Tuesday, 29 September 2009

CDDC Challenge One - Make Mod Mine

I promised to keep a project diary during the Couture Doll Design Challenge (CDDC) and here it is. My thoughts and feelings during the challenge one of the competition. I've tried to analyse my design process and work stages, so hopefully, you can be there with me every step of the way.
Challenge 1
6th of September 2009 - The first assignemnet
This is it. The challenge one. I’m nervous and exited. My hands tingle when I open the email with our first assignment. This is what it says:
GUEST JUDGE:  David Buttry

Make Mine Mod - Jason Wu designed the Inaugural ballgown for Michelle Obama.  Our guest judge this week is from Integrity Toys too, but his designs favour a mod theme.  Let's jump back 40 years and imagine that Austin Powers is the President of the US. Design an Inagural Ballgown for HIS first lady. 

Your challenge is due midnight Sept. 20th, PDT.
Make it work Designers..........create, enjoy and have fun!!!

Oh my god! David being the judge and looking at my work makes this all the more real. For me, it’s not really about winning the competition, but testing myself to see if I could design professionally and be able to produce inspiring pieces under time constraints. However, now I’m starting to think about all the exposure involved, good and bad, but mainly getting noticed by a designer at Integrity might actually be a career opportunity. Yikes!
OK, Mod and Austin Powers. They are not really the same, so I go for general 60´s look instead. I research the defining cuts and fabrics of the era to refresh my idea of the period look and feel. I put on 60’s music and start browsing thru my fabrics for prints with that certain period feeling. For once I’m glad I’ve hoarded such amounts of fabrics. I find luxuriously soft and heavy draping silk with circular patters and the colour scheme is starting to form in my head as I pin and drape the fabrics of a dress form. To me sixties are all about colour, but I must keep in mind that my “customer” is the First Lady so the design also has to be chic and all class. I draw the first sketches.

7th of September - Research
I watch the Austin Powers movies to get familiar with my “customer” and in a nutshell felt that Austin is attracted to a young woman who is strong, independent and sexy. Naturally, as a non-American, I also had to research the presidential inauguration ceremony as I know nothing about it. I read that the dress code for inauguration is White Tie attire, which is the most formal of all evening attires, the lady wearing a floor length evening gown in her choice of style and colour. Austin Power’s or not, I’m sure the etiquette required by the occasion needs to be followed in the design and balancing a formal gown (usually in solid colours) with 60´s patterns will be a challenge indeed.

Then there are the period accessories: capes, hats, scarves, gloves, shoes, bags and jewellery. I might even consider making some eyeglasses with that special 60's look. I want to make each challenge as perfect as possible down to every accessory. It may not be visible in the pictures I send the judges, but if I’ll ever sell these, they must represent me to perfection and give the buyer the doll experience I would want every time I buy something. I make new drawings and add fur cape to the design.

8th of September - Choosing the model
As for the model, I consider the colour scheme and the beauty ideals of the era. If you think of 60’s Twiggy is naturally the first thing that pops into your mind, maybe followed by Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn. Thus I selected the MB/NU.Face body type for my model. Originally I wanted a black girl to wear my design in honour of Michelle Obama, but the effect was to monochrome so I ended up choosing the pale British skin with freckles. Then there was the face and hair to consider. First I thought of using Astrid, my blond Erin OOAK, and gave her the Twiggy haircut, but then felt a big 60’s hairdo would complement the formal garment better than the short cropped hair. So, to capture the big eyed look I ended up using one of my OOAK Misaki and swapping her to the MB/NU.Face body and restyling her hair into a huge braided bun with turquoise beading that matched the jewellery. I also gave her a French manicure in turquoise and white to complement the look.

8th of September -Sewing
Then it was finally sewing time. I followed my drawings almost to the last detail, only the extra bow on the back of the dress felt like going overboard so I left it out. I was thinking of making a hat, but after I desided to make a huge bun instead of the Twiggy cut the hat just wouldn't fit anymore.

I tested the Perfect Pleater contraption I just bought for the first time on the dress lining and it worked quite nicely, though the pleats did not set that well on soft silk – I’m sure the effect will be better on cottons or silk dubois. The silks I chose were an ordeal to sew but heavy and drape nicely so they function very well in the 6th scale.The Stop Fraying glue helped a lot keeping the fabrics more manageable the seams thin - cross stiching always makes then so thick. When making doll clothes, especially in 6th scale, the flow and thickness of the fabrics are one of the most important matters to consider, they must behave in the right way on the doll creating the illusion of life like movement. If you use thick, statuesque fabrics they often look stiff and silly on the doll ruining the design of the garment. Often this shows in dolls not able to lower their hands when wearing a jacket.

9th of September - The Finishing Touches
Always loving that something a little extra, I completed the gown with a brown faux leopard shoulder cape for evening chill, lined with the same dark chocolate brown silk as the gown; turquoise silk siphon socks and frilly underwear, matching earrings and bracelet, a clutch and all handmade high heel shoes with brown beading. Even the shoe soles are unique and handcrafted from putty to fit the FR foot arch. I use the turquoise fabric I used for the purse as background as I think it really makes the brown pop.

I’m rather happy with the ensample, but must admit I’m very nervous about how the judges will view it and what others will come up with. My main concern is whether strong patterns such as this are all too improper for Inauguration as I’m really not familiar with the perceptions surrounding it. I even heard the Michelle Obama’s gown designed by Jason Wu was criticized for revealing her arms and shoulders. Well, I though long gloves would have been too much with my gown anyway. The deadline isn't until the 20th, but there is nothing else left for me to do but to choose the photos I’ll submit to the judges.


