Sunday, 20 December 2009

CDDC Challenge seven - Mad woMEN

30th of November – The New Challenge

Mad WoMEN - Our guest judge this week is the owner of the fabulous Dressmaker Details. This line is famous for it's fantastic cocktail fashions with that 60's flair. Your challenge this week will be to design the perfect cocktail fashion for your model, who by the way will be wearing your design as she guest stars in an episode of the wildly popular TV series Mad Men, entitled, The Cocktail Party.

Guest Judge: Steven Fraser 

I must admit I wasn’t too happy when I read about this challenge. Yet another 60's challenge. Originally the 7th was suppose to be about manipulation of knit fabrics – that would had been fun – but the judge changed on the last minute and here we are again. Don't get me wrong. I do love the Mad Men show and it's visual style, but the thing with period garments is that they are always more costume than fashion design. It’s simply too limiting when the certain cuts and patterns define 60's and you just have to use them to get that certain flair. Well, if wanted to keep this on the positive side and I should try (*Note that I wrote this on the same day I heard my 6th challenge pictures had be rearranged and partially deleted, so I did have a good reason to be a bit agitated) I did love the Mad Men and the Dressmakers Details’ Mad Men inspired line this year, and if there is a dress I like making its a cocktail dress. I think I need to watch the Mad Men again to get into its chauvinistic, chain-smoking and alcohol marinated world again. And I’d finally get to use my new Sybarite as well.

After tons of research: cocktail dresses, 60’s fashion, Mad Men photos and three seasons later I was exhausted, but I had chosen two options for the fabric: either A: a thin white cotton with tiny black polka dots and embroidery; or B: a thick grey Chinese silk brocade with mustard wine patterns. However, I was experiencing the worst design blockage I’ve ever had – just the thing I had feared when I entered this competition. In addition, I suffered from a severe migraine that simply refused to go away no matter what I did or took for it. It lasted days and days on end. Maybe it was just the strain of spending too much time on a computer or the stress from the very last exam of my life. It feels so weird that my studies are really over now. Even this Cantonese course was extra, just a little something to prolong the evitable – I am really going to graduate. Huge.

The Cantonese exam and preparing for it ate away over a week of my time and after it was done the creative blockage was still there taunting me. So, instead of working on the difficult dress I made wigs for the Sybarite, and a mustard suede overcoat for the option B, that I then decided not to use it and make a luxurious fox stole instead. As I mentioned earlier on the 2nd challenge, I’ve inherited a huge pile of vintage furs from my grandma, but I don’t want to wear them myself, so I use them for doll clothing a bit by bit. I don’t like working with fur, though, there’s something so morbid and sad about them, and they make my allergies go haywire.

In the end I just forced myself to do something, and started to pin the fabrics on the doll, but I just wasn’t feeling it – nor did I the next day. I tried chiffons and tulle with the polka dot fabric, but everything felt like it had already been done. I really hoped this would be the last vintage challenge of the competition and that I could do something more me for the last one. On Wednesday evening I started to get seriously worried and decided to make a simple sheath out of the grey and mustard brocade. My migraine was still incapacitating, but I was able to form a simple dress with a somewhat weird and a bit too revealing cut. I tried hard to make the vine pattern continuous, but in some parts, e.g. darts, it just didn’t work out. I also made nude fishnet stockings, partially to help the fittings – Sybarite is a really hard doll to sew to as I like to sculpt the fabric on the doll and they are so floppy and can’t keep the same posture if you move them in the slightest. They are also much curvier than any doll I’ve worked with - this will take some getting used to. I'm glad my Syb is black because this baby's got back! (Oh no, now I have that song stuck in my head again. LOL)

My light sensitivity gone and able to work with lights on again I decided to relax and get my mind off things by making a photomontage for a flickr group called the International Jetset Diva, where we get a weekly theme to photograph our doll in. This week was a beach concert at Ibiza and I had fun taking the photo on Agnes croud diving in very unladylike manner.

12th of December
It was Saturday evening and I had just submitted my entry. Here was the description:
"For the Mad Men cocktail party I designed a curvy silk brocade sheath with a generous neckline and a matching sash. I chose a colour palette that complimented my model in tones of smoky grey and mustard for that 60's flair. I love the fact that vintage is all about accessories and topped the dress with a luxurious vintage fur fox stole and keeping the rest of the accessories simple black. I made a cute period purse in black leather with matching shoes, a straw pillbox hat, fishnet gloves, patina silver jewellery and as a cherry on the top an elegantly long cigarette holder for smoking those complimentary Lucky Strikes at the cocktail party. My model is an enhanced Sybarite Inque who wears a OOAK 60's style mohair wig made especially for the outfit."

I really doubted my design this time – I believed it would be the one that would cost me the whole competition. However, writing the description did bring some belief in me. I was satisfied with the accessories – they were really fabulous if you don't mind me saying it – but I couldn’t help feeling that they were only there to compensate the lacks of the dress itself. Sure, it was nice and licked the curvy body shape of the Sybarite well, but was it good enough to keep my lead? *sigh* It was going to be such an excruciating wait for the scores. 
I was off to bed, but before I went I checked my emails to see that my submission had been received safely. Yes it had, but there was also a huge problem: I had made a beautiful and elegant cigarette holder as an accessory for the outfit, but it had been counted as a prop instead and all props are banned. This meant that I had to retake all my photos, and not only that, but to rebuild my photo studio and set again. (I did write a full line worth of swearing here, but had to censor it to save the more sensitive readers) And now to return to more British composure: This is not immensely pleasant. The Rule #14 of the CDDC is: "No props unless authorized by Organizer or required in Theme." To be honest I do consider cigarettes to be such a huge part of Mad Men they relaly ARE required by the theme, but what can you do? I just had to reshoot everything. Even if it wouldn’t be against the rules to Photoshop the cigarette holder out of the picture the dolls pose would still be silly with its hand holding the thin air. Ideal or not another photoshoot had to wait until tomorrow. At least I had more experience posing the Syb – she is really hard to work with, has trouble standing even with the stand and can’t hold her poses.

