Epic … Something

Epic fail? Epic win? Hard to tell, really, but it was fun to make.

I combined a couple of influences that have been rattling around in my head for a while now. The first influence was an Alexander McQueen dress that is on exhibit at the Met right now. It’s a gold silk twill that is dyed with a resist so the bottom half is black and there are these sort of gold motifs. My first thought was that I would try dyeing with a resist, but the Dharma Trading web site scared me away from the resists. It basically says that resists never work the first time you try them, so you will have disappointing results and it’s not their fault. I should have bought the resists anyway, but I chickened out. Instead, I bought procion dye. Well, actually, I did not even really do that. I bought the procion dye for a tie-dye party that I threw for my kids and their friends earlier in the summer, but there was some left over that I used for this project. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of miraculous that this dress worked as well as it did.

The next influence was the recent Alaia Couture collection, which had many coats with a really lovely shoulder. The shoulder on my dress is pretty close to the Alaia. I hope I can manage to make something else with a shoulder like this so I can perfect it.

Here’s an overview of my dyeing process. I assembled the front and back of the dress, but did not sew them together at the side seams. I soaked the front and back of the dress in soda ash. Then I cut out appliques from manila folders and placed them on the fabric. Then I mixed up some purple dye, put it in a spray bottle, and sprayed it on the fabric. I started near the hem, pretty much soaking the hem, then sprayed more thinly around the waist and chest. I was hoping the appliques would result in a more crisp image, but I guess you really need a resist for that.

I based the dress on a jacket pattern, Marfy 8048 from fw 01 02. My end product bears virtually no resemblance to the pattern.

The fabric started out the blue color that you can see at the shoulders. It is a necktie silk with a fantastic texture, alternating satin and grosgrain stripes. It’s a very forgiving fabric; I think I pulled out and re-stitched every single seam at least twice. It so thick that it molds with steam well, too, kind of like a wool. Not to mention how nicely it survived the dyeing process. I have had this fabric for ages, but it seemed a little too precious to use. The sprayed-on dye brings the fabric down to a more casual realm. Perhaps even a realm that’s close to the one that I actually inhabit.

dye detail in the back


dye detail in the front


detail of darts and pockets in the front


shoulder detail


back view


side view


Alaia coat with a cool shoulder. Image from style.com.



  1. Laura
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The shoulders on this are very pretty–great work.
    I know nothing about dying, but I wonder how your process would work if you used freezer paper stencils instead of the manila folders?
    I love how brave you are with trying new things!

  2. Posted August 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This dress is truly stunning. I love every detail. Definitely not a hot mess. You inspire me so much.

  3. Posted August 2, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Epic Mega Win.

  4. Posted August 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Mmmm, I hope you wear this lots. I see it going well with black tights and heels this fall. It’s a beautiful piece of work!

  5. Posted August 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I love how you experiment so freely! Great dress! Coincidentally, in the new Butterick patterns, the jacket in 5664 has a shoulder sort of like your dress. I am not sure the drafting is great – there seems to be a bit of a ridge at the shoulder seam and the shoulder needs padding or something to keep it rounded as in the Alaia coat, but I thought it was an interesting detail, especially on a See & Sew pattern.

    • Posted August 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I made shoulder pads for it, and they have been in and out a dozen times. Maybe they will end up back in.

    • Posted August 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Wow, the shoulder on that pattern really does look like my dress’s shoulder! I think I’ll get it just to see if I can learn anything from it.

  6. Posted August 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I saw these pictures in your flickr account and have been waiting impatiently for you to post about the dress. Seriously you think this may be a fail…OMG! This is the most awesome and amazing dress EVAH! I love everything about it!

  7. Posted August 2, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh Claudine, I am sooooo impressed. I love the stencilled dyeing. The lines of your dress are fabulous too.

  8. Mae
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I agree with Carolyn- awesome and amazing. Epic win!

  9. Zeila
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Epic win!

  10. Posted August 3, 2011 at 3:11 am | Permalink | Reply

    I love the shoulders. Definitely a win!

  11. Posted August 3, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This dress is beautiful/amazing, and you know that I am a major fan and I mean MAJOR fan of your works of art. This is truly not a fail.

  12. Posted August 4, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    Definitely an epic win. Beautiful dress! The woven striped fabric really looks neat on the bias in the extended shoulder seam and it adds a lot of additional interest to dress in general, but especially combined with the dying technique. I am amazed you achieved that amount of clarity on the motifs with soda ash and cardboard templates.

  13. Posted August 4, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    It works, maybe not as you envisioned it, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s a great dress.

  14. Posted August 5, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    That shoulder truly is special. Love the way you’ve worked the stripes to your advantage with the chevron look. The dyeing is cool!

  15. patsijean
    Posted August 7, 2011 at 12:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    Epic Win! Extraordinary!

  16. Posted August 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Epic Win! Definitely. It may not be exactly what you envisioned, but I love the way you took the idea and jumped right in and turned out something really beautiful. I think that is how creativity works, when it works well, that you start with an idea, and then the whole thing evolves as a collaboration between you and the materials. It is a great dress.

  17. LinB
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    Epic win. Sometimes the Sewing Gods take over our hands and lead us to make something we had not planned. Often it is far worse than what we had planned, lol, but not this time! Enjoy your lovely garment. Thanks for letting us follow along.

  18. Kathryn, aka fzxdoc
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    A definite epic win. Besides, look what you learned about dyeing with stencils. Not everyone can wear their own personal couture-style learning curve. I love the shoulder treatment. Wear this dress with much happiness!

  19. Posted August 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is an amazing dress. I love how you combine different sources of inspiration to end up with something unique, and beautiful.

One Trackback

  1. By A Little Obsessed « Adventures in Couture on November 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    […] polish is Essie Coat Azure. Purple sparkle polish is Opi Divine Swine. Dress described in more detail here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was written by Claudine, posted on […]

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *


%d bloggers like this: