Bespoke customer

Customer #3: Gabi

Meet Gabi. Another very dear friend, fellow cat mama and plant lover, and the reason that a lot of my photographs look so beautiful. 

I really wanted to make her something as she was already involved in the project as my photographer (and was my unofficial shoulder to cry/stress out on). 

 

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Our initial worry was - could we actually make her something to work with her style? The answer was yes, yes we could. 

Thankfully we were both on the same page from the beginning - to make her a dress. The only problem was I didn't have any toiles for a dress at this point.

However, I managed to pull together 3 previous ideas to create this garment. Starting with the basic crop top toile (this was a good gauge for fit), then incorporating an old paper pattern (that previously inspired the wrap skirt) and also using a piece of inspiration with some great tie trickery for flexible fitting.

 

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Original top fitting and sketchbook images of the design process.  Dress on the left of this image was the inspiration for the basic shape/function of the dress.

Original top fitting and sketchbook images of the design process.

Dress on the left of this image was the inspiration for the basic shape/function of the dress.

 

What at first seemed like the biggest challenge was actually my favourite to design and make. 

This was partially because I had become much more comfortable and confident with the entire process at this point, but I also totally fell in love with garment almost instantly (a rare occurrence). 


After whipping up a paper toile, we got down to colour and fabric business. Gabi loved the hemp and organic cotton fabric I use from Bysshe Partnership and wanted to use it for the entire dress. She didn't want the entire garment dyed, and this fabric is so beautiful undyed too -so it was a great choice. 

When it came to colour the main aim was to get something that worked with her olive skin. She loved a lot of the dye colours but not many of them were suitable for her, apart from the woad blues. 

Woad baths are unlike normal dye baths, in that you have to dip the fabric multiple times and let them develop in the air (I half understand the science of it). This also means I have an even smaller dyeing vat so I had to pre-cut all the pieces to be dyed. I then trimmed them with pinking sheers to help reduce fraying and dipped them all by hand, three times each. 

 

Initial plans and dye sketchbook: I love using this woad because I can source it in the UK. It is grown and processed by  Woad Inc  in Norfolk.

Initial plans and dye sketchbook: I love using this woad because I can source it in the UK. It is grown and processed by Woad Inc in Norfolk.

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Another key request from Gabi was that we quilt the top half of the dress so she could comfortably wear it without a bra. I loved this idea - and it really came in handy once we'd changed the dress pattern to be backless too!

The initial idea was to used woad dyed thread for the stitch too but we decided to match with the undyed fabric to keep it more subtle. This also meant the shape created by the dyed verses undyed pieces was kept crisp, and the quilted section just looked like a different texture.

 

Photograph by Gabi at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.

Photograph by Gabi at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.

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The large triangle panels (also used in mine and Claire's skirt) proved very helpful in creating shape to help fit from waist to hip. For Gabi's dress, we had to leave these undyed due to my vat not being large enough to not cause patchy dye pieces. However, leaving them undyed does create a striking pattern and accentuates the crisp lines of the patchwork construction.  

 


If you are interested in creating a similar garment with me, please do get in touch.

Customer #2: Me

In the name of productivity, I designed and made something for myself.

I knew that organising people for fittings would sometimes be tricky, so by becoming a 'customer' I always had something in the making.

Also, in an attempt to add variation to my final makes, it meant I could chose colours, finishes and a garment shape I assumed my other co-creators wouldn't, but still without compromising.

 

Wearing my onion dyed skirt with a white linen shirt from Walker Slater; jumper from H&M (definitely reached the 30 wears challenge); vintage headscarf from Herman Brown and sunglasses from Gobi, Amsterdam.

Wearing my onion dyed skirt with a white linen shirt from Walker Slater; jumper from H&M (definitely reached the 30 wears challenge); vintage headscarf from Herman Brown and sunglasses from Gobi, Amsterdam.

 

Something I enjoyed most about the bespoke appointments, was seeing each person's way of choosing what they wanted. Whether they started with a love of a certain fabric, colour or garment style.

For me, I knew exactly which fabric I wanted to make with first - a beautiful, lightweight wool delaine. In every colour you can see a variation of tones because of the original weave, as well producing really bold results. 

With my ongoing obsession with orange, I couldn't resist choosing the onion dyed fabric, and I regret nothing! 

The light yellow panels in the skirt are made from a linen/cupro/Tencel blend fabric and I chose this to break up the orange, as well as adding a different texture. The blend fabric has a beautiful sheen that contrasts with the matte wool.

 

Wearing with my winter reliables - vintage wool coat from Armstrongs, Edinburgh and my nearly 3 year old Doc Martens.

Wearing with my winter reliables - vintage wool coat from Armstrongs, Edinburgh and my nearly 3 year old Doc Martens.

 

In terms of choosing my garment, I wanted to make a high-waisted skirt because my waist and hip measurement are quite different, resulting in me having difficulties buying anything high-waisted other than jeans.

So I traced the pattern for my longer and larger wrap skirt to create a mini one - simple!

It is interesting to look back at the images of each fitting and see how much the style of the skirt changes. I still want to make an un-quilted version for myself because the drape was lovely, and a great weight for the summer. 

 

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The reason I did decided to quilt my skirt was mainly because I was quite attached to the idea of owning a quilted garment but also, I did want to see the effect quilting would have on the garment shape.

The pleasant surprise in doing this was that it is so comfortable and warm! It's like wearing a tiny blanket around my waist and lap (like being in bed outside you say, erm yes please!).

I researched various alternative quilt waddings, looking at sourcing larger production waste or un-sellable blanket in charity shops. Although disappointing for my work, it was a great to find out most of these items were being put to use.

Eventually I found wadding made from recycled plastic bottles and it was perfect - easy to handle, soft and insulating. 

 

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With quilting comes bias binding... and I do love some bias. I thought it would give a nice, sharp finish to the skirt. 

To add a bit more personal flair, and a reference to the onion dye, I printed and made my own using the reduced liquor from the dye bath that created my skirt and Aimee's top. The first image (above) shows the original printed square, a two layer pattern of broken pictogram symbols. The second, after it was sewn, cut and ironed into bias.

In the future I would maybe avoid this method and possibly dye vintage white cotton pre-made bias instead. I feel this would have the same effect but keep costs lower. (I do love that I made it though).

 

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I'm really happy with what I made myself and I'm just chomping at the bit to make something else.

Next on the list is actually a top similar to Aimee's (previous post) using the waste from this skirt. I will be sure to keep you posted!

 


If you are interested in creating a similar garment with me, please do get in touch.

Colour images of me: Gabriela Silveira

Customer #1: Aimee

Aimee is one of my dearest friends and the first person I asked to make a garment for. I knew her interest in improving her consumption habits and was glad she agreed to take part in my project.

In my first year of studies, I had already begun designing basic garments, including the first iteration of what became Aimee's top. I knew even in the early stages of developing the garment that it would be perfect for her style.

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She was my (very willing) guinea pig. It was my first ever appointment and I had yet to explain my project in such a direct way to a 'customer' instead of just to my academic peers. It took over two hours for Aimee and I to explore all her options in colour, fabric and print.

In the end, she liked about the idea of using one colour in different tones. She wanted to use two different fabrics to achieve these multiple tones, as well as having a variation of structure and drape. The two she chose were a hemp and organic cotton blend, and Tencel. These two fabrics are particularly soft, which was a big part of the appeal for Aimee. 


As seen in the image below, I created a lot of toiles to get the shaping right across Aimee's bust. When I suggested this garment for her, she liked the idea because she sometimes she finds similar top styles difficult to fit her bust properly. 

So I created many front panels to get the seaming just right.  Meaning - no accentuating nipples with too many seams meeting at one point, and no panels creating unflattering shapes.

We also added extra straps to work with Aimee's proportion - balancing out her shoulders and her bust.

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The only change at the back of the top was removing the centre bottom triangles to prevent ruffling at her lower back. It resulted in creating a lovely angular shape that really added to the garment style.

Aimee also liked the idea of having a nod to what her top is made from, but she wanted to keep it subtle. So I added a small onion pictogram at the front left corner, hand stitched in bamboo silk thread. 

 

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Finally, we also made her a cushion using the waste from making her top. This included the print paste I had made from reducing her onion dye bath. I printed up a few extra pieces to fill the gaps and add some interest in the pattern.

The image was taken in Aimee's house and the cushion fit perfectly with her vintage Ercol rocking chair and reupholstered seat, covered in Irish woven tweed.

 

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A quick chat...

 

What did you enjoy most about being part of this project, and what did you learn?

Aimee: I enjoyed the initial appointment and being involved in the creative process. Choosing cloths/colours/style and generally being involved in the design process was really fun! The creative process of the garment dyeing was also really interesting to me.

As consumers I feel its so important we are conscious about where our purchases come from and try to choose ethically sourced products (where you can) or at least be aware, so learning about every step of the garment making process was important for me - making the experience very special (and worth every penny).

 

Who are your style icons; past, present and future?

A: My Mum and older Sister - Emma always dressed alternatively and quite grungy which I thought was really cool and tried to copy (mens checked shirts and docs) I remembering buying my first pair of docs with her, burgundy ones! Both my mum and sister have always shopped second hand which is probably why I do, I was brought up that way.

My mum is also my present style icon- she always looks great, even when going to the supermarket- I’ve never seen her wear a t shirt. She’s always been stylish and taught us to look good at ALL times!!

I take inspiration from the people around me at the time so it depends who’s in my life in the future! 

 

Are there other sustainable/ethical brands you shop with?

A: I try to shop as sustainably as possible, I was always aware of fast fashion but after seeing the documentary " The True Cost" it really showed how brutal the industry is not only in terms of the environmental impact but its well-fare of the people working within it - being that there is none at all, with the majority working in slave labour conditions.

I try to buy locally if i can, second hand, local designers but on a wider scale ive shopped with:

People tree

Celtic & co

Paloma Wool

Swedish Hasbeens

Toms

Olive

Nkuku

Studio Jux

All my skin care is organic and ethically sourced. 

 

How do you plan to style/wear your garment?

A: I have quite the collection of high waisted pants and skirts so styling the top with any of these will be perfect! The colour is happy and versatile that will go with pretty much anything and brighten the look.

It's also a perfect holiday top with high waisted, wide legged linen trousers, shades, sun hat! Good to go! Beer in hand, yes please, Pinterest bitches watch out!!


If you are interested in creating a similar garment with me, please do get in touch.

Finished garment images: Gabriela Silveira