Saturday, August 28, 2010

Episode three: Finally party time

I know, I'm late. I like to think of it as fashionably late. Considering I am still trying to make up for time spent in the "real world," I figure I can cut myself the slightest smidgen of slack. I really am determined to get back on track this week, though. Really.

So, here are the details of project number three.

The challenge: Create a look using only items from a party supply store (and muslin from the work room).

The constraints: Half an hour to shop, $100 budget, one day to construct, two hours in hair and make-up.

My take: First, I did a lot of bitching and moaning. Mostly, because we have one chain of party supply stores and one bulk warehouse party supply store. The chain is not great. Especially not great after I looked on their website for hours, drove to the only open location to find out it was closed, and I wrote them an e-mail to which they did not respond. But, that is water under the bridge.

Due to the previously mentioned wasted trip, I was starting a little (okay, a lot) behind on this challenge. As much as I would have liked to skip ahead, I gritted my teeth and swore I would make it work! First, I shopped. I looked at the same sad selection over and over in hopes something amazing would pop out. Nada. I could not even find cheap polyester ribbon! Since I love paper sculpture, I thought I would go in that vein. I finally took my purchases to the register and came in at $42.

I arrived home and commenced construction. I was sure that a challenge involving glue and paper couldn't take very long and I surely wouldn't need the whole day. HA! I was so wrong. Pleating all that crepe paper for appliqué was tedious and time consuming. I watched two films from my Oscar list (Kramer vs Kramer and Chariots of Fire) which barely made a dent in the time. My idea was a vintage style dress in the vein of the 40s or 50s. The plan involved a tea length skirt, a corset top, and a fascinator.

The Twist: The models came for fittings bearing gifts. Gift bags of more party shop goodies to make an accessory!

G brought me my bag of goodies. I whipped up a rose out of a lei and some crepe paper and attached it to ribbon to make a corsage choker. Easy peasy! (in the grand scheme of things) Though it used the time I had planned for the fascinator, so that was scrapped.

Originally I thought I would make a corset top out of the placemats and stitch star confetti on it like beads or sequins. As the skirt ate more of my time, I was going to glue the confetti. The skirt ate some more time, and I scrapped the confetti all together. Finally, I just wanted to have a top for the freaking dress! So, I pieced together the front and sides. I realized that the paper was not cooperating the way it did in my head. So, I scrapped the back and commenced braiding crepe paper to create closures, figuring I could somehow tie them into adorable bows and salvage the thing.

Then my model (meaning me) went to the stylists (still meaning me) to get ready for the runway. I told the stylist to go for sort of a pinup/Dita vonTeese sort of thing. Some hot rollers, hair pins, and a mole drawn on with eye pencil later, the model (still me) emerged to get dressed. This time I was not abashed to use the stapler to fasten the garment. All situated, I headed for the door with my photographer, when I felt a rip. Stapler, STAT!

Here are the results!
The front view isn't as stellar as I had hoped. Placemats aren't exactly easy to make flattering, despite efforts to fold and such. Here is where I would have had words with Michael Kors, explaining the material and he would tell me not to make excuses. Heidi would say something about how tiny the model is and how she looks like a house, and I would roll my eyes and shake my head.
Here's the back from the runway. I was worried it would read like goth hippie from the back, but I felt that part actually worked!

A couple of details:

I was really pleased with the skirt, not so pleased with the top, and sad I had to cut the feathered fascinator I had planned. It makes perfect sense that the skirt was good, because that is where I invested my time. It takes a lot more work to repurpose items and make them look like something they are not.
Mostly, I am just glad to have this challenge behind me so I can go back to my trusty sewing machine and beloved fabric. I like paper crafting, just not for clothing!

So, judges, what do you think?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Episode Two!

Finally! I did it! I spent 12 hours constructing, based on my previously mentioned estimate of working time.

The challenge: Create a look that epitomizes the Marie Claire woman.

The constraints: 30 minutes to sketch, 30 minutes to shop at Mood, $150 budget. One day to build, two hours with Garnier hair and L'Oreal Paris make-up.

