Saturday, August 27, 2011

Corset and Petticoat

Last week I visited the Mütter Museum. I know for sure I was not meant for any part of the medical field--I gagged several times and within five minutes of walking in I really wanted to get the visit over with. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience (one I hope not to repeat), and there was a fashion-related takeaway. In one of the displays there were two skeletons, and between them there was a dress form that displayed a corset. The two skeletons: one was shaped in a form of how your organs shift when wearing a corset, and one when you are not. Interesting, and pretty gross all at the same time.

What this illustration does not show is that while wearing a corset, your liver shifts down and your heart shift up. Your lungs can never expand fully, in turn creating shortness of breath and frequent fainting [one of the prevailing side effects on women during Victorian era]. 
Then of course there are the petticoats [unrelated to the museum adventure]. Corsets and petticoats work together, often giving the impression of a smaller waist while accentuating the bust and hips. The corset is a customized garment, made of separate pieces which are stitched together to mold the torso into a desired shape. Early corsets were made of two layers of linen, and held together with a stiff paste. The resulting rigid material held and formed the wearer's figure. From the sixteenth century on, corset makers began using thin pieces of whalebone, shaped like quills or knitting needles which were sleeved between two layers of fabric. The whalebone was shaped with steam and then inserted into tailored pockets in the corset to provide structure. Whalebone was also used in some corsets in a front piece called the busk. The busk gave a smooth line to the front of the corset. Alternatively, boning was made of wood, horn, or steel. 

The whalebone corset was much more confining than the paste-stiffened one and was often worn in conjunction with other undergarments that further exaggerated the female figure. In Elizabeth’s time, courtly fashion dictated corsets paired with large, whale bone-stiffened petticoats.

The petticoat is a skirt-like undergarment worn to give a skirt or dress a desired shape. The petticoat, if sufficiently full or stiff, holds the overskirt in a desired shape. Petticoats have appeared in many forms since their arrival at the end of the 15th century including the structured variety.

Elaborate petticoats were worn under silk dresses in the eighteenth century in much of Europe and America, often supported by whalebone frames which were slipped into pockets in the garment and detailed with bustle-like structures made of down-filled pads. As fashion dictated larger volumes, stiffened petticoats helped give added support. The most popular type of stiffened petticoat was the crinoline which was made out of horsehair and woven with linen threads.
*all information was collection from various sources.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Alexander McQueen Silk Chiffon Dress - Flounce

Continuing on the deconstruction of Alexander McQueen’s fabric manipulations, flounce played a big part of a lot of his designs.

This McQueen dress has a darted, bias-cut bodice with spiral semi-transparent chiffon flounces. It appears that they might be attached intermittently along the irregular diagonal seams of the bodice. The flounce also has an appearance of “glowing out of the seams”.

The skirt continues this method of construction, but with a greater intensity of voluminous fabric. What interests me about this garment is how the flounces are attached to the seams and how the bodice has both the structure and volume. Of course, this dress in person was absolutely incredible. 

Here’s a sample of how the flounce was made. To achieve the effect of a flowing wave, it had to be cut on bias.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alexander McQueen Bosch silk-jacquard dress - Inflecting Pleating

Last week I stood in a three-hour line to see the Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There is a lot that can be said about it, but I am pretty sure that what I could say would never really encompass him and his work in words eloquent enough to do them justice. In short it was well worth the wait in the heat with the crowd. The real reason I mention this is because I’d like more to address the details of his work than the generalities of the exhibit. Two words: Fabric Manipulation. It was endless, beautiful, and hard to deconstruct, but I’d like to attempt to do so anyway [in several posts].

The craftsmanship of this McQueen silk-jacquard dress is incredible. According to the Alexander McQueen website, the dress is inspired by 14th century Hieronymus Bosch paintings and was cut on the stand by McQueen. Black silk dress with hand-loomed jacquard. Internal boning at bodice with a concealed zip and hook fastenings at back and is fully lined. 100% silk; lining: 74% acetate, 26% silk.

Complemented the elaborately pleated skirt. This is the exterior inflecting pleating pattern. With enough fabric and patience, it can be manipulated so that it articulates the circumference of the body and still keeps its form.

The autumn winter 2010 dress is part of the last collection designed by McQueen before his death.

This dress retailed for £12,420 at Net-A-Porter.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Support Your Friends - Lessons of the Day - 1

This might sound like a letter to Ask E. Jean asking for advice, however it’s more of a "Lessons of the Day" entry (the first of several).

Background: I am an aspiring fashion designer
Setting: Wedding
Situation: I am standing with my “friend”

Woman: "Where did you ladies get your lovely dresses?!"
My friend: "Oh, I got mine at BCBG, they had such a huge sale, I got this dress for $99. They just always have such great sales, you wait, and you can get practically anything you want for a great price." Blah blah blah as she continues.
Me: Can’t get a word in edgewise, so I just stand there waiting for it to be over.
Woman: "What about you?" And looks at me.
Me: "I designed and constructed it myself."
Woman: "Can you design one for me that looks like hers?"
Me: "No, I don’t copy other people’s dresses, but you can buy it at BCBG."
My friend: "Oh, but BCBG has great sales, you have to go and see."
Me: Walk away.

Lessons: I am pretty sure BCBG doesn’t need any free (or otherwise) advertising, but your designer friend does! So maybe next time, you can be a friend and advertise my dress instead of theirs (even if it’s not your style)? I sure would if the roles were reversed. Support your friends!!!!

Am I being unreasonable?
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