I lied in bed unable to sleep. The cigarette holder issue was bothering me simply too much. I got up. Ironed and draped the background fabric again, set up the lights, fixed a hole in pantyhose, ironed the dress, redressed the doll, put some fresh hairgel on the wig, fixed the purse to a glove to make it look like the doll was holding it, stuffed some suede inside the Syb’s joints to make it hold a pose and started shooting again. I think the new photos were worse, but I was too tired to care. Downloaded the pics, edited them, renamed them and send them again. I didn’t retake the two photos where the doll wasn’t in the picture: one being the inside pic and the other the extra pic with accessories on it. I thought that since the doll wasn’t holding the cigarette holder it couldn’t be considered a prop nor did I delete the mention of it from my description. As I said in it, the cigarette holder was the cherry on the top and the one piece I was really happy with too. It would be sad if I’d have to delete it from all existence. I had to wait until morning and see if it would be alright. I went to bed hoping that this time I’d get some sleep.

14th of December
It was Monday afternoon and the challenge 7 pictures were up. To be honest I was embarrassed of my creation and photography. My new photos made the bust line look awfully baggy as if it was a size too big and there were at so many great designs far better than mine. I struggled with this one and it shows. Then again, if the accessories count - and I hope they did – I sure had plenty and the sash patters met well with the ones on the dress all around the waistline. I just hoped the judges would notice that. I was so anxious while I waited for the scores.

19th of December
It was Saturday morning and wake up to find an email stating that one of the designs had been removed from the challenge for breaking the rule #2, use of commercial patterns. Being accused and penalized in points of the same violation without any personal notice beforehand in the first challenge - where I had used a classic 60’s cut, but done the pattern all by myself – I was absolutely horrified. I opened the CDDC site fearing to see my own design gone (would had been weird anyway as the cut I made this time was rather unorthodox) and I was even more shocked to find that it was #17 that was gone. That was the one I thought would definitely win. Could it have been a commercial pattern? It's hard to believe. The email had also said all discussion on the topic wasforbidden and would be moderated. I just felt stunned. I knew the designer of #17 too, but I think it’s better not to name her under the current cencorship. I was shocked, empty, disappointed. How can this have happened? At least this time they handled the situation neatly behind scenes instead of making it a full blown farce as it was in my case, but I really hope the designer got an advance notice and a change to defend herself this time. And was this accusation true? They must have been able to prove it somehow, as I was let of the hook with apologies since they couldn’t, but I still can't believe it. Ghastly.

Now that I think of it, there could easily be a pattern for a similar dress I made earlier, the cut was so defining in the 60’s, how could I even know as I used patterns for the first time on this Thursday, when I took apart my worn out favourite dress to remake it out of a new fabric. It was surprisingly easy and made the sewing so much faster – I suppose patterns do serve a purpose. LOL. Well da, of course they do, but as I don’t like or my dolls to wear mass production stuff in new colours I’ve always preferred my own process of trial and error. With dolls the “ups” parts don’t even cost that much – they sure did when I was making bridal gowns though! Once I actually have to go and secretly buy a new fabric that cost more than my commission fee for designing and sewing the gown! LOL.

20th of December – The Scores are up
I woke up and rushed to check my mails and there is was. The winner of the challenge is Dal! She is a first time winner who totally deserved it with her very accurately 60’s and MadMen style coral red ensemble modelled by Antoinette channelling Joan Holloway, one the my favourite MadMen characters. On my opinion Dal should have won the Audrey challenge as well as her brilliant black and white design worn my Twilight Bride Momoko was absolutely adorable and very elegant as well. I’m really happy for her! Congratulations Dal!

And here are my scores and judge comments:

Shane: Theme: 4.5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 5 Construction: 4

Overall I think this is a fantastic fashion with great accessories. The brocade is the perfect choice of fabric for this theme. I have one issue with it – it’s far too low cut exposing too much of the breasts. Cocktail dresses in the early 1960’s would have been very fitted at the breast but they would not have exposed nearly so much skin.

Diana and Janet: Theme: 5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5

Diana: I loved the details of this ensemble, and for me, the fur just 'made it happen'. Interesting work in the front detailing, too.
Janet: Beautiful choice of design, exceptional work on the accessories. I love that fox stole, and the variation in color.

Judith: Theme: 5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5

Fabulous colour palette in this very elegant and quite theatrical outfit. This woman would turn heads at any party! Love all the accessories. I would have liked to see the neckline just a little higher for the period. Just a note on the photo. The brightness of the background detracts from the outfit making everything appear overly busy.

Steven Fraser: Theme: 3 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5

Beautifully done, but a bit too modern for the 1960’s

Total: 74.5/80 Ranking 2nd on the challenge, 1st in the overall competition. 

I totally agree with the judges and think this was not my best work. I’m just happy to come second and think there would have been other’s who deserved it more than me. For example Kathi who shares the second place with me and made an impeccable and glamorous black sheath with a pillbox hat for this challenge. It was truly beautiful and looked just as good as Dressmaker’s Details. I’m really sad to see Lori missing and that will definitely influence my motivation in the last challenge. She has been such a source of energy and motivation throughout the competition. I hope she will continue even if she missed this one.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

CDDC Challenge Six - Inspired by Audrey

15th of November - Challenge 6
It’s Sunday and the challenge 6 is in:
"My look is attainable. Women can look like me by flipping out their hair, buying the large sunglasses, and the little sleeveless dresses."

The quote above is from the woman who inspired our next challenge...

Inspired by Audrey
- This week's guest judge takes his inspirations for his incredible collections from many areas. This week you must take on a muse that has inspired our Guest Judge himself. Your challenge this week is to create a design that is inspired by Audrey (Hepburn). This should not be a remade or copied Audrey outfit, but something that you have designed that would suit Audrey's style and be something Audrey would have loved to wear.

