Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Finished! Photos.


It also flows really nicely in the breeze!
I made a little belt to go with it because I was worrying it would turn out too sack-like, but I actually prefer it without.

Sarina's pleased with it, she hasn't seen it finished yet, unfortunately she won't be able to until tomorrow (hand in), but she was very positive about the photos I sent while it was only partially finished.  She thought I'd followed her concept, and the lines of the period well.  She also warned about puckering, and I know there is a bit of that along the waistline.  It's a little frustrating, as I was very careful with it, and used tissue paper underneath.  Overall though, I think my stitching's pretty reasonable for such a tricky fabric.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Back to work!

Righto, work placement done and dusted, now back to work!  We've been given a deadline extension, so I'm feeling less stressed about getting this all done in time now.  I'm also feeling pretty good about myself at the mo, I just got some glowing feedback from the people at Prangsta Costume!  Apparently I've proved to be one of their 'most competent and reliable' work experience students, and, coming from a company that takes on about 400 students a year, that's quite a compliment!

I've been having issues with some of my emails not getting through to Sarina (outlook apparently doesn't like big pictures), but we seem to be on the same page at last.  Here's the flyer for the exhibition my dress is going to used in.  I'm not entirely sure how the design relates to Brighton, but the pressure's on now to get it to that museum quality standard!

Sarina's planning on making a shawl to go with the dress too.  I'll be taking it into uni on monday for her to see, so the plan is to have it completely sewn up by then.  We can then discuss whether it needs beading detailing or not, and I can find out more about this shawl.  Now that the deadline's not til wednesday, I might just have time to put in the beading before Hand In.  We'll see.

I've been working on putting my Supervisor's Bible for the Circus Project together whilst I've been in London, but that still needs a few finishing touches before wednesday too.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Off to London..

I’m a bit annoyed at myself for not being further along with the dress than I am now.  I’ve come to London to do my second work placement, so I’ve only got a weekend left on the dress, and it’s still in two pieces.  I know PoP managed to eat into much more of my time last week than I’d originally anticipated, but it’s still frustrating to know that I’ve got all that work sitting at home waiting for me when I get back.
The second half of this unit has really been about organising my own time perfectly, so I could be at a comfortable stage before my placement, and I’ve only managed that so-so.  I can still be finished for hand in, but there’s not a lot of space there for mistakes, I need to be really regimented with my time in that final weekend to get this dress up to the standard I want it.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Dress Design

Here's the design I've decided to go with for my dress, as well as a few other ideas I had a play with along the way.  Typical me, I've gone for the most complicated one there, but I've fallen in love with the criss-crossing panels and the way it perfectly works with the zigzag waist.  It also reminds me a little of the sunbursts that Sarina was referencing at the start of the project, so that's always a plus!

Of course it does mean that my ingenious plan to cheat bias cutting by keeping all my sewing lines on the straight grain has been scuppered somewhat.  Never mind though, I always like a challenge!  Making sure these seams are immaculate is going to be one heck of a job..
I haven't yet decided whether to use the same design on the back of the bodice or to possibly get rid of the silk diamond shapes on the back, so theres just the crepe, and the draping silk sides - as in the drawing.  We'll see how I feel after I've gotten the front sewn up.

Other designs:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


I found some gorgeous fabric to go with the silk today.  I went up to Birmingham with my mum and my aunt and a lot of fabric-buying ensued!  The stuff I found is a really lovely drapey fabric that really compliments Sarinas silk.  It has a slightly more 'camel' tone to it, and a crepe-like texture that's fabulous next to the smooth sheen of the silk.  I'm not positive as to the fabric type, but I'll refer to it as crepe from now on for simplicity's sake.  It was only £7.99 a metre too, which was fab, considering I would have been wlling to pay upwards of £15 for a good quality fabric.  I ended up getting about 6 metres worth, so plenty to play with!

I'm now working on adapting the dress design so that the two different fabrics mesh well together.  It's proving quite a challenge to work things out so that I don't need more silk than the 2 metres I actually have.

