The Challenge begins.
I promised myself if it snowed today as they predicted, I would not sit on the couch and watch videos all day and eat. I would instead be inspired to work on my Spring clothing line. I live close to work, and as long as we have electricity there's no reason not to burrow in and do this. SO HERE GOES.
It is noon on Friday. We've gotten several inches of snow, with no signs of letting up until late tonight. I'm starting the blog now, and will need some time to let people know I'm doing it because I think it'll be more fun to have an audience for this. I've had a big bacon and egg breakfast, the studio's warming up, Luna has pooped and settled in by the heater. I plan to start in one hour.
THE CHALLENGE- 3 DRESSES IN 3 DAYS!
At one O'clock Central time, I will start the clock. I will begin with "Inspiration" and move on to "Sketches", then proceed to "Patterning", then to "Mock-up" or straight on to "Prototype".
By Sunday night, I must have three new dress designs ready to add to the 2010 Spring line in Prototype form. All the kinks must be worked out, and the garments have to be rack-ready. Why dresses? If you look at my website, you'll see that I'm all about seperates, but sadly lacking in dresses. I'm looking for three styles- a youthful cotton sundress, a more mature linen dress possibly worn as a tunic over pants, and a long-ish dress that can be made in linen for daywear, or in fancier fabrics for evening or formal. For the first hour I plan to look through books and vintage patterns for inspiration, focusing on the late 1960's, as well as the 1920's, which is the period that inspired much of the sixties' fashions- I'm thinking simple, geometric, classic. I'll be looking at some of the more "mod" designers- Yves Saint Laurent, Mary Quant, Ungaro, and the most bizarre, Paco Rabanne (remember the credit-card dress in "Priscilla?) and Correges (can someone pronounce that for me?) , wrapping up all these styles into the taste level of Givencey and Chanel. That's huge. I think I just wet myself.
So I'm now going online to let everyone know where to find this blog. I hope you will follow me through the next few days, forward this to friends, and by all means, feel free to comment. My friend Jaybee is having open-heart surgery all day- today's work is for him. Stay warm, stay tuned!
END OF HOUR ONE.
MUSIC: PHILLIP GLASS, MISHIMA
FOOD: CHEESE POPCORN AND COKE.
THOUGHTS: WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO???
TIME: 2:45 pm
I have gone through every fashion history book and vintage pattern I have in the room. I mostly gravitated to the same silhouette- the classic column from the 20's that inspired the shift dresses of the 60's. LOVE the Yves St Laurent "Mondrian" dress! Had my hands on an actual one, back in my theater days, but I digress.
So I've laid out everything from Flappers to Gidget's Beach cover-up to Madame Vionnet's evening gowns to Connie Fails' hip-sash classic from the early 80's. Now, where do I start? I'm going to pull up a dressform, drape the basic shape, then figure out what the details will be. The trick- get the shape and comfort of the period, but keep it from being too sack-like or hip-heavy.
END OF FIRST WORK SESSION.
MUSIC: "SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE"
THOUGHTS: OH GOD, IT'S GRANDMA WALTON!
TIME: 5:00 PM.
Well, I don't know where I was headed, but I'm not sure if I like where I ended up. These pics show what I draped, and the pieces laid flat on the table, ready for the pattern to be transferred to paper. I need to walk away from this for a while, so Luna and I are going home to make a pot of chili, and I'm going to try to come back tonight and start a prototype. I started off pretty well- The music began with "White- A blank page or canvas. The challenge- bring order
to the whole through design, composition, tension, balance, light, and harmony."
A nice beginning. I draped the basic shape, added a wide waist band that will tie in the back as a sash (oh, no, a SASH?) Then I struggled a little with the collar, trying to keep it modern despite its Edwardian beginnings. We'll see where it goes tonight.
BACK FROM DINNER, DAY ONE.
MUSIC: PET SHOP BOYS
FOOD: THERMOS OF COSMOS
THOUGHTS: MUST MAKE DRESS...
TIME: 8:45 pm Yikes!
Ok, I like junk food! If you look hard, you can see yogurt and fruit in there.
The snow is sooo deep! And still coming down! It's so gorgeous, this really is the best time to live in Eureka Springs. It's so deep Luna didn't have to squat to poop.
So I come back to the table to face the muslin pattern pieces ready to be put onto paper and labeled. I had hoped to have a prototype put together by the end of the night, but it's kinda late. I'll be doing good to get fabric picked out and cut it out. I have to choose a fabric that won't make it look too Dishtowel-y. esque. -like.
