Monday, 11 January 2010

CDDC Challenge Eight - Around the world in one Fashion!

Challenge 8 - The Final Showdown
14th of December
Around the world in one Fashion! - Like Susie by R&D Fashion dolls, your model is a world traveller. On her arrival at her destination, it appears that her luggage went to Hoboken instead of with her. Now she must use what she is wearing to make a transition from day to night, but she needs that transition to reflect the city she is visiting. Please choose your city and don't forget to tell us in your description what city it is. You should also give the judges a good description of how your style fits your city/country. As this is the last challenge this is your time to really show us YOUR style.

Guest Judge - Rudi Teruel of R&D Fashion Dolls
Interesting... I wondered which city to choose. I’ve had quite a lot of practice reflecting the city into style in the flickr International Jetset Diva photo contest; although there we were given the city and a dresscode and now we needed to decide the both for ourselves. I wondered which city was best to reflect MY style: Tokyo? Paris? New York? Milan? Choosing someplace warm would make the evening wear skimpier – unless I wanted to shock everyone and make my model go to a S/M fetish party or something. LOL! It’s a pity a used the transformation idea in the Audrey challenge – it’s not like I wanted to repeat the same things all over again, but they sure would had been perfect now.
I was thinking of all the items that changing from day to night easy that I hadn't used. A vest: worn with a blouse during the day and revealingly without it by night? A miniskirt or dress: worn with leggings by day and without by night? Tops over dresses to tone them down as skirts for day to reveal the dress for night? A scarf turned into a wrap or a skirt? And so forth. None of it felt really inspiring though. I had to find my inspiration elsewhere.
Then there was the matter of what my model would be doing when the night came. Bar or a nightclub? Concert? Opera? A romantic dinner? A cosplay session with Harajuku girls? The S/M fetish party? I suppose it would depend upon the city; or the city would depend upon it, either way around I needed to do some research to start the brainstorming.
I checked out the R&D Dolls page for Susie dolls that had inspired the challenge and studied the destination map there carefully. Each city opened a picture with the doll wearing an outfit and some inspiration photos as background or on the side. I felt that starting with the city would be the best way to go, but I needed a city with a distinct image to channel. Miami would be easy with its pastel colours and Art Deco streamlining, but I absolutely loathe pastel colours so that wasn't for me.
The red walls of Seville in Spain caught my attention on the Susie page, but I had to be careful as there is a Sybarite called Seville and I don't want to stay clear of all associations with that. Anyway, I decided to study Seville in more depth and became certain my interpretation of it would be far more bloody than anyone else's. Seville with one of the oldest bullfight arenas in Spain, the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, and as the stage Moorish wars and Spanish tragedies such as Carmen was capturing the grim side of my imagination. 
  The nightlife in Seville could consists of tapas at El Rinconcillo, flamenco and bullfighting. Or maybe the Carmen opera and dancing the night away at Disco Antiguedades in Calle Argote de Monlina might be interesting. I also found out that the annual International Flamenco Fashion Show is arranged in Seville on January, maybe I should do something flamenco inspired: a passionately red layered skirt, a rose in the hair, a fan... Maybe a bit too literal approach, but I could just feel the old excitement rushing back to me once more. 
 I had lost my inspiration in the last challenge, but it was all coming back to me. I was already picturing a red suede leather jacket in my mind and a knee length skirt with ruffles, a scarf with long tassels and a matador’s hat. And I knew I wanted to use my Sybarite again to give her beauty some justice this time – although all this would look better with a pale skin. Anyway, Seville it was, I was sure of that! God, it felt good to find my inspiration again. It was like a surge of blood to limb that had fallen asleep except that this was in my chest. Like the first full gasp of breath after a bad asthma attack, but still tasting blood... Yes, this was a city with blood on its history and I loved it. It felt vigorous, intoxicated. I had hope again, though I still feared what the challenge 7 scores would bring.
15th of December – Christmas Preparations and More Research
I spend most of Monday and Tuesday morning with much needed Christmas cleaning. Then I dag up the box of Christmas ornaments and did some Christmas decorating. I had thought that it was rather chillier than usual inside, but didn’t think much of it, just put on a thick cardigan and a pair of wool socks, but when I opened the front door to put an ornament on the door I was shocked to notice how cold it was outside. OK, -20celcius is rather normal for Finland, but last winter was quite mild here in the “south”, so I had forgotten what a real winter feels like. My nose prickled, all my hair shot upwards and I just one huge goosebump. Even my cat Neru, who had been waiting for an opportunity to take a stroll on the balcony backed away from the door when the wall of cold hit us. It is amazingly beautiful, though. Nice to experience a real winter again, but I do rather experience it in the warmth of my home rather than out there in the cold!