Friday, 8 April 2011


Here's how my toile's looking right now:

It's not completely sewn up, but you get the jist.  Generally I'm happy with the shape.  The squares need to be larger though, as it's too short, and the drapey armholes need some work too.  I've also come to the conclusion that there's too much fabric in the side skirt panels, so I'm going to cut a quarter out of the square when I do my final piece.
The neckline also needs a different finishing, as the slipstitching from the bias binding shows through on the right side of the fabric.  Will have to mull things over.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Development: Sarina's dress

I've gotten to the point where I'm happy with the basic design in 1/2 scale now, so I'm going to scale up the pattern and sew it in full size this week.  I'm trying it out on a greenish-grey silk first, as a sort of toile, before moving onto the nice expensive silk Sarina wants me to use for the final piece.  We're not certain exactly what we'll do with it though, as she only has two metres, and I've managed to design it with a masses of fabric in the skirt.  She has some grey/silver silk that we might be able to use with it, and make the tonal contrast a feature.
For the time being I'm going to sew up my toile, and then we'll have a better idea of how much fabric's going to be involved.  I had intended to use a crepe back satin for my toile at first, but Dexter was concerned that it was too heavy a fabric for all the fullness at the sides, and would make it look clumpy, so I've opted for the green-grey silk instead.
The other issue we'll have to look at when the toile is done are the open sides. At the moment, in 1/2 scale, they are open right down to the waist - which is a nice feature, but maybe not appropriate in a wedding dress.  I talked about possibly making/sourcing a matching slip to go underneath, and Sarina also suggested that a couple of little buttons either side might work too. But once again we'll wait until I've got the toile sewn up before we make a final decision on that.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dance Waves: The show

I've just gotten back from a week's work placement at Les Mis, hence the lack of updates on how Dance Waves went.
The final dress rehearsal went very smoothly from a costume standpoint.  I arrived at Jacksons Lane Theatre at midday on the 28th March, and handed out the costumes I'd taken away with me to alter.  The reinforced seams held up, and we didn't have to deal with any new rips for the rest of the day.  Kaaianu's underarm gussets made a great improvement to the ease of her costume.  It was now slightly baggy just around the armhole, but this was a vast improvement on the tightness of the week before.
One of the parents requested that we shorten the tiger ears her daughter was wearing so that there wasn't so much weight causing them to slip, so I cut them down to size and sewed them back on to the headband.
We were still having issues with some of the ears coming off during the dancing, so Jodie and I went out and bought some kirby grips to keep them in place.  We wanted 4 grips for each child so they could be placed either side of each ear, so for the 38 children that required them we bought 135 (with a few spares).
The other problem that we dealt with was the horse ponchos.  The hoods kept falling off as the children ran round, so we needed to tighten the neck fastening.  We  did this by pleating inwards to the side seam either side of the fastening.  Our first thought had been simply securing each side with a safety pin, but we were both concerned about the safety hazard of pinning so close to the kids necks, so we opted for a few securing stitches instead.
This also meant cutting a new slit either side of the poncho for the childrens arms, as the old ones had been brought too far forward by the alteration at the front.
The show itself looked great.  There were a few mishaps with the music, and I noticed a couple of tiger/lion hybrids (Jodie and I weren't involved in the dressing so there were a couple of mix ups) but it all added to the overall charm, as the younger kids were all clearly bewildered by the whole thing anyway!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

More mini toile photos

I wanted to make the waistline lower, so these were the results:

Had a go at a barrel cut bodice, but it didn't really work out.

So I returned to my original bodice and extended it to drop the waistline.

Final mini toile!
I don't want my final dress to stick out at the sides so stiffly, but I think once it's sewn up in a nice drapey silk, it'll fall flat rather than stick out like that.  I'll start putting a normal sized toile together after my work placement, so I'll be able to see then.
I've really enjoyed having a play around with shapes and seeing how they change the garment.  I actually had to be quite strict with myself, as it would have been all too easy to go off on a tangent and spend the whole project faffing about with miniature toiles, rather than getting round to finalising a design!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Miniature Toiles

So here's what I've been up to:

Bodice based on the Madeline Vionnet dress referenced earlier.

How the skirt panels would fit together.

Exploring petal shapes.  I quite like this, although I prefer sticking with the squares for this project.

A bit too 'flamenco', but interesting to play about with.

I wanted to create more draping at the sides, so looked at doubling and quadrupling the panels used for the rest of the skirt:

Rectangle shape (double the squares used elsewhere)

Longer at sides too?

Creating loads of fullness with a square panel four times the size of the others.

Update (April 12th):  I thought I'd draw out some of the shapes I used to clarify things a bit..

Vionnet & other 1920-30s dresses.

