Coats, Works in Progress

The Dream Coat (yes, THAT Dream)

To use the most-uttered statement in the world of WordPress–I’ve been remiss in my blogging.

I’ve been working. And taking pictures. But they have been just sitting on various devices, making rude faces at me, building up into a big ol’ guilt-mountain. UNTIL TODAY. Today, gentle reader, I have ventured into the wilds of Pekoe Sip House, where dude-bros discussing au pairs and Muy Thai rub elbows with white women in head-scarves doing dramatic chakra-blessings over their rooibos. I am not kidding. And it is only 8:30 am.

I have fueled myself with chai (with real milk, because I am going promptly to hell) and will now endeavor to sort out some of what I’ve been doing lately. I may need more chai.

A bit of foundation– feel free to skip this and go straight to pretty pictures. I’m in the process of building up a portfolio to apply to grad school, to continue to study the sartorial arts, or the artsy sartorials. One of those.  I’m building the crux of this portfolio around coats– sort of a conceptual bee I’ve had in my (shiny) bonnet for quite a while and have probably talked at you about before. Basically I have some ideas for pieces that are both art and garment, but it’s a lot of ideas in a lot of uncharted territory and I pretty much have no idea what I’m doing but I have faith it shall be, if not awesome, at least interesting.  So that’s the WHY of it.

I started with the Purple Scrappy Coat, which I still haven’t finished. It pretty much taught me just enough to know that I wanted to make the whole thing from scratch and have control over the shape and style of the coat. I may have control issues.

So I made the Piped Damask Coat to begin learning about that. I should mention that I am not, at this present moment, expecting to become a master tailor. Tailoring is an intense craft that, frankly, scares the shit out of me, so while I intend to pick up as much knowledge and skill as possible, please don’t mistake this for me being all “I’m a tailor now!” That’s like drawing a stick figure and then introducing yourself as an artist.  But I digress…

The newest project is inspired by The Sandman. That’s right, this guy:

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Isn’t he just DREAMY?

(i’m sorry.)

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If you don’t know the Sandman books, go read them all, right now, then come back. These books have been HUGELY influential in my life, and if I could pick ANY ONE LIVING, FAMOUS PERSON to be friends with, it would absolutely be Neil Gaiman. I have even drawn this wonderful alternate reality: It’s me and Neil drinking tea and discussing books and dogs and the magic of small things, all while taking a lovely jog, and we don’t spill a drop, no not a one.

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Right. Fangirling over. I am so embarrassed.

I thought to myself, “If I were the Lord of Dreams, what would I wear?” so it’s the Dream Coat… no technicolor involved.

Here’s some of the first sketches.

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Lots of doodle of pockets and sleeves…

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Dream is pretty much tall, dark and handsome. Emphasis on dark. He’s a bit of a mope sometimes, but you love him anyway. He makes my inner goth very happy. He’s always in black, so I’m thinking black on black on black for the coat, clearly. However, his cloak is all flames on the inside, so I want to work in an element of that as well.

I picked a very nice Burda pattern as the base pattern to mock up a muslin in. I’m basically taking the shape and sleeves of this coat and altering the hell out of it.

Point A:

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 I drafted a new collar, added a hood, lengthened and changed the sleeves, added inseam pockets, added pleats to the back and changed the hemline. Pray for me that it goes together alright at the end.ImageImage

Lots of alterations and bourbon went into this pattern.Image

It should be a lot closer to this now.

Point B:

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Next– into the (fabric) breach! Stay tuned!

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New Stuff, Works in Progress

Philosophical musings and a new coat project…

This “have a clothing line” business is crazy, and I am constantly discovering that I am not following, or often even aware of, the rules. I don’t release collections on a seasonal schedule– largely because it’s just me here and I seem to get too distracted to be on a such a calendar, but also because I like releasing things whenever I damn well feel like it and whenever I get the photos done.  I do not read fashion magazines or follow fashion blogs. I find that a lot of “fashion” doesn’t interest me that much, the same way that much of what was in the galleries in NYC while I was in school left me cold. Don’t get me wrong, there is some beautiful stuff coming out of the design houses (especially the haute couture stuff, when everyone is allowed to get weird), but I guess it doesn’t seem all that relevant to my world most of the time. Maybe because I really, really don’t like it when clothes are described as chic.

I like clothes with a narrative. I like costumey pieces. Not in a cheap Halloween-store way, but in the sense of a piece that builds your character, even if it’s just your character of the moment. I like clothes that I am excited to put on– these are my warrior leggings, my gypsy pants, my empress dress, my pixie skirt, my fairy tale jacket. I find cosplay generally much more exciting and inspirational than high fashion.

