FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
Call Me Mad
Outline the story …
My inspiration for this outfit was Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Great Expectations’. Left at the alter by her fiancé, she is a wealthy spinster who never takes off her wedding dress. In many adaptations of the novel she is portrayed as an old woman, but Dickens’ notes suggest she’s in her mid-thirties when the novel begins and has been wearing the dress for many years already. I wanted her outfit to feel more youthful and innocent so that it’s destruction is all the more poignant. I chose ivory and lavender as main colours and a fabric with a delicate floral motif to emphasise this.
When it came to distressing the garments I wanted to tell a story through the marks and stains. Miss Havisham claims she has ‘never seen the sun’ since the wedding and while Dickens intends to suggest she never leaves the house, I liked the image of her roaming overgrown gardens at night, unaware or uncaring of the mud and grass stains collecting on her hem or the thorns ripping at her skirt. I added ink stains from letter writing and wax dripped from a candlestick, as well as cobwebs and mould to highlight the stagnancy of her life. I sought to humanise the character in this way and highlight her tragic story. While the corset would have been largely protected by the bodice and would show less wear, I added rust and mould to this to lean into my theme.
Outline the construction…
I chose my patterns to achieve a historical silhouette that aligned roughly, although not exactly, with the timeline of ‘Great Expectations’, using Truly Victorian patterns for the bodice, skirt, crinoline and petticoat, and a Bijoux pattern for the corset. I found communities of people with experience with these patterns and read up on advice before getting stuck in. This was my first experience with making a corset and a crinoline and it was certainly a learning curve but I was happy with them in the end. Since the lining of the corset wasn’t going to be seen, I chose to use a bookshelf pattern that tied perfectly into the theme and felt like a fun hidden detail. I chose a floral silk for the underskirt but a synthetic fabric for the overskirt and bodice in an effort to reduce cost but maintain the look I was after. While it was cheaper, it also limited my options when it came to distressing as the tea staining I did on the cotton petticoat wouldn’t have worked on synthetic fibres. I used watered down acrylic paint for the skirt instead. Many of my distressing techniques were inspired by cosplay tutorials.
To finish the effect of the gown I made several double bow rosettes to decorate the swags, and hand sewed many metres of trims. Since Miss Havisham is wealthy it felt important to add as many of these details as my budget would allow in order to achieve the right look.