Monday, August 22, 2011

Project Runway Inspiration: It Would Never Make It to the Runway, But Works Great on Stage.

The Project

My self-appointed mission, one I chose to accept on my own, was to sew a dress. A costume dress that was able to survive a hip hop piece, look incredibly outlandish without looking ridiculous, and fit me.  Now, I have basic sewing skills.  Enough to tailor a Star Wars themed robe for my son, make his ninja costume and his Amtgard outfit.  However, I had never made a dress until this one.  Okay, I think I once made a dress for a Cabbage Patch Kid, but that was nothing like making a dress for an adult.  One, my mother wasn't here to help me when I couldn't understand the instructions. Two, it had been so long since I had sewn that doll's dress, I couldn't remember how to make pleats or ruffles. Three,  I was under a slight time constraint. Four, I'm not patient. And five, I not consistent with my focus.  I took this all into consideration as I was holding the Alice in Wonderland pattern in my hand, choosing designs, and watching my mind arrange complicated fabric layers that would double the time it took to make the dress.  I knew it would be a challenge.  I took it on.

The Reason

I blame Project Runway.  Or maybe I blame that I watched two seasons of Project Runway back to back.  After so many hours listening to designers and judges talk about colors, fabrics, and patterns along with clothes-making techniques, this irresistible urge to try stuff  overwhelmed me.  And this project was the perfect experimentation ground.  Also Kendell Macomber, owner/instructor of Dance Revolution had choreographed an amusing piece to "Fun For Me" from Moloko.  She had shown us videos with over-the-top costumes that she thought would work with her piece.  From the get-go I envisioned a warped version of the Alice in Wonderland dress coupled with an anxious feeling about my ability to sew such a dress.  It would have been too easy to second guess myself and NOT make the dress.  But somehow I managed to push the anxious voice aside and just make the project regardless of how rusty some of those skills were (or maybe even nonexistent).  My family gave me a lot of support by not asking questions I couldn't answer (like "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS AGAIN?"), taking on all of my chores, and making sure I got to bed at a decent hour.

The Construction

I'm not a person who wears a lot of patterns, but since I wanted an outlandish appearance, I needed and outlandish design.  The Alice in Wonderland pattern was specifically built for contrast, so I started by picking what I wanted for the skirt and the main part of the dress. I looked at all sorts of stripes and polka dotted designs, but when I came upon fabric with scenes from Georges Seurat's painting, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," I could not resist.  It had everything I wanted in this dress.  It was bright and it was odd.  So odd, the employee at JoAnn Fabrics told me that she couldn't imagine what anyone would use that fabric for.  Finding the contrasting fabric wasn't difficult, except for the fact that they might make the dress too overwhelming.  I needed something to diffuse their power and so I took a sheer blue (for the sleeves and bottom ruffle) and a sheer green (for the collar and cuffs) and sewed them over top.  I knew from the start it would add to the amount of time needed to construct the dress since those pieces would have to be cut twice and sewn twice.  But it was totally worth it.

The Presentation

So did I succeed in my mission?  Oh yes.  The dress was outlandish, survived a hip hop number, and fit incredibly well.  The entire crew looked great and killed our performance.  I totally LOVED having the time and opportunity to make this costume.  And I'm looking forward to the next sewing project.  Something more normal. Perhaps.

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