The prize: A billboard in Times Square of your winning creation

My Take: I decided not to sketch this time. Since my last fabric store attempt was not-so-successful, I thought it would be silly to sketch something in my dream fabric that probably doesn't exist. Instead, I thought of a silhouette and decided my first choice was a silk and my second choice would be a luxe cotton. Then, leather for a belt. The silhouette I had in mind was a belted A-line or sheath with a cape effect in the back. I headed to S.R. Harris, the Minnesota answer to Mood. (Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but that's the best I've got.)

Inside, I pored over the silks. I picked up and put down bolt after bolt of silk for one reason or another. I found some that was a beautiful color, but with hideous embroidery, or lovely embroidery on an awful color. Too matronly, too much like upholstery, so on and so forth. I finally found a lovely orange silk. Before I figured out my yardage, I wanted to find everything I wanted to use so I could portion out my funds. I looked at embellishments, underskirt fabric, and leather. I found a lovely piece of fuchsia lambskin that provided a fresh contrast to the orange silk. My plan was to create a hot belt to accent the piece. I did the math and bought the maximum amount of yardage I could with the leather, a zipper, and a little extra for snaps. Despite SR offering a discount, I wanted to have my total be under the $150 without the discount, since Mood sells things at full retail. This got me 6.6 square feet of leather, 4 yards of silk, a zipper, and notions.

Construction started, , and the piece morphed through the construction. I decided to add a statement piece to the dress. Then, I decided the original neckline I had planned seemed too matronly, so I decided that it would look strapless with a collar made out of pleated leather. Then, I thought the collar and the belt and the cape would be too much. So, no cape effect. For the skirt I thought about a bubble skirt, but decided that might be too young looking. So, I went for a box pleated skirt. Finally, I decided the collar should shine on its own, and ixnayed the belt.

Partway through, I learned that there was a second component, a photo shoot.

This is how things turned out:

Here you can see my mad couture modeling skills! If only I lost about 40 pounds...since I have a hard time losing any, I don't think that will happen. I am also pretty sure I am done growing. Darn. While we were shotting these, a passerby in an automobile shouted, "Nice dress!" Yay me!

I just realized that my dress was going to have pockets, and I totally forgot those during construction. That was going to be one of my key points as to why I should win. Instead, I will talk to the other points of my dress as I would on the runway to the judges. My dress is Audrey Hepburn meets Jackie O for martinis in a modern cocktail lounge. It is the perfect dress for a modern woman on the go with a hip dress that has a built in statement accessory.

What I learned: $150 dollars doesn't buy you very much fabulous fabric. If I see boning in the store and think, "do I need that?" The answer is, "yes." Due to the nature of this fabric, I should have alloted enough allowance for French seams. I had also wanted to do a Hong Kong hem (ala one of my idols, Vera Wang), but nixed it due to time. I machine stitched a hem for a finished look, then hand stitched the hem in instead. I think adding lining to the skirt and doing the HK hem would have been preferable. I would not have changed anything about the collar. I love it so much! I know I should probably be more modest, but I do love it, and thought it was well worth all the time cutting, pleating, and stitching all those wee pieces. Though I was thinking petals when I came up with the idea, I think it looks more like feathers. A sort of mod take on them, anyway.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, I had two straight pins in the dress for the shoot. I wasn't thinking, and the bra I wore for fittings did not actually work under the dress due to straps and back and whatnot. Oops. So, I dig out the only bra I own that is somewhat low backed. I wore it to my senior prom. Yikes. So, it didn't fit quite right and kept wanting to peek out the sides, so I had to pin the dress to it on the sides to keep it from making an appearance in the photos. Now you know all my dirty little secrets.

If you would like to see the outtakes of my shoot, check out my Flickr page!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

in progress

So, I am turning in for now. I have done just over four hours of work on my piece, so I have a way to go for this challenge. I haven't been able to find out what time the designers get the challenge, though their finish time is clearly midnight. I know it is in the morning, but that's about it. Man, I should've asked Christoper Straub when I had the chance! I am assuming they start working by eleven or noon. I thought I would actually get to work on the bulk of my piece yesterday, but a dentist appointment and a class got in the way. Instead, construction began this evening. Many apologies for the delay!!