Guest Judge: Randall Craig

Audrey is one of my icons, but to be honest another 60’s theme challenge doesn’t feel that inspiring to me. The things Audrey wore were groundbreaking in her day, redefining the styles that followed, but now they are just very normal and sort of boring. She was an icon who changed the beauty ideals from the curvy, blonde “bombshell” look into a slender brunette with a pixie cut, which I love and can thank her for preferring the short cropped hair myself. I suppose one could try to update Audrey’s simple elegance to modern times, but it’s a risky interpretation especially since her popularity has made her signature look into something very commonplace. Then again the Integrity Toys' Poppy Parker collection has Audrey’s 60’s wardrobe pretty much covered already so there isn’t much left to do in the 60’s department either.  It will be a really tough challenge to create something new within a theme this used up. Of course Audrey was in the spotlight from 50's to 90's, but its the 60's that really identifies her style.
I did some research, browsed the net for her photos in roles and in real life, watched several of her movies and finally defined Audrey’s wardrobe to consist of:
  • Capri pants
  • Slim trousers
  • Button-down Men’s Shirts (with rolled up sleeves as seen on the Roman Holiday)
  • Black turtleneck (A must on Funny Face and outside the sets)
  • The little black dress (Breakfast at Tiffany's)
  • Elegant but simple evening gown
  • White trench coat (Breakfast at Tiffany's and real life)
  • Comfortable ballet flats
  • And the perios choise of accessories: silk scarves, chic hats, gloves and purses
Based on the movies I liked Audrey the best in the movie where she deputed: Roman Holiday 1953. On the other hand, I preferred to bring my Audrey to the modern age and make an updated versions of her signature favourites. I also planned to make an OOAK Audrey doll if the time would allow it and the perfect canvas in on its way – the Portrait in Black Poppy Parker. I had made one Audrey doll out of FR Giselle some years ago, but I didn’t have it at hand any more. If only the Poppy would arrive in time - I'd had to start the designing without my model. 

My old Audrey repaint

This has been a time when my personal life has distracted me from this challenge quite a bit, but luckily only in positive sense. It’s been a very exciting time as we - me and my hubby - are considering to buy our very first apartment together and I’ve been running into bank here and Juhana from apartment viewing to another in Tampere. We finally found something that might be turned into a dream home by knocking down a wall or two and a bank promised us the loan so I was simply squealing with excitement! However, just before finalising the deal I called the janitor of that housing complex and found out that the real-estate agent had been keeping so things from us, such as full roof, balcony and window renovation that was eminent within the next 5 years. I lost my faith in our agent that instance and we backed out from the deal. We browsed the market for other option, but in the end decided simply to open a savings account for the down payment. Luckily, after browsing for rental apartments, I fell instantly in love with a small but beautiful 50m2 flat in luxurious neighbourhood downtown. It’s undoubtedly a bit small for us, but it’s too beautiful to miss and allows us to save more too. Besides, the building is an old one build in 1930 with those high rooms, so it’s almost like a loft and we can pile our things upwards. As a cherry on the top the landlady seems awfully nice and flexible too. We will move to Tampere on 30th of January. 

Our new flat

21st of November – Finally in the Sewing Phase
After all the distractions I was starting to sew. I had made some sketches while sitting in a train going back and forth between Tampere and Helsinki, but I wasn’t satisfied with any of my ideas. The framework was to bring Audrey to the modern era and make renewed versions of her favourite fashion items. However, this was a risky approach as the challenge especially forbid copying any of her outfits. I wanted to remake the Audrey basics: white trench coat, black turtleneck and slim capri pants. In my original idea the trench could be taken apart as a dress and a short bolero. Three pieces of clothing: three different outfits.
However, the turtleneck was still a turtleneck and there aren’t that many ways to differentiate casual capri pants. First I was thinking of making leggings instead, but then I remembered the penalties of using knit fabrics – you never get 4 or 5 for construction with knits. The turtleneck would use knit fabric anyway so I made 5-pocket-jeans capris from a windbreaker fabric that makes tiny detailing possible and functions well in scale.  

 I needed to reinvent the turtleneck, so instead of the basic long sleeved model I made it a sleeveless halter neck tunic with white ribbon to gather the hem to hip to be worn as a top with pants, or let loose with a knee length hem to form a casual little-black-dress – another of Audrey’s favourites. Three pieces of clothing: four different outfits. I was running out of photos and fast, so I contacted Larraine to clarify the submission photo rules. It was established earlier that if the garment had layers these could be posted as one photo if the 600pixel max height was still kept intact. However, the rule had only been applied to 2-layer designs before and mine had 4. I think its stretching the rules quite a bit, but Larraine assured me we could work it out.

Next was the trench coat and I started with the dress part. For the fabric I chose a lovely and statuesque silk dubioni that is so stiff it’s almost paper-like. I used the same fabric as lining and made quite a full pleated skirt part with a classic simply top. The whole dress is buttoned all the way down with fully functional white shank buttons topped with a silk rope belt. I made the bodice fitting so that it could be worn either way around, so that added even more variety to this compact travel wardrobe. I thought the outfit needed both a big hobo bag and a tiny clutch to vary with the different combinations. For shoes there was no other alternative but Audrey’s ageless favourite: the ballet flats. I can only hope that this ability to transform will be enough to pull my design off as a new thing instead of a copy, but I’m sure Audrey would have loved to travel light in these simple and comfortable clothes.

23rd of November – Off to Stockholm
I had to put my work on hold for few days as I was going Christmas shopping in Stockholm with my mother-in-law and and sister-in-law. Sweden isn’t that far away and I love the old architecture of Stockholm, so it’s nice to revisit it after all these years. We took an overnight cruise there, shopped the whole day and took the same ship back home. very nice, but exhausting trip. It’s been a while since I was on a full time shopping marathon like this and I was totally out of practice. 

27th of November – Last Touches
It’s Friday night and I’m finally done. The teeny tiny fingered gloves really gave me a headache and took dozens of attempt to succeed, but I did it eventually. Instead of making the shoes from scraps this time I modified some high heeled shoes I had doubles of. I just can’t seem to get closed toe shoes right on my own so cutting off the heeled soled and making new flat ones worked wonders. After the gloves I had sort of run out of time and energy and did the lazy thing and just picked up a suitable purse from my collection instead of making one myself. I didn’t make any jewellery this time, as Audrey preferred simplicity and didn’t wear that much jewellery outside her films. 

I used steel grey background to make the white silk really shine bright. 

