Sunday, December 18, 2011

Patty's Quest for Emerald

Sometimes, a color is all important.  Patty came to my studio in search of the perfect emerald green for a new Rhythm gown.  Ballroom fabric suppliers provide a beautiful vibrantly pure (and sometimes neon) array of colors in a variety of fabrics, but greens for the last several years have been more on the yellow side of the color wheel than on the blue.  And Patty's dream color was on the blue side.  She had seen Oscar gowns in this magical but elusive color and nothing else would work. I think she was especially interested because her red hair is a new adventure for this octogenarian(!), and she really wanted to feature and flatter her spicy auburn.  Doesn't she look fantastic?

Her friend Randee came to her design meeting and helped work out our design.  Digging through my sources and scraps, we found a piece of silk in the perfect color to order for the skirt, and a scrap of satin lycra in my studio for a sash, but the stretch lace she wanted for her bodice did not exist in that particular emerald color.

So, off to superb dyer Marliss at Iris Color Studio I went, with a sample of white lace in the pattern Patty had chosen, to see if it could be made the perfect color.  Marliss did MANY tests.  The netting and portions of the flowers were nylon and other parts of the flowers were rayon, and the two fibers require different dyes.  Marliss struggled to get a deep, rich, vibrant enough color in either fiber.
Marliss's first samples, close, but not achieving the dream.

 When she mentioned the greatest challenge was getting the green to be both blue and vibrant enough, I mentioned the lace also came in bright, pure turquoise.  She was thrilled with the turquoise sample I took her and assured me that we could go ahead with the gown and she could get the color, particularly since the colored version of the lace was all nylon.

But I had to convince Patty that Marliss would come through.  Patty mentioned that having a  gown custom-made is a scary thing for her.  Trying to calm her fears, I suggested that even buying dancing lessons was potentially scary.  Teachers can demonstrate what steps and styling go with an Associate Bronze syllabus, and you can see how the dance looks on the teachers.  But what will you look like, doing those things?  You just have to trust the professionals to do their job, with your best interest at heart.  The same is true with custom dance wear design, but the difference is, when you are finished with the process, you have a valuable, re-sellable product.  What you learn in a dance lesson program is with you for your life and beneficial in a multitude of ways, but you cannot recoup any of the money you have spent, whereas, most gowns are good for a minimum of 75% of what you paid for them when you are ready for a new one, and that is a better value than buying a new car.  Fortunately, Patty gave me the go-ahead!

The turquoise lace Marliss over-dyed, and the final, perfect result.
Marliss came through brilliantly, and we cut, basted, assembled and fit Patty's gown.  I am especially proud of the lovely cuff detail on the sleeve.

Cuff Detail
I am also proud of the beautiful pattern match I achieved at the center back of the gown.  Lace yardage motifs can be very different sizes depending on where the pattern occurs on the piece, and blocking two pieces to exactly match each other is a tricky proposition.  Adding a zipper into the mix increases the challenge, but this worked out beautifully!

I am also happy with the beautiful edge I created with the lace selvedge.  And the rhinestone pattern works nicely with the lace pattern to emphasize shapes and edges, as well as providing all-over sparkle, while still allowing the vibrant emerald color to shine through.

I'll add one final shot of Patty dancing from the Dancer's Studio Showcase event last night.  I was not able to attend, but Patty had many family members and friends there to cheer her on and kindly shared these images with me.  Congratulations, Patty on your beautiful new gown, and on your performance!  I look forward to our next collaboration.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Charlie and Jana in Black and Red

Don't they make an adorable Pro-Am team?  Jana is Charlie's teacher, and they compete all over the United States together.  Charlie really likes to have a great and unique look on the floor, and this is the fourth set of costumes I have created for him and Jana.  Jana is an artist in her own right and likes to be very involved in their design process.  This time, she brought me sketches of what they wanted and Michele and I did our best with her designs.

Jana's gown reminds me of a "French Maid" look.  I kept thinking it needed ruffled panties, or a feather duster as a prop.  And I can't quite stop wishing Jana had red shoes.

It's a simple and clean gown, in black with red details, a very classic Latin and rhythm color scheme. Since dancers spend the majority of their time on the competition floor facing each other, I am very fond of 3-D details, and this dress delivers!

The skirt is very flirty and the detailing at the back with the sash, crisp little bow, and split to reveal the ruffled 1950's crinoline style petticoat is so cute in action.
I also feel like I had the perfect piece of jewelry to offer Jana. 
 Somehow the flowers and styling feel very French to me!

An up-close look...

