Baiba Robinson, Yorkshire, UK
Photographed and edited by Phil Robinson
Since I found out about this competition and looked up the theme, I really wanted to do an outfit inspired by my Latvian roots and heritage. But after countless hours of researching Latvian sagas and eposes I was sad to acknowledge that Latvians do not have stories of rising and rebirth, only sacrifice and martyrdom. I nearly gave up as I really wanted to stick to the Latvian theme. A couple of months later when setting my goals and challenges for 2020, and checking entry dates for this competition, I decided to go for it and use Latvian folk costume as a base. The spring theme seemed to fit the outfit naturally, just like the Latvians used landscape as inspiration for colours of the clothing. Whenever I think of the spring I think of the orchard trees in bloom, new crops and tulip fields planted in long lines.
The crown and blouse are based on traditional Latvian designs, drawn from various online sources and altered to suit my outfit needs. I used bead embroidery on the crown, making a traditional pattern. Sewing the blouse was straightforward: all the seams are flat felled to reduce the linen's chance to fray, and the thread buttons are handmade.
For the skirt a minimum of 3 metres of fabric were to be folded into the waistband. I took a selection of green cottons and teal taffeta and cut them into strips, which gave me a rectangle 5.5 metres by 90 cm, to be pleated onto a narrow waistband. For the flourish I added my favourite box pleat flower trim sewn on by hand.
The bodice combines a traditional bodice and a corset, making it look like two separate items. I worked out the design using a Victorian corset pattern and my body block. A mock up proved a good fit so I progressed to sewing. First I sewed together just the peplum bits of the fabric before pinning unsewn parts to the coutil base and sewing it all together. This required a lot of care as silk linen frays quite easily despite the fusible. Attaching fastening at back and front also required care as the peplum parts had to be free from the base. I really wanted to make little "ears" for my bodice peplum, as they are on Latvian bodices, and after making several mock ups I settled on a design that worked the best for my fabric choice.
Crown - fine count aida, embroidery cotton, glass beads and plastic craft mesh.
Blouse - fine linen, embroidery cotton and thick sewing thread for handmade buttons.
Corset bodice - coutil, silk linen, fine craft cotton for lining, busk closure, flat steel, spiral steel, two piece rivets, soft boning channels, fusible and satin ribbon for lacing.
Skirt - craft cottons, taffeta, fusible, vintage ribbon and rose beads.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
This is my first year, and I started quite late due to health issues, but loved every moment spent in the work room creating this outfit. And I look forward wearing it to an event.
I'd tell someone to join in. The competition will give a time scale to work to, inspire you to push your limits, seek advice on how to achieve best results and it gives you a chance to show off your skills. All of us started somewhere and unless we put our work on show for somebody else to see, we won't know how good we are after all.