Saturday, 18 April 2015

Design Journal: Beginning Toiling


So I did begin to start toiling this week. I didn't particularly have a strong design in mind, I just knew I wanted to work with the bias on the bodice so that I could bring in a stripe, which has been mainly inspired by Horrockses and Claire McCardell's popover dress. So to start off I trued a big square of calico and then placed it on the mannequin down the bias. I am particularly interested in how clothes from the 1950s sometimes don't have an armhole seam but instead they just seamlessly roll over the shoulder and I just love the shape and simplicity of it. So I started draping a shape over the shoulder and trying to not use as many conventional seams as possible. 

I have been looking into the famous 1950's Walkaway dress and how it has shoulders seams but the back skirt wraps around to the front and fastens at centre front. I want to take that 'wrapping around' concept, similarly to the Claire McCardell popover dress I mentioned earlier, and bring it into my own work. I found I could get the fabric over the shoulder and smoothly come around the side which I thought would look good with a diagonal seam under the bust. I thought it would also be interesting to see what would happen to the straight of grain once the pattern is transferred onto a striped fabric.

I bought a cheap cotton striped fabric to toile with and tried out my pattern. I love the shape and drama that the stripes creates over the shoulder, and I am pleased with how the back wraps around to the side and becomes straight instead of the bias, and how the two meet. However, whilst draping the original pattern I just put in a quick dart for the time being, but when it's remade in a stripe the print becomes distorted over the bust and no longer matches, which I am not happy with. Getting rid of ugly darts is something I am going to have to think a lot about, especially when dealing with such a large bust on my mannequin. I think if I were to move the dart into a seam then I would want to match the direction of the stripes, however I feel this could ruin the effect of the 'seamless' look I was going for. The back of the toile is also practically falling off the shoulder, so the angle in which it comes from from the front would need to be adjusted so that it isn't so narrow at the back. I do like how deep the back is going though, but I wouldn't want to leave it so open, there would need to be another panel somewhere. 

I decided to drape with the striped fabric instead of calico because I felt the stripe itself could help me see the design I am after. I started by just using a long rectangular stripe, marking the bias down centre front and then just throwing the fabric over the shoulder and seeing where it fell, making sure the back wasn't too close to the shoulder point like the first toile. I then began messing around with stripe direction, as well as trying to solve my ugly dart problem by adding in seams that compliment the large shoulder panel. 

I am fairly happy with the striped piece going over the shoulder, however it is difficult getting it to the right shape at the back without needing a dart or seam of some kind. I felt putting pleats into the back of the piece helped to solve the problem, but it becomes more of a strap than a seam, and I feel it alters the whole dress from a regular sort of dress to more of a bodice/summer holiday piece, which wasn't what I was going for. However, I have this idea of putting buttons onto the end of the strap so that it fastens down as more of a decoration than practical use, but it's inspired by a lot of my housewife research.

I am liking the mix of the stripes, and I went kind of overboard when playing around with the directions. I'm really not happy with the pleat at the front, I think it draws too much attention to that area and the stripe really messes up. I think I would need to put another panel in that matched the other stripe to eliminate the dart. I also think the whole thing would need simplifying a bit and bringing it back to a regular dress somehow, not making it look too bodice-y. A lot less panels, and a lot less stripe directions, and I still think it could be effective. I also think a higher back piece would make it look less 'summer holiday', and I also don't like the stripe going horizontally along the back as I think it's really widening. A few people also commented that my work looked sailor-ish, but I think it's mainly because it's currently in a bold blue and white stripe, and the way it moved over the shoulder currently could be mistaken for a sailor collar. I actually quite like the thickness of the stripe, but I think I would want to break it up with smaller stripes, or more colours. 

A few people suggested looking into illusions and Op Art, however I am very hesitant because I really want to stay away from the 'illusion/make people look slimmer' thing as it's just not what I stand for. I'm really against those cliche body-con panelled dresses that supposedly make women look slim. My job as a plus size fashion designer isn't too hide or disguise the plus size body, but to embrace it, and usually if I ever use the word 'flattering' (which I hate), I mean it as a general human body thing, nothing to do with the size of the human body. (if that makes sense). I have to admit, I have found it frustrating this week looking around at my classmates work where they are able to really push silhouettes (obviously some of their work is much more higher-end than mine so you wouldn't necessarily see those silhouettes on the highstreet), but they have a lot of freedom without the question of 'but is that flattering?' hanging over them. I would like to be able to design without someone asking 'but does that work on a larger body?'. My response it usually that I think plus size women can pull off everything that a slim body can, the only difference is the FIT, which is super important.

My aim this weekend is to try and build up my sketchbook, which I feel is really lacking right now. And now that I've begun toiling I can start designing from my images because I find it hard to imagine something without seeing it for real. Since completing my postgrad certificate in pattern cutting though, I feel making has become one of my strengths so hopefully this will help me to build up my designs and sketchbook work more. I'm also thinking that I may have to flat pattern cut my idea of no arm hole seam instead, and see if it works better that way. As much as I prefer draping, you also general end up with a tight fit, so maybe to reduce some of the dart problems I need a looser fitting bodice. I think there is a lot of work and experimenting to do before this design is anywhere near finished. Hopefully I can get some feedback from my tutor soon.

Until next time,


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