I sat down to do some more research on the city of Seville. It seems Seville has always been a flourishing city or trade and culture since antiquity. Whether it was established by Hercules as the legend tells or Julius Caesar, Seville is a city with mythical origins. Pillaged by the Carthaginians, conquered by the Silingian Vandals, five hundred years of occupation by the Moors and reconquest by Fernando III have given Seville a history of blood that I want to portray in my design. 
I also came across the enchanting story of a King Pedro the Cruel's unwelcome passion for Doña María Fernández Coronel, a noblewoman whose husband the king imprisoned and executed. Doña María suffered at the hands of the Monarch until, to rid herself of the king, she burned her own face with boiling oil, disfiguring herself beyond his desires. Maybe a veil or a mask of a sort could echo the disfiguration of Doña María in my design. The more I read the more horrors I seem to find: Seville was also the first seat of the Holy Office, better known as the Inquisition and the plague of 1649 killed half of the city’s population. 

There were some more positive cultural notes. Eg. Tirso de Molina's play "El Burlador de Seville" was the first written version of the Don Juan legend and Seville is the backdrop to Prosper Merimé's 1845 drama, which in turn served as the basis of Bizet's opera, "Carmen". There is also the La Feria de Abril, a colourful festival of flamenco, bullfighting and surprisingly fashion. I learned that the tailors of Seville had actually written a booklet about what to wear for the fair and what are the fashions don't for it as well. I hadn't known that the there was a seasonally changing fashion for the flamenco dresses, but I suppose it's only logical in the culture of human consumerism.

In this final challenge we are suppose to define our own style as a designer. I tried to define myself as a designer of business wear with an Avant Garde flair. I do love to shock, I’m a bit morbid and love gothic influenced Haute Couture. I adore pieces that are not only well designed, but also crisply tailored, but my own sewing skills quite don’t take me there. Now to reflect all this in my design...
There were so many questions asked about this challenge in the forum. can the models have a carryon bag with some extra accessories in it? No, just a purse with no accessories in it. Can they change shoes? Nope. Can they change they hair and make up? Yes. OK. Finally, we had something. Although, this would either mean changing the doll in between or a new wig and some repainting. I could change my Sybs wig, but I definitely wouldn’t repaint her! I suppose I’ll have to use Antoinette or FR if I wanted my model to freshen up in that sense. I did still have an Tonner head for the Antoinette body people haven’t seen, so maybe I could use it - I had repainted it to resemble Winona Ryder in early Autumn but then completely forgot about it.

16th of December
I woke up early to do more Christmas decorations. I covered my staircase diorama in fake snow to take some seasonal greetings photos, but that proved to be a bad and messy idea. Even though I did get some nice pics my cats started playing with the stuff and suddenly it was everywhere and almost broke my vacuumcleaner when I was cleaning it. Do not use loose fake snow in cat homes!

21th of December
Days flew by with Christmas preparations. I baked gingerbread houses with my friends, brought the Christmas tree in to melt, made some good old British ginger biscuits to bribe my wonderful neighbor who would take care of our cat’s when we were visiting our families and some chocolate truffles too.

It might have seemed that I had completely forgotten about the final challenge, but underneath all the Christmas bustle my brain was working and sketching out ideas for my Seville outfits. There were little things I wanted to add to my design, symbols of past events in the history of Seville. A cross for its era as a monastery city (got discarded as it was too distracting in the end), a metallic corset inspired by an iron maiden for the tortures of the Spanish inquisition (even if the iron maiden was never actually used in Spain it still has most to offer for a fashion designer)and a Lady Gaga half mask make up for the burns of brave and virtuous Doña María.

I had debated with myself on the selection of my model – I did not want to paint my Syb, but then decided to give her a removable make up with pastels. It would have to be done after the doll was dressed since I wouldn’t be able to seal it. But if there was going to be a corset the model just had to be a Syb. And I had just the fabric to channel that beaten metal look: thin patina silver faux leather I had used during challenge 5 for the Red Carpet purse.

I was also playing with my old idea of using the raw edges of the hide as detailing – I had done a life size women’s purse collection with the style some years ago. The torn edge might work beautifully as an asymmetrical collar, but that would present difficulties with the lining and authentic leather might stain if I wouldn’t properly line it. 

