It’s hard to grasp that only a week ago I was in the midst of the Passion for Fashion challenge. To say that last weekend was stressful would be an understatement. But it was also an insane, wonderful, gut-wrenching and edifying experience. I met some lovely people and was definitely pushed beyond what I expected from myself in the time that was provided. I will try my best to communicate what life felt like for those two days.
Friday, Sept 26. Day 1
In past years, the challenge was about creating a garment(s) that matched a theme and a client profile. Last year’s challenge was to create a red carpet look for a new pop artist inspired by a musician from previous decades – David Bowie and Michael Jackson were some of my favorites. The Expo provided each designer with an allowance in order to buy all notions and fabric to create their look from vendors on the floor. This year was different.
To start, each designer selected a pair of fabric swatches – with no knowledge of what the swatches were meant to signify. I chose a berry stretch taffeta and black lace (Scene Ripper pride!). Once the swatches were selected, we were presented with 3 yards of each swatch. Then came the challenge: to create an alternative wedding dress out of the fabric provided (which, by the way, was from the David Tutera line of bridal fabric). Because a large amount of fabric had already been provided, we were given a smaller allowance to pad out any extra fabric or notion expenses. To determine the inspiration for our wedding dress, we all chose a theme from over 20 options (e.g. steampunk, masquerade, sci-fi, winter wonderland, anime, etc.). I chose ‘Carnival.’ And this is where I got myself in trouble.
To me, ‘carnival’ mean circuses, elephants, striped tents and ringleaders. With the darker color palette that I chose, that idea of ‘carnival’ makes sense. So I set to designing a late 1800s/early 1900s look featuring a cutaway jacket, hobble skirt and pigeon-breast blouse. Forgive the roughness, but this is what the sketch looked like:
I loved this look. I was so excited. I had an idea in my head that I would sew berry colored ribbon on some white fabric to create a bold stripe pattern to get the skirt to look exactly how I wanted it. I was about this design.
The mentor for the competition, Becky, looked at my designs and asked how it related to Carnival (I know you can’t hear it, but there was an accent when she said it). You know, Rio de Janeiro with bright colors, feathers, pasties and thong underwear. Oh boy. Not even considering how inappropriate the colors I had to work with are for that, how was I making a dress out of essentially a stripper’s work attire? After a very emotional phone call to my fiancé, I decided to stick to my design.
For the first day, I did all my patterning, which included draping the blouse and skirt (and a waist cincher that I didn’t have the time to make), and altering a paper pattern to create the cutaway silhouette (McCall’s 6770). I got all my fabric cut, and had 90% of the jacket finished. When the other designers already had the shells of the dresses they were creating on dress forms by 3 p.m., I was in total panic mode. There was a never ending mantra in my head of what were you thinking? You’ll never finish this in time. This isn’t coming together. You’re working on a jacket when the challenge is to make a wedding gown. By the end of the day, I just had the shirt and skirt to make and 6 hours on Saturday to do it in. I still felt panicked, but the workload seemed more doable.
It also helped that my mother took me out for margaritas afterwards. Just sayin’.
Saturday, Sept 27. Day 2
Saturday is not only the last work day for us, but it’s also the day that David Tutera is making an appearance at the Expo. When he finds out that part of the challenge was using his fabrics, he wanted to meet all the designers see their progress. Humble brag alert: he said he would have worn the jacket I made. Not going to lie, I freaked out inside a little bit. There was a photographer there, so I am scouring several blogs and social media trying to find the pictures. In the meantime, my lovely mother took some of her own.
In spite of all my anxiety, I finished an hour before my model showed up for final fittings! What a relief! It all fit her like a dream – I only took the center back seam of the jacket to fit it a bit more. Seeing it on Sara, I was thrilled. It had life once it was worn.
A giant kudos to Sara. She was a dream to work with, and had one of the strongest ‘walks’ on the runway. I couldn’t have been happier!
After the first round of eliminations, the judges kept me in the top six. Considering this is the first year I’ve participated, I’ll take that as a victory on its own.
I was asked several times after the top three were announced if I’d try again next year. I think I’m leaning towards yes. If I am accepted into next year’s competition, there are a few things I learned that I would bring with me. Primary of these is maintain the integrity of your original design. I am guilty of second guessing myself part way through Friday. Instead of fighting for my definition of ‘carnival,’ I tried to adapt my design for a New Orleans, voodoo and jazz Mardi Gras/Carnival. I think that is what ultimately kept me from placing in the top three. I’m trying to keep this in mind as I move forward with my designs for Scene Ripper.
Before closing out, I have to thank a few people. Thank you Janet Pray, Diane and everyone at the American Sewing Expo. They took such amazing care of the contestants, from the free lunches to providing us with enviable Baby Lock sewing machines and sergers. We would have been lost without our ‘Tim Gunn,’ Becky, who was so supportive and pushed all the designers to create the best versions of their ideas. Another shout out to my stunning model, Sara, who gave my creation life. And thank you to my Mom and ever supportive fiance for being there that night. Everyone helped make this weekend so memorable.