Speaking of cosplay, a wonderful thing about that genre is the DIY nature of it. I love seeing the incredible things people create, and so many of them share process photos the whole way. Ask Versace to do that! Somehow, the open, community attitude of the cosplay culture doesn’t ruin the mystery or monument of the final piece at all; it serves to make it more personal somehow. By the final reveal I am INVESTED in how that Skyrim armor came out!

Right, that’s a lot of rambling; I’ve been getting very philosophical lately on the nature of my work. It is clear to me I MUST MAKE STUFF; the question is what to make, why make it, and where does it go? Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?

So…I’m finally starting in on a project I’ve had in mind for a long time; coats. Technicolor dreamcoats, actually. I’m going to take a class on making coats and jackets from scratch, as I would like to learn more tailoring and be able to make whatever I want, but I also have an interest in reviving old coats; working magic with something pre-existing, something with history. Very green, right?  Coats and jackets are probably my favorite garment in existence. There’s something wonderful about a good coat. NOTE: This may be my years as an angsty goth teenager rearing their black-lipsticked, dog-collar wearing heads, the years when a coat (black, trench) was both fashion statement and security blanket. Never mind that…

The crux of the project, however, even more than just foraying into a new garment, is to dig back into my fine art roots. I have been wanting to experiment with taking some of the techniques, ideas and moods of my paintings and apply them to my clothing. Make some pieces that are truly unique and unrepeatable; blur the lines between art and attire. Spend more time on one truly fantastic creation and really go all-out on it, rather than concern myself with it being easily reproducible. Sounds a bit like my rant about the faun costume from last year, doesn’t it? Hmmm I sense a theme.

Anyway, I’ve never done this before, so despite all my pretty thoughts it may all go down in flames. Boom.  It’s all learning, right? LET’S MAKE SOMETHING, PEOPLE!

Right, so I found this coat in my basement:

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I bought it at a thrift store in Boulder a few years ago when I was suddenly invited to an Bacchanalian revelry in the mountains and had nothing warm to wear. It has nice bones, but the lining is kind of ratty, I don’t love the color, it’s too big and it smells a bit like mothballs. See why it’s been in the basement?

First I removed the lining, then cut off part of the hem. I should have done this later, but I didn’t realize what else I was going to do to the thing and just jumped in. Ah well. Somewhere in this process I started ripping out the seams on the sleeves, which resulted in a very flappy coat, which resulted in a fit of silliness. The dogs are clearly working hard to contain their wild enthusiasm for my sweet moves. 

Anyway, it was too long for my tastes, so I cut off the front to give it a shorter-front/long-back hem. Then I altered it a bit– the shoulders fit fine, but the whole body was too big, so I took in the side and back seams to slim it down to fit me. Then I decided I couldn’t stand the color and dyed the thing. This took about 3 dye baths, which made the cut hem go all scraggly– see, should have done that last. Here it is, sans buttons and with gross hem. Weird cuff details have been removed, as have the belt loops (I don’t like belts on my coats)

It’s a much more interesting color now– sort of a mottled deep purple. Also it no longer smells funny.

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On to the artsy part. My concept for this coat actually came from a dream I had recently. In classic dream style, it doesn’t really translate well, but a key feature was that I had a dragon. A purple/blue iridescent DRAGON. Yes, I am about 8 years old, what? Anyway, I shan’t bore you with my subconscious, but the end result is that I want to make a dragon-rider coat–something that draws from fantasy armor designs and might both decorate the rider and also blend and match them to their dragon. Nerd alert, I know.

Some rough sketches:

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I am very inspired by Selene Gibbous’ work, along with some other textile, quilt and collage artists I’ve been looking at recently and wanted to try a fabric collage technique. Something that will allow me to use fabric more like I use paint. I have no idea what I’m doing, as this is a new technique for me, but nothing else to do but jump in and pray you don’t muck it up too badly.

Here it is as I start to lay down fabric. I drew chalk lines to block out the general shape. I’ve removed the sleeves and undone the side-back seams for ease of movement with the machine.

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Close up of this panel. It’s more or less done I think, but I keep coming back to pieces and adding more as I go.

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Starting at the middle back, I’ve been working my way down and around. I think there will be more to the back, but it made the most sense to keep moving around the body at the time. Here are the back and side panels.

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Here’s the chalk-marks sketching in one of the front panels.

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And the panels coming together…

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…And more detail shots of the whole piece…

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So far I’m only about halfway around the body and haven’t even touched the sleeves yet. Long way to go. It’s been really interesting and satisfying so far though– it is wonderful to play with the fabric in such an organic way.

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