Here is my description:
"I wanted to reinvent Audrey's old favourites: the trench coat, black turtleneck and the capri pants. I wanted to modernise the look, but still keep a nice 50´s retro wibe. The idea of this design was to make a transforming travel wardrobe to a person who loves comfort and travels light so there are 3 pieces of clothing that make 4 different outfits. The colour palette is Audrey's favourite black and white, and the simple fashions have those little details that make them chic and special - just the way she liked it. The main piece is a trench coat from white silk dubioni and buttoned with fully functional white shank buttons. The coat can be taken apart to make a cute bolero jacket and a simple classic dress. I wanted to remodel the knit turtleneck, so I cropped out the sleeves to make a halterneck tunic that can be either gathered to the hips with white ribbons or kept loose as a little black dress. The capris have the basic slim fitting 5-pocket-jeans cut and the outfits are completed by Audrey's favourite accessories: a chic purse from La Boutique, ballet flats, a silk scarf, huge FR sunglasses and white gloves with black stitching. It was a real challenge to make fingered gloves in 6th scale, but Poppy Parker is my first doll with parted fingers making it possible to make proper gloves."
30th of November – Problems with my Submission Photos
Because of my design I had run out of pictures to illustrate it and contacted Larraine beforehand to ask how to handle the situation. She had said it was fine before and fine after seeing my photos. However, this morning, I had several emails waiting and saying there was trouble with the photos. She had tried rearranging them in several different ways, but it simply didn’t work – she had to delete some. It was not the best way of start a morning and I felt pretty frustrated. I had spend hours finding the best way to arrange them so that they illustrated clearly and presented beautifully what I had made. Larraine’s best efforts left me confused and I feel really bad for her spending so much extra hours with my submission. I did agree with her on the photos that had to go – they were the weakest photos. At this point I’m really happy I wrote and that extra long description to explain my design - I hope the judges will understand. 

 The original arrangement of the extra photos

The morning wasn’t getting any better when I read that the next challenge would be yet again period 60’s dress – is there no other era existing in the human history? This is the 3rd time if you count Audrey! But I’ll complain more about it in my next post. Sorry to whine, but I really started this morning off on the wrong foot.
An hour later – The Pictures are up
OK. Larraine did a good job and my design looks lovely on the site. *Whew* The fingered gloves that were an ordeal to make are not really shown on the doll to their best advantage, but that’s the least of my worries. There are so many good designs here and I bet Lori will be real hard to beat this time. My 2 point lead feels like nothing when I look at her design. I’m so happy to have her in this competition as she is always keeping me thriving for better designs and better finish – though I don’t think I can ever be able to sew as impeccably as she does. We both have white coats as the main focus point... This is going to be immensely tight and there are others that have glorious designs as well – neither me or Lori are safe. Number 2 is simply exquisite in every way and I’d pic that as a winner in a heartbeat. Kathi’s design also caught my eye and she’s using the same doll as I am, the Portrait in Black Poppy Parker, as a model. I'm glad I took the time to repaint and restyled mine.

6th of December – the Scores are up
Shane: Theme: 4.5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 4 Construction: 5
This is a gorgeous, meticulously-made set and I can see Audrey wanting to wear much of it, but I can also see Audrey telling you that parts of it should be changed to fit her preferred way of dress. I don’t see the bolero jacket and the dress working as a trench coat – you certainly have the silhouette of one but it doesn’t quite work in my eyes and does not make for ease in dressing. I’m also not a big fan of the white ribbons being used to tie up the dress.  It stands out and takes away from the sleek lines that Audrey would have wanted to best show off her tall slim figure.
Diana and Janet: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Just jaw dropping.  Audrey lives!  A star to you for the handbag!!  It's all perfect. 
I feel it's just perfect in every way.  It's so inspiring – there was so much thought put into every aspect of mini collection.  Bravo!
Judith: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
GORGEOUS! The cream coat is stunning and a stand out piece. Audrey all over! Down to the signature ballet flats & glasses and of course capris. The turtleneck is spot on. A very clever mix and match outfit. As cute as they are I don’t think the tiny white ribbons are necessary, I would have preferred them black to maintain the sleek silhouette. Gloves!! Amazing
Randall Craig:  Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 4
There are some wonderful pieces here. I will admit that judging so many pieces made this difficult. I think if you had picked your favorite pieces and put together one look it would have made more of a clear statement. The bolero is fabulous. The white dress is very Audrey. However, the dart points look like they hit about .5” too high and that is very distracting. My eyes go straight to that every time so I had to take a point off for construction. Otherwise, it is a beautiful set of clothing that is beautifully styled.
Total 77/80 Ranking 1st in the competition; 2nd in the challenge
Suddenly, for the first time since the challenge one, coming second hurts again. The feeling itself surprises me and I feel guilty for it. I know I should be happy. I got the best score I’ve ever had but it just wasn’t enough. I can’t believe I lost points with Shane because of my main idea to make 3 pieces of clothing into a full wardrobe. I should have followed the old KISS-rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I guess I tried to do too much. The construction point I lost with Randall Craig was totally deserved though. Those darts DO go too high because that was originally supposed to be the back of the dress and when I was dressing the doll I thought “Hey, this might look even better this way around!” *idiot* Well, you become blind to your own work and it cost me this challenge. Darn.
Ok, enough with disappointment. Lori absolutely deserved her victory on this. Impeccable as always and very Audrey. Besides, I did get the best score ever, plus full points from Diana and Janet and that’s just awesome! It’s so fun that all the judges have such a different tastes and learning what tickles their nerves. I wish this competition would take a full year because I still have so much learning to do. Now that I think of it, my pressures are not coming from a will to win, but horror that this competition will be over soon and I still haven’t satisfied the hardest judge of them all: myself. I wonder if I’ll be able to create something new in the next challenge or will it be just a recreation of some period clothing. The challenge 7 is really stressing me out horribly. Period clothing is such a pickle for a designer. I have already chosen my materials, but I still have no idea what to do with them. Wish me luck! And huge congratulations to Lori!

Poppy is doing the "release dance" from Funny Face:

Saturday, 21 November 2009

CDDC Challenge Five - The Red Carpet

Sunday, 1st of November
On the Red Carpet - This week's guest judge is known for his fabulous gowns. So it seems only fitting that this challenge be all about, On the Red Carpet. Design a fabulous gown for your fabulous model as she walks down the red carpet with the stars.

