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!