Saturday, May 7, 2011

American Beauty (aka "Cruella")

My personal taste in dancewear comes bursting out when I design a gown to be placed on my rack for sale, instead of the custom design for a specific dancer that is the vast majority of my work.  I love texture and print, so I am often motivated by a piece of fabric.  When I found this dot print, I fell in love.  I was really pleased that the fabric was not specifically "polka dot," as that has a kind of sweetness that I don't find appealing.  I immediately wondered if it might be possible to emulate the dot pattern with Swarovski Jet crystals, in varying sizes. 

The gown sketch featured a skirt that dropped from the low hip, but high enough to disguise a wider thigh, and included additional fullness in the shape from the knee down. This is a year of multiple layers of skirt, so I also found some crisp, sheer organza and cut an underskirt that had a pretty mass of flounce, again, from below the knee.  

A simple white, off-the-shoulder leotard with a v-back and long flounced sleeves to emulate the shape of the skirt was cut.  Once assembled, a Jet Swarovski application sample was done and then turned over to Michele, who created a jig to help with randomizing the crystal  pattern.

As a side note, it is amazingly difficult to create randomness.  I just watched an old episode of "Num3ers,"  which is a TV show based on the usefullness of a mathematical genius in solving crimes.  In this episode, the genius asks a group of people to distribute themselves randomly around a room.  They do so.  And then he points out that they are all equidistant from each other, and (of course) proceeds to solve the crime. The same thing tends to happen with random rhinestoning.  It's very hard to accomplish, unless you intentionally plan to put some closer together and some further apart.  But, enough random rambling.

When Michele returned it to me, I asked a client to put on the gown, and immediately saw the sleeve made for too much volume overall and cut it off.  Amazing how differently things look on a person, as opposed to my dress form!  The black and white print had an mildly gray impression, so I knew it would need a bold contrasting color addition.  Being symmetrical, it was so stable as to make one wonder if it COULD move, so I also decided that my contrasting additions would need to provide a sense of potential action for the gown.

A bold red emerged as the best color option, adding a nice drama to the piece. I wanted the gown to be both dramatic and a little playful (in deference to the dots) so I experimented with bows, ruffles and flowers, and the elegance of roses was a favorite, with substance and shine being desirable characteristics.  Samples were made and tested in several different fabircs.  I loved a red silk sample, but when I washed my samples, the silk had the least color stability and ran into the white lycra, so a poly crepe back satin won out. A couple days were spent crafting red roses and buds.   Then I arranged my mountain of roses to create some action in the gown.


We have not hemmed the gown, waiting for an owner to establish the final length, but I have ordered 25 yards of red satin hem binding, so all that delicate organza flounce will eventually be red swirls of  accent at the foot, beneath the dots.  We've made a couple of simple pieces of jewelry, a satin choker and cuff, and a pair of earrings, but have other options in mind as well. Final choices will really depend entirely on the new owner, and the impression they want to create on the floor. We're calling the gown "American Beauty" for the multitude of red roses, but I can't resist giving it a sub-title, "Cruella."  It has a Cruella De Ville quality that makes me smile.  Perhaps I should have added a touch or ermine?

We seem to be in a "White House Black Market" mode over the last few weeks. We are also working on a new Latin gown with a similar color scheme, which I hope to reveal at the Minnesota Star Ball on May 15th.  Will you be there?  Please stop by and try on our new black and white beauties!

4 comments:

Peregrine Beader said...

Marsha, what a stunning gown! Your creative genius is really on display with this. Thanks so much for sharing these photos and your insights into the creation and design process. You are so right about randomness, too; it seems to require more planning than anything else!

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

Callie, I REALLY appreciate you popping in and commenting! My beady buddies are the best!

WhiteRabbitJewelry said...

Cruella is definitely the right name for this gorgeous dress! How fun! I wish I could see it move, it must me majestic. I don't think randomness exists. As far as I know computers can't even generate truly random data. But the way the rhinestones are distributed is entirely pleasing random or not.
Wonderful!

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

Thank you Kinga!