Tuesday, 13 October 2009

CDDC Challenge Two - Put Your Best Foot Forward

Challenge Two - 20th of September 2009

Our Guest Judge is: Joe Tai

CDDC Challenge Two: “Put your best Foot Forward - Joe Tai is our guest judge this week. As you may or may not know, Joe is the "king of shoes". This week take a pair of shoes/boots (they do not have to be shoes made by our wonderful judge) and design an outfit around it. Please include a pic of just the shoes as well in your entry (so you will send 7 pics this time).”

This feels like a hard challenge. I’d rather make the shoes myself, but I think the idea is to make an outfit based on existing shoes and the biggest risk is to make the clothes too matchy matchy. I’m wondering should I wait for the huge order of shoes (most Joe Tai) I made a week ago to arrive or play safe and pick an existing pair of footwear. After some consideration I pick the later. One can never know how long it takes for a package to arrive and using the judges own shoes would feel kind of like brown nosing.

I ended up browsing all my collection for my favourite shoes. I don’t know is it the autumn chill or the recent trends, but most of my current favourites are rather bulky. Maybe it is just that I’ve always had a thing for those thick burlesque style soles and have preferred smart casual over evening gowns. The shoes I picked for closer inspection were: the strappy boots from Bewitching Hour Luchia, the short black and white boots from Ayumi the Miracle Child, the bulky pink shoes from the Hopelessly Captivating Luchia and the short black boots from Lost Angel Colette.

The next stage of the brainstorming was to write down all the things that came to mind from each pair of shoes. This is always a good method of checking which one inspires most thoughts - though I usually use it for picking an essay topic in exams. For example the Miracle Child boots brought up nostalgia, Mary Poppins, Victorian home schooling and so forth – so they might work in a business context. Then again they are not really fashionable right now and I want to keep on the nerve of things. The Bewitching Hour boots made me think of gladiators, bondage, Pretty Woman and prostitution – maybe not the best scene in mind for the couture challenge - besides someone else is bound use them as they were the most talked about pair of shoes on the doll boards this year. The Lost Angel boots were also too S/M fetish stuff, so I discarded those too. And the last but not the least were the shock pink laced shoes from Hopelessly Captivating Luchia. For these my associations were: Barbie, Dorothy (Oz), burlesque and Dita von Teese.

Of all the shoes I found the HC ones most inspiring, but their Barbie pink colour offered another challenge. I absolutely hate barbie pink. It’s not really my cup of tea and the best colour to tone it down is grey, but that was already used in the original Hopelessly Captivating Luchia outfit. I browsed my fabrics and found some nice black and white patterns that might do the trick and take my mind of Barbie with these shoes. I want to make something Dita von Teese would wear to as her “casual wear” (the gorgeous Dita seems to wear couture even when grocery shopping) and just like Dorothy’s, these loud shoes would take her anywhere with one tap of the heels.

 At this point I’m coming up with a cold and continue the design process in bed. I took the pile of fabris and my mini dress form to bed and pinned different combinations of fabric on it and photographer the ones that felt like they had some potential. Of those, I sketched out 4 similar outfits. It was a hard choice to pick just one, but I felt one of them popped out more, so I went with that. I also got an idea of making a small ready-to-wear collection based on each challenge entry I make, but that will have to wait until the whole competition is over. Besides, the 60’s line needs to be done for Poppy Parker and I don’t have one yet.

Some discarded ideas:

I spend a week in bed doing nothing but being ill. It’s a common cold but as a severe asthmatic they always wipe me out completely. Meanwhile the scores from challenge 1 arrived and there was some drama on the yahoo group and I’m afraid I was the cause of it as the topic was the judge comment saying my pattern appeared to be a commercial one. Linda defended my honour on the board and decided to walk out of the competition in protest. I feel responsible and pretty sad about the whole mess. The matter was solved and I got an apology from the judge, but Linda isn’t coming back and I'm feeling low.