My general design direction is currently based very heavily on this dress by Madeline Vionnet:

I've lifted the bodice pattern for my toiles directly from the pattern here, and am currently exploring various skirt panel shapes that I can use with it.
These are also food for thought:

Reflection - Circus Fittings

During and after rehearsal I had an interesting discussion with Jodie about the importance of keeping up a professional 'veneer' during times of crisis.  Lack of sleep, food, and an intensely stressful week getting everything finished in time had kept me on edge all day, so I found it quite challenging to be obliging and friendly to difficult parents when all I wanted was to have that project finished and out of my hair at last.
For the most part, I let Jodie deal with them, but it was insightful for me to see just how accomodating she was with them, despite the extra work it meant piling on for her.  It's easy to forget that, in a way, the manner in which you talk to the client is just as important as the actual work itself, as it's all about customer satisfaction in the end.

On the other hand,  I do think there's a fine line between being accomodating, and becoming a pushover, and there is a point at which you have to say 'no more'.  I think that if I hadn't had Jodie there to share the burden of the extra work, that point would have come a lot earlier for me, and I'd have had to politely decline, explaining my other work commitments to them.  I think that this would still have been a professional way to handle the situation.  After all, the parents who were difficult would simply have not thought of how much work had already been invested in making the costumes, and I think that they would have accepted a polite decline.  Necessary changes such as adding ties to hats that are falling off are all well and good, but adding thumbholes to a child's costume just because most of the others have them and he feels left out... really?

And I think there are plenty of other situations where this would apply as well.  Already in the little theatre experience I've had, I've come across jokes about the demands of actors, yet aren't we in danger of encouraging this behaviour by mollycoddling them too much with our 'professional veneer'?

I don't know, I think it's a tricky situation to get right, and I'm going to be monitoring my own behaviour in similar future situations to see how best to get the balance right.  I think the important thing is to approach the situation on a footing of equals, and to be able to decide impartially whether the expectations are fair.  After all, I'm too apt to pile on too much work for myself anyway, without taking it from other people as well!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Dance Waves: Dress rehearsal

That was a hectic day.  I arrived in London at about 10am, where I was joined by Jodie.  We made our way to her house where we sorted all the costumes into separate bags labeled with each child's name.  We then made our way to the rehearsal, which was at Queen's Park School in north London.
At the rehearsal a section of the school hall was given to each group of characters, so the parents were able to find the bag with their childs name on, and dress them themselves.

For the most part the bodysuits fit very well.  I'd worked with average measurements for each size so some were slightly too tight or too loose, but a perfect fit wasn't necessary for a project like this.
The only major fitting issue was with Kaaianu, one of the tightrope walkers.  I'd drawn up the XL sized block especially for her and another girl, butu it was still far too tight across the torso, causing the neck to stretch out towards her shoulders.  This meant I would need to insert some gussets either side to give it some ease.
The other issue at the fitting was some of the seams ripping.  When overlocking them together we hadn't thought of reinforcing any of the seams that get the most pull, and as a result there were a few holes appearing in the inner leg/crotch and armhole areas of some of the costumes.  In all I gathered about half a dozen costumes to take back with me and reinforce.
A tear also appeared in the front of Jade's costume, so this needed repairing too.

One of the tightrope boys complained of his ruff itching, which I'd expected, but hadn't had time to sew a more comfortable fabric binding along the neckline before the fitting, so this needed to be done.  The weight of the pom poms on the clown hats were making them slip, so we agreed to add on elastic ties to secure them under the chin.    In addition there were a few minor things to be sewn, such as putting a pompom back on its hat, and sewing up a thumbhole that had ripped open, but these could be done there and then.  One of the tutus was too large and kept slipping, but we decided that just securing it with a safety pin would be sufficient.

Once all the kids were in their costumes and rehearsing, we got to work on sewing the ears onto the elastic that Jodie had bought.  Galina's mother also helped us out by sewing the remaining horse ears onto the ponchos.

Since we had agreed that I would only be putting aside one day the following week for finishing the costumes, in order to get started on the 2nd half of my sdp unit, we divided up the work between us.  I was in charge of repairing all costume rips, and in altering Kaaianu's costume.  I would also be doing the ruff bindings, and getting the lion ears made up, which meant buying some felt, and extra elastic, as we soon found that Jodie had underestimated how much she'd need.  Jodie would finish off any of the other ears we didn't get done that day, and add elastic ties to the pom pom hats.  We actually made a mistake, as we'd forgotten to get all the clown unitards back after the rehearsal to add on the pompoms until it was too late, and they'd all left (all costumes that didn't need changes were to be held on to by the parents for the week), so that meant ditching that part of the design.  Of course, it meant less work, which is always a bonus, but it was a slight pity.