I started to draw the iron maiden corset and it became a dress. I had had this cockroach sort of a silhouette in mind on the Avant Garde challenge, but the soft silk had not produced the effect as well as I hoped. This might be the time to try again. Instead of just the general shape I would make layers that would open, move and breath with movement and inside the armourlike wings there would be spikes, like in an iron maiden there should, only that these spikes would be the new comfort during long slights: yantra acupressure mat incorporated in your clothing. The yantra mats have taken Finland by storm and they are the it-thing for Christmas. I tried one myself at my sister’s and they really do improve your circulation and nothing could be better when sitting on a long flight. I know I can’t feel my ass after 10 hours of sitting! LOL

28th of December
I was just back from my sister’s place and the 5 hours in a train had been exhausting. But the holidays were far from being over for me. There was still a trip to Jyväskylä waiting for me to visit my mom and my hubby’s parents and granny. Time would be running short...

I went shopping for materials and most of what I needed. The mandatory findings were long black fringe for the flamenco scarf and red yarn for the jacket, but I also found some absolutely exquisite Dormeuil houndstooth wool at my favourite fabric boutique. I would had bought some so myself too if it wasn’t 300euros per meter, but since it was I had to settle for 10 cm for dolls instead. That’s the nice thing about dolls, they can always have the most luxurious things I can’t afford for myself. I’m just totally bonkers about Alexander McQueen’s houndstooth fashions and want to recreate some for my dolls when the CDDC is over.

I also caved in and bought myself a yantra mat on sales. I had tried one and got totally addicted at my sister’s place and just needed it! I was also starting to think that maybe my idea to integrate the yantra acupressure points into the lining of travelling clothes wasn’t so outlandish after all – I sure would had needed it during the 5-hour train ride. 

After I got home and started working on my design again I realized I had misread the challenge a bit. It was the transition, not the whole design – that needed to reflect the city of destination. Here I had been designing both day and night based on Seville’s history and culture. Maybe the matador jacket wasn’t such a good idea after all. The day outfit needed to be as different as possible from the night to make the transition more pronounced. I decided to forget the red suede bolero and use the luxurious houndstooth wool to make a long coat instead. I'd just have to be careful to keep the cut as far a way from McQueen as possible. No one owns the houdstooth pattern, but it is quite strongly associated with McQueen this season.

As I photographed all my potential jacket material on my model I felt more and more certain that this was the best course of action. The result would be rather dark and monochromatic, but then again this was supposed to reflect me as a designer and I love to make things all black and white. I think this will be very much me and if people won’t like it and consider it all too morbid it’s their loss really. I decided to use the 3rd potential fabric as the lining to give the thin wool some posture and colour.

30th of December
I was just back from visiting my mum and my hubby’s folks at Jyväskylä and on my way home I picked a set of big grommets for the tote I was making. Unfortunately the grommet setter that came with the set was absolutely rubbish. It was one of those ghastly things you have to fit with a hammer while holding your fingers way too close for comfort and of course I had to miss my target an hit my middle finger instead. Hard. The pain. The nail got a lovely dark spot on the growth zone of the nail and I’m afraid the whole nail will come off eventually. Just sends shivers down my spine. I just had to take a break from the work, put some cold and compression on the finger and keep it above my heart level. The nap did me good anyway – all this holiday travelling has just sucked me dry. 

 I worked on the tote and the shoes until 2 a.m. and they were the hardest part as well as the focus of the whole design for me.

31th of December
It was New Years Eve and I was still working on my design with exceeding stress. It was one of those days again. I was cutting the lower parts of the hem on the doll and actually snipped the hemline while doing it. I actually had to make a patch on it, but was luckily able to cover it – no time to start from beginning and make a new one. I won’t be selling this piece then. *Sigh* I also started to doubt if I should line the dress. The patchworklike top does look a bit dodgy from inside, but the pattern is so complicated I’m sure I’d just screw up the lining and ruin the whole dress. Being that tired I really couldn’t trust my sewing skills in the most basic of things not to mention the complicated stuff. With fireworks sounding in the back I was finally able to finish the iron maiden dress and start the coat.

1st of January 2010
I had spend the whole day sewing the jacket and I was almost finished, just buttons missing, when my friends came over for New Year’s dinner. Well, it was more like late Christmas really, as we had gifts and all. It was great and they left early to let me finish the coat. I didn’t have the right buttons, for I just picked the right size and hand painted them with black and white. I think it’s a nice touch. And finally I have a piece of clothing with a lining I can be proud of. Happy!