I have less than a week to go until the deadline and I struggle with time and start to feel the pressure pushing down on me. I’m getting a huge pile of research literature from library for my final thesis, make baby clothes for my godson who’s having his name giving ceremony next weekend and trying to finish the challenge 2 before Friday when I leave for the weekend. The OOAK doll I’m working on is taking too much of my time and I need to make a compromise with her. I wanted to make a Dita von Teese doll, which mean body swapping, rerooting and styling the hair plus doing a celebrity repaint, but the face isn’t coming up right. I just have to settle for the face I got and concentrate on the fashion now.

The outfit is a corsetry inspired hybrid between a business suit and a dress. It’s made of luxurious black and white Armani wool/ silk mix that I could only afford to buy 20cm. The material is very fraying, but rather thin and works nicely in scale. I have to use fraying glue on all the seams. The edges are trimmed with black faux leather to prevent fraying further and the jacket part closed with 4 corset snaps on the front. In the back there is a sexy shock pink ribbon lacing snaking down from the high collar all the way down to the hem line. I lined the outfit with pink satin, put only after doing a staining test* on a Barbie first – I’ve done a OOAK couture gown once only to realise the black netting stained and the hours of labour wasted. Never again.

 *To do a staining test on a fabric, take a expendable Barbie with soft legs (those are material most easily stained), dip the fabric in hot water and then tie it tightly on the Barbie’s leg. Leave for couple of days and check. If there is no staining, you should be fine. Many fabrics that don’t seem to stain still might if they are kept in a box where moisture may condensate. 

For the accessories I made a real fur fox stole, fishnet stockings and a Costume National Butterfly bag. I’m totally against fur trade, but I did get a huge pile of old fur clothing and scraps from my grandma when I was younger, so it would be a waste to just throw them away. You might think me as a hypocrite, but I think the use of vintage fur can be fine when you sure of your sources. Anyway, I made a head for the fox from 2-component epoxy putty and flocked it with KatSilk flock and added beads for eyes. It became almost too real and it feels so limb and dead in my hands it makes me sad. I just want to pet it and tell it everything is going to be alright.

The decision to make a Costume National Butterfly bag might be taking a risk. It’s not like it’s an exact copy as this is satin lined with leather and pink as the authentic bags are brown, green or black leather. However, the shape is quite distinct and I wanted say in my description where it came from so that it doesn’t seem like a stolen idea. Since we were supposed to design an outfit for the shoes that are not ours anyway, I think the purse can be someone else’s too. It’s the fashion I made and the accessories are another matter. I bet people don’t design all the jewellery they use either, so I hope I can be forgiven for it. I’ve just always wanted a Costume National Butterfly bag for myself but can never afford it – at least my little Dita can now. ;)

It took me until Wednesday night to get everything finished and until 3a.m. on Thursday to post my entry photos. I was so tired I saved the resized pictures over the original ones and we are supposed to keep those save just in case we win. I was too tired to do anything about it then, but spend the whole Thursday afternoon trying to save them from my computer with various recovery softwares. Finally I found the deleted but uncorrupted files from my camera. Luckily I hadn’t taken any new pictures so I was able to save them. *whew*. What an adventure. Now just one more baby overall and I can start packing for the weekend.

Some of the official submission photos:


I was so knackered in the middle of all this that I had totally forgotten the FR convention was this weekend too, until I read my email at my Mom’s and noticed the first update email. It’s such torture not to be able attend these conventions! The convention collection was utterly amazing with understated colours and designs that are pure elegance. I made a gallery to my flickr featuring the most beautiful photos of the convention dolls and gave them my commentary.

And naturally I fell in love with the most expensive one of them all – the new and severe looking Elise Jolie Blue Blood - and had to have her right away. *sigh* I suppose it was one of those temporary mental disorder things that leaves us much poorer both mentally and financially, but that’s the nature of collecting for you. What can you do? Well, I’ll be waiting for - the new doll – and my challenge 2 points to arrive and then post you this diary. Wish me good luck!

12th of November - The Winner Is...
The winner has just been announced after some delay. As I expected it was no.11 - a fabulously tailored jacket and sequin skirt by Lori Lyon. I feel no disappointment, as I really think the best design won. I was totally awestruck by the outstanding craftsmanship of the jacket - simply impeccable. Even when I was doing human clothes I couldn’t reach that sort of perfection. Lining has always been the hardest part for me and I admire anyone who can do it right. This is why I rather design and leave the sewing to someone more competent! LOL! I’m so excited to hear my scores and judge comment, but since its really late I think I need to wait until morning.

13th of November - The Scores and Comments

I wake up, rush to my computer and the scores are finally up after some technical difficulties.

Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 3 Construction: 4

Applause for the fantastic job you did with the “leather” piping! Wow! Great fabric and colors. I think I would have left the piping off of the bottom of the skirt since it’s already plentiful on the bodice and the purse.

Diana and Janet: Theme: 4.5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4

Diana - Extra points for the fox...with head! Great attention to detail.
Janet - Interesting and kick y combination. The suit is well fitted and the details of the leather bra show good drafting skill.

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

Sexy black, white & pink combination in a HOT outfit. Just enough pink used in the right places. I like that the ribbon was confined to the back allowing the front detail in black to shine. Wonderful silhouette.

Joe Tai: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4 Construction: 5
Although object and accessory don't have color match, but they do connect with black, that makes the whole work even more completed, so I gave high score.

Total: 70/80 Ranking 4th in the overall competition; 5th in the challenge.

No negative comments this time nor any negative feelings. My only fault is that others are better than me and I’m happy to notice it doesn’t hurt at all. I came to this competition wanting to test and challenge myself and already the competition has pushed me further and further. Without it I would never produce this detailed and complicated pieces from week to week – especially not now as I’ve promised myself to return my Master’s thesis in Chinese before Christmas. I’ve neglected my school and work and sleep because of this and I want to prove myself I could do this for a living. I want to start my own doll fashion line after graduate and in order to do that I really need to believe in myself and that’s the greatest price this competition can offer. Sure, the magazine article might help in marketing my designs, but I’d like to think I can make it there eventually with or without the victory in this competition.

I’m already committed to the challenge 3 so hard it’s difficult to keep my mind on the scores, but there is one more comment I’d like to make. Breck took a change with a nice steam punk inspired outfit that was a little costumey but very couture and was rewarded for in the challenge 2. This gives me hope for my challenge 3 design since this time, I went all out couture and I hope the risk will pay off instead of backfiring on me. After all, this is the COUTURE Doll Design Challenge and I think it’s time to take it there and stop playing so safe and casual!

 My Dita von Teese:


tinyseams said...

Hi there Emilia! I am so happy to see your process pictures! It's almost like being next to you as you sew and design. I am so jealous that Marika has visited you.
I am curious about your sewing machine that I can partially see in the background, what brand is it? I love old mechanical sewing machines and I collect them so I'm wondering what you have there.
Goodness! How can you accomplish so much with such a busy schedule? You obviously have really clear goals in mind and it is really inspiring to see your work! I believe you will accomplish your dreams!

Dani said...

Such beautiful work.Call me prejudiced but I still liked yours best. Your Dita is gorgeous. When you start your own line of dolls, you have a big group of buyers already!

Best of luck on the next challenges.

Wanda Lee Kinnie said...

Emilia, your work is just so beautiful and to me is what I consider Couture.

If you ever start up your own label (in our scale), I'd better be a client!

Frau E. said...

Your Dita-version is fantastic. I love the color combination and all the details, like the leather seam and the bra and of course the fox *g*, great job Emilia!

em`lia said...

Thank you!

I loved my Dita too (I'm a huge fan) but I had to sell her to cover my Neru's veterinary bills. Dita got a wonderful home though, so I'm not sad.

Linda: My sewing machine is an old 1950's Husqvarna that I got from my grandmother on my 18th birthday. Its a wonderfully sturdy old thing with a metal hull and its able to sew leather several mm thick (came in handy when I was sewing human size leather purses some years ago)! It might not have all the new and fancy stitches, but its never failed me yet! I do all my work with it from finest silks to armour leather.

Tony Gibble said...

Remarkable Work!!

BurlesqueSally said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BurlesqueSally said...


em`lia said...

Thank you!

Burlesque Sally: I'm sorry but this doll is a one-of-a-kind and already sold so I can't make another one. I know her pervious owner just sold her so maybe if you keep an eye on doll boards in US you might find her. :)