END OF DAY ONE.
MUSIC: SOUNDTRACK TO "KINKY BOOTS"
FOOD: YOGURT, THERMOS OF COSMOS
THOUGHTS: I DON'T WANT TO BE ON PROJECT RUNWAY
TIME: 10:30 pm
Ok, I give up for today, it was a good start, considering the morning was spent figuring out the blog. This was a fun day- a great way to snow in. Tomorrow will be tight- I'll have to do some snow-shoveling and shop chores, probably want to play with people in the snow. Kids will be sledding right out the front door all day since I'm on the biggest hill in town. As I turn 50, I see sledding as a potential $10,000 ER visit.
Anyway, I'm leaving the dress on my sewing table for tonight. I got it cut out, and begun. I chose a pretty swimming-pool blue linen. I wanted to do the collar out of white hanky linen or do some delicate contrast-color stitching on the hems, but it looked too costumey, so I'm playing it safe. If the design works I can always play with vintage embroidered linens or bits of old garments later. For now, it's about the pattern. I was shooting for the 1920's but shot too far back, and landed in WWI. Maybe I'll call it the "Armistice Dress". The next dress really needs to be simple, playful and more toward the 1960's.
Thanks for tuning in. Goodnight.
DAY 2. MORNING SESSION.
MUSIC: EDITH PIAF
FOOD: FRESH GRAPEFRUIT
THOUGHTS: WHO'S GONNA SHOVEL ALL THIS SNOW?
Well, there WERE stairs here!?!
Good Morning! It finally stopped snowing, we must have gotten 10-12 inches. I've not seen snow like this in so long! So smooth, clean and white, like the lines from "Sunday in the Park" (see above). The town looks so gorgeous. Somebody bring me some snow ice-cream, please.
Ok, so here goes. I have to get this dress #1 put together. I challenged myself to have 3 rack-ready dresses by tomorrow night, but what happens if this one isn't rack-worthy? Do I have to do 4 or 5 to choose from? Who made up the rules?
END OF MORNING SESSION. DRESS #1 COMPLETE.
MUSIC: BUDDAH BAR
THOUGHTS: NOT AS DISSAPOINTED AS I THOUGHT I'D BE, BUT NOT READY TO PUT MY LABEL IN IT YET.
TIME: 1:00 pm
Well, there you have it folks! Dress #1. Fruit of my efforts. Funny thing about this blog project- it's out there to see. Normally, I can scrape the clunkers into the trash or onto the sale rack without notice, but there's no way around that here.
It went together fairly quickly, always a plus. There was a little stressful moment while Edith Piaf was screaming "Bravo" at me, and I hit a pin with the serger, but recovered nicely. I think my last decision to add an extra 1 1/2 inces to the bodice late last night was a mistake- the waistband falls a little low now, throwing the proportion off. I'm not going to use valuable time tweeking now, though. The fabric was nice and soft, but the stand of the collar didn't hold up, so a pleat detail there got lost. If it were longer, I'd have an Edwardian costume on my hands. I may still. Let's hear what our judges have to say:
Michael Kors: "Well, I'm flabbergasted that you strayed so far from your inspiration, Mark. There's nothing here that remotely says 1960's or even 1920's. This is not Couture, this is Sally Field in 'Places in the Heart'"
Nina Garcia: "Could you turn your model around please, Mark?" (audible gasps from audience) "Can that really be a sash I see?" Yes, Nina. "Hmmmm.. Aren't you a little old to be making doll clothes?" Yes, Biatch.
Guest Designer Coco Chanel: "Well, frankly, I adore it. It looks like my days on the Riviera with my lovers. I'm simply transported. Thank you, Mark, you are a genius."
Heidi Klum: "I'm not in love with this dress. Good thing you have immunity, Mark. When you come back from lunch I want to see a better, more focused vision."
AFTERNOON SESSION. BEGINNING DRESS #2.
MUSIC: ELLA FITZGERALD AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG
FOOD: SUGAR FRUIT SLICES AND COKE (ZING!)
THOUGHT: THANK GOD, NO HEART ATTACK SHOVELING SNOW
TIME: 4:00 pm
Now this is more like it! This should be easy.. A nod to Mondrian. Kept the waistband from the last dress, moved it way up. I see it in heavy white linen. Off I go!
END OF AFTERNOON WORK SESSION.
MUSIC: SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS
FOOD: TOO MUCH SUGAR
THOUGHTS: I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THIS ONE!
TIME: 5:30 pm
Have to stop, Luna's hungry and my back's achy. Going home for food, coffee, yoga. That was an hour and a half to drape what you see in the picture and transfer it to paper. If I come back tonight, I'll cut and sew. If I don't, there will be too much to do tomorrow, and I'd like to have the whole day for the last dress.
DAY 2, EVENING SESSION.
MUSIC: PARIS COMBO
THOUGHT: FULL MOON OVER CONCRETE JESUS!
TIME: 8:15 pm
The sky is clear tonight, and the full moon is rising over the East mountain, where the famed Jesus statue stands, arms spread wide. I usually ask "How big was that fish again, Jesus?" but tonight it looks like he just threw a huge lit ball into the sky. It'll be gorgeous walking home.
OK, so this picture was taken looking down on my cutting table. It shows the paper pattern pieces laid out in order so you can see that this dress is all about skirt. Even the pocket is bigger than either bodice front or back. I do want to point out that there are basic pieces like the front, back, and sleeve. But there are also a lot of "support pieces"- facings and such that finish off the garment. Part of this process (well, most of it actually) is figuring out how it goes together in sewing construction theory. It's like an architect drawing out the cuts on a board, while anticipating how it gets faced and painted later. If you look at the same pattern picture on the last dress, you'll see more support pieces- but this dress is pretty straightforward. The design choices here are which fabric (of three) get cut out of what. I originally saw this in white with black and red accent, but I remembered this great butterfly print I wanted to find a use for. So what I'm about to cut and sew tonight is butterfly for the skirt, solid black midriff, and solid white bodice and sleeves. Not sure about the pockets, but it can wait til last. I'm not too concerned about anything-with a babydoll dress, you always hear "does this make me look pregnant?" Whatever. Ok, Start the clock!
END OF DAY #2, END OF DRESS#2
FOOD: CINNAMON ROLL
THOUGHT: HOW DO I TURN OFF THE "UNDERLINER"?
It's been a difficult night for machinery. As you can see, for no apparent reason, everything is being underlined, and there is no button to change it. Hitting the pin earlier today put a nick in my serger blade, so the thickness of the gathered skirt was a trial. And don't get me started on my computer's mouse, which is now laying out in the snow.
The dress- Well, I think I'm pleased with it. The background of the butterfly print isn't as white as the top, so it looks a little dingy. If I hate it tomorrow, I'll go back to plan A, all white with red pockets. I never do gathered skirts, usually deep pleats, so this is a departure. Overall, I think it's really cute, and very summery. It is important that it have sleeves- so many of my clients won't show their arms. Let's hear from the judges:
Michael Kors: "Well, frankly I like this dress a lot, Mark, but I'm getting a little tired of linen schmatas. And I have to ask-is your model pregnant?"
Nina Garcia: This is a fabulous dress, but maybe a little busy. Could your model turn around, please?" (Audible gasps from audience) "Is your model carrying triplets in her ass?"
Mark: "No, Biatch."
"And again, Mark, I'm tired of seeing doll clothes on the runway.
Guest Judge Fashion Icon, Barbie: "I would TOTALLY wear this dress, for sure.
Heidi Klum: "Me, too, Barbie. Lord knows I'm pregnant often enough. Mark, congratulations. You are the winner of this challenge. Now go home. You look really tired"
DAY 3. MORNING SESSION.
MUSIC: REGINA SPEKTOR
FOOD: STILL WAITING FOR SNOW ICE-CREAM
THOUGHTS: THIS IS THE VIEW OUT MY BACK WINDOW-AM I LUCKY OR WHAT?
TIME: 12 NOON
Well, today should be a breeze. I have two out of three dresses done, and a whole day for number three. I had a big bacon and egg breakfast, and took my time coming in today. Maybe I'll just putter a while and...who's that coming in the door?.. Oh my Gawd! It's Tim Gunn!!!
"Why Tim, what big snowshoes you have!"
Tim: "Actually, Mark, these are a new look from Michael Kors' Winter collection."
Mark: "Hmmmm... And HE'S judging ME? Well, what brings you to Eureka Springs?"
Tim: "Actually, Mark, the judges feel like you have had it a little too easy this weekend, so they sent me to give you an additional challenge today."
Mark: "Nina put you up to this, didn't she?"
