FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
Outline the story …
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe is a story about two siblings‘ downfall along with their crumbling ancestral line. Everything surrounding them and the old house they live in is breathing decay and death. Every word of the story weaves the vibrant but dim picture of their doom and that is the exact tone I wanted to catch making this costume of Lady Madeline Usher.
Most inspiring for this design were the shapes of the illustrations made by Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke as well as many of McQueens designs such as the oyster gown. The goal was to make her look ghostly and frail while still maintaining the aristocratic touch – thus making her suffering seemingly noble.
Madeline is first seen almost ghost-like in appearance while still alive due to her suffering of catalepsy. This culminates in her haunting her frail brother after her apparent death. The design is therefore aiming to make her look sickly and transcendent using layers of transparency. Other elements, such as the overly long skirt impeding her legs while walking and the luxurious but fine ostrich feathers are a nod to her being of aristocratic descent. The corset is the main feature of the design: it is stiff and straight-lined, ignoring her actual body features. It‘s shape is geometric, almost non-organic, further obscuring the person inside it. Also the color palette with it‘s pale violets, greys and browns makes her look as if she is slowly fading away.
Outline the construction…
A very important characteristic of this project are structures. The front of the corset and back of the coat are smocked in an irregular pattern, evoking the likeness of soft tissue or cancer cells growing. This was actually the first time I used smocking techniques, aiming to achieve much more depth than the original smooth silk taffeta provides. Since the silk is changing colors in different light situations, the structures give even more life to the corset.
All the patterns are self-drafted; the corset is influenced by rococo in shape (especially the flattening front) and mixed with late 18th century adding in techniques – the main part of the corset is carefully stitched to form tunnels for wood boning in various forms which accentuate the V-shape of the upper body, while the exaggerated hips are mainly formed through cording. The forms are then further highlighted by black piping, fitting the beading in color.
Corruption and sickness are also shown with black goo running down from Madeline's head and neck. This was one of the first features I had in mind for her design. Since I didn't know of any technique to achieve the look, I had to come up with a solution myself. For the headpiece, a base of thermoplastics and beads of different sizes were covered in liquid latex. The part running down on the chest is the same technique using thick jersey threads. This was the most experimental part of this whole project and I utterly enjoyed it.