January 25, 2013

a dress for M (part 1)

working on the dress designs
thread palettes
getting ready to start the test piece

labeling the stitches and color options
A friend of mine asked if I would consider doing an embroidery commission for her - on a dress. She was going to be receiving a major award and had bought a dress online from All Saints, but really wanted  something special, something unique.

I am by no means a fashion designer, nor am I an expert embroider-er.  Everything I have learned, I have taught myself. And the idea of applying my embroidery skills to a piece of clothing was very daunting. Making mistakes in art is one thing, but on an article of clothing seemed different somehow, more intimidating. But exciting too – I like challenges. So I said yes.

This being my first dress commission, I made up a process and approach that made sense to me, hoping it would make sense to her too. I started by taking some pictures of her in the dress  so I could print them out and made several tracings of just the dress. Now I had a set of blank dresses that I could play around with and sketch on top of.

Twenty sketches later, I had a handful of designs I  liked. So next I started to work on color. We had chatted a bit about her favorite colors and what colors she was thinking of for the project. She told me she was really open, and trusted my opinion - "What would I do if I were her?" - she asked me. (How nice to have a client who really puts their faith in you.) I put together several palettes,  cutting samples of thread and organizing them onto index cards so she could actually see and feel the color.

I brought everything over to her house and we had dinner. Not until dessert did we turn to the business at hand. I laid out all the designs and palettes onto her table, and watched with trepidation as her eyes moved from one design to the next, laying the tracings on top of the photo of herself to visualize what they would look like. She quickly narrowed it down to just a handful of designs and selected a color palette  she liked. Then, turning back to the finalists, she pointed to her selection - "This is the one."

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