this project and ask questions like what are my motivations? Why is this important to me? What am I trying to discover? Themes that kept popping up were femininity, softness, nature, using what we have, belonging, passion, love, joy as well as being gentle on myself, and trying not to put pressure on productivity and finding more value in thoughtfulness. And moving from prompt III to prompt III – Designing the Dress there was an emphasis on the feeling that I am not being productive enough coupled with a reminder that my experiences so far this semester have been proof that when I give more time to thought, planning and slowing down the result is stunning and they journey is much more pleasurable.

Moving into Prompt III I, once again, experienced hitting the wall with my process. It felt like my work was grinding to a halt. Again I wasn’t doing enough. During the first semester we had been encouraged to develop a daily practice and now I find I am constantly reminded of that incentive but, whereas that is probably really significant advise for some, for me it is possibly too close to home.

I knew I could just dive in and start making a dress. I have, after all, been holding the image of the dress in my mind since prior to prompt II beginning but I knew that this would just be the old me, acting on impulse, acting from what I have in my head before I put it on paper so I decided to collect images that are representative of the feelings that I am trying to invoke with this dress. This is a small selection of the images I accumulated but they are very representative of the greater collection. The main themes that appeared to me were water, nature, white (possibly wedding) dresses, partnership, couples, and more than one imitation of Ophelia in the lake. My relationship with my partner has been an intense experience over the past year. What we have been through together might have broken less detriment people ten times over but here we are, resolved not just to overcome but to explore, to experience and to do it together in wholeness. Not to say it means anything is ever easy but we aren’t taking our hard work for granted.

Looking at all these images I decided to just write down some of the words that were coming to me. I don’t know if it was an entirely useful exercise but I feel like for the purpose of documentation it is going to be important to keep a word cloud of those thoughts.

I wanted to recap what I had been working on and the fabric that I was intending to use for this prompt. I was concerned it wasn’t enough fabric so I started dying more. I decided, since I have to dye the fabric in bundles that I would use different fabrics to make different parts of the dress bringing them all together. I was pleased with the initial results but I very much enjoy dying fabric and I already had so much more prepared I felt more options wouldn’t be a bad bet.

Although I had the dress design in my head I felt like it was time to accumulate images of dresses with details I was interested in, Collecting all these images and making moodboards is very reminiscent of some work I do in film as an assistant costume designer and from that experience I greatly appreciate the value of being able to communicate the vibe to other people. I am just beginning to appreciate the importance of doing this for myself as well.

I found it hard to find images of eco printed silk dresses in the fashion I wanted to embody. I love the ones I found but they looked very rustic, hippie and deconstructed. I wanted to make something that looked simple but with no detail left forgotten, elegant and sophisticated yet natural and effortless so I collected images of both. I am certain I am not making something that hasn’t been done before but I did appreciate that something along these lines is hard to find online and it is the spaces between things I find the most interesting. Filing in those spaces only makes more things and mores paces for people to fill in with creativity.

While I was looking at inspiration images I felt like I wasn’t giving much credit to things I have already done that also inspire me. I grow from all my past projects and as a lingerie designer interested in eco printing I have produced a number of items before but I don’t feel like I have made something yet that would be worthy of the price tag it would be required to carry for me to justify the time I put into it and letting it go. Below is a bra that is a part of a lingerie set I made with eco-printed fabric. The bra was my favourite part. It’s not the first one I made but it was the only one I had available to photograph at the time. I have a nice little collection of eco printed silk I have done over the years I am waiting to turn into lingerie I didn’t want to add to the blog for the sake of space but I pulled it all out and went through it with my partner telling stories of how I dyed each one and the surprises I encountered along the way. I am still a very, very ammeter dyer.

Unfortunately the new dye batches didn’t turn out – AT ALL. I leaned into my avocado pits to create a nice grapefruit pink affect but got nothing! Nothing but some discolouration from soaking and simmering it in a pot of water. Luckily it isn’t a lots cause and I will be dying it all again with more cedar soaked in iron water. It turns out that I liked that effect the most in the end of all the fabrics I dyed for prompt II and would love to have more to work with.

At this time I also started sketching out some dress variations. I was hoping this would help me develop my concept into a surprising space but I found I was actually quite attached to the image I had been conjuring in my mind for so long. Each dress was a vague variation on the same theme. I really wanted to come up with something architecturally interesting and unique but ultimately all those ideas veered too far from my ideas of simplicity and sophistication in combination with the naturally printed fabric.

A little side note I am practicing drawing on my Ipad. I love the potential! But I am uncomfortable with the weight of the pen. I have a hereditary shake in my hands which would make me a disastrous tattoo artist but it is something I can compensate for when I am use to my implements. It is taking a long time to get use to the stylus.

There were a few design details I was feeling committed to but limited on time to execute. The main detail taking time being a hand smocked panel in the back. At one point I decided to just change the whole design, make a wrap dress that fits everyone and get it over with but realized this is the way I make design decisions in my company. Time IS money and if a detail takes me 10 hours to execute that is going to translate into big money. If I pay myself $20 an hour to do the work (which is half what I should be charging) I need to keystone mark it up to $400 for wholesale and $800 for retail so now a previously $300 dress costs $1100 at the store and that is unfortunately not the client base I have. The design I have chosen isn’t very different from every other design I tried but it brings the little details I love together in one. The simple little details.

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