 Wish me good luck!  
Sunday 27th – The Scores
After the long and agonizing wait the winner is announced. It's Kathi and I'm happy for her, but my heart sinks. The scores aren't up and the not knowing what went wrong feels horrible. After hours, the comments from the judges arrive:

Great 60’s silhouette with a very successful fabric choice. Contrast accessories work really well and the fur cape adds texture for a perfect finishing touch to the outfit.

Happy! Thank you, Judith!

Beautiful design and it truly fits the theme!  Love the color and the patterns.  Love the gorgeous lining of the skirt but unfortunately it makes the skirt too bulky at the gathered waist.  Also the skirt could have been ironed.

O h dear. They did notice. I had real trouble ironing the skirt part as I was worried of ruining the pleats in the lining. I tried steaming, but it didn't do the trick. So embarrassing. And true, the skirt is humoungous. You wouldn’t even believe how heavy the garment is and there is easily a meter of fabric in that skirt! I mean, full skirt was really fashionable in the early sixties, but I did go a little overboard. *blush*

Diana and Janet 
Diana – I really liked the use of brown and aqua together.  Bravo on the shoes – they look terrific and are a bang-on touch
Janet – Garment would show more nicely if better pressed, plus appears to be a commercial pattern.  Ideas for presentation are good.

Thank you Diana! I'm so happy someone noticed the shoes as I spend hours on those. Janet's concentrating on the negative might be some good-cop-bad-cop thing, but I was deeply hurt by her comment saying my design looked like a commercial pattern. It really felt like a slap to the face as I don't even use patterns, but cut everything on the doll. That one sentence makes me childishly moub around for the whole evening.

David Buttry 
Beautiful garment and a lovely couture take on the theme. The hand crafted shoes, beaded bag and fur wrap are stunning!

Thank you, David! I know I should be happy as his really was the most important opinion to me on this, but Janet's comment still drags me down and I cannot enjoy the positive side.

Just before I go to bed the scores finally arrive. I've ranked 5th with the same score as rank 4 and only half a point away from rank 3. I'm surprised to notice how much I really want this and how competitive I feel about the challenge. In my heart I feel the only place that worthy is the number one and everything else feels like a failure. I know its ridiculous, but I can’t really help it. This is only the first challenge and rank 5 is not a long way from the top. I should be happy.

The scores:
Judith: Theme: 5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4.5 Construction: 5
Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 3
Diana and Janet: Theme: 4 Originality: 2 Creativity: 3 Construction: 3.5
David: Theme: 5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4
Total: Theme: 19 Originality: 14 Creativity: 15.5 Construction: 15.5
Total: 64/80 (ranking 5th)

I don't know if its my Finnish nature or just a personal flaw to concentrate on the negative, but instead of the fours and fives I stare at the score 2 for originality Janet gave me. The 2 just made the whole thing just more aggravating. It feels like an insult to my designing skills. I view the scores other's got and  Janet seems to be the one taking the harshest outlook on all the designs and I shouldn't be taking personally. Sutill I spend the night moubbing about that awful number 2. “A commercial pattern” is such a curse-word! It feels simply unjust. Then again, my biggest fear was playing too safe by making my design too classic and using period cuts so maybe that's it. But at the same time I don’t want to compromise who I am and what I do and that’s classic high quality fashions. Better luck next time and space for improvement, eih?

28th of September - Going Public
I post the pictures to flickr and publish the judge comments on the chat board for others to read. I think it’s helpful to all the designers see what the judges commented on the designs.  The positive comments on flickr help me put the negative behind me and I start making my challenge two outfit – finally. I just wanted to wait until the scored were up before I begin. I’ve made the design, so now it’s just the sewing ahead of me. This is going to me a busy week as I need to make baby clothes to give as a gift as I will meet my first godson the next weekend. So, off to work I go!


Pubdoll said...

I loved your dress, the pattern, the colours and the accessories!
And as you say, you're not far away from the top either!
But I completely understand the being competitive thing, I'm like that on many things, but luckily not everything in my life :-)
And after seeing the quality of your other work it's not a surprise to me you have high standards for yourself :-)

Dani said...

Your entry was beyond gorgeous. I know it's easy to let the bad comments stick with you. You know Madonna once said that in an interview and she's still the queen of pop.

So let it fuel you. Now you know what they look for in a design. You did an awesome job and I bet the next will be even better.

Thanks so much for sharing with us!

Dani said...

Okay I just viewed all the entries and they were great, but 5th? You were robbed!

I wish you much luck on the next challenge!

Tintenherz said...

I cannot understand that you were 5th. I cannot. I didn't even notice the waistline problem or the quality of ironing before you mentioned them... But sure, for the judges, they do count.
Still, somehow I feel like they were not even looking for something that might actually be worn by someone other than a fashion doll. I do get that on some level, but on the other hand it makes me question why even choose a setting that is an actual event with actual dress code, if that need not apply in any shape or form in the outcome? It makes this feel like a really cheap and lazy way to stick Jason Wu's name in there, as clearly the "inaugural ball" part of things was completely irrelevant for the result :(

Shuga-Shug said...

I thought your design was just lovely! You did a great job & there are more challenges, so keep a positive outlook! I loved your choice of model too! Great job!!

em`lia said...


I got over the bad comment and grew as person. The judge also send me a personal apology for the commercial pattern comment as even the organizer thought it was out of line.

I was stunned by the competitiveness I felt but luckily I was able to put it pass myself and have been able to concentrate on my personal growth as a designer after the first challenge - and it has paid off both in points and happiness. :)


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