Tim: "Well, yes."
Tim: "Tell me about it. So here's your new challenge- By the end of today, you must have an out fit ready for a highly-prized Celebrity. And here she comes now- Ms Barbra Streisand!!"
(audible gasp from audience)
Mark: "Oh my Gawd, Babs, what big snow shoes!"
Babs: "Thank you. I'm so happy to meet you, Mark. I'm a big fan of your clothes. I have your challenge for today-are you ready?"
Mark- (inaudible noise)
Babs: "You must design a 3-piece outfit for me to wear in my next Concert Tour. You still have to make the third dress. However, it has to open up to become a jacket over two other pieces. One of the other two can be something you've done in the past, but the other, whether it is a blouse, skirt, or pants, must be new, and rack-ready along with the dress/jacket by the end of today. I'll be back later for my fitting. Work hard, make me happy, boobalah."
Tim and Barbara walk out the door to have lunch at The Oasis.
Tim hollars over his shoulder "Make it Work!
END OF MORNING SESSION.
MUSIC: THE MAYBELLES, MOTOWN RE-MIXED
FOOD: GRAPEFRUIT, CHEEZ-ITS, FRUIT SLICES
TIME: 3:30 pm.
Well, this certainly has become a very interesting day. had I known all these celebrities would be dropping in, I'd have been here much earlier. I'm focused on a dress that can be casual in linen, or made of vintage brocade for evening, or say, a concert tour.
I've draped the dress in the usual way, adding a few details along the way, like these released darts at the shoulder and waist. Their main function is to create a smooth fit, but I happen to like tucks in place of darts. The skirt seam is so low on the waist that I can cut the skirt as a straight piece, since it falls straight down from the widest part of the hip. I am ready to cut and sew the dress, but I need to take a break, walk the dog and eat. I plan to be back early for one long evening session.
Here's an interesting technique I like to use in patterning- You can see the muslin sleeve pattern has been cut across at elbow level. That will become a seam for the lower sleeve, which is gently flared for a bell-bottom effect. You can see how I took the piece I cut from the bottom of the muslin, slashed it, spread the pieces, then traced the curve they made onto the paper to get a semi-circle. This way, the cuff can sew onto the bottom of the sleeve without gathers or pleats to create the curve. I thought this would be pretty as Barbra holds the mic up to sing "People".
LAST DAY, LAST WORK SESSION!
MUSIC: "CRY-BABY" MOVIE SOUNDTRACK
FOOD: LADY JANE'S PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE
THOUGHTS: SPINNING IN MY HEAD, SPILLING OUT EARS.
TIME: 6:00 pm.
This is it, the last work period. It has been so much fun, on so many levels. I don't know which I enjoyed more- the work, the challenge, the blogging, the comments from you, all of it..What a great snow-in.
I've also had lots of thoughts cooking about what I've learned while doing this challenge. I plan to write a summary at the end of this, so I'm going to let the ideas churn for a while, 'cause right now I need to be sewing!
END OF DAY 3. END OF CHALLENGE.
MUSIC: PINK MARTINI
FOOD: PINK MARTINI
I'm done! I did it! I can't believe I spent my entire snow vacation sewing! I'm going home now, and I'm sleeping late tomorrow! I'll come back in the morning to hear what the judges say, and to wrap the whole experience up. For now, here are several pictures of dress 3 as a dress, and as a jacket with two new garments just added to the line.
THE JUDGES ARE IN THEIR HIGH-CHAIRS.
MARK STANDS BEFORE THEM, SPOTLIGHT GLARING ON HIM.
Heidi: "Well, Mark, you made it through the challenge. I have to say I'm pleased with what you've accomplished this weekend."
Mark: (humbly) "Thank you."
Heidi: "Let's hear what our judges have to say"
Michael Kors: Mark, I'm just in love with this coat/dress thing. I love your choice of fabric- this soft linen drapes beautifully. I never get tired of seeing you use linen- in fact, I'm using nothing but linen from now on. Good job!"
Nina Garcia: "Mark, I know I've been a little tough on you this weekend, but you really brought it all home on this one. I'm wild about the etched pearl buttons you put on this, and so close together! I also love the slimmer leg on these new pants you're making, but please don't stop making your wide-leg Patio Pants!"
Mark: "OK, Nina. Thank-you."
Guest judge Barbra Streisand: Mark, I'm moist as buttuh over this outfit! It is exactly what I've been looking for! You've taken my tired old white pantsuit and given it a new life! And that turquoise waistcoat will be so comfortable during the Concert. I've never loved linen so much! In fact, I think I'll write a new song about it- How's this- 'Garments....Garments that are linen...are the luckiest garments.. in the world..'"
Heidi: Sorry, Barbra, our time is up. Mark, you are the winner of "Project Runaway!" You will receive $100,000,000 to do with whatever you want. Congratulations!
Mark: Oh, my gawd! Thank you so much, everyone! And Barbra, don't be a stranger. Facebook me!
THE REAL CHALLENGE
LOTS OF THOUGHTS.
TIME: DOESN'T MATTER ANYMORE
When I finally woke up this morning,I really felt like I'd been run over by a trike. All the pushing, and thinking, working, blogging had become a routine that frankly, was quite tiring. All I could think of was how much pressure it must be on "Project Runway". In my own studio I got to make up the rules, set the time frame, be my own judge, and not have the pressure of making something more fabulous or extravagant than my competitor's gown. And that my dear, is the way I feel about my life, and how I choose to live it.
So hold on,here comes a tidal wave of conscious thought-
Of course I care what people think of my work, all artists do. But when the door is locked, and everything goes through the end of the funnel, it's really about my own pleasure, and whether I am connected to the universe by doing what I was put here to do, despite the odds.
I did this challenge because I had a clog in the pipes of my creative flow. Over the last few weeks, the things I had been making were not satisfying me, even though others liked them. I should have prefaced this by saying that Winter in Eureka is supposed to be a time of rest- If your business was good during the Summer, you can lock the door and go to Mexico, like many do. If not, you stay here and juggle the bills and think of some way to make fast money, like, say a clearance sale on linen clothing as the snow clouds rumble in. Then I began to listen to audiobooks by Abraham/Hicks that made me realize (in their words) that I was "beating the drum of what is"- "I don't have enough money, I can't pay the rent, I can't fix the roof, no money, no money, no money, etc." By chanting those things over and over, I kept everything the same. Money wasn't coming in, nothing was getting paid, and I was losing my excitement for my art. So I thought- instead of staring at the stack of bills all day, I may as well let them sit there, and go do what I really love, which is to create. Create with no expectation, unconcerned with whether or not it will make money for me, or be the next big fashion staple. Do it because I love the process, and all else will follow. As I began to blog the challenge, I thought- Who knows? This could reach the computer screen of the person who holds the missing link to the fortune that's waiting for me somewhere out there. Maybe all this experience I've amassed in the last 30 years will suddenly be carried to the deliverance point that will let me do this in the way I've begun to envision myself doing it as I look forward in time- not backward at my stack of bills or choices I made along the way.
After I set up the challenge on the first day, I went to all my mailing lists to let people know what I was doing- Facebook, chat lists, and something new I'm doing for my business- a monthly online newsletter sent out as an email blast to women who've purchased from me. In essence, if people could not come into the studio to see me, I would push my way into their home to show them what I was doing, because I think it's fabulous and somebody should be seeing it!
When I opened my email box today, I had notes from all over- friends cheering me on, telling me what a biatch Nina was to me, liking this, hating that. You wouldn't believe the list of characters people saw wearing Dress #1. And believe it or not, one client on my mailing list actually wants to order dress #2 in several colors!
Of course, I don't like all three dresses. But I don't have to. If you know my work, you know that I don't do a new "line" every season. Every garment I've done is my "line", made up of classic garments that stand up to time and fads, and it grows each time I commit to a new idea I tried and liked. The second dress is my favorite, and after some tweeking and other color options, it will be a popular item this Summer. When I was doing it, I felt plugged into my muse, and it came through. I'm still looking at last night's dress/jacket, and wondering what its purpose is in the line. I think maybe in dressier fabrics, I have a nice design for Mother-of-the-Bride. And somewhere out there is the woman who will go crazy for dress #1, and I will be interested to meet her. (Texas Bill nailed it- Cora Beth Godsey)
So to wrap this thing up, I humbly thank you all for helping me work through my latest life lesson, and watching me play roto-rooter with my soul. Thank you for being my audience, for paying attention, and for taking part with your comments. I would like to see my work lean more toward the media event this proved to be, so if you know someone who might enjoy my clothes, my blog, or be a new friend, please pass this along. There's a link on my website to sign up for the monthly newletter- that's a good start.
Now get away from your computer, and go make something beautiful!