Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jewel of the Collection

This is the design I created to serve as the messenger for a proposed collection. My personal goal was to address several key elements of current couture with a new and unique look that could serve as a kind of signature.

Although it was submitted in the larger doll size for the Project Dollway competition, this photo is in sixth scale, my preferred size.

Again and again on the runways I was seeing a young and leggy look with black tights, and it's something I've always loved. The beret was another key piece this season, one I love to interpret in velveteen. Overlay netting had been used effectively, and I was anxious to work that intriguing look into the collection. Another key look I was drawn to this season was the strapless empire.

Mostly what I worked from was a mood, a feeling. I wanted something that took away the clear line between day and night; I wanted to create a dreamlike look, theatrical without being at all silly, and very luxurious, maybe a little haunting, like the models are heroines of a novel. I wanted something of a rumaging-through-the-costume-trunk feel, but at a couture level.

When designing, first I develop the basic ideas that will define the collection. I knew my fabrics would be essential to creating the posh Bohemian look, and as I looked for fabrics realized how powerful certain muted but still intense jewel tones could be in carrying this out against the black.

The net overlay on the skirt worked out really well for me, and I love the look. What's interesting about the black netting here is its effect on the underlying satin. It emphasizes the folds of the skirt in a very cool way (see photo). Another thing I liked was the way black netting gave a rich dimension to the skirt's color. The peacock taffeta for the bodice actually has fine black threads running through it, so the black netting on the skirt helped the two jewel-toned fabrics click with each other.

What took the longest was probably the fabric selection. But it's something I really enjoy. That, and also feeling like I wanted to design the entire collection on the spot. I decided that even if I got eliminated (which, as always, was entirely possible), I would go ahead and do a collection based on this dress anyway, for my own enjoyment.

For the contest submission, I included an original black and gold handbag. This is really the Golden Age of the handbag, so I felt I should include a really confident-looking one.

Years ago, I heard a phrase that really stuck with me, an idea that could be applied to any number of art projects. The term is "Final Presence", and I wish I knew who coined it.

It's what I try for in an ensemble; I don't always perfectly achieve it, but sometimes I do. Something greater than the sum of its parts, something that looks meant to be.

Mattel's "Silken Flame" for the old Barbie doll had that quality. Everything clicked together in a perfect way, the red velveteen against the white satin, with just the perfect amount of gold metallic.

Designs like that have stayed with me through the decades.

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