Last year I made 4 dresses for an editorial shoot for Milk magazine. Each dress was made by hand and each involved different fabric manipulating techniques. I thought it would be fun to share some of the behind the scenes of the processes I used.
The shoot was produced by Brittany Watson Jepsen-- The House That Lars Built, and photographed by Chaunté Vaughn. I came on board very late in the process-- 10 days before the shoot, when they had a pretty solid concept in place already. Chaunté is quite an amazing artist in addition to being a great photographer, and she had already sketched ideas for 3 of the dresses, based on their concept. I felt like I understood the vision, and it was up to me to interpret and realize the essence of it in 3 dimensional form, and bring these ideas to life. And I had about 7 days to do it. Eeeek! I pulled it off, but-- spoiler alert, I used a lot of fabric glue.
So lets start with the flamingo. Each dress was bird inspired, but we didn't want them to look like bird costumes. We were going for lush, luxury, lots of texture and depth.
So the secret to making the fabric "feathers" for this dress, is all in the fabric. I used a stiff cotton organdy. Cotton organdy is generally used as an underlining in couture sewing. It has been specially treated to keep its somewhat rigid shape. I actually used two different weights of organdy, just to have more variation in texture and translucency. I tore it into squares about 4"x 4", then dyed half pink and half a more peachy color. I used several shades (tan, pink, and orange) of regular liquid RIT dye for this. I like using the liquid dye because you can mix as you go, adjusting the colors as needed. And because it didn't need to be colorfast in the washing machine, I didn't have to worry about proper dying techniques here. Instead of waiting for each piece to dry, I used my iron to both press and dry them at the same time, returning the stiff texture to the fabric in the process. It moved along pretty quickly once I got going. Then, I dipped just the edges in darker shades of the same colors, and ironed them dry again.
Next I cut 8 lines like bike spokes (sorry I don't have a photo-- it was the middle of the night and I was in a hurry!) out from the center of each square, but left the center in tact. I trimmed off the pointed tips and made each flap more petal shaped. Finally, I placed a pink petal square on top of a peach petal square, and secured them using fabric glue in the center. Before the glue dried I sort of pinched and twisted the centers so the petals came forward and out and then I let them dry that way.
And then I repeated that process about a thousand more times! I have a hard time letting people help me but Brittany and her team even pitched in gluing together a few hundred of these too!
I made a simple knit shift dress using cotton lycra fabric that I also dyed, and then used fabric glue to attach the flowers to it. I used a t-shirt stuffed with batting, and then covered in plastic as a make-shift dress form so the dress kept its shape and didn't stick to itself while the glue dried. I kept thinking I had made enough flowers, but once I started attaching them to the dress it became clear that I needed many many more! Those suckers are packed in there!
As a final touch, I dyed goose feathers in shades of peach and pink and attached them throughout the flower feathers to give more dimension and texture.