Artist Challenge: The Egyptian
This all started with a trip to Boston’s wonderful Museum of Fine Arts several months ago.
I love fashion history and art and good design--it feeds the art in me. I caught sight of an unbelievably beautiful original Egyptian dress made of silver chain and sparkling beads.
I loved it, and the artist in me accidentally got set on fire. Whoops.
I had completed my Notorious RBG and was ready for another big project....
....but this seemed almost TOO big.
I'd need to make the entire gown! Bodice and skirt! Plus a collar!
That would require....a lot of chainmail. A very large amount of chainmail. My hands hurt a little, thinking about it, but....I couldn't stop thinking about it.
I had to do it.
So, I ordered silver-plated iron chain.
So much chain.
So, so much chain.
And then I started.
With projects like these, I get hyper-focused, and work for hours while my kids have whipped cream fights or smear Nutella on the cat.
But soon I had this: the beginning of a bodice, in silver-plated chainmail with glass beads.
Once the bodice was hip-length, I realized it needed a redesign.
It seems like there’s a moment like this in each new exploratory project, where I realize something’s not quite working, and I have to undo hours of work, in order to re-do even more hours of work.
This moment is never easy.
The ensemble includes a broad collar, so I began crafting one out of the same silver-plated mail and iron filigree.
I planned to edge this collar in glass beads, just like the ones I was working Ito the design.
And I planned to wear everything over a sparkling midnight blue dress, evocative of Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the night sky.
I started calling this the #FeMailleDress
I realized that this piece was something I couldn’t sell. If I made one for a client, I'd need to start over fresh with better materials.
That's because I'd made this one with relatively inexpensive materials that wouldn't hold up forever--and something with this much labor truly should last forever. Just like the original in the Boston MFA, actually.
But this one performs admirably as my design prototype--just like a dress designer creates a ballgown by first creating a muslin pattern.
Except that, in this case, my dress muslin is made of links of silver-plated iron.
Finally, after months of exhausting work, THE DRESS WAS DONE.
And the collar!
And the headpiece I threw together very quickly at the last minute!
I added filigree here, too, and the same draping chain.
I quite like how it looks contrasted with my hair.
Here's the finished collar from the #femailledress.
It’s quite difficult to get a good photo of it, because it's meant to be seen draped over a moving body, where the glass can catch the light.
It’s really pretty as a statement piece on its own, separate from the rest of the outfit.
The #FeMailleDress is really sparkly in person, and I wish you could heft it.
It drapes and moves like a really high-quality fabric, just like a beautiful ballgown.
And, just like a beautiful ballgown, it needs to be worn to a Very Fancy Party.
Which I did.
I celebrated its completion by wearing it to a very fancy party at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Even the cat looks amazing.