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For the "En Pointe" theme I researched the history of ballet and particularly loved the cartes de visite of famous ballerinas from the 1850s and 1860s.
I aimed to incorporate the shapes of the costumes – long, dome-shaped tutus, narrow waists with swiss waists, almost off-the-shoulder necklines – into my outfit. I decided to keep the color palette limited as a nod to the original photographs.
Very roughly using Jill Salen's "Exotic corset" as a base, I drafted a pattern for an eleven-piece underbust according to my model's measurements. The corset is a single layer of black twill with the brocade fused over it. The cherry blossoms pattern originally ran diagonally on the brocade, but I didn't want oblique lines to distract the eye from the lines of the garment, so I fused the fashion fabric at an angle to make the flowers run vertically.
I wanted the corset to look light, not like a rigid, constricting piece. All bone casings are on the inside, even attached to a separate panel at the center front so that no stitch line is visible there. Organza ribbon is applied on the outside over the casings' stitch lines. It is sewed down on one side, free to move on the other, blurring the lines of the corset, giving an impression of movement and flexibility.
For the rest of the outfit, I played with simple lines, transparency and contrast. The top is cut like a Victorian chemise, a white cotton voile base covered in soft, white tulle. It acts as a liner for the corset and provides opacity for the legs under the tutu. Organza ribbons and a pleated white tulle ruffle emphasize the neckline and mimic a bertha.
The tutu was a challenge. First, I experimented with a crinoline, but I realized the tulle had enough body on its own. The tutu has four layers of gathered stiff white tulle, with three layers of softer tulle over it. To give depth to the lower edge, I worked the two last tulle layers as one, but made the upper one shorter, and trimmed the bottom two rows with black organza ribbon.
After I had completed the outfit, I noted that the silhouette had gotten closer to the dancers painted by Degas after 1870 than to the longer and less fluffy tutus of the 1850s. This prompted me to style the model with a nod to the 1870s, and to shoot a few less formal poses. It also gave a name to the project.
This ensemble was a real challenge for me, as I had only two weeks to complete everything from pattern-drafting and sourcing the materials to the photoshoot itself. This was my first time working without the ability to make a mock-up, and also a first fusing fabrics. I wish I had done some things differently, but I am happy that the competition and the short deadline gave me the boost to complete this piece.