Monday, January 17, 2011

Come Dress Yourself in Love....

Let the journey begin!

Isn't that what a bride does?  She dresses herself in love.....and then her journey begins!  I thought it might be fun to "journey" the creative process of what to do with an old wedding gown.  But first - the journey of the dress.

I was 26 years old when I made this dress.  I remember it was 3 different patterns that I merged to make the perfect dress.  The skirt was 7 yards around the bottom and I hand hemmed it 7 times to get the lace where I wanted it.  The lace was 6" wide and had to be stitched 3 times around the base just to hold it in place.  It has yellowed quite a bit in the last 33 years.

Even back then, I was quite creative.  I used velcro to close the sleeves and stitched the tiny buttons on top.

But it's the bodice that was the "masterpiece". I embroidered with rayon thread to make a colorful arrangement:

It took me 3 months on my breaks at work to finish the bodice, then I began to stitch the rest of the gown together

You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them....but I think you can see that the embrodery along the lace trim blends into the trim.

The embroidery work continues all the way around the bodice.  I was working 40 hours a week, and in my last semester of college - going to night school.  So I had to make the dress during my breaks and lunch.  I know - I've always been crazy when it comes to creating!

That marriage didn't last long, but it produced my son Jason....what more could I ask?  My sister-in-law wore the dress a few years later and has kept it all these years.  When she wanted to discard it, she asked if I wanted it back and I thought - yes, I have to do someting with that embroidery!  I can't just toss it out!!!

For a long time, I thought I would turn it into a pillow.  But pillows get dirty fast.  And who goes to the bedroom to "admire" a pillow?  LOL!  So it has sat in my basement for the last few years and when cleaning out, I "found" it again and decided that now is the time to decide once and for all what to do with it.

I hung it on the dress form.  Sometimes putting things in 3D helps start the creative process.  I realized there were darts that would have to be removed were I going to do anything with it.  Removing darts meant cutting into parts of the embroidery.  What to do???  And then there is the open V neckline - I'd have to somehow fill that in as well.

A few years ago, I ran across a dresser that KC Willis had altered in a shop in Niwot, CO.  As I started seeking out more of her work, I found her unusual fabric collages.  While I do love them, the tea-dyed, vintage, western feel is just not something that is my "thing".  But I truly admire her work.  And I have always loved the photo of me in this dress.

OK, no wisecracks about the hat - it was 1977 and it was stylish then!!!  

The thought came to me that I might be able to collage this into a flat wall hanging.  And that I might be able to do an image transfer of the photo onto fabric and incorporate it as well.  But that would definitely mean cutting into it.  Dare I do that?   

You know, there's only one way to know how you feel about you REALLY feel about it...and that's to just do it.  So while hanging on the dressform....I took my scissors.....I held my breath....I closed my eyes.......

and right at the waistline......

Yep, I cut right through it.  

So, once you make that first snip, there's no going back.  Sort of like life, huh?  

I cut the bottom off, then I cut the sleeves off.  Then I cut up the seams, took out the darts in the bodice, cut through the embroidery, and laid it all out on a board and began the creative process of putting it all back together as a collage.

What sheer, utter, complete total fun!!!  So check back in a day or so and see if I've made any I blog the journey of creating something new out of something old!


CraftyJo said...

It sounds such a brave thing to do to a beautiful garment. Your work is exquisite. I can't wait to see what you finally come up with for it.

madelineas said...

OMG this gown is (was) gorgeous Jen, that is a lot of hand work there. I can't wait to see what you do with because I just got my original wedding gown and head piece back,also from a marriage that didn't last too long, you think the hat was funny, you should see mine. I so want to do something with and also thought of a pillow LOL
Enjoy this journey, can't wait to see it

pbo said...

What an absolutely beautiful dress! I can't wait to see your finished collage!

Neet said...

Jen this is fascinating - fantastic - and the photo of you is beautiful. I am going to enjoy this journey.