               Most of the jewelry I purchase for re-sale requires adjustment and sizing,
                               and I am glad to offer that service for my clients.
Charlie's suit provides a nice frame for Jana's "picture."  Charlie is always chilly in the ballroom, which is generally kept cool for the comfort of dancers working hard on the floor.  I've been thinking that I would love to design a smoking jacket styled dance costume for him, maybe velvet, with a quilted satin shawl collar.  It would be warm and cozy, and I think, flattering as well on Charlie's slim frame. 

Our last set of costumes featured Charlie in a wrap-style coat, which I loved on him.  Here's a peek!
Love the addition of the snowflake pin on Charlie's lapel
(from the Snowball Competition last January!)
and Jana's puff bangle bracelet.
Charlie has mentioned thinking about a set of French blue costumes for his and Jana's next look, and I look forward to working with them again!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cathy's First Gown

Cathy is a confident and lovely young dancer at Arthur Murray St. Paul, and her teacher Nate suggested she visit me when she was ready to have her first ballgown created.  Both Nate and his wife Rachel, also an Arthur Murray instructor and counselor, offered their ideas about what the general impression of Cathy's gown should be.   Nate said, "poised, regal and elegant" and Rachel offered "demure, lighthearted, and clean."  Cathy brought me lots of mages all of which featured cool, peacock colors and most of which also had floral motifs.  We decided that purple was the right royal touch, and used jeweled floral lace to ensure the gown had a youthful and lighthearted quality.

I see what Nate meant by "poised."
Cathy did lots of rhinestone application on her gown to help keep costs reasonable.  I finished her necklace and earrings for her, to show her what I had in mind for the lace.
 Then, using the lace as a guide and doing a sort of "paint by number" process, she spent about 20 hours, over a 10 day period, adding stones to the lace on the front...
...and the back of the bodice...

... the cuffs,

... and the barette.
  Because Cathy's hair is dark, we backed the barette with black ultrasuede, so the jeweled flowers could appear to sit neatly in her hair, which I think worked out nicely!
Then Cathy returned the gown to me, after a practice session to assure that everything worked as expected and to give her time to get used to the idea of wearing the gown.  She was so sweet, telling me how hard it had been to dance in it the first time without trying to watch the dress move in the mirror instead of concentrating on her dancing, and how exhilirating it was to feel fabric swirling around her legs and seeing the cuffs sparkle as she extended  her arms.  I can remember those feelings well, and some of my professional clients intentionally get new costumes for big competitions, specifically for the added sense of excitement and discovery they provide.
 I finished the gown by placing the less-fun-to-apply, but equally important, amethyst stones on the gown bodice, and then, I installed a delightful detail.  The electric blue pearl chiffon underskirt provides flashes of color in movement and adds a great deal of depth to the layers of skirt.  I was fortunate to see her dance at her showcase event on Sunday, and take a few photos. 
And that is Made for Movement menswear on Nate as well.  Don't they look wonderful?

I love working with first-time clients and Cathy did an wonderful job of both the rhinestone application, and with trusting me and the Made for Movement process.  I look forward to working with her again!

In the mean time, as Rachel suggested to Cathy when she called after wearing the gown for the first time and was sad to have to take it off, "It would not be entirely wrong to watch TV in it some night..."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bonnie's "Illusion of Suspended Elevation"

I always ask my clients to bring me a word or short phrase that describes what their gown will be.  Bonnie brought me a unique phrase, compliments of her coach Paul Botes.  Paul tells Bonnie and her partner/fiance, (tall and dark Ed) that they must be floaty, lightweight, and ethereal, creating an "illusion of suspended elevation."  Thanks Paul!  That was a really fun phrase to work with!

We had to immediately dash several ideas.  Like, deep, dark sapphire blue, which was Ed's hope, but sadly will probably never be an obviously lightweight choice.  Bonnie had polled both of her coaches about what her gown might include and teacher Scott Anderson suggested she "Go Gold!" Given Bonnie's beautiful light blonde hair, we decided on a soft platinum gold, (the third gown in my golden autumn trifecta) and went hunting for fabric that was light and metallic at the same time.  Bonnie found this beautiful gold-embossed organza locally, and I approved!  I offered the metallic gold slinky for the bodice.  I was pleased that Bonnie chose asymmetrical style lines for her gown, and happy to balance and support them with the diagonal hemline of the overskirt and  the creamy french vanilla mesh of the left sleeve.  Asymmetrical gowns are visually in motion before the dancing begins, and usually a plus for the wearer.

Bonnie showed me the hemline of a beautifully detailed British gown with bits of feather and fabric floating along the topskirt hemline and I created some organza leaf shapes and vanilla spiral fringe to make our own floaty statement at Bonnie's hem, applied to a pale gold charmeuse underskirt.
This beautiful detail repeats on the opposite side of the gown on the draped mesh sleeve top, nicely in balance and the perfect justification for each other's presence.

Bonnie did her own rhinestone application, after we applied the large sew-on jewels to the edges of the bodice and skirt for her, and did a great job, while keeping the cost of her gown reasonable.   She did all the Crystal AB fill-in at the borders, as well as the guilding of the metallic gold slinky bodice and sleeve with Swarovski Light Topaz AB.
Bonnie's gown needed to serve for both  American Style Smooth and for International Standard.  Standard style dancing is done in hold so the costumes often include wings or floats for the ladie's gown.  We created detachable floats (very "floaty" floats, given the lightness of the organza!) for the gown that will be used for Standard and removed for Smooth style dancing.
A super treat for me is to be able to show you Bonnie in her new gown, (in its International Standard Configuration) dancing with Ed!   You can see their Quickstep at Minnesota Madness by clicking on the link below. They begin their heat at the far corner of the room.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kim's Fuchsia Petunia

When Kim and I began working on her Rhythm gown for her trip to Ohio Star Ball this November, neither of us intended to make a gown that might remind anyone of a ruffled flower.  But that is exactly what I see when Kim puts on this soft, beautiful gown. The skirt with its delicately ruffled edge calls to mind an upside down petunia, or maybe a peony.

Kim is a girly girl.  The kind who walks into my studio wearing a pink trench coat and carrying a gorgeous handbag with a huge 3D leather flower on the side.  When I ask her to take out a clip to put up her long, curly hair, it's shaped like a butterfly and has pink rhinestones on it. Those kinds of choices are always intentional and telling, and the sort of thing that really cannot be denied.  But it's entirely possible to be girly without being cute or cloying.

Kim wanted her new gown to be sexy and sensuous.  She hoped for a hint of rhinestone encrusted bra, but wanted the overall image to be classy and subtle. The soft, matte stretch mesh edges temper the rhinestone-encrusted bust area  As a dancer in the over 35 age category, she wanted some things covered, so no bare tummy or super low cut back were indicated.  But she wanted to show all the great looking skin available.   I am very fond of the ladder back detailing.

 Jewelry is important to call attention to beautiful arm styling and a pretty face, so this necklace, earrings and bracelets do just that.

Originally, Kim said "jewel tones" and we began the gown with a piece of sequin cloth in emerald and zircon tones, but the shiny fabric didn't feel right to her, so we switched to this lipstick fuchsia color and the results were great.  The color is super saturated, the sort of thing you see only in a garden at its peak of perfection and vibrancy and really looks wonderful and right on Kim, while supporting her inherent femininity.  It has enough depth to be taken seriously, and a maturity that you could not get from a hot bright pink.  If it's a jewel, it is perhaps the deep rose of pigeon blood ruby.

The layers in her softly draped skirt really move beautifully around her long legs.  I visited Minnesota Madness for just a few hours, and got just one, wonderful shot of the back of her gown in action, which I will share here.
   And If you want to see her beautiful face, I'll share a photo of her Phoenix Ballgown as well!
Best of luck to you Kim at Ohio Star Ball.  We'll look for you on PBS when they air "Championship Ballroom Dancing!"

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Leslie's White Peach

I first thought I would call this post, "The Gilded Leslie" a play on the idea of "gilding the lily."  But gilded lily implies a false shell of beauty, which she does not need.  She is delicate and subtle, and reminds me very much of a white peach, which is also a great name for her new rhythm gown.  She is my second "Golden Girl" of this fall.  She brought her teacher and coach, Kate, to her design meeting and Kate provided a video of a gown she thought would be a good style for Leslie.  I agreed.

Kate's style suggestion was a white slip dress with lace panels, which allowed the sides of the dancer's body to be seen through the openings in the lace.  It had the quality of lingerie, and was sexy in a subtle way.

Leslie is a very modest woman.  She didn't really like the idea of appearing in lingerie, so we were careful to use opaque and substantial fabrics, and also to finish the hem with braid that made it clear that the beautiful end product was a rhythm gown, NOT a slip.

Leslie's new gown is white, and made of two different fabrics; a soft matte white lycra and a voided white lycra with a sheer pattern of interlacing loops and scrollwork at the sides.  Leslie didn't like the idea of being visible through the sheer at her sides, so we backed with voided lycra there with the matte opaque, but used its see-thru beauty in the godets at the base of the skirt, carefully cut never to reveal thighs or hips in turns.  We also added a demi sleeve to the design, which really flatters Leslie's beautiful decolletage.

The gold enters Leslie's picture through her rhinestone choice, Light Peach AB, which gives the gown a delicate golden glimmer.  I filled in the beautiful scrollwork at the sides with the stones to emphasize the pattern, and used less stones at the hem to allow glimpses of Leslie's legs.

