FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
Outline the story …
I have always been fascinated by the witch in “The Silver Chair”, one of the books of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. Those who meet her first perceive her as a lovely, beautiful creature, described as tall, slender and wearing a flowy green gown. Yet, she proves to be a ruthless ruler and a witch, who sometimes transforms into a serpent (hence this title). She has killed the Queen of Narnia and now she has the prince under a spell.
Since I was a child, I wanted to make a gown for her, but always hesitated because of lack of skill, material and purpose. When this year’s competition theme was announced, I decided to finally make this gown! I would use the beautiful silk that my mother brought from the Silk Road and create a gown inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite take on Medieval fashion. I wanted to make it as flowy as possible – preferably like liquid – with a swishy trained skirt, long, flowy arms and contrasting tight cotehardie arms. I also wanted a belt, alluding to her serpent form. As the witch is slender, while the bubbly design added many inches to the waist, I needed a corset with waist reduction (which I had never before succeeded with). The arms would be detachable, so that I could also wear it as a modern dress. I wanted to try new techniques and with the support of the Stitchling Community, I thought that I could actually pull this off.
Outline the construction…
My old selfdrafted corset pattern (by Cathy Hay’s instructions) required many adjustments, but the corset fitted after 4-5 mockups. I tried to incorporate what I’d learnt from live calls, articles and the Stitchlings’ community – I basted, roll pinned, used a waist band, bust padding, fray check and internal boning cases, etc. The inside looks horrid and the silk has resulted in new issues, but the corset gives me the silhouette that I aimed for.
For the gown, I needed a smooth foundation. I used lightweight cotton for the bodice, with a zipper in the side. The polyester petticoat has three rows of tulle, more ruffled in the back. The narrow 9.5 meters of silk were put together according to a medieval method: using four panels plus triangular gores in the skirt. I manipulated the fabric on the dressform and put hundreds of pins where I wanted the wrinkles, then replaced each pin with tiny stitches. I tried hiding seams and irregularities of the fabric. The remaining fabric was used for the flowy arms. The contrasting cotehardie arms are also of medieval cut. The hems and buttonholes are hand stitched. The hem of the skirt is lined with horsehair (which first looked hideous, as I put it upside down, but after good advice and cheering, I unpicked it and put it back by hand). The gown shimmers in green, red and blue, depending on the light. The serpent belt consists of four strands of braided steel wire. I love this gown!