I often read interviews in which artists or designers are asked, "From where did you draw inspiration for this particular piece?" If I were to address this question to myself and apply it to the dress I made to wear at my sister's wedding, I would have to answer, "a dirty old towel."
My band practices weekly at a rehearsal room called Sound Savers that has been built with a lot of love and little money. It is clean and well organised and for the most part magnolia in colour, with cubic dashes of black in the form of amps and guitar cases. From where I sit on my drum stool, there is one colourful beacon in the room; a lime green towel.
I don't know who uses the towel, or for what, but every week it has found another spot to relax in. As my sister's wedding approached, and I regretted my public promise to make and wear a dress in 2013, the towel gradually burned brighter and brighter, like a light that still seems to glow on the back of your eye lids after you've been looking at it for too long.
I couldn't find any green fabric that was as vibrant as the inspirational towel, so I bought some dye and decided to embark on my first ever dip dying project. I bought Butterick 4708, which is a 1960s A-line dress with pockets. I cut out my dress pattern pieces from some white cotton I had lying around, having used it as a backdrop in a photo shoot.
I looked at quite a few tutorials for dip dyeing online, most of which recommended using three shades of dye. I wanted as smooth a fading gradient as possible, so I chose to split my dye powder into five different glasses, each glass containing a shade deeper than the last.
The first two shades I dyed were so weak they hardly changed the colour of the fabric at all.
The last shades were truly deliciously limey. Mmmmmmm!
After dip dyeing comes drip drying : )
I chose to make this dress as much for the learning experience as for the dress itself. I was interested to find out how to construct a fully concealed zip with a placket.
I love this method of sewing a tiny square of fabric on to the right side of the fabric, then turning it through to the other side to create a neat zip-opening.
I was in fact amazed and impressed by these instructions. They were extremely well illustrated and at points where I couldn't fully visualise what Butterick wanted me to do, I abandoned myself to my orders, carrying out each step like a sewing robot, until the purpose of a particular process was revealed.
Here I am mid-make, feeling very proud of myself for making contrasting pocket flaps.
As my dress neared completion another image replaced that of the towel, burning itself into my eyes. It was a row of dancing Romaine lettuces, calling out to me to join their salad-y can can dance!
I feared that instead of a smart dress, I had all along been sewing a lettuce costume. Here I am with my colleagues, wearing a Craft Candy truckers cap to conceal unwashed hair, and to distinguish myself from edible vegetation.
I tried to make the dress look more contemporary by making a narrow shirt collar, rather than a broad 1960s style one.
A couple of days before the wedding I realised it would probably be cold and I didn't have a matching jacket, so I whipped one up using fabric I had left over after a cloak making demonstration. I made the jacket up, turning to a lofty source for inspiration this time; Vogue magazine. And more specifically Chanel's Spring/Summer 2013 collection, which is littered with beautiful cropped boucle jackets.
I had my nails done in lavender to match, Posh Spice style, as part of the bridal beautifying preparations.
Rock and roll!
More bridal beautification; this is my sister serenely having stuff applied to her face.
Hannah's transport to the wedding was seriously rock and roll.
Here is Max, the groom, pretending to be nervous, and in the background my Dad expressing amazement at seeing me in a dress.
My sister really does look nervous.
Of course the dress that everyone was really looking at on the big day was my sister's wedding dress; a beautiful black Azzedine Alaia, made of something that felt like luxury neoprene.
Here she is with my Mum and Dad, who can usually be found wearing blue jeans, fleeces and walking boots.
The wedding was absolutely joyful and Hannah and Max exited the registry office doing a banging Ibiza style dance.
The rest of us picked our way gingerly down the impressive staircase in our fancy shoes.
My sister has an admirable ability to wear vertigo-inducing high heels without so much as a wobble. Here are her teetering wedding shoes on the left, and my sensible, safe flats on the right.
So I've kept my vow to wear a homemade dress and am raring to go with something a little more ambitious, both in skill level and style. I do love my lettuce dress, but it is basically an oversized T-shirt, or the dress equivalent of a pair of flats. Next time, I plan to make something a little more like the dress equivalent of a pair of seven inch spiked stilettos.
I've got the dress bug and it's dangerous.