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.