Guest judge: Jim Farone

A gown for red carpet, huh. Glamour, obviously, and not too risky as celebrities usually do want to avoid being in the worst-dressed-list. I wondered would I need a model that smiles? Don’t think I have one really. I have no idea what to do and inspiration didn’t feel like coming at all. At this point I had doubts about my challenge 4 design a week went by without me doing anything much about the CDDC.

However, the challenge 4 pics were up with 2 gorgeous Sybarite dolls posing with amazing designs and my craving to get a Syb of my own got way worse again. Again I browsed thru flickr and doll boards learning about Sybs and drooling over the endless photos. The FBR (Fashion Beyond Reason) are just the type of Haute Couture I love so if I’d get a Syb and would make fashions for it the doll would pay itself back soon enough, so it would be a sort of a investment really – or so I try to tell myself as there dolls aren’t cheap.
I consider the available Sybs I crave for now: Voltaire on Superfrock site, Raja on Angelic Dreamz and the 1st Inque on ebay. The prices are all about the same – and all beyond my reach. The one I really want is actually the 2nd Inque, but since she costs about 700 there is no way I can even consider it right now. I decide to postpone the decision as I’m still not sure how to pay for Neru’s veterinary bills and the 2st Inque auction closes on ebay without a single bid. I’m quite determinate not to buy a Syb for now, but then the Inque is relisted on ebay “only” for 200pounds. The British’s pound being really low compared to euro and no risk of customs fees I cave in and bid. On Wednesday I’m still the only bidder and an ecstatic new owner of a Sybarite doll! I blow some more money on wigs at Superfrock store and start the excruciating wait for my newest “investment”.

On Friday morning I found my lost inspiration in a hospital waiting room reading women’s magazines as I waited to get the swain flu vaccination. My parents pressured me into it really as I’m in a risk group due to my asthma and as the epidemic seems to have reached a stupid panic point in Finland now. However, I was unable to act on my inspiration as I spend the night suffering the side effects of the vaccination featuring extreme headache and tiredness plus the ghastly pains in the vaccinated hand – all painkillers forbidden as they could reduce the effectiveness of the antibodies formed. The Syb wigs arrive and even though their design is beautiful, I’m a bit surprised by the coarse quality of the fibre used for the wigs. On Saturday morning I was flabbergasted to learn my challenge 4 design has won despite all my second-guessing and my hand’s still sore but the other symptoms gone. A good morning in overall.

Usually, I prefer to spend my weekends in a happy haze of quality time with my hubby. The weekends are far too precious to waste as that’s the only time we can be together. However, as the coming week threatened to be immensely busy, we did the next best thing and worked side by side on our own projects: Juhana was putting finishing touches to his thesis (still haven’t touched mine); I worked desperately with my design challenge.

For some reason this Red Carpet thing formed into bleeding mess – quite literally at several points too. On Saturday, I slaved to make this layered dress out of soft powder coloured fishnet I usually use for stockings. It was just one of those days when everything you touch turns to shit (excuse me the profanities, but they are quite necessary to express my mental state that day – and rather subtle I must say as I must have used way worse on that weekend). I redid the bodice 3 times and with that and the dozens of layers in the immensely wide skirt – went overboard with the volume again – Saturday was gone.

On Sunday I tried out my brilliant idea of gradient dying the dress and failed even more brilliantly. I had bought the fabric in one of those dodgy fabric markets in China and had no idea of the fibres used, so in the end it did take colour and the gradient effect was quite successful. However, the result was disgustingly pastel and reminded me of some grandma’s petticoats. I might be able to save it with some edgy detailing in the future, but for now it’s out of the picture. I need to start over again.

I found another inspiration shortly after the first failure as I was browsing for that “edgy design” effect that could save the ghastly thing. It was Rorschach ink blot test. I loved idea of using those ink blots as avant-garde patterns in a gown, but that path led to failure again. I tried printing the silk first and then sewing, but keeping the pattern absolutely symmetrical with every pintuck proved quite challenging. Besides, the effect might have been too avant-garde for red carpet, as the stuff the stars wear in actually quite classic and boring – you don’t want to be taking too big risks on red carpet and end up on a worst-dressed-list. Then again, not taking risks in this competition and playing it safe and boring sounds like a design suicide to me.

I always struggle with the play-it-safe challenges. For example the first challenge - the inauguration gown. The etiquette is clear and frigid and I went by the book – and didn’t do so well. For the second challenge I cannot blame myself – that design is still my own personal favourite – it’s easy to lose when it's simply because others are just so much better as you don’t have to beat yourself for your mistakes. The fact is there will always be people better than you in something, so it’s useless to spend energy worrying about it. The challenges 3 and 4 were right up my alley: a change to go couture and avant-garde. The more there will be challenges saying we have to keep it casual and boring, the more I’ll struggle. I just hate doing stuff that’s average and normal – that’s the whole reason I stopped making human clothes. Even on their wedding gown people want to play it way too safe.

Besides, designing for dolls has several advantages: 1) They can wear anything and still look good, 2) You can buy the most outrageously expensive and glorious fabrics since you only have to buy so little, 3) In the tiny scale you can warp the laws of physics a bit, 4) They don’t feel pain or want to be comfortable (or able to more or breathe = definite downsides of humans), 5) When you sew the garment on them – as I mostly do – you can hold the model in your hand and turn it around instead of killing your knees crawling on the floor as you’d do with a human model. One of my favourite works in human scale was an evening gown made of exquisite red silk velvet with a plunging back so deep you could see the dimples of her butt. Naturally this fully open back meant no bra and the customer had a very full bosom that needed to get a push up effect from the mere draping of the dress as the neckline was rather generous as well. I must have spend weeks hand sewing – sculpting – that garment of her and we did it. No zips, clasps or other closure, no hidden padding or lingerie, the sculpted dress gave all the support needed and I still consider it one of my finest works.   