And now for pictures:

Tightrope walkers!
Lions & tigers prowling across the stage.
A couple of obliging tightrope walkers trying on the monkey ears for us.
Monkeys in foreground, clowns & tightrope behind.  All the animals will have ears for the actual performance.

Trapeze artists striking a pose.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

More info on Sarina's making project.

I spoke to Sarina again today. Unfortunately she'd left her design drawings at home, but was happy for me to take her initial thoughts and have a good play with them and my own ideas too.
We're not sure yet whether my dress will appear in Sarina's collection at Brighton Fashion Week, or on its own in an exhibition of local designers' work at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.  Basically, the fashion collection is all going to be based around a vintage silk dress that she picked up at a fair.  It has a v-necked sleeveless bodice with a zigzag cut waistline, and bias-hung square panels making up the skirt.  I shall have to get some photos when she next brings it in.
It was the zigzag waistline that's the starting point for my design.  Sarina wants me to make a below-the-knee wedding dress out of some silk she's already bought.  This week I'm going to have a bit of an experiment with a few shapes.  Square panels will be my starting point, but I'll also take a look at petal shapes, among others.
Sarina's original dress had the bodice cut on the straight grain (with the zig zag waist seams on the bias), but I shall probably cut it on the bias, so that the zig zags are straight-grained, and so won't become warped by the fabric panels hung from them (as we don't have time to stretch out the fabric properly first).  I will, however, look into both ways this week, so I'll come back to that later with my conclusions.

The reason Sarina wants a wedding dress made is due to a photoshoot she has planned for mid may, to build up her wedding dress portfolio for future commissions.  She's having trouble fitting it in with the rest of the fashion show, however, which is why it is possible that it'll be made with the exhibition in mind instead.  In either case, Brighton Fashion Week is running the 31st May-5th June, and the exhibition would also be from the end of May, and running through the month of June.  Both would be a fabulous chance for me to get my work into the public eye, and a great addition to my CV.  I'm also really pleased that Sarina's letting me have so much input into the actual design process, as designing is something I definately don't want to let go of, despite having specialised in making for my degree.  I have a little bit of an Orson Welles complex in me so this project is hitting all the right spots!

The general timeline I'm looking at is getting all my experimentation done this week, going away for my Les Mis work placement next week, then getting straight on with the actual dress the week after.  I really need to be completely focused with this project, as that week will be the only time I'll really have help from my tutors.  After that I'll need to spend the Easter Holidays getting my dress pretty much finished.  I might look into some sort of surface decoration.  Sarina mentioned art deco sunbursts last week, so they're a possibility.  We do want to keep the silhouette quite simple and elegant though, so I need to be careful about putting too much flounce into it.  The important part will be getting the cut absolutely perfect.  This needs to be a (potentially) exhibition-quality piece!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

In the Beginning...

I've been slightly delayed in starting up this blog, the reason being my involvement in an extra-curricular project; Dance Waves 2011 - Navigating Circus, in which I was responsible for supervising the making of the costumes for all 62 children performing.  Alongside supervising, I was also involved in miscellaneous other roles, such as pattern drafting, cutting, making, and dyeing, and was responsible for getting the costumes to London for their fitting during the dress rehearsal, which was today.

The overwhelming nature of this task proved my original plan for SDP impossible.  I had hoped to spend the unit exploring 1930s bias cutting with special reference to the work of Madeline Vionnet, but found that Dance Waves was cutting too severely into time that I should have been spending starting my research, so a compromise had to be found.

Thus, this unit will now consist of two parts.  The first will be my supervisory work for Dance Waves, supported by a detailed Supervisor's Bible with information and photos related to the making up and outcome of each design.
The second will be a making project; constructing a late 1920s style bias cut dress based on a design by Sarina Haskings but open to some interpretation.  The final dress will appear in a fashion event happening in June.  In this way I'll be able to draw on the knowledge I've already garnered from my initial research into Madeline Vionnet, whilst setting myself a project that can be more feasibly finished in the time available.

Most of the information I will post here about my Dance Waves work will be retrospective, as the bulk of it is now over.  My aim had been to get as much complete as possible for today's dress rehearsal, so I know just have about a full day's worth of work ahead of me left to finish things off before the actual performance, next sunday (27th March).  This means that this week I'll finally be able to turn my attention to the second part of my SDP.  Sarina is planning on bringing in her designs tomorrow, so I'll be able to get a clearer picture of what it is she wants then.

More information on both projects to follow!