I have most of the hardest work done, but will have to cut out the skirt, and finish putting the pieces together. Here's a teaser of the focal point of my dress:

I am pleased with it so far, but cutting, pleating and stitching all those leather petals is tedious. I think Tim might be concerned about my progress, but I am sure he would tell me to "Make it work."

I did find out there was a twist, and nearly messed myself. I am behind my posting schedule due to vacation, and thought I would have to create a coordinating look or an interpretive dance about my look, which just might have killed me. Fortunately, the twist is a photo shoot! Except, I don't have access to the world famous photographer or a fancy studio. Guess I have to settle for the hubs and the front walk again.

While I don't have Tim Gunn, I do have this guy weighing in on my work, mostly by whacking me with his giant fluffy tail:

Overall, I don't think he is pleased. I took away the last bit of thread I found from the deconstruction of the last challenge, and have yet to give him any other playthings. Harumph.

Stay tuned for the big reveal! Will I finish in time? Will the photo shoot be an epic disaster? Will there be safety pins? All will be revealed soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Just wanted to let you know that this week's project is running behind. I just returned home from a long weekend at Lollapalooza in Chicago! It was a blast, and there were lots of, um, interesting fashions.

I will watch the episode first thing in the morning and depending on the challenge I hope to have the post up by Wednesday night!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Episode One

One project down!

The Challenge: Choose one item in your suitcase to incorporate into your look.

The Twist: Pass that item to your right.

The Constraints: Fifteen minutes to sketch. Undisclosed amount of time in the Mood Annex to choose fabric. Five hours to build.

My Take: Well, since this is a solo project, I didn't have anyone to pass the item to. So, I had my sister select something from my closet for me to work with. She chose the following
I got this dress from my mother-in-law when she moved to Florida. I thought the fabric was pretty, but I hadn't worn it because I didn't find it super flattering to me. Hopefully she won't mind it being a part of my project!

Since I don't have the luxury of the Mood Annex, my sister and I went to a local fabric store. Originally, she suggested using only the bargain fabric bin, but since that was tiny, and the selection of the whole store was minimal at best we agreed that having the run of the store was necessary. She watched the clock, and I had half-an-hour to get the fabric I needed and get to the check out. I wound up with many yards of orange tulle. Not what I had sketched, but I am guessing those designers don't always find what they sketch.

I arrived home, set up shop, and got constructing. The most difficult and time consuming portion of the task was ripping out the seams to maximize the amount of fabric harvested and to save the zipper. I wound up with a whole lot of ramen-esque thread from the seams. This photo captures about a third of the thread. Yikes!

Due to the lack of seam allowance in the original, I had to use the fabric carefully to obtain the construction I had planned. I also decided to go from an asymmetrical look to a more symmetrical Elizabethan inspired look. There were some mistakes, such as accidentally trimming off the seam allowance on one piece. The sad thing is that I was remembering to allot seam allowances prior to this. The second the scissors clipped the last bit of fabric there was much foul language! There was some cursing, some talking to myself, and some general weirdness throughout, though I still don't have a catch phrase. I didn't take any video, which I need to change next time! About halfway through, I watched the workroom portion to feel as though I were on the show, carefully stopping before the runway.

It was dark when I finished, so I had to wait to photograph my creation. Like some of the designers, I did wind up with a couple of pins in my dress due to last-minute fitting issues. I was sad about that, but given this was my first challenge and given the limited amount of time I have to shake that off.

The Result:

The moment my garment was finished, I watched the runway. I think/hope I would have fallen to the middle of the pack. I loved Selma Blair as a guest judge!

My Thoughts:
I learned a whole hell of a lot! My garment will need some tweaks to wear out. I need to adjust a couple of seams to lay better. Also, this fabric has a great desire to roll up. I think I need to stabilize the hems somehow to get them to stay put. (you can see this in the photo of the rear of the garment.) I definitely need to do some video, and some photos of the progress, so stay tuned for that! De and re-constructing a garment completely is a lot of work. Tulle is not my favorite thing to work with. Ironic since I love tu-tus!! I would also love a little of Tim Gunn's guidance. Hmmm...any way to make that work?

So there you have it, challenge number one. What do you think? Did I make it work?