My jewelry design takes advantage of the loops and scrollwork in the pattern of the sheer.  I used both Crystal AB and Light Peach AB in the loops, a very subtle difference, that paves the way for a beautiful pair of Crystal AB earrings Leslie she wanted to wear with the gown. 

I think the lovely Leslie wore her new gown last night, at an Dancer's Studio Showcase event, "Under the Big Top."  I missed the event, but I hope she enjoyed herself in her White Peach!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cindi's Golden Ribbon Lace

This is the first of my THREE golden gowns this fall.  I swear, sometimes the craving for a color gets in the water!  When Cindi came in for her design meeting, she fell in love with ribbon lace, and we designed a gorgeous gown to put it to good use.  I had so much fun with this design!

This gown was a real patterning puzzle, with loads of twists and turns and confusing bits.  When bespoke clothing is patterned, we do so without seam allowances, to allow us to think clearly and see style lines easily.  This pattern has lots going on!

First the leotard, (the basis for all dancewear) sleeves, and collar are patterned, and style lines are drawn in place.  Then, the pattern is cut apart on the style lines, and each individual fabric is patterned separately and cut out. 

Then a fitting confirms that all the lines are in beautiful places on my client's body and the real work begins.

The upper leotard and sleeves of this gown looked like this assembled.  I imagined that Cindi's left sleeve and side (on your right) might look as though she were naked and sprayed with a light dusting of gold.  Bra cups provide her with ample cover, but the impression was pretty successful, as you can see here.

The lower portion of the leotard looked like this, before the skirt and lining were applied.  The empty space on the garment left side (your right) is waiting to be filled by the white mesh above, which is both leotard and the beginning of the white section of the skirt.

And below are the first of the seven skirt panels, laid out on the ribbon lace for cutting.
Because all of the patterns are applied to the wrong side of the fabric for cutting, they are created upside down, which requires a good bit of thinking and puzzle ability with asymmetrical style lines like this.

Cindi's left side and sleeve are glimmering with Aurum crystals, the most expensive rhinestone money can buy, because they have a fine real gold coating on their surface.    The white center section is drenched in Crystal AB sew-on Rivolis and many sizes of flat backs.  The gold ribbon lace was so splendid on its own that we chose not to apply rhinestones to it at all. 

Now, no laughing!  I was sad when it came time to create jewelry for this gown, because it didn't really need much, but I did get to make a pair of earrings!

The competition at which Cindi will debut her new gown is in HAWAII! next week, and sadly, I cannot be there to take pictures, but I am hoping she brings me back a shot or two to share with you.   Maybe something with a palm tree in the background, or a sandy beach???   

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some New Listings!

I've spent my weekend listing some gowns I've had in my studio for a while, and the first is this pretty Rhythm or Latin look.  It's a fabulous Barbados Blue, super saturated and vibrant.  The draped cowl front reveals a peek-a-boo bra, with great built-in underwire support.  It's got a nice low halter style back and  a sleek skirt with fun and flippy godets that allow for interesting action and a great hemline.  It's also got some really wonderful cuff style bracelets, two Crystal AB barrettes and long drop earrings, with both clips and posts.  It's in the 12 - 16 size range, and I could not get the pretty back lacing detail to look wonderful on the size 4 half form I use for my photos, but trust me, it's sweet!  You can check out the cuffs and other jewelry below and visit the listing on my website here.

Next, a personal favorite.  This gown was a beautiful thing on it's copper haired owner, and I have a soft spot for redheads, since I competed myself with hair that color.  I find copper is my go-to metal as a jewelry designer as well.  Something about the warmth and softness is just immensely appealing to me.
This gown combines soft copper cracked ice slinky and what I think of a Vintaj Brass metallic mesh in a great asymmetrical design that both slims and provides a sense of movement for the wearer.  The diagonal division between metal textures is accented with Topaz, Sun, Hyacinth, and Blue Zircon Swarovski crystals on ribbon lace, and finishes with cabochon dangles at the right hip in all those accent colors.  Matching necklace and earrings are included. Visit "Pretty Penny" here!

The last new listing, "Jet with Rubies" is a classically Latin look, in matte black crepe with flamenco red accents.  It's a simple sheath style with a dropped waist.  The skirt is black double georgette, edged in red satin binding, on both layers, the top one with an interesting and eye-catching hankie-style hem.
Both the front and back have deep v-neck styling with bead embroidered floral appliques, embellished with Light Siam AB Swarovski crystals.  The crepe is glistening with Jet Swarovski crystals all through the bodice.  Take a PEEK here!

Please check out my new listings and some new photos of old  favorites as well at my website anytime, and thanks for visiting my blog!