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Wild Card Prize - Ambitious cut and construction, beautifully detailed and unique
The Starless Sea: Mirabel
Outline the story …
This design draws inspiration from the white gown Mirabel wears when dressed as Max, king of the wild things, for a literary ball. This dictated the predominantly white colour, and the golden crown she wears. A crown is also an important symbol in "The Starless Sea". The three main motifs of the story, the bee, key and sword, are hand embroidered on the center front panel of the corset.
Mirabel is more than just a character in a story, she is Fate, the sculptor of stories, creating doors to be opened and paths that one may choose to tread. She has a close link with the bees, the story builders, so the corset is adorned with brass and embroidered bees. The owls are harbingers of change, the ending of the story and beginning of the next, and are intertwined throughout Mirabel's story. I was particularly inspired by a scene of the owls flying through the twilight caverns as the sea rises and the story comes to an end, so I tried to recreate this flight on the skirt. As one travels up the dress, we have the owls bringing the end, and the bees crafting the next beginning, echoing Mirabel's own story. To evoke bees taking flight from the corset, I made a gold wire halo adorned with bees, and pinned more into Mirabel's hair. Iconically, she has ombre pink hair, but the ombre wig did not arrive in time, so we used a back-up pink wig for this shoot.
Outline the construction…
To challenge myself I designed a silk bobbinet corset with unusual panelling, integrated into the skirt of the gown. I am inexperienced with bobbinet and embroidery, so this was experimental. The patterning was challenging, involving 29 panels across the corset alone. The opaque corset panels and the boning channels are silk dupion flatlined to coutil, the bobbinet sections are double layered silk bobbinet, and the skirt is silk organza lined with satin.
The central embroidery was done before assembling the panels. There was one fitting at this stage, then the boning channels were constructed and the boning cut to size and inserted. The boning is 7mm spiral steel, except for solid steels at center front and back. The neckline was bound with silk bias and hand finished.
On one side of the skirt I wanted the hem to fall in waves, evoking waves on the Starless Sea. The silk organza was hand-painted with dye in twilight purple and blue. The waves were carefully separated and painted so each layer maintained its ombre effect.
The owls are made of two layers of silk organza fused together, stiff enough to hold their shape but able to flutter their wings as the skirt moves. There are seventeen unique owls, shaded with dye.
Some of the bees are brass, while the remainder are embroidered onto silk organza, in varying densities of thread for depth and texture. By hand-sewing them to the corset only at the body, the wings are able to sit out freely.