Photogaphy: Sheridan's Art
Model: Illyria Okami
Mua: Jane von Vintage
Hair: Julia Lion hair
‘Out of the darkness, she crawls, to find a mate, to make passionate love and.… Swallow him whole…’
The female praying mantis is known to practice sexual cannibalism, which makes her one of the most terrifying insects on this planet, in my opinion. As dragonflies had already inspired me last year, I knew it would be tough to top my own design with this insect theme. Moreover, I felt the pressure on me from everyone expecting me to do well with this theme, which was obviously right up my alley. Therefore, for this year’s entry I had to challenge myself, to make something darker and scarier than my usual ethereal style, pushing even further out of my own comfort zone than I had last year and designing something not beholden to practicalities of wear or what people expect from my brand.
The insect theme lends itself well to both a light and dark interpretation, as they are both beautiful and scary (to some). This duality is what I tried to capture. I was inspired by the beautiful shapes and iridescent colours of butterflies and beetles, but did not want to make something too sweet again. I tried to strike a balance between beauty and darkness in this design.
Beside mantises, this work also features ragged looking butterfly wings for hipfins, inspired by the Polygonia C butterfly and the multichrome and armour-like hip pieces inspired by beetles. These beetle shells allowed me to break the corset away from the body, turning it into a high fashion piece somewhere in between a corset and a cocktail dress. By applying multiple hip fins and making extra-large hip pieces, the waist would look even more wasp-like. It is this exaggerated silhouette that I was going for in my design.
The fashion fabric of the corset itself features multiple butterflies arranged in a kaleidoscope manner that is meant to disillusion the eye, dancing between the beauty of butterflies and some scary nightmarish psychedelic trip. It could not be helped with the insect theme this year; I was slightly influenced by Alexander McQueen’s 2010 Insect collection. He is one of my all-time favorite designers and the butterfly print I designed and had printed onto cotton sateen is somewhat reminiscent of his work. Inadvertently, by basing my design on insects, and scaling up some of their distinctly insectoid elements, the corset came out looking rather alien and would not look misplaced in a sci-fi setting. Hence the name of this entry; a play on Alien vs Predator. Imagine: if you scaled a praying mantis up to the size of a human, would that not look downright alien to us? Not to mention positively terrifying!
The corset is a 7-panel corset pattern, drafted for this entry. The fashion fabric is a floating layer on top to aid with pattern matching. Unfortunately, the printed cotton satin was much more stretchy than I realized. Next time I know to stabilize that fabric. I had intended only to bone the coutil layer, but ended up using some additional boning tape, stitching through the fashion fabric to secure the stretchy fabric.
I used a laser-engraver to cut the layered hip fins out of pleather after designing vector files in Illustrator. I painted a gradient onto dupioni silk with silk dye, adding some effect salt to create further texture. The hip fins were assembled and attached onto the corset by hand, the shape supported with Fosshape. This design gave me an opportunity to try out some new materials.
For the praying mantis breastplate, I used black Worbla rather than brown because of the smoother texture. I created a pattern for my Worbla design and I cut the pieces out with scissors, and used a heat gun to heat and form them. I used ordinary household objects to shape the Worbla pieces. For the big bulbous eyes, a bedside lamp; for the 'spine', a bowl, for example. Finally, I covered the Worbla with four layers of PVA glue, wet sanding and buffing in between layers. It was important that the base be super smooth for the iridescent multichrome effect of the car paint to show. I painted the breastplate with black primer, topping with a chameleon car paint and clear varnish. I bought the iridescent paint online so I was delighted when I first saw the paint shifting from blue, purple, red to orange, matching the corset. From the moment I heard the insect theme I knew I had to do something with iridescence.I made some holes in the Worbla and stitched the breastplate onto the corset with sturdy thread. Initially I had thought to use a boned heavy gauze for the hip pieces, but discarded that idea.
I remembered I had bought a piece of Fosshape (for the breastplate) that I did not use. I used a cat basket and my steam iron to shape the Fosshape into the rounded beetle shell hip wings. I covered them in two layers of silk, a textured rust coloured silk and a blue shot black silk voile. These two fabrics together give a three-colour iridescent effect. I loved using Worbla and Fosshape; they opened some design doors for me! The last hurdle was to make the ensemble portable; I looked into ways of making the hip pieces detachable. I had considered Velcro and snaps but a friend suggested magnets, which were a perfect solution. I created a black cotton pencil wraparound skirt to go under the corset. The magnets were sewn onto both the corset and the skirt. A more detailed explanation of the techniques used can be found on my blog.
To be honest, entering this year was tough for me, as I entered a dragonfly-inspired piece into the En Pointe theme last year. I kind of felt I had already done the insect theme. I was scared not to be able to deliver something as innovative again, and at the same time make it look distinctly different. For those reasons, it was very difficult, and it took me a long time to come up with an idea that would top my own from last year. Due to the increased emphasis by Foundations Revealed on the competition I have worked a lot more publicly this year, rather than keeping it all secret till the last moment, like I did in previous years. It's different, it felt more like an event, but on the down side, I also felt the pressure to perform as I saw all the wonderful stuff that others were making as well. Despite that, I entered anyway, even though I knew there were going to be plenty of great entries.
This competition gives me an excuse to try something new, push my design skills and try materials I otherwise would not have gotten around to trying. Learning is the objective; winning would be nice, but it's secondary to entering for me.