So I was wrong thinking that wool would be easy to sew with. Think again. I don’t believe I’ve ever unpicked a swimsuit so much….though it was all worth it in the end.
Making a prototype of the swimsuit was useful to discover any mistakes and reflect on the overall design and fit. The week before we embarked on our easter break, we all had a look at our designs on a professional size ten model….
I wasn’t too sure about the pom-poms on the shoulders. I was scared it was going to look too ‘crafty’. However, using different material to the traditional yarn-made ones created a look far from ‘crafty’. There was the option of cutting lots of circles in the same fabric and making them sit up with starching spray, but, I tried this, and it didn’t work. Woollen pom-poms were the gooooooo. I also figured that the bra cups were hideously small, so these needed to be enlarged by at least one centimetre.
I was pretty happy how the ruching came out. Though I had to be mindful of the gathers bringing the swimsuit in too much. When the model tried the swimsuit on, it was really tight around the bottom and loose up the top. To fix this, I needed to expand the ruching pattern pieces by one centimetre on each side. For the top seam at the back, it needed to drop by one or two centimetres. I wasn’t really keen on the bra tassels. It was hiding too much of the design, so it was out with the tassels and in with the simple.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the outcome of my first swimsuit draft. Not much had to be changed for the final piece. Just a few tweaks within the swimsuit back, bra cups and the tassels were removed. I was on the home straight…
Making the patterns for the swimsuit wasn’t as bad as I thought. Altogether, there were eight pieces to form the ‘Seaweed Pom-Pom Swimsuit’. It was quite the opposite of pattern making for woven material. It was satisfying how it all came together so easily. If I were one inch out, the stretch would compensate…
We were all required to use two meters of black wool fabric. This was only part of the challenge, as little did we know how machine dependent swimsuits were and how fragile wool is…. (Unpicking was a disaster!)
I was thankful I constructed two prototypes of the swimsuit, one in fluro Lycra (thanks to Max’s fabric donation) and another in black cotton jersey. The nature of these fabrics handled very differently to the wool. The Lycra sewed with ease and the jersey created a lot of bulk. Especially when I was sewing gathers into the centre back.
Detailing: For the side flaps, I experimented with interfacing and foam. I decided the interfacing was too sharp around the edges of the flaps and side seams. It also didn’t sit right on the body. The foam was a winner as it was easy to sew with and it created a nice texture when I sewed onto it…
Pom Poms: I tore a leaf out of an old craft book on how to make pom-poms. I used wool yarn, which gave the pom-poms a traditional look. I wasn’t a fan of the wool, so I moved onto plain, black ribbon. For the final piece, the plan was to cut as many 1cm wide strips out of the provided wool. The ribbon was a good substitute for the toile….
As any kid, my imagination ran wild. From garden parties, sequin dresses to stick houses, I developed a strong liking to the old fantasy story, ‘The Waterbabies’ by Charles Kingsley. I guess it was the fact that my mum had filled in the black and white pages with extraordinary watercolor drawings that made it so exciting and memorable.’The Waterbabies’ led me into a different world complete with mystical creatures. This was clearly a form of ‘escapism’…. a way of exiting reality and entering fantasy. Escapism was conveyed within the storyline as well. Tom’, the protagonist escapes his miserable job as a chimney sweeper by becoming a water creature.
Kingley’s book was core to my inspiration for my swimsuit. I felt it was appropriate to follow with a underwater theme given the brief focuses on swimwear. Kingsley wrote ‘The Waterbabies’ in 1863, a few years before the birth of famous synchronized swimmer, Annette Kellerman who revolutionized the bathing suit which also seemed ideal for the given brief.
I drew elements from the images the story would create through the words and illustrations into contemporary swimsuit versions that each conveyed a raw, natural beauty with a dark and magical edge…
and below are my final eight designs….
While it was a hard decision to narrow my designs to one, the seaweed pom pom swimsuit was a winner. Using only black wool, I knew that I needed to pick the swimsuit with the most texture and shape to attract the public eye….
My swimsuit journey officially began on the last day of first year fashion. It was the day our Avant-Garde pieces were due. We turn up with twenty broken needles, many red raw fingers, tears, cuts, Thai takeaway boxes and white faces from the lack of sleep. I was a broken woman…. well almost.
With heavy eyes and black bags for a face, I listened intently to the introduction of our next challenge, this being the eponymous swimsuit. Soon we would be dealing with fashion on a slightly smaller scale involving stretch. And so, at last swimsuits had saved me from the vicious sea of fabric!
It was then we all embarked on summer break sourcing inspiration left, right and centre. I spent most of my time along the south east coast of NSW and then further inland to Kosciusko National Park. Kosciusko National Park is an outstanding area with glacial lakes, limestone caves, grasslands and woodlands. Spending time there enabled myself to understand how much the surprising, everyday beauty distracted my mind from stress and worry normally associated with city life.
Not long after my trip, I came across a quote found in the fashion magazine, ‘Mirage’ that accurately summed up my thoughts…
“We are drawn to the social doctrines and design elements that define a new way of thinking and exiting worlds that result from this. Yet we are equally intrigued by the surprising everyday beauty of the ordinary…” Mirage Magazine, 2009.
This was really the starting point for my research. I wanted to know more about the meaning behind this quote so I began looking into WGSN which led me to the idea of “elusive” as a concept…
“The constant evolution of coastal daylight sets the mood for this dreamscape look, using light as a medium to create surface interest. A predominantly contemporary look with a powerful inner spirit, consideration is required to achieve pared-down perfection. Look towards technology and fabric innovation to create forward-thinking silhouettes and print finishes.” WGSN.
It was perhaps the soft and loose imagery that supported this definition that resonated with me the most. I began collecting images that portrayed these mood-like characteristics looking through magazines, newspapers, family photographs….the list goes on…..
It was interesting to see where my head and heart led me in this stage of the research. As I cut down my collection of images to a handful, most had interestingly depicted a sense of serenity and freedom – something of which I had experienced in my travels. ‘Escapism’ would define this well…..
Escapism es·cap·ism (noun)
1. something such as fantasy or entertainment that makes it possible to forget about the ordinary or unpleasant realities of life for a while
2. the act of indulging in daydreams or fantasies to escape from everyday reality
I looked into many avenues that related to ‘Escapism’ in order to find a trend and concept that would fit appropriately with the woolen mermaids brief.
I found ‘Escapism’ within:
My translation of the trend, ‘Escapism’…..
I get really attached to simple images and these were the ones that resonated mostly with me. I especially love the girl holding a sash in the wind. It defies freedom, sensuality, essence, naivety and fantasy that together spell escapism at its best……