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: