Capturing Light and Shadow



Lauren Apau


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographed by Joseph Apau

Outline the story …

The dappled rays of sun filter through the tree’s fluttering leaves… Can I capture this sunlight and weave it into a garment? Specifically, my 1890s walking ensemble?! The answer is a resounding yes. I am happy to say that I was able to imprint nature and sunlight into the very fiber of my submission this year.

While walking ensembles from the later 1800s mainly used appliques and embroidery to create this effect, I decided to experiment with a truly old school darkroom photography process—“cyanotype”—to create these patterns. This process was invented in 1842 and was very popular during the 1890s. Just think, people were probably taking cyanotype photographs while wearing a walking suit just like this one.

Here is how it works! The cyanotype printing method uses light-sensitive chemicals to sensitize a material and make it react to light. Normally, people use paper instead of fabric. But I coated each piece of my garment with these chemicals and exposed them to sunlight to create the design of leaves and flowers on my jacket and skirt. It’s almost as if I captured literal sunlight. How cool is that?

And so, the sun forever etched the memory of flowers, leaves, and vines into the fabric of this walking ensemble. This was a process largely left up to nature and was difficult to control—but isn’t that the very essence of the natural world around us?

Outline the construction…

For this project I decided to use my darkroom photography skills to help me capture sunlight into my garment in a physical way. As a former professional photographer and current lighting artist in video games, light is my passion and it felt right! The photography term for my approach is the cyanotype method.

After turning my bathroom into a darkroom, I first coated all of my fabric pieces in chemicals that were sensitive to the sunlight. Then I methodically laid leaves and flowers out following my design and exposed each piece to the sun, one by one. This was quite tricky and time sensitive (plus some of the pieces were pretty large).

To turn the color of the cyanotype prints from a bright blue to a muted aubergine, I then used green tea to tint the fabric. It took many test strips to figure out the strength of the tea and the time period to soak the pieces in the mixture.

After all this came the easy part, sewing the garment… This ensemble was the largest project I have taken on so far, and it required a lot of planning, learning, and time management! I have never made a jacket, fitted sleeves, added soutache, or worked with silk. I created every part of this ensemble (besides the shoes and gloves) including the corset, bustle pad, petticoat, and chemise.

In the end, it all came together and I am happy to share my sunlight-inspired outfit with you all.




  1. Avatar Elowen Elowen Blackthorn on April 27, 2023 at 10:46 pm

    Wow, this is beautiful work! It’s so dappled it’s almost camouflage! High-five to a fellow ‘light’ing effects enthusiast! 😁

  2. Avatar Stephanie on May 1, 2023 at 3:16 pm

    Very cool concept and final rendering, love it!

  3. Avatar Abigail Lamb on May 8, 2023 at 9:56 pm

    I love this. You’ve really captured the idea of light and shadow.

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