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.


Pubdoll said...

I thought your outfit was great and was sure at once when I saw it, that it was yours and I also thought it was the best. Do you know what happened to Lori? Earlier this week I saw a green dress I was sure was hers, but yesterday it had suddenly disappeared.

tinyseams said...

What a trial you have been through Emilia! Good luck to you for the finish. I love your determination to keep going no matter what road blocks are put in your way. I thought the so called "cigarette prop" rule was absolutely ridiculous! I can imagine your frustration.
Sad to see Lori's design get tossed also. I can not believe she was accused of not following the rules. I loved her entry also and because it was made for a Sybarite how can there be an existing pattern? I'd like to see proof of that! Sybs are hard to fit, I'd like to buy that pattern myself but I doubt that it exists.
I did not know that your ensemble was made for a Sybarite until I read it here! Haha I thought your model was sixth scale! No wonder she has such nice curves, she's a Sybarite! I love the shape of the dress, very sensual. Wow, so cool shoes and the wig, I have to go look some more now that I know she's a Syb! The Sybs are so floppy. Ughh I hated fitting designs to my floppy doll, Trapeze, so I made a dress form. You did an amazing job of posing her. Good lord, I wouldn't have wanted to repeat that photo shoot either! Shudders!
Hope you have a nice holiday!

em`lia said...

Actually Lori was using Numina that is even more rare doll as they are so new and there are definitely no patterns for them. I was so sad to see her unique and certain winner of a design eliminated. It has really taken my heart from the competition. :(

Nina said...

Thank you very much for all the background info! I find it surprising, too, that your self-made cigarette holder was considered a prop.
Also, I, personally, think the cleavage on the dress is fab :) If you ask me, these period contests seem to be difficult for the designers- you are not supposed to copy anything that already exists, of course, but at the same time the tiniest difference from what the judges consider "the" look has negative effects >.<
It sounds like you are not happy with your Sybarite, I am sorry to hear that. It makes me feel unsure about my decision to buy one. But then again, have you tried to maybe tighten the string inside her body or to restring her?

em`lia said...

Thanks, Nina. Those period challenge sure are hard for me but many designers thrive on them. We are all different and I'm definitely more Avant Garde type than anything. ;)

I am actually very much in love with my Syb and do encourage you to get one. It is true that they are hard to pose, especially since this is my first BJD as well. I'm sure that after one gets use to the way the doll moves and the stringing works they are fab to work with. They are just very different and take some getting use to.

I actually stuffed folded pieces of suede inside the joints to temporarily tighten them to hold a pose. Sybs might not be dolls to play with, but they sure serve as a wonderful muse and I already want more!

Pubdoll said...

I should read your posts more carefully before commenting, thank you for sharing the background info! I thought it was sad as well, I liked Lori's dress almost just as much as I liked yours.

Aurora said...

I loved this design. It was perfect on Inque and she would have worn it in the sixtys. I was there - LOL. The cigarette holder was a perfect addition and was always part of the wardrobe, not just on "Madmen" but IRL. I was there!

I was shocked to see that they removed anyone's entry without an explanation, retaining photos, and proof given to everyone to stop any doubt. It was even worse knowing what position the removed entry competetor was in, as it drastically shattered the fairness of scores. Worse, I was even more shocked at who "they" did this to.

I was hoping that you would stay in first place to the end as I love your designing and your style, however, besides being re-affirmed that I never want to enter a competition like this, I am completley disilusioned in regards to this competition.

Best of luck to you and I congratulate you for hanging in there. Your work is exquisite!


em`lia said...

I just talked to my friend Lori and I'm very happy to tell you that she is going to continue with the competition. :)

She has also just added a post to her own blog:

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