I did not expect, when I entered the Foundations Revealed Competition this year, to win anything. In fact I actively entered believing I would not, telling myself not to get my hopes up. My reasons for entering were instead to give myself a deadline, with a brief to work to, so I could legitimately allow myself to bring to life one of my designs. I generally feel guilty whenever I spend too much time and money of my own work, knowing that it will not bring immediate monetary returns. I also entered with the exposure the competition would give me in mind. Had I not found many of the creatives I now follow and admire through competitions of previous years? So I was very pleasantly surprised to win 3rd place in my category!
Here is the text I wrote to accompany my entry, in the format requested by the contest entry form:
Initially, this literal thinker struggled with the given theme: architecture. My early research failed to spark my imagination, these buildings were too modern (urgh), too obvious (god forbid), and too unlike the human body (how do I make this into a wearable costume??) I have always found colour, texture, and clothing already created as my main sources when designing. It was only when I hit upon my chosen style of architecture, half-timbered houses from the Tudor era, that I realised I could do exactly that. I fell straight away for the stark contrast of the black and white geometric patterns, which were often complemented by more subtle brickwork patterns. And the variations to be found on just the one building!
I decided I would also draw on the fashions of the era, with a modern twist that these patterns once deconstructed so lent themselves to. From my research imagery I drew multiple patterns and placed them on the different components of my costume. For the aptly named gable hood’s cousin the lettice cap, I used simple striped timbers; for the partlet, I used a chevron pattern; for my sleeves I used fishnet tights to represent diamond paned windows; for the stays I used a herringbone brickwork pattern, with vertical timbers for boning channels; and for the culottes I used a circle and grid pattern I had seen in various forms on several different buildings. And thus my design was born.
As a general rule I never design anything that I cannot imagine how to construct. I knew from the beginning, therefore, that I would be using screen printing and appliquéd ribbons as the two techniques for creating my timbers and bricks. I enlarged my little research drawings to a scale sympathetic to the final garments, and made two silk screen artworks. Most of the decoration was applied before assemblage, the prints printed and the ribbons stitched, onto flat patterns pieces. My brickwork was supposed to be the most difficult to print, as it involved a three colour separation using one screen to create a repeat. However, it turned out to be the circle-grid pattern that was trickier to line up and print. Those vertical lines went a-wandering if you didn’t keep a watchful eye on them.
The trickiest sewing stage was, as usual, binding. I’m still getting to grips with binding using grosgrain ribbon rather than bias. This was also my first time attempting to bind solely by machine; many thanks to FR and Redthreaded for their help in this arena! I am also indebted to the Tudor Tailor, whose patterns and instruction I used as a basis for the stays, partlet and lettice cap.
The partlet and lettice cap both proved problematic, because the wool felt I made them from continued to shrink every time the steam iron went anywhere near it. But I managed to compensate by reducing my seam allowances and recutting certain pieces.”
My Conclusion, 5 months later
Upon completion of my costume, I wasn’t entirely sure what I had created. Or even if I liked it. It’s weird. Or as Jema and Cathy put it, witty and unusual. Being your own model can complicate things too, because you do ultimately get tangled in the self esteem conundrum of “Do I not like how it looks or do I just not like how I look?” I have said it before and doubtless I will say it many more times, I do not like having my photograph taken. And I took the photos of my costume the day before the deadline, when I was feeling particularly anxious and low. And unfortunately that translated to the pictures. But now, a few months later, I feel much better about those photographs, and the costume as a whole. I’m really proud of myself and what I achieved. I mean it helps that people liked my entry enough to vote for it, so I’m very grateful to everyone who did, and all the lovely comments. You often need a little space from a project to be able to look at it a little more objectively, and really appreciate how much work you put into it. It also helps if time takes away the memories of what you got wrong and you can see less of the mistakes you made (hey I’m a perfectionist sue me). I am most proud of the stays of course, and fully intend to incorporate them into costumes in the future (I already have plans for a witchy Halloween costume from stuff I’ve already made).
So, was entering the Foundations Revealed Competition a worthwhile experience? Yes. Will I enter next year? I think so, but I suppose it depends on how busy I am next January. Would I recommend others to enter? Definitely yes. Whatever your skill level, there’s room for everyone, and you can dedicate however much time you want, it’s your design. It’s supposed to be a fun competition, about pushing yourself, not breaking yourself. If I’d put pressure on myself to enter a prize winning corset, I probably would’ve had a breakdown, and ended up not entering at all. I think what I’m saying is don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and just enjoy the creativity.
Click here to see more photos of my costume.
Would you ever enter? Why? If you have what was your experience like?