2nd of January
Nothing but the spike lining of the iron maiden left undone I started to tackle the issue first thing in the morning. However, nothing I did really worked and all that I added to the dress looked excessive so I just gave up. The yantra spikes felt like a good idea at the time, but the esthetics had come first – it’s not like the doll needed the acupressure treatment anyway – I did.

With everything else done I whisked up a wallet from my scrap leather and decorated it with the same buckles as the shoes. We weren’t allowed to use any extra things for the night wear – just then stuff she wore during the day and what she had in her small purse – but surely she had her wallet! Many fancy wallets look like evening clutches and vice versa, so I thought that would be a way to solve the problem. I didn’t dare to put scale money or credit cards inside just in case they would make the judges preserve the wallet as a prop instead of an accessory.

Just strip my two-in-one boots from their “stockings” and she’s have nice high heels to go. My transformation concentrated on the accessories this time as I didn’t want to repeat the things I did on the Audrey challenge. I just hoped the judges would count the accessories as part of the design as I did, since sometimes I felt their focus was in the clothing and not the whole picture. For me it is always about the whole set and accessories do play a huge part in it, but then again I think of this as doll fashion instead of just fashion and in a doll fashion product people do want accessories well, not just a piece of garment.

As I was ironing the pieces for the photoshoot a little catastrophe occurred. I forgot to avoid the button area and the hot iron melted one of the plastic buttons I had hand-painted. Luckily I was able to save it with some extra layers of paint and varnish. Finally I was ready for the first part of the photoshoot.

This time we had been allowed 10 pictures instead of 6. The front, side, back and insides of both outfits and then the 2 extras. I had considered using different backgrounds for the night and day looks to really tell them apart, light grey for day and dramatic red for night. However, the last time I had had negative feedback on the strong yellow I had used, so I used the light grey throughout the shoots. I was just afraid that it wouldn’t make my quite monochromatic fashion seems too anemic. Then again a blood red background might have stolen the show.

After I was done with the day shoot it was time for the night one. It was established in the CDDC mailing list that the model was aloud to freshed up in her hotel room and change her hair and make up. I wanted to go a bit overboard with my make up and do a Lady Gaga inspired half-mask make up using lace as stencil (see the tutorial for human face). It was definitely a runway look and I can’t imagine anyone walking into an opera with that, but I did want to make a nod towards the gruesome tale of Seville’s Dona María that I found really enchanting. I used pastels without sealing them and tested that the pigments didn’t stain the resin before starting. The colours were red, brown and black so that the lacy pattern would remind the horrible burns on Dona María’s beautiful face.

  *Note for those worrying about my Syb at this point 
I can tell that the whole thing washed off easily afterwards 
and I did test it first to make sure it was safe.

 I was almost done with the second shoot when another catastrophe hit me. The camera battery ran out and the charger was nowhere to be found. After hours of panicked searching I was sure I had left it at my sister’s or folk’s during the holidays and that this was the end of it. I couldn’t even get my photos out of the camera with the battery dead. Finally, my hubby found it buried in the tools we had already packed – we are moving house soon – and I was relieved beyond words. I took the last inside photo and as done. *whew!*

All was done and no more mishaps. I resized the photos and stared at them for a long time. I wasn’t sure how well the transition from day to night took place. Using a coat was a simple way to do it and I had been criticized about the complexity of the Audrey design. I thought the boots were rather brilliant, but then again would the accessories count or be ignored again? It was the last chance to prove myself and I really didn’t want people thinking I won just because Lori made a one little mistake – like all things in life I wanted to deserve it with my own hard work. Also, for many people my dark inspiration might be a bit too much - even creepy - but this challenge was suppose to reflect me as a designer and I wanted to take a risk and make something dark and sinister. People did like the pools of blood I made for shoes in the 4th challenge, though, so maybe they wouldn’t judge this one either. I clicked “send” and started the long and nervous wait for the scores, but in the end, I really liked what I had done and that’s what counts the most.

Rather than taking the literal approach and having my model dressed in the obvious colourful things the people in Seville wear I took a more conceptual approach. The Spanish have a passion for tragedy and I wanted to milk it, so instead, I let the dark history of Seville to inspire a sinister avant garde runway look that could be worn to a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, the Carmen opera and some late night tapas and manzanilla wine at El Rinconcillo.  

