FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
Outline the story …
I was inspired by the nature-themed origins of a fantastical outfit described in the Chinese version of the Cinderella legend. In the story, the pauper-turned princess, Ye Xian, receives a "sea-green gown" and a "cloak of kingfisher feathers" from her guardian fish spirit so that she may attend the New Year festival. In keeping with the ancient Chinese source, and also because of the fluid drape of chiffon that is typically used, I decided to make a historically-inspired 對襟襦裙 hanfu. I wanted my outfit to capture the various shades of water: the icy blue of the Arctic seas, the brilliant turquoise of tropical lagoons, the deepest blue depths. The fish appliqués celebrate the wispy, ethereal tails and sparkly scales of Ye Xian's benefactor; that they come in pairs pays homage to the popular New Year saying, " 年年有餘," a wish for abundance and prosperity. The skirt is cut on the bias so that it would flow like water, the shaped panels of the overskirt are again, a nod to flowy fish tails, and using pearls for the waist ornament seemed like a natural fit with all the other aquatic elements. I didn't want to make a literal feather cloak, so mine is a riff on the designs seen in 點翠 kingfisher feather jewelry, a traditional Chinese style of hair ornament that showcases the feathers' natural iridescence and brilliant electric blue color by inlaying them in gilt settings.
Outline the construction…
I drafted all the hanfu pieces from scratch based on historical shapes and my own measurements. I tried to use secondhand materials wherever possible: the ombre fabric of the top and the sequined panels of the fish tail appliqués were cut from old theater costumes, the fabric for the camisole, skirt, and cape were all lucky thrift store finds, the panels of the overskirt were cut from remnants of my college curtains, the cape lining fabrics were pieced from friends' destashes, and even the sequins and pearls were craft supplies that my mom saved for decades. Working with such limited yardage, I had to be careful cutting pieces to still get the luxuriously voluminous look. I also had to constantly adjust either my machine settings, needles, and hand-sewing tension to accommodate the less-than-ideal tightness of the curtain weave and the spandex content of the cape appliqués, or to avoid snagging the lurex of the gold trim. The sequins and beads on the fish were sewn on individually by hand, and the figures on the cape hand-basted before sewing on the gold trim. I also tried hand-couching vintage metallic yarn for the first time, and flame finishing the edges of the poly-organza overskirt panels for an organic look. I felled in the cape lining by hand, a time-consuming process I only completed the morning of the photoshoot, but I'm glad I didn't compromise because I love the look of hand-finishing.
COUNTRY: United States.
What It’s like to compete:
I love that this competition gives me a reason to push myself skill-wise and an excuse to bring to life fantastical designs that would otherwise only exist in my mind. Having a challenge and a deadline to motivate me is crucial for tricking my brain into focusing on a longterm project, otherwise I tend to get distracted by new ideas. This is only my second time entering (after many years of watching and hoping to one day be “good enough”) but I love the experience and foresee this becoming a highlight of each year.