Monday, 8 October 2012

JAA Week 1: Everything Starts Somewhere

...and breathe 

First week of this project is over. It's been a good week, I have settled back into the working mode and had a tutorial about this project and my upcoming final year. Feeling confident so far.

I'm pleased to say a lot of this has been down to some good planning over the Summer and in many respects, this is a good project for the first term as I am setting all my own deadlines in the interrim periods before official hand in on the 3rd December.
This is because I am not really having to rely on anyone else; there is no artist to fit to my costume or early performance demanding a quick route to toile fitting, and I have as of yesterday written up my workplan. Admittedly, seeing all that I have to achieve written in neat little columns was a bit of a shock, but if I am truely honest with myself, I do tend to thrive when I have a hundred things to do and never enough time- it means that I push myself, and generally this produces the best results, I just have to be careful not to burn out.

Choices, choices...
I have known since first year that I wanted to do the JA award somewhere in my degree. Having discussed it with Rebbecca last year, she persuaded me to take it as an academic unit rather than go it alone in my own time- specialist practise seamed the perfect opportunity for this as I already knew that I would be doing ballet for my final project next year.
Now I am in my final year I am well aware of my strengths as a costumier; historical costuming being one of those strengths. I am hugely passionate about costume history and the context it sits in when looking at history as a whole. I have always spent many hours of my time researching and reading across my own library(which is quite large already) and the Internet, and visiting costumes at exhibitions etc. During the Summer I had to take this a step further and looking at all the JA books, start to identify what garment I wanted to reproduce.
Immediately, this was harder than I expected, the first question to arise was "Am I picking a garment that I think may have a chance of winning or should I choose something because I want to make a specific style/ take on a certain challenge, even if it has been made and placed before?"
Looking back retrospectively, I can say that I went for a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B, but at the time I had no idea.
Instead I decided that whatever I was going to make I needed to be excited by it. After all, a lot of investment, financial and emotional will be put in and I did not want to loose steam a few weeks in because I was making something that I didn't connect with.
The Other Dresses

I started by taking my favourite periods: 1785-95, 1825-25, 1875-85 and had a look to see what was there. I actually dismissed the latest date as I had been studying the natural form period for a while and had already made two undergarments, with plans to make a full dress from that period in my own time. This left me with the two earlier periods and several dresses to go and look at.
I am not going to go into all the reasons in this post as to the pros and cons of the dresses I looked at, but they were all very interesting and very different. It was easier than I though to make quick decisions about what I did not want to make after seeing the originals; some for example had fabric that I knew I was unlikely to be able to source and others were beautiful but structurally simple, and I wanted a bit of a challenge.
Just looking at the primary resource of a real historical garment really helped me to understand different things about certain periods that you do not glean from the pages of a book. I plan to include an appendix in my accompanying workbook with all the pictures and notes from the other dresses as even though I wont be making them going to visit original garments help inform my further work.
The One
So the dress I settled on had in fact come from the later natural from period that I had earlier dismissed. I wouldn't have even seen it on the day I went to Berrington hall had I not gone with Livvy(my colleague who is doing the same project), who looked at this dress. In fact my only photos at the moment for my dress are the ones she took- although I did get to feel and see the dress, enough to have a good idea of it in my head.

I fell in love with it straight away. The contrast of the wine/white stripes made such a bold and modern looking dress, the lace, cuffs and trimming were all exquisite, and it was a *normal* size. My catchphrase about this dress seams to have settled on "It's like a Tim Burton wet dream" as it reminds me of the bold Gothic stripes he seems to adorn on his ladies in so many of his films.

Anyway, moving onwards. Once I was sure Livvy had decided against making this dress, I was in there: "Me please!" and that was it. I realised that I already owned some really good books on this small specific period, I had already made some of the under structure for this period and the idea of making it thoroughly inspired me. Job done.

I will say that I have got my work cut out. The dress is a c.1878 natural form cuirasse dress, and is reasonably complex with lots of detail, but I think the idea of specialist practice is to go into the area you are strong in, with all your previous skills and knowledge to underpin your work and then take some risks, in fact it says that in the actual brief for the unit. Then at the end of the unit, I will come out with a professional piece of work, that can be used for portfolio (not to mention the possible accolade of winning the award) and will have a much deeper knowledge in this area, which I can then use to carry on working in and refining; for example if I do end up focusing more on ballet then, historical character costumes feature heavily in many traditional ballets, of course they are adapted for dancers, and not made to historical standards but shape and structure wise, the knowledge from this unit will on be of benefit.

I will get on with a few photos now, these are the ones Livvy took, and some are quite blurry. but it gives a good idea of the dress in the first, and I have booked to go back to Berrington to spend a few hours with this dress once I have made up the toile, so I can get some more detailed photos and answer any questions I have at that stage.



No comments:

Post a Comment