As the sensible travel wear for the day flight from chilly London to the warmth of Andalucía my model wears a wool coat with leather belt intertwined between the pieces, driver’s gloves closed with two shank buttons, a scarf, pair of long leather boots and a chic houndstooth tote decorated with safety pins. She also wears a black short cropped OOAK mohair wig.

As she transitions into her evening look, my model casts away the coat revealing a dress made of metallic leather and inspired by ancient armour and a notorious torture device - the iron maiden. With this piece I wanted to commemorate the history of war and Seville as the seat of the Spanish inquisition. The long boots transform into a modern take of flamenco shoes and she wraps the shroudlike Spanish mourning scarf on her shoulders against the evening chill. Finally, when freshening up in her hotel room, she whisks up a Lady Gaga inspired half-mash make up to honour the tragic tale of Seville’s virtuous Doña María, who disfigured herself with boiling oil to escape the unwanted infatuation of King Pedro the Cruel. And on her way out, she only grabs her wallet leaving the tote behind – this girl knows how to travel light.

11th of January – The Scores

Shane: Theme: 4 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 5
I just don’t feel that there is enough of a transition here though you have done a very nice job reflecting your destination city. I LOVE your armor dress. I knew exactly what it was before reading your description – it’s near perfect. I’m afraid I can’t love the silhouette of your coat over the dress – it’s almost there but just misses for me – I think it’s probably the way it bells out and drapes over the skirt of the dress.
Janet & Diana: Theme: 4 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4
I really, really liked the dress, and the over-all effect of the ensemble but i'm not sure it met the challenge as well as it could have. Pieces were removed but didn't really change in an interesting way. However, the details - gloves, boots, accessories - were fabulous.
I was also impressed by the accessories. The dress was detailed. I would, however, have made it 2-piece and altered it, by bringing in a separate peice, such as a top.
Judith: Theme: 5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 4.5 Construction: 5
Interesting description! A very dramatic design including a great Spanish touch with the fringing on the shawl. Love the theatrical cut of the dress and the fall of the back peplum layers. Not much in the way of transformation takes place from day to evening but still an inspired solution to the challenge. Love the boots to heels and the meticulous tailoring!
Rudi Teruel: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
As colorful as the Spanish people are – this knock out design will WIN them over AS IS!   Very nice, creative interpretation of the theme… and everything is nicely executed…  SLEEK, SEXY, SUPERB!!!
Total: 72/80 Ranking 3rd in the challenge and 1st in the overall competition

The challenge 8 victory went to wonderfully talented Dal, who also won the challenge 7 (MadMen). Congratulation, Dal! I got the feeling that many designers were just getting started and final score might had been very different all together if the contest would had went on for the whole year.  I know I was left wanting more.

To be honest I still haven’t really realized that I’ve won the whole thing - I’m just waiting for the next challenge to be announced. Now that it’s over it’s like a huge cap in my life. I gave this competition my all neglecting work and studies, actually postponing my graduation and I’d love to continue doing so. Now all I have is tackling my final thesis and packing away my old life to move to a new city and the adult life. No more studies. No more CDDC. My life is over. It feels sad and ridiculous at the same time.

Sure I’m happy. Or actually relieved – since I was fearing until the last moment that something would go wrong, the judges would loathe my design and give all time low points, that someone had made something similar before and I’d be disqualified, that the wallet I made would be vaunted as a prop and I’d be disqualified, that I’d open my big fat mouth in a wrong place again and I’d be disqualified and other horror scenarios. I’m one of those Donald Duck personalities that this sort of stuff just happens to. Accident-prone is my middle name – though I usually more leaned towards hurting myself physically. I suppose getting it all over with and hitting my left middle finger with a hammer absorbed the karma for now. LOL. Fair trade, the finger isn’t even broken. I won… I really actually won and the spread in the FDQ magazine will be a welcome start to my own doll business designing separate fashions!

The People’s Choice Award
…Goes to Lori Lyon! Congrats Lori! You were my favourite too! :)

Votes top 5:
Lori 30%
Dal 25%
Emilia 25%
Jen: 8%
Kathi: 5%

And congratulation for all who participated in the CDDC. I hope it was as valuable experience to you as it was for me and thank you for teaching me so much! I made many new friends and I hope we keep in touch!

Thank you Larraine, judges and others involved for making it possible!
And thank you for all the lovely people who have stood by me throughout this contest! Couldn’t have done it without you!

For more photos of the making of process and final fashion go to my flickr set!