But now I’m badly sidetracked again. Back to that rotten Sunday again. I made a basic bodice out of very stiff white silk dubioni and lined it with the same fabric. Its quite statuesque base for design and can support the front part well even with the rather low back. I avoided making it too corset like as I’ve used that favorite style or mine too much. I also made the waistline go around hips to give it different shape from my usual waistline. Then I just poured out everything in my fabric and ribbon stash and started trying out everything and anything. I didn’t know what sort of skirt I’d do or anything and I was starting to panic as the time was running out. My best friend is moving house and I promised to help on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, I have school on Tuesday, My dad’s coming over on Wednesday and Thursday and a friends who lives in Germany now on Monday. I hope I can do the photo session on Saturday, but in order to do that I should have something to photograph as well.     

Finally, I tumble across a little strip of fabric I got from that outrageously expensive up town boutique. They called it the vogue fabric, and it’s a exquisite quality silk with photograph quality prints of fashion magazine covers all over it in 6th scale. It cost 250e per meter, so I simply couldn’t buy it, but there was this tiny strip lying around on the cutting table and I asked if I buy it – even that half a hankie cost me 10euros, but then again is it very weird fabric just screaming luxury. The tailor there was making a men’s vest out of it – that’s going to be such a statement. The fabric is very similar to the one used in the Miss Sixty Autumn/Winter 2009 collection, though these prints were in smaller scale and perfectly suited for 6th scale dolls.

I know using huge patterns is a risk on the red carpet, but the colours and shine of the fabric has a very glamorous feel to it. I think the Miss Sixty dress using nothing but printed fabric was a bit much, so wanting to keep it elegant I only accented the white bodice with the print fabric allowing a half of white unprinted canvas to show and then letting the fashion magazine covers flow freely as an asymmetrical full skirt contrasting with a narrow white fishtail skirt on the other side. It seems this metamorphosis between things is becoming my signature thing along with the sculpted sewing style. I tried not to sculpt that much this time, but I did so-to-speak guide a few drapes on their way down the hips. Sorry, just couldn’t resist it. I did consider using ruched chiffons again, but then I remembered that guy on Project Runway who could do nothing but Creek gowns from challenge to challenge and I want to be no one trick pony. I’m happy to say that the gown looks new and classic at the same time. As I has to hand sew the printed silk on the bodice and the edge didn’t look crisp enough I decided the add a row of graphite grey 2mm satin finish sequins to add a little something to the dress. I could have used black sequins but somehow the graphite grey was softer and more suitable for the fashion printed theme.

During the week there more people were leaving the CDDC. I do respect their decision, but I was sad to see them go. However, I must agree that the competition takes its toll. It feels like a full time job to me and of course there is stress too. Because of the CDDC I haven't done any progress with my thesis, so I might not graduate this year after all. It’s not the end of the world as I can still send my final version to my professor from Tampere after we have moved, but I did promise myself and that’s bothering me a bit. Then again, in the CDDC I've learned that I work well under pressure and found ways to push myself towards inspiration when I'm stuck so I consider it far more important to my future career than an academic paper in Chinese guanxi networking. Master’s degree does give me a lots better salary as a teacher than Bachelor’s, so I will definitely finish what I started no matter what.

The week rolled by and friends and family came over. I sewed, ironed and attached sequins as I socialized; I took photos of the finished garment as my dad browsed thru the papers for next day’s meeting. On Wednesday evening Jing came to my place and we squeezed my dad for business advice. There are so many things to consider when starting a new business and so much work and research to do in order to make a solid business plan that we need to find financing.

And in the topic of financing my own is looking pretty bad. I forgot that I paid for my hubby’s air tickets to Paris with my visa card and the number of digits in the bill is a bit of a surprise.Ups.

Saturday the 14th of November - Done

I had just submitted my pictures. I don’t think I had ever been so pressed for time as with this challenge and I still wasn’t satisfied with the results. Maybe I was becoming more demanding as the competition was growing tighter by each challenge; maybe I just hadn’t performed upto my own standards. Well, time would tell eventually was my gown good enough or not, but all I could do was hope. I loved the fabric and the silhouette was nice but was it glorious, divide, perfection? No. At least I was happy with the concept, though I wasn’t sure was I able to communicate it well enough in my description:

"My red carpet gown is a bold and modern statement in a form of a asymmetrical dress that wraps the model in extravagant silk patterned with vogue covers. The dress began with fully white bodice and a fishtail skirt that became partially consumed by the overload of fashion magazines. It symbolises a model as a tabula rasa for a designer, and the immense pressures for stars to make it to the best-dressed-lists and magazine covers. The edge between blank canvas and the print is edged with graphite grey sequins. The metallic grey accessory colour is repeated in the chain jewellery, simple yet elegant leather clutch and the soles of the white platform pumps. I'd like to see this dress on a fresh and brave young star such as Rhianna. My model is Model Behaviour Nadja by Integrity Toys."

 Well, I just had to wait and see meanwhile preparing myself to the next challenge to come.
22nd of November  - the Scores are up
It’s midnight and I check my emails before going to bed. The winner has been announced and it’s Louos with that gorgeous red dress with Chinese embroidery. It was my favourite too and I’m so happy for him. I think he absolutely deserved to win, not only because he had the best design on this challenge, but also because it was his time to win. Louos does great designs that are always young and fresh, and it’s about time he got the spotlight. I came second with 3 points less, but I’m still in the lead with the overall points. Here are my scores and  judge comments:
Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4.5
This is one of those dresses that could put a celebrity in the best dressed category or the “what was she thinking?” category.  You took a real risk here and from my point of view the gamble paid off.  The dress flows beautifully and the print is fantastic.
Diana and Janet: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4.5 Construction: 4.5
Superb presentation and the designer's notes helped a lot to understand the depth of thought that went into this.
I could see the work that went into that fitted bodice and the whole ensemble.  And to make it detachable was an added plus.  Interesting!
Judith:  Theme: 5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Striking use of a very clever print! Excellent choice of colors for this doll. Extremely well thought out design for the Red Carpet!
Jim Faraone: Theme: 4 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 3
Fun fabric overlay
Total 72/80 Ranking 1st in the overall competition, 2nd in the challenge
I was so happy to finally impress Janet and Diana as it’s really hard to get good scores out of these two ladies. That felt more rewarding than actually winning.  I was a little disappointed with the guest judge though, as he must have been too busy to put real effort into his comments to any of the contestants, but then again it could be just be that we were too spoiled by Rob who gave us his heart and soul in his commentaries. Jim Faraone really left me wandering where the 3 for construction came from. Anyway, in the whole the risk paid off – that print might have easily landed me in the worst dressers list but I was able to pull it off after all the setbacks and that’s priceless. I know I need to work hard on the next challenge in order to keep my lead, though. 

