Friday, February 21, 2014

Creating a Phoenix Fire Dress

  My phoenix necklace, which can be purchased here.

As always I began with a series of sketches. I wanted the dress to be inspired by the fire that the mythological phoenix is so commonly symbolized with. (A phoenix dies in fire and is reborn from the ashes )

 My first design was stylish but not as dramatic as I wanted this dress to be. I really wanted the flames to flicker and move as the wearer moved.
So my design underwent some changes even after I had already sent in my design sketch and had been accepted into the show. I designed a fitted dress with an overskirt that would flare out as one walked. The overskirt would have the flames on it so that as the skirt flared it would give the appearance of moving 'flames'.

                           The original look of the fabric

Once I was satisfied with the design I began to paint the fabric. For this piece I used some 1970s drapery material that I had salvaged from the side of the road year ago. I have no idea what the material is just that it was clearly meant to look like a silk shantung. It has a matte side and a shiny side. As the material is some sort of strange synthetic (probably with some sort of plastic in it's composition) I had a heck of a time getting it to take my paints. I knew better than to try to dye a synthetic material but I had no idea that even painting it with acrylics would be so challenging! It didn't grab the paint in an even manner and would often look perfect when wet but about 75% lighter once it had dried. I took 2-3 sessions of painting for each piece. This was much more time consuming than I had anticipated and this placed me in a bit of a time crunch in order to get the piece finished in time. Not to mention the challenge of painting over 6 yds of material!

 I will say that once the fabric was painted it was beautiful. The sheen that it had almost gave the appearance of leather once the piece was done. I dry brushed copper paint over parts to really give the piece a luminescent warmth as well as the appearance of 'sparks and embers' up and down the length of the dress.

For my closures I found some filigree brass hooks. Once my underdress was complete I began work on the overskirt. The 'flames' or tendrils weren't hard per se ( I simply cut the pieces in random spiraling shapes) but they were exceedingly time consuming.

I had to paint a wide variety of colors as I wanted the flames to be varying in shades of reds, oranges and yellows. Each piece had to be painted 2-3 times before I could actually begin cutting the 'flames' out and then each 'flame' had to be pinned to the overskirt before I could hand-sew it on. The challenge was trying to place the flames correctly when someone wasn't wearing it.

I had the overskirt hanging up but it was difficult to see how it would hang on a person. Also, once I finally pinned all of the flames onto the overskirt I found it rather challenging to sew the flames on due to the mass of fabric that I was working with.
Needless to say, I was sewing flames onto my overskirt pretty much all the way up to the night of the show.

 I had originally wanted to create a sort of stomacher of feathers but decided that the feather cheapened the look of the fabric if used in too much of an abundance. Therefore I kept the feathers to a simple accent on the belt and created a fascinator for my hair. I had never worked with feathers before and found this to be a bit challenging, but fun at the same time. Especially when I figured out how to curl feathers. It's a messy process but a lot of fun too. I'll probably do a video in the future on how to do this yourself.

The finished dress on the night of the show! :)

Keep an eye out for my next blog post. I'll be posting a video as well as photos of all of the amazing designs that were showcased at the Armory Art Center's Fashion Artillery Show.

To read about last year's Fashion Artillery Show entry please click here.

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