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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.

Look at it! The compelling line, the sparkle, the pattern of the chain mail net.

I loved it, and the artist in me accidentally got set on fire. Whoops.

Boston MFA, this is your fault. Thank you.

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.

Small beginnings.

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.

So much work done! So much work left to go!

But soon I had this: the beginning of a bodice, in silver-plated chainmail with glass beads.

Painful...but I knew it had to be done.

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.

Partway there!

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 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.

Side view of headpiece in progress.

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.

The finished #FeMailleDress collar.

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.

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