Saturday, 7 November 2009

CDDC Challenge Four - On the Fashion Edge

19th of October – Challenge 4

The challenge 4 clue was delivered one day late due to internet trouble and now we have until 2nd of November to complete it. The next judge is Rob Thompson whose work I’m already familiar with from flickr and the challenge is:

On the Fashion Edge - This week's guest judge is an amazing doll artist. His OOAK creations are always on the cutting edge. This week you must create an avant garde casual outfit (no you don't have to use an Avant Guard doll). This outfit must be edgy...think Alexander McQueen.

Hmmm. “...think Alexander McQueen” This sounds like the best challenge for me up to date! Together with John Galliano Alexander McQueen is one of my favourite designers and as a tribute to these talented men I want to do something totally outrageous! Alexander McQueen is all about exaggerated form, unusual materials, pattern and texture, unbelievably artistic (and painful) shoes and weird head gear. I think I’ll be making a business suit that will attempt to corporate these attributes. Off to work it is then – but not before I’ve picked up some antibiotics for my cat Neru who’s quite ill.

I made two sketches and liked both. I think I’ll let the materials I find to dictate which one I’ll make. I think I’ll add both of them to the list of fashion I want to produce in my own fashion line in the future. I also instantly knew I wanted to use the new Elise Jolie as the model as she is very Alexanger McQueen type girl with her severe look and heavily sculpted features!

20th of October - Trouble with Fabrics
Tuesday. My only day of schools and my new official fabric shopping day. I leave home early so I can browse thru every fabric shop in town before my Cantonese lesson. First shop is a dead end, but from the second one I find amazingly thin and soft faux leather, golden fabric with 3mm sequins and some weird stretchy lace with printed patterns. None of them crucial for this challenge, but they could be useful later on so I byu some anyway.

The third shop I got to is the one that saved me the last time – maybe I should head here first from now on, but with these up town prices one does hope to find it elsewhere. The challenge 3 materials cost me around 100 euros since in this boutique some fabrics cost 1800euros per meter! Not the ones I’m using though, but the fact is I need to start selling my works to be able to afford to continue in this competition.

I buy 15cm of burgundy raw silk and am happy to see the nice seller gives me 7cm extra due to an imperfection in the fabric, then finest silk chiffons in burgundy and dusty teal. On my way out I fall in love with a patterned silk in the same colour scheme and even though it wasn’t a part of the plan, I simply have to take it too and make some redesigning to fit it in. I decide to change the skirt a bit and make a tulip skirt to cover the original idea of ruffles skirt. 

All fabrics bought and I’m still early for my lesson in Cantonese which is good since I haven’t done my homework again and I really need to prepare to chapter in advance. The course is taught in Mandarin Chinese, as the teacher doesn't speak any Finnish or English really, and the book is meant for native Chinese learning Cantonese. This meaning no English and that in the 3rd chapter of the book today we are already discussing establishing different types of bank accounts, what interest rates they have annually and so forth. To quote my British friend: “It’s a bid of a kerfuffle really.”

In the evening at home I do some more sketching and start to dread I’m playing it too safe again. I wanted to do something brave and outrageous, but instead it feel simply classic and boring. In the end, I’d rather be punished for going too avant garde than doing well by making it conventional and boring. I thrive to create something new - even though I do know there is nothing new under the sun. Rob, our guest judge for this time, gave a lot of emphasis to the edgy side of this competition. He asked us to watch Alexander McQueen’s Autumn 2009 the Horn of Plenty show as a inspiration.

The Horn of Plenty is one of my all time favourite fashion shows, but I didn't mind seeing it once more. Besides, I've only seen it before as a slide-show and watching the show on video was awesome. I got more motivated to push myself further again. I did watch Spring 2010 show as well and those hoof like armadillo shoes simply blew me away. There were two words in my mind: constraint and exaggeration. Many Alexander McQueen’s clothes are like straitjackets on runway forcing the model to move in a peculiar, bound way and I wanted to incorporate that in my outfit too. Then again, when you look at the McQueen clothes in a store without the runway styling, they are quite wearable after all. So, just like with the warrior woman design from last challenge, I wanted to make the accessories bounding – almost bondagelike – and the fashion itself wearable and more commercial.

So I made leather gloves that morph into a purse that is chained to high leather collar, together giving the effect of shackles – either it’ll be a huge flop or some American designer with no regard to copyrights (they have no legislation to protect intellectual property in States - can you believe that?!) will rip me off and make huge money with it! LOL. I think the accessory set has a nice fetish feel to it.

For footwear I designed a hybrid between the controversial Nina Ricci shoes that caused a turmoil at the Olivier Theyskens Autumn 2009 show (might I add I’d never wear those but I love them no matter what other people say) vs John Nouanesing’s bloody table combining them into a kinky shoe made of blood – it is Halloween when we submit this challenge in after all. ;) 

Before I start sewing I make the staining test to all the fabrics I’m about to use. I sculpted two pairs of blood shoes out of two component epoxy putty (I also sculpted my thumb so the blood shoe is quite a fitting title for the project), one set of soles for sandals and another over a pair of discarded FR boots that I shortened and took apart. Under the platform there is a pool of “blood” (just paint at this point) that provides balance and instead of heels there will only be drops of blood about to fall. The painting takes time as the shoes need dozens of layers of thin acrylic paint for the blood effect. While waiting for the layers of paint to dry, I make the shackle purse out of the soft faux leather I found yesterday. It worked out quite nicely and has a very kinky feel to it.

