Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Day of Fashion Illustration at Central St Martins

I spent all day yesterday on the first of a 4 day course at Central St Martins.  With much gratitude to the powers that allow us research students free places on short courses, I am honing my skills in fashion illustration.  I have never been impressed with my inability to express my designs on paper and often have just held the vision of my design in my head with just rough scribbles to show whoever may have been interested.  So given this opportunity I went for it.

Well, the new CSM building is an inspiration in itself.  Behind Kings Cross in the old disused goods yards that remained empty for years, is a whole new world in itself emerging.  Gone are the 'under the arches' workshops and builders cafes.  The prostitutes, kerb crawlers and drug dealers must have moved on and in their place is an new area of retail spaces, clean streets and the CSM building in what probably was an old goods warehouse.

The day began of course with the tutor being late.  However, that wasn't an indication of what was to follow as our tutor, Celia was a fabulous teacher.  It's strange but when I was at Goldsmiths, although we did two whole terms of life drawing, we didn't do the exercises that Celia showed us which was basically drawing 10 second stick  poses, to get not only proportion of the body correct but weight distribution right too.   Blimey, I was out of my comfort zone!  It was hard, especially in a room with people you've never met and a new teacher.  The  day was spent doing basic drawing with a life model.  It was great and I found that I was concentrating in a whole different way.  Today I ached though from standing at the easel for so long.  I think I was a bit tense too.  The secret, as with anything is to relax.  More will be revealed as the weeks go by.

Design and Construction

I am working like mad to produce two 1/2 size garments for my next tutorial.  I've made the pattern for one and it is in the process of construction.  It is a cotton version of the silk dress that I seem to have been working on for months and months.  I want to take the dress to its natural conclusion and I think I am almost there.
Nancy in Style 1973

The dress was an adaption of the 1973 Style pattern.  I lined it the  most
gorgeous cream silk too (added warmth for me should I choose to wear it which I most definitely will).  It was a good exercise in working with certain silks.  This Liberty print silk frays like you wouldn't believe.  There is no over locking in the dress and all seams are 'French' seams.  I think the ultimate finish would have been better if I had sewn it on an industrial machine rather than a domestic machine.  Buttons were covered at D & M (don't forget that they close at 3pm).  Furthermore, foolishly I pressed down the hem hence the fact that you can see it quite clearly.  My model has slightly hunched shoulders which doesn't quite portray the gorgeousness of the dress but that is because she's my daughter who although beautiful rather reluctant to pose.

My second project which I am madly adapting, has been inspired by a shirt that my mother wore.  It was vintage when she bought it.  I date it somewhere in the 1940s.  This garment was home made and when I got it was really hanging in rags but interesting and I like it.  I decided to unpick it for research purposes and make a pattern and work on a design from there.  I forgot unpicking takes ages and what was really nice was that in the process I found, sewn in a bright pink cotton all the marker stitches from the original maker. We connected - me and that maker.  The cotton used (domestic sewing machine) was thick with a gorgeous twist.  So different to the cotton of today.  I am intrigued by this piece as I wonder if the shirt was originally a dress.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't but I am going to turn it into a dress.

Not so long ago, I came across a dress.  It was worn by Ginger Rogers in the film called 'Lady in the Dark' (1944).  This dress is quite amazing.  However, what to me was  interesting is the similarity in the collar and front of my shirt and  Ginger's dress so with this in mind I have dated my shirt around 1945.

Ginger Roger's Dress from the 1944 film Lady in the Dark
The skirt of the dress is mink fur and is lined with sequins the same as the bodice.  There is a little mink cape to go with it.  The point is the neck band is the same style as my shirt.  So could it be the that this style disseminated from Hollywood via the big screen all the way to my shirt maker somewhere in the UK.  Incidentally, the buttons are a form of plastic and look a the hand sewn button holes.

1940s Shirt
 The shirt continues to evolve into a dress.

I'm currently (on the recommendation of someone of the TFRC blog) suggested ready Visualizing Research - A guild to the research process in art and design by Carole Gray and Julian Malins.  I've only just started reading it but so far it is very informative.  Additionally,  I'm ploughing my way through Sustainable Textiles - Life Cycle and Environmental Impact edited by S Blackburn.  This is very informative if not slightly dry.  And for fun the V&A book Black in Fashion compiled by Valerie Mendes.  Gorgeous and there's a fantastic Biba dress on p.88 that I absolutely love.

1 comment:

  1. Mattie, this makes wonderful reading and I want to reach out and touch these wonderful fabrics!
    I too adore the Biba era and look forward to future posts in this regard. Your daughter looks lovely by the way, slouching or not! She very much suits this gorgeous dress. Well done, btw! Tx