Day Two: A Secret Mission and 4,000 Dresses
At a Glance
Quick visit in the V&A fashion exhibit
- Trip to Harrods to seek out fashion research with fellow interns
- Song of the Day: Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers
- Best Eats: Chocolate samples at Harrods
Exhibit of the day:
Where: The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)
What: 1850-70 Fashion and Industry
- Wire cages replaced heavy crinnolines, were fuller and easier to wear
- Fabric dyes were advancing, but many wer poisonous to wear
- Press criticized the wearing of wire cages but they were still pumped out by the thousands. They criticized the fabric dyes and everyone listened.
- Bodices, trains, skirts were all separate to allow many variations to make it a more feasible investment (Click to read more)
- Pre-emroidered fabric on dress to accentuate waist at princess seams
- To what extent will people compromise their health in the name of beauty? How are we still battling this issue today?
- How can we create garments today with that much consideration and versatility? Is it even relevant today?
That one time I was a fashion spy in London
May 8th, Kings Cross, London — “You’ll tell them your boss is inviting you to a surprise private gala and she has sent you to Harrods to pick out gowns to wear.”
Miss Tammam swung her red tailored coat over her shoulder and turned the key in the lock.
“You’ll report to me first thing Thursday morning.”
And with that, my employer, fashion designer, secret mission operator extraordinaire, zipped down the street on her vintage scooter.
This leads us to this morning, feeling a bit like James Bond, standing outside a coffee shop with a newspaper, waiting to meet 3 strangers who were also on my mission. I glanced to the left and right as if waiting for a secret password to confirm their identities. There was no The black cat sings at dawn line, but a slew of tell-tale grins cued me in pretty quick.
First I met Appa, a fashion design/pattern-making major from Norway. Her personality is even taller than she is and her love of dogs almost surpasses her passion for design. Next I met Nyleeta, a London gal with a talent for the American accent. She and Tina, a brown-eyed Turkish jewel, are both studying fashion merchandising here in London.
We didn’t quite look like a squad of spies, but we were on a mission and that was that.
Lucy, our boss, sent us to Harrods, a ritzy department store in the heart of London, to try on high end evening gowns and compile research for her.
Appa looked at pattern design, I looked at garment construction, and Nyleeta and Tina both watched for presentation and product variations. We didn’t have revolvers or tape-recorder pens, but we had our handy cellphones to capture clues as to how each garment had been made. We took note of the quality/price discrepancies and tried to look for garments with details that really stood out.
“I was most intrigued by the pleating,” Appa said, as we debriefed over coffee later. We didn’t have a picture board with strings connecting each clue like in the movies, but we had our notebooks and pictures of all different ribbons.
The first dress I tried on was heavily beaded with multiple layers in the skirt. The way the designer had finished each layer in the back was by giving them their very own zippers. I had never seen anything like it.
The merchandising girls pointed out how well the garments flowed together in each showroom.
More Field Notes from Today:
- pleats planned to flow into bodice seams consistently (i.e. Designer Talbot Runhof)
- patterns fit loosely around the figure to meet at a bow or tie to highlight certain features
- white space
- color cordination
- elegant and simple designs chosen for mannequins v.s. loud prints
- each layer had its own zipper
- false buttons sewn on heavy fabric, jacket closed with hooks and a zipper on the inside
- zipper guard used to protect skin on the inside
- small opening zipper on halter dresses at the neck
- Everything lined with silk
- lining hangs free on trousers
- no stitching showing
- Heavy skirt hems are lined to protect skin
- stiff red silk over shiny nude organza to create depth, lined with red silk
- black and white tule layered to create grey
- dark colors at bodice, lighter colors for hem to elongate the figure
- for heavy gowns, sewn-in corsets that cling free around the waist with no skirt attached to corset
- hooks at waist inside lining to help with zipper
- everything designed so you don’t have to wear additional support garments
- floaty cap sleeves
- cropped diamond cutouts below the bust
- simple pattern for loud prints/heavy beading
- pencil skirts under voluminous 3/4 wrap-around circle skirts
- simple embroidery on silk taffeta
- ribbed ribbon over simple shine ribbon to make belts