To make a stain test at home:
- Cut strips of fabric and tie them around expendable barbie's leg
- Pour boiling water over it
- Let it dry over night
- Check for stains 

The staining test is ready, but one of the fabrics has stained badly – it’s the burgundy raw silk I need for the jacket and quite crucial for my design. Usually I would just swap fabrics at this point, but I don’t have time to hunt for a new fabric or redesign my fashion so I resort to the almost as bothersome process of sealing the colour. The process goes:
- Wash the cloth 3 times with bleaching washing solution in really hot water.
- Then rinse it in the shower with in turns with hot and cold water for 15 minutes or so.
- Let is soak in vinegar over night
- Iron it while its still a bit moist
- Repeat the staining test and hope for the best - this time it worked.
This treatment should stop the staining, but it it does take away lots of the fabrics colour as well. So instead of burgundy jacket mine became closer to brick red, but at least my doll is safe from staining.

A pool of BLOOOOOOD... 
Happy Halloween! 
(Just the anti-staining treatment 
- don't worry, I didn't get this desperate.)

Meanwhile I make stockings out of the green siphon and another pair for Antoinette from the weird lace I bought as an impulse purchase. The stocking lead me to design another outfit for Antoinette using the faux leather and to ponder which one should I use for the challenge. Maybe the Antoinette one is too basic and simple: just a sort of a leather qipao with a corset belt and motorcycle padded shoulders. I suppose I’ll just make a few of them for sale after the challenge 3 scores are up. I know I'll be needing the cash with Neru's veterinary bills piling up on my desk.

24th of October - Done!

I can’t believe it. The challenge 3 scores haven’t even been posted yet and I’m done with my challenge 4. I finished the garment yesterday and took the photos and submitted them today. Done. Weird. I just wonder if my design is too tame – or too kinky. LOL. Well, I suppose there’s no use to ponder about it as it’s submitted already. Now I can hopefully just concentrate on my thesis. It’s not like I want to, I’m totally bored with the topic at the moment, but I suppose I have no choice – I did promise myself to finish it before x-mas. Graduating would be kind of nice if I plan to move to another city and this current situation where my spouse works in another city and I study in another sucks big time. So, like it or not, I’ll have to start reading thru a pile of cripplingly boring books while I wait for the challenge 3 results.

Note: I never got to my thesis as Neru's state started to decline rapidly leading him to be hospitalised and me too emotionally devastated to do anything but cry and worry.

7th of November – The Scores

Exceptionally the scores came one day early on Saturday morning and I woke up to find an email announcing the winner – me! I was so surprised my first reaction was to got to the site and check the scores as I really though it must have been a mistake. Maybe it was the last challenge winning email that had just got into a loop in the system or a prank or something. But there it was on black and white: I had won. Again. A little squeal escaped me. And another. I just can’t believe it. I send SMS to my family as it was rather too early to call them on Saturday morning and kept squealing all thru the phone calls that I got in return.

It was not only that everyone had done so amazingly well on this challenge (there were plenty of designs I had picked the winner before my own) but also, that for the first time, I had been second guessing my design up until the last moment of submission time. I had had several inspirations and also almost finished another design for Antoinette – only the shoes were still in progress because of the severe illness my baby cat Neru had gone thru during these stressful and exhausting week. However, I will not go into the details here and now as I don’t wish to relive those moments ever again. But, for all those who have been there for me and worried about him with me all those days I’m happy to tell Neru is quite healthy now and is playing along with other with his usual vigor.

But to get back to the point, here are my scores and judge comments for challenge 4: 

Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Absolutely wonderful interpretation of the theme. Your colors and your lines are fantastic! This is an amazing look!

Diana & Janet: Theme: 4.5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4.5
Diana: So much thought went into every element of this. I was particularly taken with the details, such as the shoes (and soles!) and the shackled aspect of the purse. Woo hoo!
Janet: Bravo on the jacket. It is both tailored and sculpted. A little goth for me, but that theme is carried in three different places, so I like the consistency.

Judith: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4.5 Construction: 5
Where do I start? Love the caramels, the rustiness, the richness and the boldness of this design. The blood heels are frighteningly captivating, her tailored jacket is beautiful, leather accessories are fabulous, very defiant, punk, edgy, the hat adds the perfect touch of elegance and sophistication.

Rob: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Fantastic use of form and function! I love the structure of the jacket, with the hidden volume of the ruffles of the skirt. This fashion feels more like it was sculpted than sewn; a fabulous use of skills for each fabric. The accessories are not only well thought out, but scream Avant Garde with the fashion forward edge that I have been looking for in this challenge. I am not a big fan of fall colors, I prefer bold bright colors, but everything works so well in this fashion. I love the use of the various textures playing against each other, and the shoes are extremely runway! Well done, I am impressed. I would buy this fashion in a heartbeat.

Total: 77/80 Ranking 1st

To be honest I’d never do this well nor would be able to exceed myself with these designs without the other designers in this competition. It is the constant thriving to keep up with these amazingly talented designers that keeps me going. Thanks to all of you and all those who are rooting for me! Couldn’t do it without you!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Featured article in the CDDC post

The CDDC blogmeister just wrote an article featuring me as the winner of the challenge #3. I was blushing so hard with all the praise as I was reading it I was sure I'd just compulsively combust! I'm really honoured and flattered and everything, but for the first time in my life I feel like a proper Finn and Finns mainly get embarrassed if complimented. I know it must sound pretty ridiculous, but it's a culture thing. For us small talk means complaining about the little things in life just as the British talk about weather. Praise is easy to take in Asian cultures: in Japan you simply deny it and apologise; in China you say "nalinali" which literally translates as "Where? Where?". Maybe that's why I've always felt at home in Asia. If you compliment a Finn about their outfit, they are taught from childhood that the proper reaction is to say "Thanks. Oh, this old thing? I've had it for years! Its so dirty and all..." and so forth. We find the benauty in modesty. So in short, I really don't know what to say, but thank you. Thank you so much. *blush*

I bet I'm going to bore and disappoint everyone with my next entry, as I did have my own doubts about it and finished it in a rush hoping to work on my thesis. Well, it was good that I finished early this time around as otherwise I wouldn't have finished at all with Neru's severe illness. But for what its worth the horrible ordeal with my baby cat seems to be taking a positive turn - I hope it lasts. And the thesis will have to wait.