As in pretty much any excuse is good enough for me to make a dress. And a very, very long post, so schedule loo breaks now, ladies and gentlemen. This is an actual transcript of the conversation that happened between Logic Brain and Soprano Brain:
Logic Brain: Liederfest is coming up.
Soprano Brain: So it is! QUICK! TO THE SEWING MACHINE!
Logic Brain: Errr……. shouldn’t that be ‘to the practice room?’
Soprano Brain: Oh poor foolish Logic Brain. Surely you realise that there’s no point in practicing for a competition if I have nothing to wear.
Logic Brain: But you do have things to wear. Why not wear that dress you wore last year?
Soprano Brain: Because I wore it LAST YEAR, duh. How passé! The reek of bad technique clings to it like the stench of burning rubber to a smoke-tainted wine.
Logic Brain: Stop it. You’re getting carried away.
Soprano Brain: This year’s dress shall be bold!
Logic Brain: Are you even listening to me?
Soprano Brain: It will necessitate an extravagant trip to the Fabric Store!
Logic Brain: You can’t really aff-
Soprano Brain: IT WILL BE LIKE THE ARMOUR OF A VICTORIOUS KNIGHT AND SHINE AS A TESTAMENT TO MY AWESOMENESS!
Logic Brain: Fine, whatever, I’m not talking to you when you’re like this.
Now really, I’m sort of on Logic Brain’s side here. I only have nine days to whip this thing up in, and I will not be sacrificing practice time to do it (seeing it’s Liederfest, not Seamstressfest). I have other dresses I could wear. The main problem is that I made a massive rookie error on my break at work the other day and spent most of it drooling over the Christopher Esber website, oogling masterfully-cut, ridiculously beautiful garments I will never be able to afford. I also rummaged through my wardrobe with a friend deciding on clothes for photoshoots the other day, and was palpably disappointed at the lack of badassness therein. Everything’s a bit frumpy, or a bit dainty, or a bit vintage, or just too… safe. Which I know is what adjudicators-of-a-certain-age/the Opera Police* tend to go for, but it’s not how I want to represent myself, and I want to have the sort of stage wardrobe where I feel like I can grab anything that’s weather-appropriate and just feel right in it, Opera Police be damned. If you don’t feel like you’re offering up yourself on stage, you can’t expect the audience to feel a genuine connection with you.
So I had a think.
Le Fou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking…
I examined my current daytime performance dresses with a critical eye. There’s a grey cuoprene/silk Alpha 60 dress for summer, a black Viktoria Maine for winter and a rust-coloured Victoria Maine for in-between. The rust one’s pretty stained and gaps badly at the CB neckline (also I feel about 40 in it, which isn’t how 24 year olds generally want to feel), the black one is nice to wear but a bit underwhelming, and the Alpha 60 one requires tape (which isn’t great when you go to put it on and then realise you can’t find the tape, and then have to rush around madly in the 40 minutes before your Masters recital trying to find something else that you can wear to perform in 35 degree heat without flashing anybody. True story).
Classic case of party at the back. Super-deep-cut armscyes, ergo tape. With a slip it looks suspiciously like some kind of dressing gown.
This is the one I wore last year. It’s inoffensive enough.
I used to like this one. Now I think it’s boring.
What I gathered from this sartorial navel-gazing were these lessons:
-No more frumpy/underwhelming.
-Fit is paramount.
When proper designers design things (I imagine, at least…) they think things through carefully. In each collection, there’s almost a character in their mind; their girl; their muse. Who are my muses? What qualities and features and traits do I like? Who is my girl these days? I had a look back through my sketch folder at my recent fan sketches, looked at my bookshelf, at my favourite movies and shows – in short: what I’m interested in because I actually like it, not because I feel like I should, or to prove a point – and I noticed a trend.
Basically it boils down to this: my muses are almost invariably Fierce Armed Ladies (and gentlemen). Buffy. Anita Blake. Katniss Everdeen. Shaun Mason from Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy (fights zombies, busts conspiracies) Sabriel, from the eponymous book by Garth Nix (has magic bells). Nimona, from the eponymous web comic by Noelle Stevenson (turns into things, including a SHARK.). Mr Virgil Tibbs, from the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night (not just a fearsome dude, but also possibly the biggest crush I’ve ever had). Pretty much every character from Norihiro Yagi’s manga Claymore (the basic plot is: genetically-altered ladies hit monsters with swords whilst questioning their humanity). Even the characters I invented in highschool to indulge the rather niche combo of rococo fashion and dragons now help to fuel my love of rococo fashion… and zombies. The dragons got dropped at about year 10.
Princess Sharianne slays zombies now. My boss thought I was a tad disturbed for drawing this on my break. And now, dear internet friends, you have the opportunity to find me disturbing too!
Hell, even the singers I like best have an element of steel to them: Billie Holiday is still my favourite singer ever, and she was one fierce lady. There’s no amount of Edda Mosers singing die Hölle rache that will ever replace Billie for me.
So the dress must reflect these influences whilst still being appropriate stagewear and not tremendously offensive to the Opera Police. So the list of direct influences had to be narrowed down a bit, and mixed in with some proper fashion. The final cut was:
– Christopher Esber, for this shape: It’s like a rococo waistcoat and yet somehow armour-like.
From his AW13 collection.
-Dion Lee for the futurism, and how his designs remind me a lot of the wetsuits from Catching Fire; there’s a sort of action/functional look to them (even though body-con dresses are never really very functional).
Also via the website. Watch out, the homepage makes noises.
-The suits from Claymore. I’m nicking the CF and CB seams, because they’re quite distinctive and not often used in these sorts of dresses, and also the colour scheme. I want my dress in grey/white/silver. Plus a bit of emphasis on my gigantic man-shoulders probably wouldn’t go astray.
From my very own copy of Vol. 4.
This is the design I arrived at:
After a bit of sleeve editing and fiddling, I got the toile to the following stage, over a RTW pencil skirt (the skirt’s going to be the easy part, I say flippantly now, probably to my later regret). It looks very wrinkly and wonky mostly because I had to pin myself into it with great difficulty. In the real deal there’ll be a CB invisible zipper, which I can do now because I FOUND MY ZIPPER FOOT!!! HOORAH!!! As far as actual flaws go, the collar needs more building up, the ‘shoulder protectors’ need reshaping (it’s my first attempt at a raglan sleeve; once again I’m trying to run before I can walk), and so do the front and back waistcoat tails, and the bust darts need moving. But hey, it’s a toile. Corrections are what they’re for, right?
I’m also very proud of my new shoes. They’re pointy. And taxi-coloured.
*Opera Police: a friend of a friend recently used this term to refer to the stuffy, usually middle-aged and older self-appointed gatekeepers of operatic validity, taste and propriety.