It is almost impossible to document how much work goes into some of my bigger creative projects. Much of the time I use to make is in the evenings, on weekends, and those days when the kids are busy working outside… I was excited to be interviewed by a local journalist about the garments I have entered into Cult Couture this year (watch this space!) and she was interested in ‘how long it takes to go from the original idea to the finished product’. This is probably the most asked question I get… don’t know why, perhaps because we often calculate value by measuring time? I don’t know.
If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know photographic documentation plays in important role in my work, both to record my ideas and revisions, and to record the process. Here are some photos of the process of making Coralline…
Initially, I draped the woven mat to learn about how it lends itself to my idea. I discovered how beautifully the weave just wanted to be pleated and folded, it had a very strong structural look and feel.
I used traditional weaving techniques to make this mat, gently folding the ends into the back of the mat to finish the edges. I would certainly have to strengthen that edge if I was going to be able to make it into a wearable garment that would withstand wear and movement. With meters and meters of delicate hand woven mat to sew…. I was lucky to be able to use my regular sew fun venue to really spread out and machine the edges.
With the edges secure I was able to play around more with my ideas. I experimented with various draping designs before I resolved the look I was after.
These photos show a version I created without cutting the mat, not cutting the mat would limit the garment more that I wanted, it also added a huge amount of bulk to the finished garment. I would probably also have to pin the dress on the model! Not ideal.
I enjoyed playing with some asymmetrical shapes. After swooning over Alexander McQueen’s fabulous final collection I was inspired to try some bolder shapes, here experimenting with a peplum look.
I loved this look.
Loved it. It presented some interesting asymmetrical shapes and chunky folds at the back which added too much bulk and weight for the bodice to support. I would probably also have to hand sew the whole thing together, and honestly, that would destroy my hands. The plastic is very thick and I had to wear sturdy thimbles to hand sew the bodice, and I broke to many needles to count!
It also used the bulk of the width of the fabric, there by shortening the skirt dramatically, and I wanted something that would fill the space and sweep the floor as it moved. Back to the drawing board…
The final silhouette I went for is this, a simple slim bodice with a dropped waist, and big box pleats. I made a boned bodice (for the first time!) using cotton and some repurposed satin from a bridal project, shaped, folded and pinned the woven fabric to the boned bodice, then carefully hand stitched together. This was also one of the most harrowing parts of the project, as it had to be perfect. The garment is test pinned above, and it actually took two attempts to attach the skirt to the boned bodice, about three layers of cotton in the bodice, and another three layers of the plastic woven fabric.
Yes, I broke my sewing machine needles! No, I don’t really want to be attempting this kind of sewing again unless I can use an industrial machine! Very slow going, very hard work for my old machine. But I was very happy with the results. Check out the pleats!
Some words on the inspiration behind this garment…
A shimmering fantasy fashioned from post-consumer waste, the fabric used to create this garment is woven out of plastic Foodtown bags, collected in 2004, woven into one continuous piece of material, which will probably outlive the fabric lining of the bodice!
Coralline embodies my love of dress making, celebrating my whakapapa… my mother, and grandmothers, and their creativity. It is this that has inspired my own journey into dress making, fashion and an obsession with fabulous textiles.
Structurally, it is an homage to two of my favourite designers, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen artists who embodied luxury, excess and the extremely refined and sculpted female silhouette.